Lika Volk transforms discarded paintings into socially engaged art

Volk (née Volkova) was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1978 to artist parents; his youth was divided between there and Moscow. “I kinda grew up in an artistic community,” Volk said, describing her childhood as weird but artistic. Part of this strangeness was due to the way she learned Ukrainian history in schools supported by the Soviet Union, where Ukrainian language and culture were suppressed as popular history.

“My grandfather spoke a hybrid of Ukrainian and Russian at home,” Volk said, pointing out how deep Ukraine’s repression was during his childhood. His parents’ artistic, nomadic lifestyle led Volk to avoid a formal art education; she was drawn to alternative practices. “Growing up, I rejected an idea of ​​fine art because it didn’t communicate to a [audience],” she says.

Volk moved to New York in 1998 and started making art, recycling discarded artwork into clothing. “There are about 100,000 artists in New York and a lot of them are painters,” she said. “There is a huge surplus of paintings; some of them are not liked, not good or have errors. The clothes are intentionally excessive in their construction and deliberately exaggerate the proportions of the body, as seen in the felt piece resembling an open tin can that Volk wore for a performance titled Liquid work in 2016.

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