Katya Grokhovsky is a powerhouse-bad-ass-feminist who employs video, collage, painting, sculpture and performance art within her artistic practice. She is brave, daring, unwavering and I am thrilled to present her as our 2018 inaugural FEATURED ARTIST. Grokhovsky was born in Ukraine, raised in Australia and completed her MFA at the School of the Art Institute Chicago. She has an impressive artist residency, fellowship and international exhibition history that she has undoubtedly worked tirelessly to achieve. Katya is also an independent curator who curated, among others, projects such as “CALL OF THE WILD: Pioneers, Rebels and Heroines” at VOX Populi Gallery (Philadelphia, PA) in 2015 and most recently announced her appointment as lead curator for Art in Odd Places NYC edition premiering this fall (October 2018).
Last December, Katya performed "Bad Bad Woman" in conjunction with our programming presented at Satellite Art Show, Miami Art Week 2017. After witnessing the 2-hour durational piece, I felt empowered, exhausted and curious. I am delighted to continue the investigation of Bad Bad Woman with you here. Read, Enjoy and Share! - Quinn Dukes
QUINN DUKES: This has been a very busy year for you! How do you manage the residency, work, life balance? (Is balance possible?)
KATYA GROKHOVSKY: I feel balanced and well adjusted only when I’m making or seeing or curating art, to be honest, so I don’t particularly believe in existence of work-life equilibrium as such, simply because my life is my art and vice versa. Everything I do or get involved in, supports or revolves around my artistic practice in some way, so there is no separation. It is one continuous long distance marathon, with gigantic obstacles and challenges on the way, which I actually enjoy facing and overcoming. I am pretty driven, obsessive and maximalist by nature, so I am my most creative and productive when I work in highly energetic workaholic bursts, followed by extreme rest. It took me years to understand this and to design my life in tandem with my own passion and temperament, rather than how society expects me to function and exist.
QD: What are a few personal highlights from 2017?
KG: It has been quite a significant year, as I believe I have had at least two substantial breakthroughs in 2017, which had a profound effect on me, both professionally and personally. At the start of the year, I went to Melbourne, Australia, where my family resides and where we migrated to from Ukraine in 1992. I spent a few months there working on two projects, one of which, “The Future is Bright”, is focused on my family’s history, specifically my 93 year old grandmother, a World War II veteran from former USSR and quite a fascinating, matriarchal character. During the time spent filming my grandmother’s narrative, I became intensely aware of my own history, identity and lineage, something I always felt, but never truly looked at in such historical and personal detail. The research made me feel much more grounded and proud of my own and my family’s biography, pushing my long-standing immigrant insecurities aside, eventually providing me with a solid platform to explore my own voice, womanhood and place, giving rise to the second major project conceived in 2017: “Bad Woman”.
QD: Can you tell us how Bad Bad Woman was born?
KG: Bad Bad Woman is essentially the child of Bad Woman, who was born out of lifelong anger, injustice, discrimination and post-election hopelessness. I was interested in pushing the initial concept into further experimental and dangerous realm, adding live performance, especially, as the war on women seems to be worsening every year, even though we are living in the 21st Century. It is a meta-form of gradual decaying of the character, unraveling into a wild, beastly creature, decolonized and free. Primarily, created as a symbolic exploration device of patriarchy and female conditioning, Bad Woman Bad Woman will continue metabolizing it’s previous version, possibly forever, as it encapsulates the seemingly never ending battle of women for their rights and humanity, attempting to destroy the snake of patriarchy, which has been suffocating them throughout centuries and generations.
QD: How has she evolved since the first iteration of Bad Woman?
KG: The first iteration of the project was designed and exhibited as an immersive video and sculpture installation and didn't include live performance. As a follow up, Bad Bad Woman was developed as a live multimedia action, in order to thrust the character into new territories of experimentation and process. I was specifically interested in stepping out of the comfort of performing for the camera to expose her vulnerabilities as well as discover her strengths. Performance in front of an audience gives me an opportunity to realize and confront my own discomfort, aggression and fears as well as capabilities and limitations in an ephemeral, immediate setting, which I feel other mediums don't offer. There is an element of failure and danger and it gives me a certain permission as this masked, weary, fur clad character, to say what I wanted to say, to be angry, violent, absurd, funny, tired and unpleasant, without my own conditioning interfering.
QD: “Bad Bad Woman” was an incredible testament to your strength and endurance. What were you thinking/feeling as you performed squats in heels while wearing a full fur coat in Miami heat for hours?
KG: Thank you, I was absolutely exhausted afterwards and collapsed into a cold bath at the hotel, but during the performance I felt like I was Superwoman, flying across centuries, rescuing women from the patriarchy. I didn't feel pain or fatigue, or extreme heat, or dehydration; I was simultaneously in a highly focused, aware, present state and floating above the room, time traveling. Many emotions went through me: extreme rage, sadness, heartbreak, laughter, madness. For me, performance is a state of intensely heightened alertness of body and mind, a particular cocktail of adrenalin, nerves, bravery, excitement and fear. I remember, at one point, during the second hour of Bad Bad Woman, I felt an incredible amount of energy and anger flow through me, somehow uplifting and encouraging me to keep going. As I was speaking, I felt furious for the murdered, raped, disappeared, abused and discarded women and girls throughout history. I was truly enraged and yet, empowered by their voices. At the end, my sweating and squatting in heels felt trivial and I felt powerless, once again, until next time.
