Maria Tsaguriya
Brooklyn, NY

BIO

MY STORY

I was born in the Republic of Georgia in 1986 to Temure and Vera Tsaguriya. My parents were both artists in Georgia. My father was a talented musician and poet. His popularity in Georgia is still evident to this day by the inclusion in concerts in NY celebrating the best of Georgian Musicians living. Additionally, he also has triple the amount of Facebook friends. People often recall his name and remember him performing during the same time as the Beatles. My father was able to move us to the states because of his talent and give me the opportunities that I might never have had if I didn't grow up in the land where you can achieve the american dream. My mother was a talented ballet dancer who was my ballet teacher for most of my adolescence.

The story of how my parents meet really belongs in a romance novel. They meet when they were part of the same performance troop, Rero, the national orchestra of Georgia. It was the most popular troop in the former Soviet Union. They had concerts in all the major cities of the former Soviet Union and had a series of 19 concerts in a row that was record breaking and brought out 300,000 people. They had a concert in Moscow. Both talented artists, my father fell in love at first sight of my mother, then young at the age of 19 performing on stage from the side curtains. After the performance my dad went to meet her and congratulate her on her performance and kissed her on the cheek. They have been together now for 40 years.  I feel so proud that they were able to be there for each other through difficult times and preserver through moving to America and basically having to change so much in their life to ensure a brighter future for me and my brother. I really want to dig more into what they went through their history

My parents moved to America when I was 6 in June 1993. I remember we moved to a house in Silver Spring, MD into an elderly Russian mans house who was hospitable and allowed us to live with him when we had nothing. I went to school that fall in a pretty pink dress my mother dressed me up. I was to young to miss Georgia. I do remember having a best friend that lived next door when we lived in Tbilisi and never getting a chance to say goodbye because we left suddenly. I remember a bread line my mother took me too once during a really hard time in Georgia when food was scarce. The life in America must be such a luxury for my parents because we have an endless food supply at super markets and the luxury of a running shower and hot water. I think they lived through such a harder time then I will ever experience.

I grew up outside of DC in the wealthy suburb of Bethesda, Maryland for most of my adolescence. I was always on the outskirts though of the school district though where my parents could find affordable housing and yet allow me to receive a great education from a magnet high school. I felt really privileged to have had an upbringing that was focused on my education and freedom to explore my interests and talents. I was very studious and loved studying history, english literature and psychology and art.

From the age of 3 I was trained in Ballet. I studied pre-professionally from the age of 13 to 18 at the Maryland Youth Ballet. I trained religiously. Ballet absorbed all my free time and left me with little sleep or time to study at times. I learned from an early age that training and practice were crucial as much as talent and that being completely dedicated to your art do you become a master. By the end of my junior year I was taking 10 AP classes and training to become a professional ballet dancer. Then my senior year, I wasn’t admitted to the last level in the program, that would complete my dance program. My decision to drop dance school wasn't a difficult choice since I was becoming more absorbed with my art. I was looking to go into a degree in ballet but I decided to pursue fine arts in college. My parent were supportive of any profession I choose to pursue and they knew fine arts was my calling. I remember that art was something I loved doing from 5th grade when I remember I draw a giant picture of Garfield, one of my favorite cartoons. It was my favorite class in school and I remember being naturally inclined to make art. Through middle school and high school I continued to take art. At the end of my senior year I was in AP art and had a talented teacher, Mr. Walt Bartman who loved teaching plein air painting and would take the class out to Rock Creak park to paint. I would ask Bartman what it would be like being an artist and he would tell me that it was truly difficult and that if I wanted to be an artist I should have another career, possibly as a graphic designer. I remember there was a poster in our studio class that listed all the other professions artists could be and I remember thing, none of those would make me as happy as being a studio artist.

I applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology and upon receiving my acceptance letter went on a an all out scream feast. Moving to New York was always my dream and I know that it was where I could realize my dreams. My first observation in college was that my class, which I remained in with the same crew of people for the next 4 years was composed of the most diverse group of artists. Most were local and were from Long Island, Queens, Staten Island, and Jersey but others had traveled cross country to attend school in the art mecca, NYC. There were others like me that moved from other states to attend FIT. I found my education at FIT was very well rounded. I was able to dabble in painting, illustration, sewing, printmaking, screen printing, traditional printing, welding and soft sculpture, to name a few.. We had a lot of one on one attention from the professors who were NYC artists and some who had lived through the Warhol factory era. NYC was my campus and provided me access to art galleries and museums that enriched my education. FIT is right next to chelsea and a walk there to look at the art was so easily accessible. My professors would also have shows and invite us to them which was great to see its possible to be a showing artist. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do after school. I had been quite prolific in school. I was a very quick painter and able to great a great deal of work during school. To support myself I was a lifeguard for almost of my time in college. I found time to work on my website and build a collection of one page comics. I would work in coffee shops and lay out my markers and draw all day. I really loved the detail that these miniature artworks required. There was a lot of precision but at the same time it freedom to make mistakes because I would go over my marker foundation with gouache. Gouache became one of my favorite mediums. Its opaque quality was excellent for covering mistakes and giving the work a painterly quality. Additionally to my comics, I loved to work in pastels partially because they were so easy to paint with and draw at the same time with. The began purchasing high quality pastels that could be layered giving me an opportunity to fix mistakes as well as give the image a rich painterly quality.

