Julianna Menna is a Russian artist residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Julianna attended the Russian State Academy of Art and Design formerly known as the Mukhina Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. Julianna’s studies focused on multidisciplinary design where she earned the equivalent degree of an American B.F.A and in addition spent three years towards her masters. Julianna’s work features bird-like skulled figures in decorative dressings and fine details doused in rich pastel colors. Julianna’s paintings reside on handcrafted gold lamé frames resembling those of the Baroque period. When asked about her schooling in Russia and her baroque influences, Julianna had this to say:
You were born and raised in Russia. You also attended art school in your home country. I have always found it fascinating to compare American art schools to European or those in other countries. What was the experience like at the Russian State Academy of Art and Design? Do you feel your background has shaped your deep connection to the Baroque era? The Russian Academic tradition is linked directly to the French Academy and it’s fellow European antecedents. The emphasis is on studying the classics through a synthetic approach while being encouraged to develop your own voice in whatever visual discipline you pursue. The study of Baroque art is definitely an area which we covered and my school was even filled within with decorative reproductions and copies of murals from the 16th-18th centuries, so that inspiration was with me every day.
Your illustrations exhibit theatrical skulled figures with an aristocratic presence. What do these characters represent and how do they fit within the modern world? The elaborate costumes are used to establish the different themes of the respective characters; a jester, a king, a lady, etc. These clothes are typically ornate and very detailed which stand in deliberate contrast to the stark, hollow skulls within. The skulls show that despite all of the figures’ pageantry, their souls are really empty and they are hollow within. So many people in modern life live this way, presenting one persona to the world, but being lost and empty inside.
Your new show at Arch Enemy Arts focuses on the mystical world of the tarot. Many pop surrealists seem to gravitate to mysticism. Why do you feel that is and why are you inclined to tap into this theme? Perhaps because in general, pop surrealists tend to work along avenues outside of the mainstream and the worlds of mysticism and metaphysics are a part of that. There are also so many visual cues from different symbolic languages involved and the tarot represent those element perhaps better than any other in the popular consciousness.
Julianna’s multidisciplinary background has led her to become an apprentice to tattoo artist Gia Rose at the Ceremony Tattoo Society and create illustrations for a diverse group of clients such as Heavy Metal Magazine and Lenox. On May 6, 2016, Julianna will partake in Arch Enemy Arts’s two-person show and will exhibit alongside fellow artist David Sideman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later this year, Julianna’s work will be exhibited at Oxford’s Vera Rose Gallery in the United Kingdom. To view more of Julianna’s work, visit her website at www.juliannamenna.com.