QD: Your work unites performance, video, sculpture, collage and drawing. Many of these elements were incorporated within your Miami performance. How do these mediums influence one another?
KG: My background includes several disciplines, such as fashion, dance, painting and sculpture and I enjoy incorporating and mixing them all up. I am interested in the totality and surprising intersections of different mediums, often providing new solutions through failures and experiments. I work in circular manner, starting with drawing and collage, sculpture and objects, progressing into video, performance and installation. To me, process is much more central and captivating, than the final results, and so the mediums employed along the way influence each other in ongoing succession.
QD: Who or what do you turn to for inspiration?
KG: My inspiration tends to come from my own life, as well as many eclectic sources, such as reading, traveling, dancing, internet, walking, flea markets, TV, museums, films and music. I find American pop culture both mesmerizing and repellant, so I watch it from an outsider’s perspective and find it provides entertaining visual stimuli as well as pop-cultural knowledge I lack. Currently, I’m reading Virginia Woolf, Dostoevsky, Simone de Beauvoir, Roxane Gay, Margaret Atwood, bell hooks and Rebecca Solnit. I obsessively rewatch Chantal Akerman’s films, as well as many Russian movies I grew up with. I look at and research a lot of art, and listen to a variety of music genres, from Russian pop to Beyonce and Beethoven. I dance and move to pretty much anything, as a way to loosen up and find ideas.
QD: What is next for you?
KG: So far, 2018 is promising to be an active, challenging and exhilarating year. I’m currently working on my next solo exhibition, “System Failure”, which will open in February at Martin Art Gallery, Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and will be on view 14th of February - April 10th, involving a large scale sculptural installation, several of my video works and live performances. Also starting in February through May, I will be an artist in residence at the Artist Studios Program at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York and in October I will be curating the next Art in Odd Places Festival (NYC) and coinciding group exhibition at Westbeth Gallery under the theme BODY, which will present interdisciplinary projects by women, female identifying and non-binary artists.
Katya Grokhovsky was born in Ukraine, raised in Australia and is based in Brooklyn, New York. She is an artist, independent curator, educator and a founding director of Feminist Urgent. Grokhovsky holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a BFA from Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University, Australia and a BA (Honors) in Fashion from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia.
Grokhovsky has received support through numerous residencies and fellowships including The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) Artist Studios Program Residency (upcoming), NYC, BRICworkspace Residency, NYC, Ox-BOW School of Art Residency, MI, Wassaic Artist Residency, NY, Atlantic Center for the Arts, FL, Studios at MASS MoCA, MA, SOHO20 Gallery Residency, NYC, BRIC Media Arts Fellowship, NYC, Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, WY, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, NE, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, NY, NARS (New York Residency and Studio Foundation), NYC, Santa Fe Art Institute Residency, NM, Chanorth Residency, NY, Watermill Center International Summer Residency, NY and more. She has been awarded the Asylum Arts Grant, NYC, Dame Joan Sutherland Fund, NYC, Australia Council for the Arts ArtStart Grant, NYFA Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists, NYC, Chashama space to create grant, NYC, Freedman Traveling Scholarship for Emerging Artists, Australia and others.
Her work has been exhibited in venues such as Smack Mellon, NYC, Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe, NM, FLUX Factory, NYC, EFA Project Space, NYC, Arsenal Gallery, NYC, NURTUREart, NYC, Field Projects, NYC, Underdonk, NYC, San Francisco International Arts Festival, CA, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, NY, Lesley Heller Workspace, NYC, HERE Arts Center, NYC, Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY College, NY, Governor’s Island Art Fair, NYC, New York City Center, NYC, Soho20 gallery, NYC, Watermill Center, NY among others. She has performed and presented screenings at Dixon Place, NYC, Art in Odd Places Festival, NYC and Orlando, FL, El Museo De Los Sures, NYC, Glasshouse, NYC, Grace Exhibition Space, NYC, Panoply Lab, NYC, IDEAS City, New Museum, NYC, Artist’s Television Access, SF, The Situation Room and LACE, LA, The Chimney, NYC, Khyber Centre for the Arts, Halifax, Canada, San Diego Art Institute, CA, Movement Research Festival, NYC and more.
Grokhovsky is a recipient of VOX Populi AUX Curatorial Fellowship, Philadelphia, PA and is a Founding Director of The Bedroom Projects, NYC, from 2011-2013. She has recently curated group exhibitions and performances at Lesley Heller Workspace, NYC, Parasol Projcts, NYC, Kunstraum, Brooklyn, NY, Grace Exhibition space, Brooklyn, NY, Art Mora, NYC, L.I.C Arts, Queens, NY, VOX Populi, Philadelphia, Chashama, Queens, NY, Defibrillator gallery, Chicago, IL, Zhou B art center, Chicago, IL, Heaven gallery, Chicago, IL. In 2018 she will be the lead curator of Art in Odd Places Festival along 14th st NYC and accompanying Exhibition at Westbeth Gallery, NYC.
Grokhovsky’s work has been reviewed and written about in Hyperallergic, Art F City, Huffington Post, Observer, FRONTRUNNER Magazine, ArtBorne Magazine, Expose Magazine, ArtSlant, Bad at Sports, BUST Magazine, Arte Fuse, Art for Progress, L Magazine, Art Nerd New York, Gothamist, Bedford + Bowery, Artnet, Beautiful Decay and others.