I have it on good authority that today is International Translator’s Day. Since this blog consists mostly of things I’ve read in Russian and felt like sharing with you all in English, every day that I post something here is translator’s day to me.
But there are things that I get more pleasure from translating and thus dispatching back to the world of my native language. One of those things has been the unique graphic reportage work of Russian artist Victoria Lomasko. And over the past four or five years I’ve been translating Ms. Lomasko’s work, the piece that has touched me most has been “Feminine” (2013), which I’d like to reintroduce to you today in a slightly shinier version. TRR
“When I was young, I had a date lined up on every corner.”
In the series Feminine, all the characters are drawn from life, and their remarks are recorded verbatim. However, I have tried to move away from reportage and towards symbolism—to generalize specific situations in images that express my feelings and experiences.
The portraits here are not so much images of specific people as they are archetypes: the faded, lonely woman; the slutty boozer; the rigid old Soviet woman, etc.
“There are no factories in this town and no dudes.”
“He just couldn’t put on slippers and become a domesticated dude.”
Each drawing adds its own tint (of sadness, irony, and anger) to the overall picture—the life of women in the Russian provinces.
“I’ve been feeling slutty since December.”
I was born in Serpukhov, a town in the Moscow Region.
The women and girls I knew talked about men: acquaintances and strangers, exes, current husbands and boyfriends, future husbands and boyfriends. We believed that love would change the monotonous course of our lives.
“I’m not sloshed. I’m a saint.”
I had one other belief—in my calling as an artist. Only my dad, a self-taught artist, supported my plan to study in Moscow and then work as an artist. Believing the nonsense I was spouting was infectious and a hindrance to finding a husband, some of my girlfriends’ moms tried to force their daughters to spend less time with me. They were right: I’m still not married, and I don’t have any children.
“We’re used to the fellas paying for everything.”
I have lived in Moscow for over ten years. When I travel to the provinces, the scenes I see and the conversations I hear are familiar to me. Even divorced girlfriends sympathize with my “bitter plight.”
I became an artist, but I do not feel like a winner. In this country, their life strategies and mine are transformed into losses. I look at the “heroines” in Feminine and find a part of myself in all of them.
“Where can I get hold of a machine gun to kill Putin?”
Translated by the Russian Reader. Originally published by Chtodelat News. Victoria Lomasko’s book Other Russias will be published by n+1 in December.