We had the good fortune of connecting with Yevgeniya Mikhailik and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yevgeniya, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
It wasn’t so much a deliberate decision as it was a natural course of evolution for me. I was never interested in pursuing anything that did not involve making things, be it a hobby, an education or a career. Growing up, drawing and making things with my hands was a source of great joy and a way of learning about the world, so it never occurred to me to stop. I think a lot of it had to do with my family which has a lot of people in creative fields, so developing my interests and skills in that direction was encouraged and nurtured from early on. That’s not to say that I had a particularly clear idea of what a career in the arts would look like, I’m still figuring it out! No two paths are alike in the arts and not having a clear roadmap is both a point of anxiety and a thrill. But I never had a plan B because I never really questioned that I would make art or be in a creative field of some kind, which over the years has included teaching as well as making sure other people’s art gets seen.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I work primarily in drawing and painting. I’m interested in our methods of connecting and identifying with the natural world, and our role in and responsibility to the fragile ecosystems that comprise it. A lot of my work addresses landforms and plants as beings, as a way to create a connection between these entities and our own experiences, and to consider the same kind of kinship and empathy for the evolving environment as we are capable of experiencing with each other. Following an artist residency in Ireland early last year, my exploration of this land-body connection has become more concentrated on prehistoric burial and ritual sites – mounds, barrows, dolmen – and their history, mythology and symbolism. These sites talk about the afterlife, or the passage between worlds, but often present as pregnancies in the landscape – swellings containing bodies. They highlight a connection to and a reverence for the natural world that the people building them had, and the immediacy of that connection is a striking contrast to our current disconnect, which is something I’m trying to explore in my work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I think we would prioritize hiking or just being in nature, especially now. A day trip to the desert is a must (complete with a visit to Pappy and Harriet’s); climbing around Vasquez Rocks; marveling at all the amazing plants at The Huntington; hiking the trails around Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Oak Canyon Nature Center in Orange County; and definitely a trip up to Big Sur.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have a lot of people to thank for supporting my growth and my career, but first and foremost is my family. My parents and my extended family have been an inspiration for as long as I can remember and are the reason I do what I do now. They showed me that a career in the arts is possible. My husband, Jesse Burgess, who has been a source of unwavering support and encouragement for many years. My brother, Oleg Mikhailik, who was my earliest art making buddy and remains one of my biggest supporters. And so many educators, including everyone at CSULB, where I received my BFA and MFA. The other part of my education came from working for many years at the CSUF Grand Central Art Center, which exposed me to some incredible artists and artistic practices, and gave me an opportunity to pursue a curatorial career. I am also really grateful to be able to work with Suzanne Walsh and Carla Tesak of Salt Fine Art, who have been really supportive of my studio practice over the years. But of course, nothing happens without other artists and the arts community. We are each other’s biggest support system.
A Slow Conflict, installation photograph by Robert Wedemeyer. All other images courtesy of the artist.