A Life’s Journey Expressed in Fine Miniatures: The Master Artistry of Natasha Beshenkovksy
Creating a work of art is an intense and highly individual process. The process is a very personal and intimate journey the artist agrees to undertake to convey their ideas and points of view. For many artists the journey starts at the moment of inspiration and includes time spent organizing thoughts, vision and accumulation of their human experience, selecting the materials and various structural components specific to the medium and the many hours spent in the studio or workshop. The ultimate goal is to provide a path to their vision, passion and personal truth with an end goal of engaging their audience. For more than 30 years Natasha Beshenkovsky has traveled this path, applying her vision and unique signature style to the creation of intricate and scale miniatures across many genres. Her creations continue to delight, inspire and engage us and allow us to join her journey.
Natasha was reared in Moscow as part of a family rich with appreciation and value for all arts; her father (a writer) and mother (an actress before her ultimate role as mother and homemaker) filled their family home with artists, musicians, writers and others involved in music, theatre and film. From an early age she displayed true signs of an artist; her parents provided her with private art lessons and at the tender age of 11 entered the rigorous Moscow Art School, an affiliate of the prestigious Academy of Art. It is here that she began her life’s study and appreciation of the works of the masters, decorative arts and architecture. Natasha continued her education at The Moscow Film School and pursued a multi-faceted professional life in the Soviet film industry with roles including art direction, set design, model making and animation. These professional positions drew on her training in the fine arts and her inherent talent and facility in the areas of textile design, illustration and watercolor and oil painting, enabling her to refine and perfect her skill as a fine artist and served as perfect preparation for her next professional journey and life in the United States. This new adventure began in 1977 when Natasha emigrated from the Soviet Union to the US, leaving behind family, possessions and the agreement to never return to her native home.
Natasha quickly settled into American life and chose the Washington Heights section of New York City as her new home, joining the roster of diverse artists residing in the area’s emerging creative community. Attending a show of miniature works presented by the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA, www.igma.org), sparked the idea of working in a new category. Impressed by the miniatures she saw at this show, she realized her skill in creating miniature models and puppets for animated films would fuel success at this new artistic genre. Natasha embarked on this new journey into the creation of fine scale miniatures from the confines of her modest Manhattan apartment. Her earliest works consisted of highly stylized and decorated period furniture and within one year her intricate works could be found at IGMA shows and became available through various miniature dealers including Molly Brody (an IGMA founding member). Within that same year she was elected to the coveted status of IGMA artisan, her works became recognized by various miniature and art publications and her unique creations became part of numerous private collections and displayed in various museums. In December 1999 she was honored with the exhibition “Natasha: A 20-Year Retrospective” at the Tee Ridder Miniatures Museum at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor in the heart of the Gold Coast of Long Island. The museum, situated on land that was originally part of William Cullen Bryant’s Cedarmere estate, was home to the private collection created by Madeline “Tee” Ridder (1926-1991) during the final 15 years of her life and included 1/12 scale room boxes containing Venetian glass, English porcelain, fine textiles and furniture she collected or commissioned. The exhibition was curated from her works of the time and from the private collections of her admirers and included many of her significant shadowboxes, furniture and paintings created during the first twenty years of her miniature journey.
Ever reinventing and challenging herself to step out of the comfort zone, Natasha’s quest as an artist is to pursue new categories. She recently commented “I try to reinvent myself as often as possible; this is what I do as a rule. I often hear that I constantly come up with something totally unexpected.” In the mid-1980s following her personal credo, Natasha created “three-dimensional paintings” that resemble miniature theatrical settings consisting of a scenic backdrop and various layers including hand painted furniture, accessories, flora and food items and often a figurine with highly stylized expressions. These 3-D paintings or shadowboxes that are no larger than 3- to 4-inches in depth are designed to engage and invite the viewer to retreat and enter into the setting and become part of the story and experience the feelings and emotions of that specific place in time.
Today her ever evolving portfolio of miniatures include furniture (tables, commodes, musical instruments), her now famous shadowboxes, fully hinged painted room screens, trays, small painted boxes, paintings, sculptures of cats and dogs, and other sculptures of whimsical, expressive characters crafted from panels of painted wood assembled at various angles to resemble origami.
Natasha continues to be recognized for her mastery of the miniature art form and growth as an artist. Currently an exhibition of her key works may be seen at the Gallery of D. Thomas Fine Miniatures in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. “Still Life in Miniature: Natasha Beshenkovksy” (December 6, 2015 – February 15, 2016) is curated by Darren T. Scala, proprietor of D. Thomas Fine Miniatures and includes examples of her master works of miniature portraiture, furniture, sculpture, and shadowboxes, including the exquisite “Kitchen in Delft,” a 3-D painting inspired by the paintings of the 17th Century Dutch Master Peter de Hoch. Scala says “I have admired Ms. Beshenkovsky’s style for many years and I have fantasized about owning one of her beautiful works. I feel privileged to have just a sample of her incredible body of work on display in my gallery and I am proud to showcase Natasha’s mastery of the fine scale miniature art form this winter.”
We join Mr. Scala in feeling privileged to enjoy and experience the artistry of Natasha Beshenkovsky and thank her for allowing us to join her artistic journey through life. To learn more about her work, please visit: http://natashaminiatures.com/. For more information on the exhibit “Still Life in Miniature: Natasha Beshenkovksy” please contact Darren T. Scala, D. Thomas Fine Miniatures.