Alice Gorshenina is a 26-year-old artist living in Nizhny Tagil, a city which she describes as picturesque, located in the Ural Mountains in Russia. Gorshenina has been making art for several years, and through doing so Gorshenina creates a deeply personal and intimate world both within and around herself. 

Historically masks have been displayed throughout Russian culture as works of art, many of which have allegorical and symbolic meanings in Russian traditions. Gorshenina started making her masks in 2015, during that time she was a member of a group named Second Hand. There were three members to that group, and Gorshenina proposed sewing masks to display unity within the group. “When sewing my first mask, I supposedly woke something in myself, some forgotten feelings from childhood” says Gorshenina, who grew up in the village of Yakshina, a village which has now become one of the dying villages in Russia, “I was born in a small village in which Russian traditions were preserved, one of these traditions was the Kolyada holiday, a holiday that welcomes winter. We, along with other village children, dressed up in various costumes and masks, and walked around the village collecting pirogi”. Since then, Gorshenina immersed herself into the art of mask making. The masks combine notions of her childhood with a mythology of the village which she expresses is a sacred place for her. The masks are made mostly of curtains, old bedding, various fabrics and textiles. 

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ART & CULTURE | by AIDHA BADR | 09 JULY 2020

ALISA GORSHENINA: SEWING TOGETHER FORGOTTEN FEELINGS OF CHILDHOOD AND MYTHOLOGIES OF YAKSHINA

Besides mask making, Gorshenina explores other disciplines of art, “mask making occupies a definite place in my work. The masks already seem to exist permanently in my work, and are an indispensable attribute, a symbol,” Gorshenina tells LOS GATOS, “my masks are me, they are all of my faces and emotions. I like to wear masks, but this does not mean that I am hiding something. On the contrary, it is always important that people know that it’s me under the mask,” Gorshenina adds.   

When asked what beauty meant to her, and if (subjective) beauty played a part in her process, Gorshenina answers “My masks often appear repulsive, but they do not suggest internal ugliness. Often people say: ‘phew, how scary’, and then they associate some negative tendencies or connotations to my masks, which to me simply means that they cannot see past the surface level”. 

In a society that values beauty and aesthetics above all else, and to be or to look different means to be ostracized, it becomes essential to reopen the cross-cultural dialogue, to shift from a culture in which the arts of imitation and repetition are valorized, into a culture in which the notion of authenticity becomes of primary value, and this is the dialogue and space that Gorshenina wants the viewer to partake in by an ethos of encouraging them to simultaneously respect and defy the boundaries that separate art and culture practice from everyday life.

All images and videos courtesy the artist.

FOR MORE ON ALISA GORSHENINA FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM

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