The beginning of the certain elements in my art were developed when I began working on a series of pastel drawings of fall leaves and that lead the abstraction of the leaves into organic forms. I took these forms and created comic like abstractions. The connections between my pastel work and my more comic drawings lies in the abstraction of form. The amoebas are a simplification of form. People would always ask what they were and to me they were humans. Just simplified. Some called them Amoebas and that made sense since they were primordial creatures. My investigation into abstract organic shapes turned into the ability to manipulate the image to give the viewer a subconscious connection to human form. I continued to add elements such as chains, hooks, black beads(oil spill), blood droplets, ropes, mechanical robotic hands and pincher, flood lights. Tools of torture.

The sketches lead to the development of two three dimensional paintings that included soft sculptural elements that were hand stitched. I then began my work on my thesis project which was a soft sculpture installation artwork. I was able to obtain fabric, beads and structural elements for the piece from the Material for the Arts which enabled me to create it in a large scale. I additionally put a lot of my own personal money and expenses into the work. I worked for my whole school year. The week when I got a chance to bring all the pieces together was when the work turned from being individual pieces to a massive installation. I utilized that space to bring the work to life. The work also included two welded metal sculptures that I created and then I attached my soft sculptures too. After my project was brought down I was able to store a lot of it in a house a lived in bedstuy with other artists.. I kept it all in the basement of the old brownstone. I wanted to be able to show my art and continue being an artist but the economy took a nose dive in 2008 and by 2009 most galleries had shuttered there windows. I lost my job that summer as a lifeguard and thought I would have an easy time finding a new job out but instead I faced a lot of difficulty. In the meantime I started remaking my sculpture in a line art hand made pillow cushions. I sold one chain for someones couch but other then that I wasn't able to do much to support myself. I started working as a receptionist at chain mens grooming barbershop in Tribeca. I found the work exhausting, stressful and I was completely unhappy. I decided the best thing was to move back Maryland. I thought that my days in NY had come to a close and Id find better luck in DC. I found work at the Art and Drama Therapy Institute in NE DC. I was given the position of a weaving program instructor. I thought that I want to become an art therapist. The work was exciting at first but soon became overwhelming. I was assigned to work with individuals who needed constant assistance. I didn’t feel it was the line of work for me and decided that I wanted another trade. My parents thought I`d do well as a hairstylist and so I went back to NYC to study at Arrojo Cosmotology school in Tribeca. I was excited to be a hairstylist because I saw it as a chance for me to never worry about work since its a recession proof job. What I didn't realize was the amount of work that it would take to become a hairstylist and the amount of blood and sweat and education that it would require. I was completely swept into a whole new world where I knew nothing and hand to learn a trade that required alot of work. I finished school and work for numerous top salons in the city learning how to cut and color. When I found work at Hair Metal, my dreams had come true. I could finally work on my art now. I could support myself by working 4 days and be able to make time for creativity. But I had to deal with another obstecle, my mind. I was a blocked artist who was scared of the work I began to produce.. The year after college and the year of training to be a stylist had left my artist well empty. I was starting to make art in the spring of 2012 I felt as a newbie artist. I had created so much work prior but my gears were rusty and creating art didnt feel natural to me as it used it. I started working on pastel paintings again. I found it easier to make a beautiful piece of art to start then it was to break back into my illustrative cartoony art.

I had worked so hard to become a hard working and rational person. To be able to support myself and obtain a stylist job required a lot of sacrifice. Now I was to let myself go back to being my crazy artist self? I feared I would lose myself and face rejection again. Fail and have to move back to Maryland. I lost hope in art. I began to think it was pointless. What I forgot was that being an artist is who I am and that is what would make me truly happy doing. I began experimenting with my art again and making some unique wall hangings from recycled materials I found. I also reused old paint containers and made creatures. I worked on collages using images from a book on corporate architecture of bank headquarters. I drew with marker on top to change the image from clean to graphic. Adding elements of street graphite and reclaiming the image from that of unwelcoming cold glass structures to a feeling of emotion and life. I made a painting based from a collage and added a figure screaming in the figure screaming reminiscent of Pablo Picassos' painting of the spanish revolution. I went on to use the materials I had. I made 2 mobiles. One from old origami papers and one from tissue paper that i reused from an the art wrappings of Kat Grandos work. In the fall of 2012 I was able to move into my first studio space which allowed me to work to a greater amount on my paintings. I made a work from my sketches of a rocket in someones hand shooting into space. This was a play on the real and imaginary and how our perceived reality isn't always true. What is imagination but the transcendence of our perceived boundaries and limitations. Having been blocked my reality was very bland because reality was pressing. My work kept progressively getting closer, inching towards my more towards art that I found fun. I started creating sketches for a new business idea of creating a two in one greeting card and art wall hanging. I thought about how over the time I've enjoyed sending art to my friends. I made cards to keep as art works. The process was really intense because it was a product that I would be selling to the general public. There had to be compromises made in the design to be functional. The product idea is ever evolving and I'm excited to discover where it will lead too. The cards are very reminiscent of my soft sculpture work. Both involve elements of animating figures.

My other recent works focuses on repurposing objects that are typically discarded like paint cans, markers, discarded furniture and transforming them into art. Trash is something that we unconscious delegate as non useful objects. Shifting the paradigm of peoples minds to see trash in a different way.

-Maria Tsaguriya