The passion we exhibit for hometown sports is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Pittsburgh, but the support we have for local arts could easily rival that enthusiasm. Pittsburgh is the home of such well-known artists as impressionist Mary Cassatt, and the enigmatic Andy Warhol. In fact, the Warhol Museum stands proudly on the North Shore, right by PNC Park and Heinz Field. It was at this very museum, during the launch party for local publisher Unicorn Mountain’s “The Black Forest”, that we had the opportunity to meet up-and-coming local artist Masha Vereshchenko. Masha was one of many contributors to the tome; a collection of poetry, art and prose “from Western Pennsylvania and Beyond”. Her work just can’t help but leap from the pages of “The Black Forest”. We had to learn a little more about the artist herself, so we sat down with Masha for a quick chat to learn about what makes her tick, where we can find more of her amazing work, and what’s in store for the future.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Tell us a little a bit about your background
Masha Vereshchenko: I was born in Russia, in the city of Ryazan. My whole family was artistically talented. My Mom liked to sew. She drew clothing designs for herself and then made them instead of buying expensive fashionable things. My Dad made carvings of evil fairy tale characters out of wood or foam … Owls, spiders, the Russian witch Baba Yaga, a three-headed dragon, the witch’s house that has crow feet — he would turn them into jewelry boxes and bird cages. I didn’t fit in with other kids, so I would sit and paint things from cartoons for hours in my room. My Mom wanted to give us a better life, so she and I moved to Detroit when I was 12. We’re still waiting for my sister, her husband, and daughter to move here. They’ve been waiting for their visa for over 10 years now. I came to Pittsburgh to go to school, which I never completed. I’ve been here for about 9 years.
CBSPittsburgh.com: What initiated your career as an artist?
MV: I can’t say anything initiated my career as an artist, it’s just been something I’ve always done. I remember constantly fighting with my sister because she always had better art supplies than I, and she didn’t want to let me use them. It feels weird when people ask me if I’m still making art. To me it sounds like, “Are you still breathing air?”
CBSPittsburgh.com: What inspires you in Pittsburgh?
MV: What inspires me about Pittsburgh are the landscapes. I live on the South Side and my deck faces the South Side slopes. I love looking out from my porch. There’s a church on the hill that looks like a giant with two yellow eyes and a pointy hat who sits there protecting me. Whenever I want to start on a new piece, but feel stuck, I go for a drive around the city. I don’t know if it’s the nature or the creative energy drawn from other artists flying through the air, but it usually helps.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Who are your greatest influences?
MV: My Dad passed away from alcoholism when I was a teenager, but his art is still with me. I took what was left of it, some of it broken, on one of my trips back to Russia. He’s always been a big influence because of how much he struggled, but continued to make art. Other influences are Russian iconography and music. Always music.
CBSPittsburgh.com: What are some of your favorite creations?
MV: My favorite creation is a poster I made for my friend’s band, Senryu. Wil wanted me to make a poster of one of the songs, which was about evil killer babies who hide behind the shadows, crawling through the dark desert saying, “You will never stop us now.” But it’s also true that whatever I’m currently working on becomes a favorite, until the next thing.
CBSPittsburgh.com: What has been your proudest accomplishment as an artist?
MV: I now have work out in Australia, which is pretty exciting for me. I’m going to have a solo show there in August 2012. Also, “Unicorn Mountain” is something I’m proud of. It’s pretty cool to have my art inside a book along with many awesome local and nationally known artists and comic book writers. I’m waiting for more accomplishments though. I know they’re just around the corner.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Do you see Pittsburgh reflected in your work?
MV: I’d say it’s reflected in subtle ways. All of my work is about the things I’m going through at the moment. But living in Pittsburgh doesn’t hurt any: When I see the amazing colors and textures of spring, for example, when all the leaves and flowers start to come out, I’m reminded of the textures I like to put into my work.
CBSPittsburgh.com: What are you currently working on?
MV: I’m on a series right now called “Dangerous Animals.” It’s about facing a huge struggle and dealing with things I wasn’t prepared to deal with, and revisiting a childhood state, to see things in a different light. Other paintings are about the struggles and emotions that rise up as I deal with stuff that happens in my life.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Where can we see some of your work?
MV: www.vereshchenko.com, www.mousebones.blogspot.com, and you can buy the book at www.unicornmountain.com or local comic book stores like “Copacetic”, “Phantom of the Attic” and lots more stores added soon.