Anastasia Alexandrin: My Soul is Charcoal

Through her innovative technique of crossing lines of charcoal, Anastasia Alexandrin is charting a fresh, new, course in the art world. A skilled draftsman, Anastasia is combining a distinctly modern use of line with classic modalities of contrast and tone. Her distinctive style sets the stage for a visual collision that offers a soulful departure from traditional expressions of European beauty. “With each line I am creating a statement,” she says. “There is something very simple about a straight line. To draw it over and over can be very meditative. It’s a repetition of simplicity through which a complexity of forms can emerge.”

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The result is a contemporary narrative of female empowerment infused with fragments of metaphorical structure that provide reflections of new wave feminine identity. “The subject of women and modern day struggles are a huge wellspring for me,” she says. “Partially because they keep moving and changing and I am a woman living in these times, surrounded by these circumstances as they are happening.”

Currently residing in Philadelphia, Anastasia credits living in the Northeast with being a significant factor in her choice of palette. “I don’t think I would be a black and white artist if I lived out west or in a warm climate,” she says. “I like the seasons and the ebbs and flows the city goes through. There’s a prolonged period of grey skies and cold weather that my creative side enjoys thoroughly.” Alexandrin’s artwork has appeared in solo exhibitions in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as in group exhibitions all over the United States. Her art is housed in various museum collections including, The Woodmere Art Museum, DiCarlo Gallery, and Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia.

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A native of the Ukraine, Anastasia fled the Soviet Union with her parents and brother when she was 5 years old. The family eventually settled in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Anastasia attended Barnstone Studios, a nearby academy of drawing and design. “I was always an artist even as a kid,” she said. “My parents knew that if they gave me a piece of paper and pencils I was satisfied for hours.” When she was a senior in High School, Anastasia won the National Scholastic Silver award. She eventually matriculated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art (PAFA), where she served as a teacher’s assistant on her way to achieving her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

It was at PAFA that she found her voice under mentor, Peter Paone. “I very much admire Peter Paone,” she said. “He is able to work in so many different forms of art and he’s never lost who he is through all the changes his work has gone through.” Referencing a transition in Paone’s career, when he left New York City to pursue a new direction with his art in Philadelphia, Anastasia emphasized how important it is to continue evolving as an artist. “What leads me is the entire process of evolving,” she said. “Sales can drive an artist into making art that is no longer his own but driven by the market. That is when your imagination begins to stagnate and you start to repeat yourself.”

For an artist that is driven by perspectives of female identity, it’s conceivable that may create a chasm in the art. After all, an artist must evolve if he or she is to provide a relevant and timely social commentary. It is easy to be drawn into the narrative complexities that manifest as a result of Anastasia’s frenetic style. Her hyperactive use of line suggests motion and projects a timeless dream-like quality. “My soul is charcoal,” she says. “My way of working changes with each drawing, and different types of paper and pencils. I don’t perceive myself as having a style as much as a visual voice that is very much my own.”

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Anastasia’s art playfully shrugs at convention and celebrates transcendence. “It’s about confidence and enjoying it all,” she says. “These women are smart and driven to be seen and heard, as well as look as beautiful as they can be.” Through incorporating recognizable symbols, such as a smattering of bubbles or a towering wave, she clues viewers in to the psychological processes of women, as well as the obstacles they confront on their way toward reaching self-actualization. The women in her art address their fears and embrace individuality. In the process, they offer brave conceptions of self. As the viewer is staring at them, they aren’t afraid to stare back. “A woman’s courage is different from a man’s,” she says. “A man becomes solid and tough, while a woman persists and permeates. She keeps moving forward.”

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She credits much of her understanding of that feminine resolve to the city that supported her growth as an artist. “Philadelphia is a wonderful place to work,” she says. “I am inspired by the people I meet and places I visit. The surroundings influence my choice of palette. Even when it is warm and full of color here, there is still a certain draw for drawing in black and white.”

Anastasia has built a strong following among collectors. An appointment to her Philadelphia studio to view her art has become a sought-after invitation among collectors. Having had that opportunity, I’d equate the experience to being in a carnival fun house. When she talks about each work, it is much like seeing her stand before a wall of contorted silvery mirrors. Her art frames and magnifies fragments of female transcendence and reflects a bright visage of their brash and sassy creator.

“I say what I want to say in my drawings without hesitation or worry of satisfying anyone but myself,” she says. “It’s been quite a ride and I love it.”

Marc Londo is a media scholar and popular culture critic. When he is not writing about the arts, his creative energy is spent researching the effects of mass communication on our global culture. Marc has always been fascinated by culture. An avid traveler, he is intrigued by the celebrations of humanity that bond societies and transcend differences across cultures. Through writing about the unique expressions that touch his imagination, it is his ambition to serve as a bridge between global networks. Presently, he is working toward completing his doctoral dissertation at Temple University.

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