Art professor: ‘I was craving a community’ like UTA

UTA artist’s work is featured in museums from Texas to Taiwan

Wednesday, Apr 05, 2023 • Cristal Gonzalez : Contact

Yana Payusova holding a paint brush and painting a sculpture of a teapot

Yana Payusova’s artistic roots trace back to her days of training at a fine arts academy in Saint Petersburg, Russia. “It was a little bit like Hogwarts,” she said.

But Payusova, assistant professor of art and art history at The University of Texas at Arlington, says her personal identity as an artist didn’t begin coming into focus until she shot five rolls of film inside a Russian prison. The process of scanning and digitizing the photos, then printing and painting on their surfaces, ignited a new passion in her for creating.

“It crystallized this idea of what I was after in art, where I could still use my formal training while working to make something completely new,” she said. “It also felt like I was digging a well as I continued working with the ideas in the series, going deeper and deeper, and that was very different than how I had worked previously. I’ve been working in this manner ever since.”

Today, Payusova’s art has been featured in galleries across the globe, including in a recent exhibition at the New Taipei City Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taiwan. In her paintings and sculptures, she blends the styles and symbols of folk art, icons, graphic poster art, comics, and more, all reflecting her cultural heritage and her training in traditional Russian realist painting.

Payusova said she also draws inspiration from her students and colleagues at UTA. Now in her third year here, she said she was drawn to the University in part because of its status as a top-tier research university.

“I was craving a community like this,” she said. “Here, you can talk to people who do political science, who are historians—and my best friend is a classics professor. We have these amazing conversations, and those can inform my work, too.”

They also can lead to exciting collaborations, like one found in her forthcoming debut as a featured artist in Grapevine, Texas, at the newest site for Meow Wolf, an arts production company that creates immersive multimedia experiences for audiences. A computer science colleague, Assistant Professor Cesar Torres, is consulting on an interactive element in her installation, while Fernando Johnson, senior lecturer of art and art history, is consulting on fabrication.

“It’s a good example of the beauty of being at the University, because you can help each other achieve these visions,” Payusova said. “We all live in the same world, the same planet, and you don’t necessarily want to be in your art silo as a creator. There are a lot of interesting things that can happen when we get together and talk.”

- Written by Amber Scott – Office of Marketing, Messaging and Engagement