Art as a Way of Life – Life through Stacee’s Lens
By Becky Yeker
Stacee Kalmanovsky has molded art into a profession, while simultaneously encouraging it to be a way of life. She finds art to be internal, rather than communal; something that comes from within. In this interview, we will explore Stacee’s beautiful mind and work and from where she gathers her inspiration.
RMAG: In your artist statement you say, "I believe art slows down our relationship with all the daily objects and their uses, by turning everything into material.” Does this inspire how you view the world?
Stacee: Yes, everything has potential to transcend its intended use, and this is a relief. It means that through the cycle of mimicry between art and life (art taken from life and the ordinary, transforming it into art, and then reintroducing the object back into a real context), and through visual language, we can create and invent form and ideas.
RMAG: How do “normal” objects look through your eyes, as an artist?
Stacee: I am easily delighted, and the things that delight me at times are simple.
A porcelain tea kettle is a good beginning for me, literally of a sculpture. I sort of squint and imagine it functioning like a limb or a nose to something. Mind you ,I admire a tea kettle for its ability to deliver a soothing tea as well, and this is important to me, but then it shifts and gains a body in my mind.
RMAG: What type of art do you typically like to create (paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc.)?
Stacee: I have a broad spectrum of production. My focus is on paper works, and whether you call them paintings is not important to me. Perhaps sometimes they are. Sometimes they are not. I have been obsessed with collage lately, and I am always creating either sculptures, or studies for sculptures (drawings, miniatures, collecting materials).
RMAG: Where do you find your inspiration?
Stacee: Most of my inspiration comes from my relationship with my body, my body in the world, and my body as mother and maker. It comes from a very visceral human desire to attract and repel.
RMAG: How did you begin pursuing art?
Stacee: I was a sort of a born artist, starting to draw from the age of two, and I mean draw recognizable people and objects.
There is a drawing of mine which my mother saved from age 2. In it is a picture of my dad, bearded and smoking a cigarette. My mother was an art teacher in Belarus, and she was my first teacher. When we moved to America, I took lessons with Leonid and Sonia Osseny, who are still running Lincoln Terrace Art Studio in Skokie. They were so encouraging and really gave me a classical skill set.
RMAG: Where did you get your education?
Stacee: I received my Masters in Fine Art in 2012 from University of Chicago. Prior to that I had a Bachelors in Studio Art, Painting and Sculpture from the University of IL at Chicago (UIC).
RMAG: Where are you from originally?
RMAG: You’re also a teacher? Where do you teach?
Stacee: I founded The Art Room, which is now in its 4th year running, and most of my students come to me. I travel all over: South loop, Hyde Park (I've kept my very first very talented kids from when I started teaching out of grad school), Lincoln Park, Northbrook, Highland Park, Long Grove, Buffalo Grove, Mundelein. I also teach with some really great people at Tema Creative Alliance and I have loved working with my little kids at the Mundelein Montessori and Music Center.
RMAG: What is your favorite part about teaching art? How does it differ from other, more traditional subjects?
Stacee: As I said, teaching art is an honor. It allows me to teach all that I know and love about seeing art and making art. It is an antidote to ignorance. It is a medium for sharing meaning, not just technique. I teach both! I love it when my students look at my examples and are impressed at how well I draw. I laugh and say, “well I wouldn't be your teacher now if I couldn't draw, could I?”
But I also insist that they never get down on themselves, because it is a practice above and beyond. So hopefully I am teaching them not just to paint and draw, but also to bring their ideas into being, follow through from start to finish on a project, make something to their best ability, and make their observations and comments thoughtful and positive. All of those lessons they will carry onto all of life, I hope.
RMAG: Has your Russian background impacted the way you view and/or make art?
Stacee: Yes, definitely. Russian Folklore is deeply imprinted on my psyche. The archetypes are just really particular and create such rich, visual possibilities. My latest revisit of a Russian Fairytale was in a collage, titled “Bride”. In that work I was inspired by Царевна Лягушка, Tsarevna Lyagushka. In this tale, the frog transforms into a bride. She performs many magical acts of transformation, one of which is putting left over chicken bones down her sleeves and turning them into swans, as she dances. I also love how frightening and punishing these stories can be, but it's really the magical details of transformation that still capture my imagination.
Images by: Stacee Kalmanovsky