Dec 1, 2011

Profile| [Kseniya Simonova]

Photo taken by Xinhua/Reuters photography 

Kseniya Simonova was born in Yevpotoria, Ukraine in 1985 to artist, and teacher, Irina and former military officer, Alexander Simonova and grew up drawing, painting and designing with her mother. Simonova majored in psychology at the Tavrida National Vernadsky University where she graduated with honors in 2007 and despite the discouragement from her parents, soon after graduating decided that she wanted a career in art. Today, she is known internationally for her performance art. Camera set-up above, projecting her work onto a screen, she performs for audiences and since being discovered in 2009 after winning, “Ukraine’s got Talent,” has done over 200 shows, or what she calls, “sand stories.”

        Simonova is a sand animation artist. Performing on a light box she tells stories to her viewers in scenes created from a mix of volcanic sand and salt. Her performance on the semi-finals of, “Ukraine’s got Talent,” (The Story of War) has been called a requiem for those that died during the, “Great Patriotic war” or World War II.  Unfortunately, she has not yet made her American d├ębut so most of her American fans have only seen her via the Internet. In an interview with Simonova she explains that after the, “credit crunch,” in the Ukraine took away their successful Bilingual Magazine, “Chocolate,” led her and theatrical director husband, Igor Paskar to collaborate for the idea of performing sand art, she states:
  “It just collapsed, many people go crazy, but we didn’t because we did this, so thank this and thank the crisis because finally it was the reason we started to do this.”

Kseniya Simonova (Scene from Story of Troyans) 2009

            Simonova, telling her husband that it was too difficult of a medium, originally refused the idea. However, the crisis almost left them no choice. First, attempting to no avail to use beach and river sand, they began researching different types of sand online. After deciding that very expensive, volcanic sand would be best for the job, Igor sold all his printing equipment to invest in about 7 pounds of sand for his wife’s new artistic, money-earning endeavor. For three straight months, from 10pm to 4am Simonova trained painstakingly in a small dark room in their home, as she explained in aforementioned interview, she had to retrain her vision to see items, and people as they would appear in sand. She has many different performances viewers can watch online, and has become known as an Internet sensation. Putting her new found fame for good use, she has recently become a spokesperson for, “Children of Chernobyl,” (COCC) a not-for-profit organization that evacuates kids from the radioactive Chernobyl region and provides them with critical medical care, new homes, and excellent education in Israel. She performed a story called, “Eternal Tears,” in their honor on the 25th anniversary of the disaster in Rotterdam. Simonova has performed in fifteen different countries, for presidents and members of the British royal family. Her exposure as an artist the past couple of years has been immense. She was honored country-wide in Ukraine by both the Supreme council of Crimea and the International Organization for Migration, and states that she can no longer walk around her hometown without being recognized in the streets and with a population of nearly 200,000 citizens, that’s no small feat. All this with just volcanic sand, fingertips and a light box, “Thank the crisis.”

-Rebecca Wallace


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is an interesting and unique way of doing art - if a little bit gimmicky. Her style reminds me a bit of what I imagine gypsy-style art is, though I have never actually seen any outside of like a Renaissance Fair, or her work even looks a little like that Mucha poster for Job - very art nouveau with all the curves. It is crazy that they made this gamble to do this during the middle of an economic crisis, as well.

    -Eric Gustafson

  3. Yes, very interesting and unique but I wouldn't say gimmicky. I have never seen anything like this before. I don’t understand how this would be considered a gimmick, as if to say the artist was cheating us some how. Why because it reminds you of Mucha posters? I would have to disagree with the gimmick comment. When I look at this I don’t feel tricked, I would even go as far as saying they don’t really look the posters. They are made from the different materials and yes the women in the sand art is similar to the women in the Mucha poster... they are both women. This creative, illuminated art is breath taking and shouldn’t even be compared to a poster. I don’t think its a crazy gamble to do it during an economic crisis either, when the economy is down people turn to entertainment, alcohol, environment, and things that make you happy. Its hard to make money being an artist when theirs not a crisis but something about a crisis brings people together and makes them appreciate things like this art a lot more.

    -Anastacia Sandoval

  4. I found your post to be quite informative on Kseniya Simonova and her subject matter. I have never seen anything like this and really never thought to try and create a composition with volcanic ash and sand, but thanks to your interestingly intriguing post I now am more familiar with Simonova and interested to work with sand.

    -Eddie Richmond

    (you may want to insert a page break after your first paragraph)

  5. For all of the lazy people. Click this link, and take 10 minutes to watch this video. It is truly impressive, and an amazing demonstration of creativity and storytelling... She's pretty hot, too. You will not be disappointed.

    -Brenden Freedman

  6. I've seen sand art previously and I've always been blown away by it, but nothing that told a story quite like Simonova. The images that she creates are so intricate and delicate. It's incredible to me that this art is possible. I'm definitely a fan of Simonova now!

    -Lucretia Long

  7. Wow, so much detail in these sand paintings! I love how much the sand can be used as a simple medium yet produce these stunning images. Also how the sand can create so much contrast and provide detail to the shadows and textures. Great review, too. Made me go and look up more of her work!

    -Taylor Brown

  8. Im glad someone did a profile on her! I love this woman her art is amazing! It's really phenomenal! I can't think of this man's name off hand, but there is a brittish artist who does something similar, except he lays out an image in only glue on board within a few minutes and then he throws glitter onto it, and its amazing to see the image appear out of no where!

    Also, you need a page break.

    - Erin Davis

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  10. Interesting indeed. I am immediately reminded of several works by Vik Muniz. Mainly his "Sugar Children series" 1996
    as well as his "Pictures of Chocolate" 1997 and "Pictures of Diamonds" 2004.

    It seems that Simonova is following only a few years after Muniz. I am curious if Simonova was aware of Muniz's works, and how many other artists are currently producing work this way.

    -Daniel Burns