American Art Collector, 1 February 2021

The head hits the pillow. The lights go out. The eyes close. The pulse softens. The day may be over, but as sleep sets in, the brain boots into a new cycle—dreams. 

It’s the dreamscape that serves as the playground for California-based painter Nadezda’s newest creations. The work will appear in a show titled A Place to Dream starting February 4 at SHOH Gallery in Berkeley, California.

A Place To Dream stands for a safe place where we can let the mind wander through the plains of our own imagination and where we are free to celebrate the wonderful world hidden within. It is not just a pillow and a blanket, which every night becomes our cradle for watching the next episodes of dreams and nightmares stitched together by our beautiful brain. For a lot of people, such places could be a Christmas tree, for example—decorating it is a magical ritual where, with every string of light and every toy (some of which might come from childhood), the beholder gets carried away into the world of wonder,” she says. “Another common place to dream is when the grown-ups play games and read books with their children—in that way they also give themselves a chance to relive their own childhood days and be as playful and imaginative as they did when they were 5. Such places are of great heart and wisdom—they let us reconnect with our humanity, with our inner, one-of-a-kind world that we were in tune with since childhood, but somehow, while growing up, have been forgotten and neglected along the way.”

She continues, “As an artist, my studio is the place to dream. As I am writing this—I see two fishes in vintage outfits dancing on my easel (in a form of a small painting) and two creatures, no bigger than a hand, talking to each other on an early-20th-century phone (in a form of a sculpture). There are shelves of notebooks, pages of which are filled with carefully collected ideas—which are the seeds planted into fertile soil of my place to dream, where they come to life in this form or another.”

Her latest works feature surreal scenes with fantastical creatures, many of them wearing masks and interacting with the scenery as if unbound by normal physics. Her little beasts, both adorably cute and terrifying, chew up the scenery and seem unbound by the physical world. In the work Wondervault, they spill from the open chest cavity of a female figure, who is seemingly at peace as her body expunges her parasitic visitors. 

“I feel that sometimes painting or drawing a creature is the best way to express my emotions. I don’t know where they come from—first they ask to be drawn on the pages of my sketchbook and then find their way into the paintings. They are playful and poetic, naïve and wise at the same time,” she says. “Imagine if you stood in a room full of people at a boring gathering. What do you usually do when you are stuck in a situation like this? Stare out of the window, start yawning, grab another drink or just leave—but that’s pretty much it. If you were not you, but one of these little creatures from my paintings, you could stand on your head, do a summersault, sing a song backwards loudly or play it on an inflatable one-string violin and no one would call that personage an eccentric and it would bring life to that world.”

Julie McCray, owner of SHOH Gallery, is intrigued with each new piece that comes into the gallery. “There is an abandon in Nadezda’s works, an erasing of boundaries, mores and sometimes gravity itself,” she says. “She creates a visual symphony of dreams with her paintbrush, taking us to a sensual and surreal world where passions, whimsies and nightmares mingle, dancing together with joyous abandon.” —