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Reminiscing Moscow with artist Oksana Badrak

Russian-born artist Oksana Badrak is long time collaborator; her artwork has graced our limited-edition Poketo wallets (now out of print) and plates, and now Poketo for Target. She cultivated her talents at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and continues to live and work in Los Angeles. Using a computer-savvy combination of traditional and digital media, she creates surreal landscapes that are distinctly her own. Below, she discusses her varied influences, from Russian animation to theater, her creative process, growing up in Moscow, and much more!

What is your fondest memory of your childhood in Moscow?
I loved growing up in Moscow. The excellent subway system and lingering notion of communal parenting made it possible to explore the city on my own when I was very young. My mother taught me how to use the Metro when I turned 8, and from that moment on I owned the city. Being able to take the underground to the Red Square after school was wonderfully liberating. It was the best place to people-watch.

Especially fascinating were the groups of smiley foreign tourists, dressed in casual colorful clothing, clicking their futuristic-looking cameras, listening to a nerdy Russian tour guide proudly inform them that the weight of each ruby star crowning the Kremlin Towers is one ton. I could feel time collecting, among architectural relics of czarist and communist Russia, filling the air with friction. Now I travel to find places that make me feel the same way, and when I do, I feel at home.

What influences have shaped your aesthetic?
My mother was a theatre designer, and my father a choreographer. Much of my childhood was spent among sets, props, costumes, ballerinas and anxiety. These theatrical influences might be responsible for the more contrived qualities in my work.

When I was growing up, we had a small, boxy TV set encased in red plastic, and I was allowed a brief but meaningful nightly seance in front it. We named that TV “Elektron,” after its brand name. Every evening at 8:45 PM, one of two Russian TV channels broadcasted 15 minutes of animation to soothe the children in all 15 Soviet republics before bed time. This ritual exposed me to animated shorts from the Russian and Eastern European masters, who worked with traditional and stop motion animation. It has definitely influenced my aesthetic. “Elektron” showed me Yuri Norstein’s “Hedgehog in the Fog”, and in hindsight, I wish we were nicer to our red plastic friend when it was replaced by “Sony.”


Yuri Norstein’s “Hedgehog in the Fog”

What themes do you like to explore?
Despite of surviving a Jumping Cholla cactus attack I continue to seek close encounters with plants and animals. If I wasn’t an artist I would want to be David Attenborough.

A lot of my work is created for editorial, and the themes I explore vary tremendously. One day, I could be working on an assignment about “Television in the Era of Bush,” and the next day I could be illustrating about Western-style law firms in Japan. I enjoy the challenge because it keeps me on my creative toes.

Do you have a preference between working digitally or with traditional mediums? How does your creative process differ with each?
I do not separate the two. I use traditional mediums alongside a computer to create each piece that I make. The computer is just another tool that allows me the freedom of having multiple versions, more happy accidents and moving on more quickly without significant consequences. In my work, the line is blurred between the digital and the hand made, and I embrace the ambiguity.


Elements of Hokusai’s waves are present in this piece

Are there certain things you find yourself going back to for inspiration?
Some things inspired me when I was in art school and now they do nothing for me. Japanese woodblock prints are not in that category. This particular way of making an image has been a great source of inspiration since I was exposed to it as a student, and I still look to it with reverence. Just saw a great exhibition of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints at the Honolulu Art Academy. Beautiful.

What’s the most rewarding part about being an artist?
Experiencing the pure joy of creating.

Many thanks to Oksana for this illuminating interview. The awesome Bowler Bag you see above can be yours at Target stores nationwide, and you can see more of her work at Badrak.com!

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