Russia’s dying villages inspire a rising star of the art world
Gorshenina’s ghostly portraits of Yakshina have earned her recognition as one of the rising stars of Russia’s art scene. She even had a solo exhibition at Moscow’s VDNH, one of the Russian capital’s most prestigious art spaces.
Her work mostly features herself in textile costumes and masks that she makes out of old bedding and curtains. It expresses both her childhood memories and Gorshenina’s own take on the mythology of her home village.
For Gorshenina, the decline of Russia’s rural heartland, and Yakshina in particular, is bound up with her family history.
Her mother, Tatyana, a city girl herself, moved to Yakshina for agricultural work experience when she was 18. She ended up falling in love and marrying Alexei Gorshenin.
“For me the village was very romantic, and I left everything behind and came there. At first it was all right, but it was difficult for a city person to get used to it,” Tatyana Gorshenina told NBC News in her small, one-room home on the outskirts of Niznhiy Tagil, the industrial city where the family now lives.
The 1990s were hard for millions of Russians, with mass unemployment and shortages of basic essentials, including food.
It was a struggle to survive. Tatyana Gorshenina says that her family was saved from hunger by obtaining a cow, which provided them with some nourishment.
“It was such hard work. In the winter, there was stagnation and no money. The canteen where I worked was seasonal and would shut for winter. Things went from bad to worse,” she recalls.
Alisa Gorshenina remembers a difficult childhood in Yakshina. She was bullied and beaten for having a funny name — “Alisa” is not typical in Russia — and for looking different.
“I dreamed of leaving the village,” she says. “Mom told me about Nizhny Tagil and we would come here to visit relatives. And to me, as a child, it seemed full of these huge castles, it was like a fairy tale.”