Artist Profile: Alla Zbinovsky
Artist Profile: Alla Zbinovsky
“I think I’ve always been a really visual person,” says Alla Zbinovsky. A self-described “potter and painter,” Zbinovsky is no stranger to creating in many different mediums. Her current favorite areas to work in are oils, pottery, iconography, and encaustics. Encaustics, which are made using bees’ wax and resin, are a style of painting that encases pigments or objects on panels.
Zbinovsky has worked full-time creating art on the Cape for the past twelve years. Her studio, which she shares with two other artists, is a former chemistry classroom. The building, The 204 in Harwich, now acts as a proto-artist colony and was once a middle school.
Zbinovsky is represented by Cross Rip Gallery in Harwich Port and is a member of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and Cape Cod Museum of Art. Her piece Pollination was recently accepted into a Cape Cod Museum of Art internationally juried competition, “In Tandem.”
The child of Ukrainian and Slovak immigrants, Zbinovsky has traveled extensively and lived abroad for over 25 years. She studied classical painting in Moscow while working as an international educator.
“It was about learning the rules [of art] first, and then learning to break them,” Zbinovsky says. “I thought it was a little rigid at first, but I’m grateful now that I do have fundamentals of composition and color theory.”
Zbinovsky has worked with encaustics for 10 years and has taught classes at Cape Cod Museum of Art. She enjoys focusing on color, her inspirations coming from the likes of Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh. Displayed in her studio is an oil painting she created inspired by van Gogh’s sunflower series.
Describing encaustics, she says, “You can embed cloth and plants and money, whatever you want. It’s a medium that really allows for a lot of freedom and spontaneity.”
Zbinovsky became interested in pottery in a “fluke” occurrence, after taking a class at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill to make an oyster plate as a Christmas gift. Along with the plate, Zbinovsky came out of the experience with a new passion for creating stunning and useful pottery.
“I was so fascinated with the process,” she says. “I think the thing that really hooked me is the feeling of the clay in my hands. It’s a very grounding experience.”
Her love of the practice however did not translate immediately to perfection. “I was hooked, and I
was terrible at it. The first two years it was just clay flying off the wheel onto the wall. And then all of a sudden, it clicked.”
“I like the permanence of pottery,” she says. “And just knowing that I’ll leave something behind is somehow important to me. I’m not so much about creating things that will sit on a shelf and collect dust. I try to make only functional pottery.”
In her bright and beautifully colored studio, Zbinovsky tells me that she keeps her mediums separate. Her pottery is created at home, while her oil paintings are usually produced en plein air. Electric griddles, used to create encaustics, line the windowsills of her studio, each holding several used paintbrushes.
A mentor in her Russian art education gave her a piece of advice she finds invaluable while painting. “She would always say, ‘When you’re working on a painting, be like a cow.’ They kind of look out into the side, but also straight ahead. So, the idea was, you have to always be working on all the different parts of the painting simultaneously. That’s always something I keep in mind when I get too focused or obsessed with one piece of a painting that I find isn’t working. Just step back and look at the harmony of the whole thing.”