The Heroine’s Journey of Krista Svalbonas

What is the best thing that I love about my work?  

I love the sense of experimentation in my work. I often fluidly cross media or mix media in unexpected ways. So I love that I have the skill set and tools to be able to do that. What if? tends to be a question often asked in the studio.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?  

Taking a road trip. I often find that my best ideas come from leaving the surroundings that I’m most familiar with. There is always a great sense of adventure in the unknown and I’m happy to take my camera with me and discover it.

What is my greatest fear?

Failure. I think that probably comes up a lot for artists. We often bare all, our most inner thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our courage…thinking that this life leads us nowhere is a very scary thought.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?  

My ability to criticize everything that I do. It’s a common saying that artists are their own biggest critic. I often remind myself that it’s best to let go and see what happens. If I listened to my inner voice all the time I probably wouldn’t have an art career!

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

I’m huge fan of Rachel Whiteread’s work, both in its aesthetic and in its content.

What is my greatest extravagance?  

My drone. I purchased one for a project I am doing on former WWII Baltic displaced person camps in Germany, that my family, extended family, and friends families, lived in before emigrating to the United States. Once you go down the accessory trap it’s hard to return!

On what occasion would I lie?  

To protect someone.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?  

It depends on which body of work we are discussing. When I paint I feel like I’d like to let go more often and allow a looseness of form to occur. When I’m working on a photographic body of work it’s being beholden to the pixels. Sometimes I’d like push the boundaries of size more often.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?  

Right now. I’ve had a long term project that I have been thinking about for the past 5 years, which I mentioned above, about displaced person camps in Germany. I recently received funding to be able to start the research and documentation. I’ve been distilling that documentation into a new body of work that I am really proud of and excited about. You can find out more here:

If I could, what would I change about myself?

My inner critic. I’d try to silence it more often.

What is my greatest achievement in work?

Being able to mix it up. I love that one day I could be painting and another day photographing, one day flying a drone and another day working on a wall drawing.  Being fluent in a lot of media has served me well and has always made life in the studio interesting and surprising.

Where would I most like to live? 

I took a trip right after college to Paris and fell in love. I’ve always had a soft spot for that city and the food…delicious!

What is my most treasured possession?

My camera, it has been an extension of me ever since my first darkroom class in high school. Not all of my work is photographic in nature, but most of it employs some form of photography, whether that is silk screening images onto a painted surface or simply using the camera as a way to sketch ideas.

What is my most marked characteristic?

My bluntness. I tend not to mince words and tend to tell ( sometimes problematically ) the truth.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?  

I’ll be moving very soon back to the east coast, but one of my favorite things about Chicago is the canal that runs through the city. It has a beautiful walkway that allows you to have a wonderful perspective of the architecture and buildings in the city.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city?

My favorite place is the Girl and the Goat. It’s fantastic! I’ve never been able to get a table there in all 3 years of living here in Chicago, so I’ve always eaten at the bar, but that doesn’t dampen the absolute tastiness of it’s cuisine.

What books influenced my life and how?

In high school just before my graduation my art teachers, Sue Maurer and Nancy Frankenfield,  gifted me a rather large book of Odilon Redon’s work. It was their way of saying we believe in you. I treasure that book, it was the first time I was truly supported in my desire to be a working artist. 

Who are my favorite writers?

As a daughter of a librarian I’m sure it’s quite terrible to say that I’m not sure if I have any favorite authors. There are books that I certainly have enjoyed and am happy to read again, but I’m not sure if I’m dedicated to any writers per say. There are however several directors whose films I always have to see, those would be: Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Zhang Yimou and Michel Gondry.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day?

I have a mix that I love listening to in the studio, that would probably be my choice. It has some Pixies, Cure, Belle and Sebastian, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Smiths, Johnny Cash, Interpol and She and Him among other things.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? 

I’m not sure if I have fictional hero or heroine but there are certainly some artists that I consider my heroines: Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Imogene Cunningham, Doris Salcedo, Rachel Whiteread, Louise Nevelson to name a few.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

My Grandparents and my parents. My family fled the Soviets in 1944 and lived in displaced person camps for eight years in Germany before emigrating to the United States. There resettlement was not easy. America then, as it is now, was very afraid of “the other” and those that might be considered “outsiders”. I am in awe of their bravery and perseverence and it their will to succeed against all odds.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? 

City of Lost Children. It’s probably my all time favorite movie. Although, I also dearly love Street of Crocodiles by the Brothers Quay.

What role does art play in my life and work?

It’s the first thing I think about in the morning and last thought everyday. I am consumed by art. I can not imagine my life without it.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?  

My husband. He is absolutely my partner in crime, even when he least expects it. A lot of the work I do couldn’t be done without him. He has a carpentry background and works as a professional retoucher so inevitably I’m always asking for his input in work. He’s also helped me in almost every large scale installation I’ve done. An absolute hero!

Whom would I like to work with in 2017?  

I curated a show not too long ago about artists who have a relationship to architecture in their work. I have been thinking about doing second version of that show and recently came across an artist whose work I greatly admire, Leyla Cardenas. She is someone I would most definitely love to work with and meet.

Which people in my profession would i love to meet in 2017?

As I write this I am in the midst of packing and moving to Philadelphia. I’m hoping to meet as many Philly artists as I can and to begin to be immersed in that great community.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?  

I mentioned above that I am currently working on my project about former WWII displaced person camps in Germany. I’ve been working on it this entire year, but only recently do I feel like I’ve made some headway on the project. It’s a project that a am very passionate about and I am definitely enjoying working on it.

Where can you see me or my work in 2017?

I have a show opening up next week at Matteawan Gallery in Beacon NY. Find out more here:

I also have a solo coming up in Brooklyn in the fall at Space 776.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? 

To me it means, artists continue to make for as long as they possibly can and in any condition that they can. The passion to be an artist, a maker, doesn’t stop. 

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?

There are so many I could name, here are a few: Lisa Pressman, Jeanne Heifetz, Lorrie Fredette, Rita Grendze, Julie Karabenick, Janice Caswell, Ryan Sarah Murphy, Sara Jones, Rachel Hellman, Alison Carey, Edra Soto, Emily Hass, Louise Blyton and Elizabeth Gourlay…I could go on!

How can you contact me?

You can contact me from my website at

or via e-mail at
Please feel free to follow me on instagram at @kristasvalbonas

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