Anastasia Alexandrin is creating a new standard of feminine mysticism.
Through her use of layered lines of charcoal, Anastasia Alexandrin merges classical and modern conceptions of feminine mysticism into a standard that is all her own. The dexterity that she displays in blending the linear strokes of her pencil across and within the textual elements of her art breathes life into a timeless world that has an old cinematic quality. She accomplishes this through subtle mastery of form and expression. Her subjects have a natural quality that is reminicent of the placidity that defined the old daguerreotype photographs. It is that understated expression of a single moment in time that compels the viewer to look deeper into the work for the soul of the artist.
Iris, circa 2010
An artist in a most reflexive sense, there are common, identifiable, threads that run throughout Anastasia’s art that speak to a greater worldview. She effectively distances ego from her narratives and creates a world that is quite Lacanian, in that it recognizes the weight of the gaze. There are recognized struggles within the frames. Sometimes, it’s as subtle as a random facial expression. The women appear to be conscious of the implications of societal objectification. However, while they seemingly nod to the presence of hierarchy, they ultimately realize a greater ability to cross boundaries. In the process, the narratives depict a celebration of individuality, while women are confronted with their images reflected back from the iris of society.
My my Hokusai, circa 2009
The romanticized portrayals of beauty undergo a uniquely modern metamorphosis through the artists repetition of lines. “It’s all charcoal on paper,” Alexandrin says. “I draw one line at a time first vertical then horizontal and then whatever is needed. Then I layer with more lines wherever needed.” What results is a distinctive film-like quality that emits a grainy feel. Compounded by brilliant emotive use of tonality, the viewer becomes confronted by nostalgic imagery that resembles the glamour of old Hollywood. Nevertheless, the themes within her work are still distinctly modern. There is a progressive nature to her art that emphasizes self-awareness and mocks conventionality. Consequently, there’s an empowering aspect to the frames.
As the viewer becomes familiar with Alexandrin’s art, her ability to integrate historical context within her critical situational appraisals define her work. Her sharp intellectual ability is exemplified in the piece with the three women on the train. The women, or ‘dolls’ as Anastasia refers to them, make appearances in a various other pieces of her work. They often embody the fake, oblivious, narcissistic, conceptions of materialism. In the aforementioned piece, the dolls are trapped on a collision course with modernity. The train and the brick wall project the classic ‘irresistible force meets the immovable object’ narrative. With their hair billowing out (like smoke from a train’s smokestack), their unmoved, feigned, expressions telegraph their deeper feelings of collective power. When put into the context of the industrial revolution, which was a manifestation of the growth of the railroad and is symbolized by the raising of brick walls, this piece addresses feminine power and its ability to transcend paradigms that were designed to maintain structure and inhibit any opposition to the status quo.
So whats in your box… series, circa 2011
Alexandrin’s use of symbolism provides for compelling narratives. Nevertheless, she avoids the ideological sandtraps that come with pushing an agenda. What makes her narratives so effective is her familiarity with the subject matter. As a young, upcoming, female artist, she is aware of the values that society places on womanhood. Much of her work confronts that personal journey a woman finds herself on while traversing imposed standards. Many of her ideas are worked out through a series of canvases which incorporate similar expressions of identity. “My my Hokusai” was one in a series of 35 x 45 inch canvases that offered glimpses into the highs and lows women go through while taking on a variety of roles in society. In that piece, the wave is represents the fluidy with which a woman must adapt to her circumstances in order to overcome. Similar such waves appear in other works by Anastasia.
“So whats in your box…,” is a more introspective series of Alexandrin’s art, addressing questions regarding hierarchal constraints that have been imposed on a woman’s affective ability to reach self-actualization. Within this series, the box (which offers many parallels to the story of Pandora’s box) is defined by its shapes and adornments. A recurring narrative in this series shows the woman as a ‘jack in the box’ figure who emerges from her crank box with a diety-like radiance. The box reveals its control over her with its emblazned image of an eye enclosed in pyramid (much like the image on the back of a dollar bill). That image of the pyramid denotes hierarchal power. It also just so happens to reflect the model Maslow used to outline the steps to reaching self-actualization. In the “So whats in your box…” series, the crank and spring are notably absent from the third piece that shows the woman being freed by the fluttering wings of a school of butterflies. That box resembles an antique camera. The only thing binding her is the blindfold that covers her eyes. When reflecting on Lacan’s concept of the gaze, the presence of the blindfold offers a compelling question. If a woman were to be blinded to the knowledge of how others view her when they gaze upon her beauty, would she be free to reach self-actualization?
Alexandrin’s crossed lines of charcoal create a layered fabric in which patterns often replicate. This is most expressly seen in the ornamental frames that surround many of the images. It’s a technique that she uses to create distance between viewer and subject. The illusion of depth is further augmented through symmetric patterns that take shape within the grid. Anastasia utilized both of these techniques in the final “So whats in your box…” piece, where she framed the subject with a classic peacock feather design. The checkered pattern in the background of that piece could be likened to the grid shapes we see from the windows of airplanes, suggesting that the butterflies girding the woman’s weighless emotional state are effectively distancing her from the gravity of societal aspersions.
Collectively, Anastasia Alexandrin’s art offers a compelling modern worldview that approaches feminine mysticism from a plethara of angles. Her use of line and tone inject a romantic quality that is reminicent of an age that many look back on with nastalgia. Since her art addresses contemporary issues of feminine identity, viewers must be consciously aware of their own contextual repository in assessing the arts progressive narratives against its classic beauty ideal. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition. Anastasia’s mastery of the frame bridges the connection by confronting viewers with multi-layered narratives that are dark in some areas and lighter in others. It’s often that which is hidden that speaks the loudest. It is up to viewers to deconstruct the narratives by juxtaposing their own frames. In doing so, they will truly become familiar with the soul of this artist.
Marc Londo is a media scholar and popular culture critic. When he is not writing about the arts and sports, his time is often spent researching the effects of mass communication on our global culture.
Marc has always been fascinated by the arts. An avid traveler, he is intrigued by the unique celebrations of humanity that bond societies as well as transcend differences across cultures. Through writing about the things that touch his imagination, it is his ambition to serve as a bridge between networks that span the globe. Presently, he is working toward completing his doctoral dissertation at Temple University.