Mira Hnatyshyn: a Closer Look at Culture, Gender and Human Behavior

Mira Hnatyshyn is a San Antonio-based artist who uses her work to explore issues of culture, gender and human behaviour. Referencing her original photographs of women from around the world, Mira’s installations are modern simulacra constructed with painted canvasses, sculpted appendages and found objects. She seeks to present an amplified version of reality that capture isolated moments in time but carry a sense of timelessness. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally and is included in the Saatchi Gallery in London as well as private and public collections.

A:Please explain more about your connection between appearance and reality and how this is expressed in your work?
The notion of appearance versus reality is too often expressed as a comparison between perfect and imperfect. I take the people out of the place and create a new reality with imperfect construction. In Every Girl Wants To Be Queen, for example, I take a photojournalistic image of young girls walking up stairs at London Tower, strip out the surroundings and place them in an existential state. Removing the historical space in which they appeared creates a simulacra that clearly expresses their psychology, not perfection.

A: You work with narratives from both history and contemporary events, what is behind your inspiration?
My parents lived through World War II and immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe for a better life. They brought with them a strong sense of history and human agency but also feelings of alienation and fear. We were taught to remember the past as prologue to a future full of both promise and peril. My work reflects those feelings in that it seeks to capture a universal reality even as contemporary events repeat or mirror the past.

A: You work across genres, expand on your technique and your approach
Desiring the illusory effect of painting and visceral technique of sculpture, I begin with a large canvas nailed to the wall leaving its edges malleable. Clear gesso leaves a raw background to the portrait or public landscape. Collaged sculpted fabric or small paintings add to the narrative as do sculpted fabric and bunting on the floor or ceiling. These sculpted pieces pay homage to the tradition of telling stories through quilt making. Depending on the context of the narrative, other materials are used in sculpting objects such as melted crayons, feathers, plastic or light elements.

A: Who or what influences you as an artist?
MH: Growing up in Washington, DC, I was exposed to the paintings and sculptures on the National Mall. I remember coming back to the museums year after year and feeling a special connection with the portraits. My understanding of artists and contemporary work has grown through formal studies and travel to Europe, Mexico and Japan. A long list of artists inspires me, including Thornton Dial, JR (a Parisian street artist) and Magdalena Abakanowicz (a Polish artist). But my greatest inspiration comes from the people I encounter every day. People continue to be my greatest influence over my work.

A: Where do you see your work going in the future?
MH: I have always maintained that I do not want to impose my complete will on my work. I allow the work to tell me its direction. I would like to see it grow to incorporate more performance and interaction from the viewer.

Mira Hnatyshyn has an upcoming group exhibition: Practice at French and Michigan, San Antonio, Texas. 6 December until 14 February, 2015.

Her work can also be seen online here: www.mirahnatyshyn.com

To see her listing in the Artists’ Directory in Aesthetica Magazine issue 61 pick up a copy at www.aestheticamagazine.com

1.The Braidbasket Mixed media Courtesy of Mira Hnatyshyn
2. Every Girl Wants To Be Queen Mixed media Courtesy of Mira Hnatyshyn