Featured Artist: Sofya Mirvis

Sofya Mirvis’ solo art show is opening this Saturday at 6pm, in Philadelphia. The exhibit will run from November 23, 2013 – January 12, 2013 at Jed Williams Gallery, located at 615 Bainbridge Street.

Age: 30

Hometown: Moscow, Russia

Current town: Philadelphia, PA

Job description: Visual Artist

Bio: Sofya Mirvis was born in Moscow, Russia, and moved to Los Angeles, CA at the age of 10. She received her BFA from Tyler School of Art, and MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Exhibitions include Yes! gallery, New York; The Russian Cultural Center, Washington, DC, and the Gormley Gallery of Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore. Publications include Certain Circuits, Gallery & Studio Magazine, and Flying Kite Media. Sofya has taught at the Notre Dame of Maryland University, Bryn Mawr College and currently teaches at Oasis Arts and Education, Philadelphia, PA.

Baggage, collage, graphite gouache on handmade paper, 2013

Upcoming projects: Drawn Together, an interactive project focusing on artist collaborations, date/location TBA.

Select links:

Artist Website: sofyamirvis.com

Feast Portfolio Project: feastportfolio.tumblr.com

Certain Circuits


Aaron and The Spell cover art by Sofya Mirvis


You’ve got an upcoming solo show at Jed Williams Gallery in Philly, congrats. Tell us about what we can expect to see/ describe your work.

This exhibit is a culmination of mixed media collages and works on paper that were created in the last three years. I first thought of my collages as source material for painting, but they became my main focus while in graduate school. I now view my collages and paintings as works that feed off each other, existing side by side as separate bodies of work. This exhibit features original collage works as well as limited edition prints.

When and where is this exhibit?

The exhibit will run from November 23, 2013 – January 12, 2013 at Jed Williams Gallery, located at 615 Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia, with an opening reception on Saturday, November 23, 2013.

Leaving the Cuckoo’s Nest, collage, ink, graphite on Arches cover, 2013

What themes and concepts does your work generally revolve around?

I am generally interested in themes relating to the individual in the environment. At times I try to merge to two, but they often repel rather than attract each other. I am also fascinated with world cultures and can really live inside a National Geographic Magazine. My work uses concepts relating to the symbolic landscape, the surreal and sublime, Romanticism, and Russian folklore.

What materials do you work with?

Pretty much anything I can get my hands on is a suitable art material. Now I try to make sure these things are archival, but this wasn’t always the case. I would use coffee, beet juice, make-up, household solvents and so forth. Now I stick to things found in an art supply store, as well as found objects, collage, hand made paper, decoupage, print media, and photography.

What are you currently working on?

In terms of media, I am working on creating an illusion of digital manipulation in a handmade artwork. I am doing this by painting over found photographs and collages one pixel at a time, creating a seamless boundary between a printed image and a painting. I am also creating a series of oil paintings which are heavily influenced by these painted photographs and collages. I hope to exhibit them simultaneously so that the audience gets a chance to compare and contrast these works. The content in these works will involve the erasure of the human presence from an environment and only traces of the figure will be left.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

I am a person that usually rejects routines and rituals, although I do find myself working in patterns inadvertently when observed over periods of time. For example, every time I paint a “self portrait,” it somehow only includes my nose and mouth. This has been happening since high school, and I’m not sure what to think of it. But, for the most part, there’s no ritual: I could start with drawing, a collage, a painting or even a found object. No matter how it begins, I want the result to be an image that really sticks with you after you have seen it and an experience that can evolve over time if you own it.

What’s your art background?

My life has been filled with art training and I enjoyed every minute of it. As a child in Russia, I studied under an artist, something like an apprentice in a group of students. He would take us to museums, make collaborative paintings with us, and really teach us observational art. I also went to music school simultaneously with studying art. I then moved to Los Angeles where I attended a local art center, and as a teenager went to life drawing classes in art studios. Then, I got my BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art, where I was lucky to attend the Tyler Rome program, and finally received my MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2012.

Two Desires, collage on litho print, 2012

What’s been happening in your life?

In the past several years, I’ve rekindled my love for music. I find that it really complements visual art and helps put it into perspective. I now play piano in S.T.A.R.W.O.O.D., a cyber rock band, which is a new experience for me. I have always looked for connections in art across disciplines and would love to find avenues to merge the music and art into a unified experience.

What’s next for you?

I would really like to concentrate on making new paintings and collages. The winter is a great time to do that, and I have a lot of work started. I am also working on several curatorial projects, some involving my students and others featuring the network of artists that I have been fortunate to be a part of in Philadelphia. I am in the middle of working on a proposal for a drawing show featuring collaborations between local artists, as well as finding opportunities for students of Oasis Art and Education, where I currently teach.

