Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In the Greenville Journal

Big thanks to Cindy Landrum at the Greenville Journal for this great article, and Art & Light owner Teresa Roche for putting us together. We had such a great talk with Cindy that I forgive her for quoting me as saying that I'm a lazy painter. (I really did say that, I should have just prefaced it with 'this is off the record'! I say that to people constantly so it was just a matter of time before it became public record.)

The article is also about Artisphere, which was a great show for us...including a second place ribbon. Congrats to our good friend and art crush Lisa Norris for trumping us with best of show.

By Cindy Landrum
MAY 12, 2011

After Signe and Genna Grushovenko became partners in life, they really didn’t set out to become partners in art, too.
That’s something that began to happen gradually a couple of years into their marriage.

Because Signe Grushovenko was used to drawing with pastels on colored paper, she did not want to paint on a white canvas.

Genna, who was stretching and preparing the canvases that his wife would use, began underpainting. Soon, he began to turn the underpainting into more than just a bottom coat of color. They became abstract paintings in themselves.

He turned the canvases over to Signe, who uses her collection of a couple thousand vintage photographs ranging from old family photos to flea market and antique store finds as inspiration for the scene she paints over Genna’s colorful abstract canvases.

The Grushovenkos, who moved to Greenville in February, will join 10 other local artists chosen for artist row for this year’s Artisphere.

Artisphere, which is rated in the top 20 for art festivals in the United States, runs Friday through Sunday.

The 120 visual artists were chosen in a blind-juried competition from among a record 784 applicants. Half of the artists, including the Grushovenkos, are participating in the three-day festival are new to the festival.

“That’s exciting,” said Kerry Murphy, Artisphere’s executive director. “We’re excited that many artists want to come to Greenville.”

The artists represent a variety of mediums: ceramics, drawing, glass, jewelry, oil painting, acrylic painting, watercolors, photography, printmaking, sculpture and woodworking.

The artists aren’t the only things new.

The festival will feature artist demonstrations by local artists. Festivalgoers can watch a potter throw clay pots, an artist painting with wax and a blacksmith tying an Appalachian broom.

Gone are the food and beverage tickets, as cash will be accepted for the first time at all the food booths. The food vendors are using recyclable paper products, while beer and wine will be sold in recyclable cups.

Returning to the festival is crowd favorite, Brian Olsen. Olsen uses his fingertips, elbows and up to three paintbrushes at a time to create large paintings of pop icons during a single song.

Musical performances are highlighted by Sonia Leigh on Friday and Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons on Saturday.

The Artists of the Upstate juried exhibition is hanging at Centre Stage.

Signe Grushovenko said while Genna’s part of the paintings got more complex, hers got simpler.

“I select what portion of his work to feature,” she said. “I am harnessing moments in his very free creative process.

Genna, who is from the Ukraine and completed compulsory service in the Soviet Army, said he has no preconceived notions of what his underpaintings will look like when he starts.

Sometimes, Signe tries to tell him what colors or patterns she needs.

“That’s the only thing we fight about anymore,” she said.

Genna said his painting is a “jazz-like process.” “Sometimes, it’s hard to control,” he said. “Any restriction on my creativity does not serve me well. It’s a very fluid and spontaneous process.”

Sometimes the process creates an underpainting that Signe doesn’t originally think she can use.

“It pushes her to make some difficult decisions,” he said.

Genna said it’s difficult to duplicate the process because he paints outside and weather conditions can affect his results because he uses very thin paints.

“The unpredictability is part of the fun for me,” he said.

Signe said she is drawn to vintage photographs because of the patterns created by the groups of people, including the shapes between them and the repetition of arms and legs.

“Signe selects a photograph for a feeling,” he said.

Signe’s first painting from a vintage photograph used a picture of her great grandparents.

“I felt a real resonance with black and white photos,” she said. “They give me freedom of color.”

She doesn’t base many of her paintings on family photographs anymore.

“Some of the photographs I use once and some I go back to over and over,” she said.

She likes early century photos because “people made such great shapes in their clothes.”

Signe, like Genna, doesn’t know exactly where she’s headed when she begins a painting. But she knows when it’s finished.

“I’m kind of a lazy painter. I like to be done,” she said. “It’s easy to overpaint.”

The Grushovenkos are looking forward to their first art show in their new hometown.

The move first came up when a pair of very close friends moved to Spartanburg. There was nothing left to keep the Grushovenkos in LaGrange, Ga.

The first time they came to Greenville – for Open Studios – they were convinced to move.

“We were thinking it would be a long process, but we were here in within three months,” she said.

Although the move added some travel time to their outdoor art show circuit which is usually around a dozen art shows around the country, the move has been a good one, Signe said.

“Coming from a town where we were the only full-time artists in town to here, where there is a talented group of artists who were very welcoming, I was blown away,” she said.

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