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➕Face Positivity➕: Self-Portraiture, Russian Folk Art and Feminism with the Brilliant Polina Zinziver
Genuinely new ideas don’t come across our phones often.
But true artists still exist, and 3D/VR/AR animator Polina Zinziver, a provocative and restless explorer of the new, is one of them.
After celebrating body diversity, why wouldn’t we look to the face? Rumfoords is proud to shine a light on the first artist, that we know of, with the foresight and zeitgeist-wrapped taste to land on the fresh area of face positivity.
It’s an idea that challenges the wisdom of a global culture that has seemingly agreed upon one standard for what we consider the beautiful male and female face.
Zinziver is one of our favorite portrait artists bridging the worlds of true fine art and virtual style, and her latest series of video portraits exploring what she calls face positivity through characters that represent unconventional beauty is breathtaking, different and refreshing. We absolutely fucking love it.
In this exclusive interview with the only blog on the planet thinking critically about virtual style and Metaverse luxury, Rumfoords talks to Zinziver about her path to portraiture, exploring faces far from the standard of beauty, the influence of Russian folk art in complicated times, and a young woman artist who’s being unfairly persecuted in Russia.
🧐 Read on! 🧐
Rumfoords: Let's start with you and your background. It looks like you evolved from illustration work to 3D design in 2019. Am I understanding that correctly? And what drove you to start exploring CG software rather than more traditional mediums?
Polina Zinziver: Around 2011, I started to be mesmerized by interactive installations. It’s a weird way to get into animation, but that’s how I got into it. And then from illustration, from frame-by-frame animation, I went to 3D design. But I would say that I’m still on the journey to find the best software that suits me. I’m on my creative way still.
R: Tell me a little bit about portraits. It seems to be a format that pops up a lot in your work. Why are you so drawn to portraits?
PZ: I think it’s just the most relevant form of image there is, it’s the most current. Portraits are all around us. Mostly it’s because of social media. It’s the most approachable way to speak with people. It’s very personal. It also connects with selfie culture and self-portraits.
R: How is it different for you working on a self-portrait versus a portrait of a fictional character?
PZ: My self-portraits, at the moment, I’m using them to reflect on who I am and trying to connect with myself and trying to find and understand who I am. When I reach the point when I’m finally connected to myself, to my persona, I will use self-portraits more to reflect the world, like Cindy Sherman does. That’s probably the next step.
I’m making different digital characters. Digital people. In that series I’m exploring different races, shapes and genders, but also I’m trying to be as far away from the beauty standards we have around the face as possible.
Because what worries me most nowadays is that through Instagram we’ve formed what we consider the beautiful male and female standard face. And it’s the same with body sizes. With body shapes, the conversation is there. But with faces, no one actually talks about it for some reason, which is very frustrating.
With these portraits I’m exploring different faces, and the digital faces can be so far away from the standard. The same thing happened with digital people. We have so much opportunity to use different kinds of models but what happened was they start to use slim, beautiful women and then they start to use women with crazy shapes, like multiplied and amplified. It’s the same with the faces and the face filters are just making it worse.
R: Which do you hope to do more of in the future, self-portraits or portraits of others?
PZ: It’s a tricky question. I’m not sure I know how to answer it because it depends on my inner needs. If I finally find everything I’m searching for in self-portraits, I’ll switch to digital people. But I think I’ll keep it 50/50 a little while longer.
R: Tell me a little bit about Russia. How much do you think Russia as a place and Russian culture at the moment influences your work?
PZ: I used a lot of Russian culture in my illustrations, my 2D illustrations, before. I was trying to process my life in Russia. It was rough. So now I’m trying to be more disconnected with what is happening nowadays in Russia. What is happening at the moment influences my work as it’s very dark so my work is also very dark. I tried to be cheerful and make happy, colorful 3D work, I tried. I’m a cheerful person, but what is happening now is just finding its way through my work.
Now I’m very interested in Russian folklore and traditional Russian art, folk art. We have a great heritage of folk art, like sculptures and dresses. I’m inspired by that right now. What I like about it the most is that it’s very simple and kind and cheerful. I’m searching around that area.
R: A lot of artists go back to a more innocent, simple arts in times of uncertainty, harshness and rapid technological change.
PZ: Yeah that’s true. And it’s interesting how we can interpret what was in the base of our culture. How can we interpret it again in the digital age? I’m also interested in religion right now, religious images like icons. In the Russian church tradition we have the pictures of God and Godmothers. In my self-portraits I used a lot of symmetry. The structure of my self-portraits and the structure of icons is the same and I want to take it further and explore those structural traditions more.
PZ: The idea of bodies is also connected to Russia. Here, feminism is a big thing. Here in Russia, we’re like where the US was in the 60s. So it’s pretty prehistoric in terms of women’s rights and the basic attitude toward women. It’s pretty bad at the moment in Russia. We’re still fighting the patriarchy but way behind.
The most outrageous issue that happened in the last year was that this young Russian artist named Yulia Tsvetkova was charged for her body positive drawings. They’re very schematic, simple but with naked women with tampons or body hair. Now she has a lawsuit against her that’s going on for a year and they’re taking the charges to the next level that could be six years in jail for drawing a naked woman. It’s pretty depressing, knowing that just for drawing a women’s body you can go to jail. That’s crazy.
The thing is, she is also an LGBTQ activist, and that’s the problem here, why she’s being charged so harshly. So all my work about the body is trying to take that power back and support all women and support Yulia Tsvetkova.