Tuesday, June 25, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on October 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 32

Lasting impressions: Irina Malkmus' surrealist metal embossings pay tribute to her homeland

By Rebecca Rose

Irina Malkmus vividly recalls the details of spending part of her youth in Crimea, at her grandparents' home, picking wild mushrooms.

"I spent lots of time with my grandmother and grandfather," she said. "Often I would walk to the forest to find some mushrooms. I remember how they smell and how they are beautiful."

Irina Malkmus said her pewter metal embossings take a great deal of time to complete, as many of the stages require long drying times before moving on. Her work is currently featured at Ameriprise Financial in Santa Maria through Nov. 30.

She also remembers snails, like the one she re-created in metal for a showing of her work at Ameriprise Financial. The show runs through Nov. 30 and features a collection of Malkmus' metal embossings, a technique she learned to master over the years after moving to America and studying art at Allan Hancock College. But her life started out much differently, thousands of miles away in the Ukraine.

Malkmus went to medical school, graduating to work as a nurse. She eventually found work at an orphanage and a crisis hotline and even had a stint as a tattoo artist. A chance to study art eluded her when she was younger, living in the Ukraine, she said.

"When I came to the United States 13 years ago, I didn't speak English because my husband is American and he spoke and speaks still Russian," she said. "Everything was new. I was kind of in a social deprivation ... I started to draw myself."

The budding artist practiced her craft meticulously and took classes at Hancock. She said her artwork eventually took off and started to sell, and she was later invited to teach art as a volunteer for children at a local school.

Specializing in a variety of techniques, Malkmus (who now lives in Solvang with her family) said she does some traditional painting, as well as a lot of mixed media artwork. She also works with found objects, including items such as driftwood. She describes the body of her work as "eclectic art." Her art vacillates at times between different interpretations of realism and surrealism, including synthetic cubism, characterized by a bolder palette and a rejection of three-dimensional form and texture in favor of a flat texture. 

Fans of Irina Malkmus’ bright and detailed metal embossings can see her work on display through Nov. 30 at Ameriprise Financial through Nov. 30. The artist worked as a nurse in the Ukraine before moving to America and becoming an artist.

The show at Ameriprise will feature Malkmus' studies in pewter metal embossing. The technique, which has been utilized for hundreds of years, involves stamping into metal sheets to create a relief, an image that rises out of the product.

"There is a small group of people who know this technique," she said. "I learned from a lady who lived in Spain for a long time. She taught the technique to a small class. I took classes from her for one or two months, in 2012, once a week." 

Malkmus applies her own sensibilities as a mixed-media artist to her pieces. They are far from one-dimensional or simplistic, although she prefers to keep her subject matter somewhat grounded in reality, creating portraits or shapes of animals. 

Within each sculpture is a mountain of depth. She often uses bright colors painted on her pieces to convey a sense of joyfulness, bridging the gap between the cold elemental nature of metal to the fluid chaos of the natural world.

"What I do with this metal is I actually draw on it," she said. "Metal is an unusual surface to paint on. I press from both sides to make it 3-D-like. And then I manipulate it with patina and paint for metal and other acids to make it more dark or light."

Artist Irina Malkmus is known for her popular metal embossing. She describes her work as eclectic art, specializing in metal embossing, mixed media, painting, and more. She often uses found objects in her work, such as driftwood.

She first makes a sketch of her subject matter, then plans out which materials to use. She said because the metal pieces are so thin and fragile, it can be easy to make a mistake. The hardest part is trying not to bend each piece too hard, controlling the power of one's hands while creating the relief.

But her planning and caution doesn't mean she afraid of making a few mistakes here and there.

"This is easy because I'm artist," Malkmus said. "I can change it a little bit or add something or put patina on or make it smooth again."

The process can also be long and requires a great amount of patience as an artist. To create her snail embossing, she spent three weeks from the sketch until it was completed. Different chemicals added at different stages to create the desired effects can take several days to fully dry before the artwork is ready to be manipulated again. 

Metal to the petal
Artist Irina Malkmus’ work is featured at Ameriprise Financial through Nov. 30. A reception to meet the artist is scheduled for Oct. 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. Ameriprise is located 2605 South Miller St., suite 104, Santa Maria. For more information on Malkmus’ work, visit irinamalkmus.com or follow her on Instagram @irina_malkmus.

While she misses her homeland, some days Malkmus has a strong reminder of what it was like to be in the forest picking mushrooms among all the snails.

"The snail piece is one of my favorite," she said. "It represents where I grew up. Here we have lots of snails in my garden. They are such cute creatures. I love them, and my daughters love them. When we get mushrooms, I see them and I always think of [Ukraine]." 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is metal as hell. Contact her at rrose@santamariasun.com.

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