Enjoy the humorous ceramic work of featured artist Zhanna Martin, be sure to visit her website to find out more about her work.
I was born and raised in Novosibirsk, Russia….what Americans know as “Siberia”. When I was growing up in my small town, I didn’t have access to the type of resources and opportunities my children now have, and so never had a formal way of pursuing my passion for art. But I was always involved in some kind of art project for my own enjoyment… whether it was a painting, collage, dolls, photography, digital art, knitting, sewing. I loved it all.
I moved to the United States in 1998 to pursue a career in architecture. But in 2009, with a small child and another baby on the way, and a husband who was self-employed, I was laid off. This was devastating to me and my family.
I took it as a sign that I needed to change my path in life, so I took a clay class near my house with Carlos Beltran at the Torpedo Factory (in Alexandria, Virginia) as my instructor.
I had never worked with clay before, and as I began working with this new substance I found faces just started popping out my hand… faces that were happy, sad, silly, excited, nervous… all kinds of human emotions. I loved it!
Desperately craving more training, I sought out and began taking classes by well-established artists such as Debra Fritts, Curt La Cross, Tip Toland, Laura Demme, and Jennifer Frudakis. The more classes I took, the more I wanted. I just loved this substance, and the way it allowed all these emotions to flow through my fingers and create wonderful snapshots of human expression.
One day I received notice that the highly esteemed book, “500 Figures in Clay”, was looking for submissions for its next volume. I knew this book, loved this book, and had so much respect and admiration for the artists in this book. I did not think my work was anywhere near the caliber of these artists, so I did not even consider submitting any of my pieces. But as my husband told me, “you don’t know until you try,” so I did.
The day I received notice that two of my sculptures had been accepted by “500 Figures in Clay” was one of the most joyous and emotional days of my life. I could not believe it. Here I was, a girl from a small town in Russia, being mentioned next to some of the greatest ceramic artists in the world. It was such a tremendous feeling of recognition and validation.
My work focuses on the emotions that make us all human…….and centers on facial expressions as the representation of those emotions. My ideas typically come from a phrase I heard (Americans say funny things!), or a picture I saw, or a “moment” I observed.
And for as much as I enjoy creating these facial expressions in clay, I also enjoy seeing the emotions and expressions brought out in people when they see my work for the first time. Especially laughter. I love it when one of my sculptures makes someone laugh!