The neighborhood I live in has a wide assortment of murals, some in hard-to-spot places that one really has to seek out. Right at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Martel Avenue is an auto collision center called RDB, which has an amazing large mural of two ferocious-looking dogs in very vivid blues and purples and accented in gold. This is the work of Los Angeles-based artist BLIKEME, who also happens to be a hard-working Model. I am always drawn to people with immense talent, so I wanted to get to know a little bit more about her and what drives her to be creative.
You’re a model and street artist. Which is your priority, if you had to give up one and keep one?
You starting the interview strong with this question – I love it! 😉
Well, I was born with an artistic mind in a world where being an artist was not an option. Life in the Soviet Union was black and white, and I was always colorful. Since a very, very young age, all I wanted to to do was paint and create. I inherited the passion from my mother, but because a future in art wasn’t possible, I realized that in order to make my dream of being a successful artist come true, I needed to first earn some money. My plan was to find a second passion that would help me to work towards investing in creating art (when the time was right). I’ve got a masters in economy and thought it would be a way of coming closer to achieve my goal. But then modeling came along and changed my life completely.
I’ve been in the modeling industry for about 17 years and would never regret the way my life turned out. But compare to modeling, art is my state of mind, which defines me as who I am. I got lucky to have the right physique and persistence to work in fashion, though art never left my mind.
I choose who I am: an artist from the core. Modeling was a tool to help me get to a place where I could create art without regret. And yet I’m relatively new to art. But it is my ultimate passion and calling in life. So…
Tell me about how you started off doing street art and what your first wall was like. Did you start in LA? Were you anxious? Excited? Both?
In NYC, I got to the point where I was financially stable enough to start focusing on my true calling. But I had no idea on how to start over again; it’s been a while. I didn’t have previous classes in the technique, so I started playing around and experimenting with colors, media, and tools in order to bring my ideas to life. Yet I felt it was not enough because my technical knowledge was missing.
Then modeling brought me to LA. I knew the way for me to get better was to find a mentor. And then suddenly, there he was. He was unknown to me but he was an interesting, expressive guy. What a coincidence that we ended up together. Not long after he became my mentor, I realized that by meeting an upcoming artist, I was happy enough to have someone to guide me through this. And he did.. for a while. Until I found my own voice. Of course, It was stressful and I was not sure If I could make It by myself. But then I got the courage to start on my own. And one of my first walls around Pico Boulevard in LA. I felt like all the eyes of LA are on me…so much pressure! Yet who knew it would end up this way. Los Angeles Times..how unexpected!
You were on the new show Skin Wars: Fresh Paint, Season 1, Episode 3. Can you give me some details about what that was like and how you came to be featured on that show?
I don’t remember how the person from that show contacted me. But I remember it was through my art connections. The guy wasn’t promising me a lot but he said I’d be perfect for the job and he would set up an audition over the phone. It looked too easy from what I saw from social media. I didn’t even think it would actually be happening. Yet I do remember exactly the time that I was at the Rock ‘n Roll Ralph’s parking lot, sitting inside of my car having a [phone] interview for over an hour. They interrogated me about my background, my current life, and everything in between. Eventually, I got the job.
I’m not gonna lie to you. The production setting wasn’t new to me compared to other contestants, simply because of my modeling background. Yet this was the only time in my life where I was judged on my artist skills and not on modeling. And I got to tell you, it made me feel very vulnerable because, for the first time, I had to appear on the screen as an artist – as myself. Looking back at it, it might not seem like a big achievement but it definitely proved that I got a step closer to my dream.
At the end, I was one of six contestants chosen out of over 500 people. What an honor! I feel like like that shows the power of a female presence and can help any female out there, so I was happy to represent that for everyone. At the very end, I did not win the prize, but I feel like I made a statement. And It was fun to interact with the RuPaul between the takes.
Do you also create works on canvas and have shows, or is that something you’re still working on?
Funny you say this, originally I started on canvas. But I realized that the experiences working on walls on the street brought me closer to a gallery, a public gallery, then canvases ever could. Street art is for everyone. Canvases are only for private collectors – those who want to have a piece of that art for themselves. There is a certain idea I have, that could be executed as a solo show, which I never did before. This particular is the one that makes me ready to have my own show, about a special character. I dream about having this show – my first one – here in Los Angeles.
How does your heritage/cultural background work into the art that you created?
My heritage has a lot to do with the way I do my art. Since the Soviet Union collapsed and always seemed so back and white, I wanted to create something with color. Also, Putin is a recurring subject of mine, in my stencils and my work. My heritage will always be a part of me and my heritage will follow me wherever I go.
I always knew there will be me – my artist decision – and I’d have to put it on the shelf for a while and eventually coming back to it, never knowing when I would come back to it. I put it into a box to make my dreams come true and knew I would let it out someday. How do you think it feels to be one of these kids, that have not much but that promise to come back to their dream one day? Also, talking about modeling: who cares where your ability to do it comes from? No one does. Because in the end, it is not important where you found the ability to do it but whether you can continue to do it or not.
Any artists that you’ve collaborated with or that you’d like to in the future?
Well, since I started, I thought that every artist had a statement to the world. To say that, we all should be friendly with each other, with the world. But sadly, that is not the case. I want it to be detached from the fact that we live in a man’s world and that, no matter how much we try, it is not equalized.
Coming back the question, I am open to collaborating with artists that share the same idea as I do. I haven’t found anyone yet so far. Those who I would like to collaborate now, are dead by now. I would have loved to work with Salvador Dali or Pablo Picasso. Also, as a model , I was lucky enough to work with personalities like Paco Rabanne, who was close friends to Picasso and Dali. My mentor’s mentor was the last assistant to Andy Warhol. I feel that I was somehow close enough to these iconic figures, yet there are so many others, besides myself, to come close to that level. I prefer to swim in an ocean of art and try it on my own, until I desire to collaborate with artists that are established in today’s market.
Upcoming murals or shows? What’s next?
Oh fuck, this question catches me off guard!! It is a never ending story of what is better for the artist to do. Of course, I want to keep people close and guessing. But don’t get me wrong, I am working on a big surprise. So keep on looking! Something big is about to come.
Yet, I feel like, there is not much difference between street art and a big solo show. Either way, I hope that you will find something special for yourself. My promise as an artist is to deliver the right message, which essentially is: street art, stencils, solo shows, or collective ones, [they all] should each be publicly accessible.
So there is no end, it’s just a beginning..;)