Zhanna Martin was born and raised in Novosibirsk, Russia (what was once known as “Siberia”). While growing up in a small town, she didn’t have access to the type of resources and opportunities many western children had, and therefore never had formal training to pursue her passion for art. Zhanna was always involved in some kind of art project for her own enjoyment… whether it was a painting, collage, dolls, photography, digital art, knitting, sewing. She loved it all.
She moved to the United States in 1998 to pursue a career in architecture, but in 2009, with a small child, a baby on the way and a self-employed husband, she was laid off. This was devastating to her and her family, but Zhanna took it as a sign that she needed to change her path in life, so she took on a clay class at a local art center.
Zhanna had never worked with clay before, and as she began working with this new material she found faces just started forming out of her hand… faces that were happy, sad, silly, excited, nervous… portraying all kinds of human emotions.
Desperately craving more training, she sought out and began taking classes by well-established artists. The more classes she took, the more she wanted. “I just loved this substance, and the way it allowed all these emotions to flow through my fingers and create wonderful snapshots of human expression” she describes.
One day she received notice that two of her sculptures had been accepted by the well-established book “500 Figures in Clay”, and that immediately became one of the most joyous and emotional days of her life. “I could not believe it. Here I was, a girl from a small town in Russia, being mentioned next to some of the greatest ceramic artists in the world”, she tearfully recalls. “It was such a tremendous feeling of recognition and validation”. Since then she was published in numerous magazines and won awards.
Zhanna's work focuses on the emotions that make us all human, and centers on facial expressions as the representation of those emotions. Her ideas typically come from a “moment” she observes, or a phrase she overhears.
For as much as she enjoys creating these facial expressions in clay, she also enjoys seeing the emotions and expressions brought out in people when they see her work for the first time....especially laughter.