By Katie Nartonis
Photo Credit: Bill Dunleavy, Cory Hackbarth and Svetlana Shigroff
Svetlana Shigroff is a high-desert artist and educator, whose large-scale textiles are populated by strong characters and visionary beasts. Bold imagery, rich colorization, and a dash of dark humor all make an appearance. The artist, who moved to California from the Sunshine Coast of Australia, shares some thoughts with The Joshua Tree Voice on the powerful images that appear in her work. Shigroff also touches on the historical significance of textiles, and the widening conversation about the medium in contemporary art.
JTV: Your work has a mythical quality, tell us about your lexicon:
“I have a keen interest in the concept of transformation. I’m drawing my inspiration from my family’s history of migration, along with our struggles of identity, mental health, and violence. There’s never a moment where this historical canon doesn’t influence my visceral responses to our current political and social climate. I’m thinking about the ephemeral quality of truth, the multifaceted nature of narrative, and the fragility of the human condition. These mythological anti-heroes are created from a desire to alter the notion of victimhood by immortalizing the memory of people, events, and movements into symbols of potentiality and transmutation.
One of the motifs that continues to pop up in my current work is the screaming skull. It first appears in my piece, “Black Bikini and Tan Hiking Boots.” I finished this piece in early 2020, having spent about 4 months completing the work in a studio on 5th street, in dtLA. It was inspired by a news article about an older woman disappearing in the Mojave Desert while hiking with her husband. The article emphasized her attire in relation to her age more so than the fact she disappeared under suspicious circumstances. She was never found, but because she was white, there were a few articles written up about it.