Sweetheart, You're a Real Work of Art
Since most of Maria Shubina's paintings are
called "Me," visiting her exhibition at Fine Art gallery
is a bit like flipping through a friend's photo album: Here's
a close-up of Masha, here's Masha with snails on her breasts,
here's Masha licking a blonde's chin. What sets Shubina's snapshot
portraiture apart from the softcore oils for sale on the Arbat
-- besides being bigger and more skillfully executed -- is her
unusual mixture of old media with new. The artist posts her
paintings on Internet dating sites and then hangs them in galleries
along with e-mails from her would-be suitors.
Shubina, who graduated from the National Academy
of Art and Architecture in her native Kiev in 2003, has firmly
established her Internet persona. On all of her online profiles
she uses the same alias -- "femaleart" -- and the
same pitch: young Ukrainian artist in search of an intelligent
man to help her realize her project. Curators and gallery owners
Not all dating sites are willing to participate
in her project. Some of the more strictly moderated sites, such
as www.mail.ru, have rejected Shubina's profiles for "improper
use of the service." In a recent interview, the artist
said she wasn't sure why.
"I don't know if they think I'm trying
to sell paintings through their site or if they just don't like
the fact that they're paintings," Shubina said.
To minimize the risk of rejection, Shubina
submits profiles to dozens of sites at a time and looks up sites
based in foreign countries to get more coverage. She said that
she sometimes adjusted her profile to suit the location. "A
questionnaire on an Australian site asked me what my ideal first
date would be," Shubina said. "I wrote: the Sydney
Shubina hasn't noticed widely different reactions
to her profiles from men of different nationalities, but she
said that U.S. dating sites were the most intrusive: "They
ask you about your political beliefs, your religion and whether
or not you're a vegetarian."
So far, Shubina hasn't been able to find the
curator of her dreams online. She frankly admitted that "people
who use dating sites usually aren't interested in art."
In fact, a cursory reading of the e-mails Shubina
has hung up around Fine Art makes it clear that the men who
wrote to her either did not realize that femaleart's JPGs were
paintings or chose to pretend that they were photographs. Many
e-mails echo the sentiments of a Hawaiian Romeo who wrote: "I
have never been to the countries of the former U.S.S.R., but
I would love to see them, especially with someone as beautiful
Shubina doesn't have a weak spot for such flattery.
In her correspondence, she always steers the conversation toward
art. Take, for example, her response to a British admirer who
sent a pair of revealing photos: a rear view of him naked save
for a towel over his shoulder and a frontal shot of him opening
his shirt suggestively.
Her reply: "Are you a curator? A gallery
owner? Or just an exhibitionist?"