Bondo Wyszpolski

Sarah Svetlana at ShockBoxx Gallery

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Sarah Svetlana: work in progress. All photos courtesy of ShockBoxx Gallery

секретный сад [Secret Garden]

A solo show by Sarah Svetlana

by Bondo Wyszpolski

Sarah Svetlana: recent painting

We can routinely count on ShockBoxx in Hermosa Beach to present us with intriguing and evocative shows, and they’ve got one opening up this weekend. But it’s not just “any show” or “another show,” but one which gallery owner Mike Collins feels is closest to the essence and core mission of the venue. Sarah Svetlana is an interesting figure and her work makes a strong, visual impact. Here’s what Collins says about her paintings:

“Sarah has been around the gallery since the beginning, and her work is always raising the bar, keeping each of us on our toes. She spearheaded the all-female, PowerHouse show last summer and then immediately went underground, working on all-new pieces for this solo show.

“I don’t know of any artist who paints from deeper within their heart and soul than Sarah. As an artist myself, her work challenges me to push myself and, as a gallery owner, I am humbled by what she has brought in for this show. It would be too simple to say that this is her best work to date, but it is. More than that, though, she has managed to harness chaos and layers into the most vulnerable and soothing abstract pieces we’ve ever shown. This is exactly the type of artist, and show, that we had in mind when we created ShockBoxx.”

Sarah Svetlana also answered a few questions about her life and her work.

Q. Could you say a few words about your background, regarding your life and what led you into art and creativity in the first place?

“I came to the US when I was four years old under refugee status from the Soviet Union. We escaped religious persecution. My family went through refugee camps and then assimilation. My escape has always been art and the endless journey of self identity. My work revolves around all of that. When you’re a small child going through traumatic events, your imagination and creation was and is my salvation.”

Sarah Svetlana: another recent work, on view at ShockBoxx

Q. Who or what are your influences?

“I love Cy Twombly, Basquiat, and Helen Frankenthaler for their authentic, from-the-soul work. They taught me as long as you create from your heart and your truth, people will connect to it. Their markings were their own and genuine.”

Q. Is the work is this show entirely recent, and is there a theme to it?

“I began working on this show six months ago. It’s called Secret Garden (also written in Russian) because I used each piece as a diary. Layers upon layers of colors and markings. They are stories about my past and my present.”

Q. How much do current social and political events affect your art?

“Because of my beginning and my upbringing I have always been painfully aware of the divide in this country and the world. My work isn’t necessarily political in any way, but of course as an adult now who came here as a refugee, as a child, I am just one voice and the result of what happens when you are hated by your own country and are forced to flee. From all the pain I experienced and the second generation trauma my family and I endured, my work is definitely a reflection of what’s happening in this world today.”

The artist and her work: “Secret Garden” at ShockBoxx Gallery, opening Saturday, is sure to make an impression.

Q. How do you feel that your art has evolved?

“This show has forced me to really dig deep and hold nothing back. This body of work is the strongest yet and I have learned not to be afraid and to always follow my instincts.”

Q. What would you like people to come away with after seeing your show?

“I want people to feel inspired to step outside their comfort zone. I create not only for myself but to truly connect to others. People who are not like me, who come from different backgrounds to understand that underneath it all we are just One.”

Secret Garden, solo work by Sarah Svetlana, opens Saturday with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at ShockBoxx, 636 Cypress Ave, Hermosa Beach. Through March 25. To learn more, go to shockboxxproject.com. ER

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