Describe your current state of mind.

That’s a funny question! My state of mind is always restless, looking to do more than I am able. However, that really drives me to push my ideas into fruition and to move further with my art at every step.

What’s inspiring you?

Right now, what inspires me is the people I am lucky to have around me. There are so many talented artists and musicians in Philadelphia, and I’m really proud to support and collaborate with them. I also love fall, as a season where everything comes to fruition, and I feel like that’s really happening on all fronts.

You are My Mirror, acrylic on collage print, 2011

Do you have any exhibits coming up/ past exhibits you’d like to mention?

Yes! I would love to mention that my work is featured in FEAST, a limited edition portfolio of works on paper by twelve PAFA alumni curated by Ana Vizcarra Rankin. Although the reception has past, the portfolios are available through the PAFA Alumni Gallery. One of these will be on view at Jed Williams Gallery for the duration of the IMAGE MIXTURES exhibition.

Is any of your work political?

The politics in my work are indirect. Some would say that it includes feminist or environmental politics, but I really want the audience to be captured primarily at the visual level. After that, if they choose to read into it politically, so be it.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

I try to communicate a mood, a place, and a story within a single image. Sometimes, a bigger story is found when the images are placed together, but I don’t feel that way with this particular exhibit. Each work tells its own story, and explores a unique process. I really like to question reality and end up fabricating my own reality in the work. In the end, I would love to communicate the extent of my own imagination and engage others in this pursuit.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an artist?

Exposure! I think when you live publically as an artist, any mistake is clearly seen. I try to have a sense of humor about it, but it can be challenging at times. Finding the right avenue to gain exposure can be difficult, so I’ve learned to trust my instinct over time, and to get all the facts before making any decisions. I would recommend this to any artist who is looking to gain better exposure.

How has the meaning of your work changed over time?

It has become more specified. When I made pure abstractions ten years ago, I knew I wanted it to be about illusion and movement. I can still say my work has these elements, but as I explored different ways in which they’re used, I implemented a more subject-driven approach. Now the meaning is specific to the piece: the location, placement, gesture, color, and levels of abstraction vary are connected to the mood and narrative of the piece. I would say it has become much more communicative.

Neith, mixed media collage, 2011

What do you dislike about your work?

I don’t like when it gets too complicated (but I secretly love it). Sometimes the complexities of the work make it less accessible to a general public. I used to think that was OK, but grad school made me realize that I don’t want to live solely in an academic sphere. I don’t want to limit my work in any way, and I want a really diverse audience. I want everyone to have fun.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

I’d like to incorporate more digital manipulation in my work.

What is your dream project?

I have so many ideas. I would love to organize a grand event of a merger of art and music. And create a giant collage or populate the wall with 1000 small paintings. And of course to be in the Whitney Biennial.

Are you involved with any organizations?

I teach for Oasis Art and Education, a division of Resources for Human Development. My students are amazingly talented artists with special abilities, and they could always use more support or exposure they need to further their work. I am currently seeking avenues to gain more funding resources and exhibition opportunities for Oasis students.

Do you collaborate with other artists?

All the time!

Nevermore, collage, 2012

What are a few of your favorite spots in your area?

I love Wissahickon park. It’s such a nice place to get to nature when you need a break from the city. I also love living in West Philly.

Favorite artists and why?

These are my favorite because they are innovators: Roberto Matta, Whistler’s landscapes, Robert Rauschenberg, Hannah Hoch, Jannis Kounellis, Odilon Redon, William Blake, El Greco, and Mikhail Vrubel.

What are you reading?

I mostly read National Geographic Magazine. I’m also in the middle of “Lamb” by Christopher Moore.

Favorite authors: Tom Robbins, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Walter Benjamin.

Favorite comic strips/ comic books/ graphic novels?

The Invisibles, Sandman Comics.

Nocturne, gouache and paper collage on handmade paper, 2013

What are you listening to these days? Ghost, Secret Chiefs 3 and Ravi Shankar

What was the last show you attended? Bunny Savage and the Shallots

What was the last exhibit you attended? All Along the Watchtower at Pterodactyl Gallery

What was the first piece of artwork you bought/ do you buy a lot of artwork?

I like to trade with fellow artists. I recently traded pieces with Ana Vizcarra Rankin, Matthew Hall, and Marek Danielewski.

Your website: sofyamirvis.com

Runners, ink, coffee stain, collage, 2011

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