GRANITE FALLS - By her own account, Olga Krasovska missed the 20th century.
She is making up for it in a very big way.
Her art works today are abstract, purposely large and deliberate in celebrating the new freedom of expression she's discovered on the western Minnesota prairie.
She works quietly in a home studio in Granite Falls, her adopted home since 2011.
This is all very far from her home in a large, industrial city in the heart of the Ukraine, or Egypt, where she spent much of her childhood.
But change is the point of it. After years of formal art study in her native Ukraine, and eight years on the arts faculty of the Pedagogical University in Krivoy Rog, Ukraine, Krasovska said she realized: "I cannot grow there anymore."
She will speak about her art, and her journey to western Minnesota, at a reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 21 (rescheduled due to inclement weather) at the K.K. Berge Building in downtown Granite Falls. Her new works will be on exhibit there through the month, in an exhibit called "Let's Treasure Hunt Together."
Her works today could not be more unlike those she created in the Ukraine, or even a few years ago when she began her American experience in St. Paul.
Her father was a Russian engineer, and her mother a medical doctor. They served in Egypt where she grew up as an only child. They returned to the Ukraine following the military overthrow and assassination of Anwar Sadat, lucky to have fled in the nick of time, said Krasovska.
She undertook formal art studies in the Ukraine from 1988 through 1993, beginning in the Soviet era and completed in a newly independent country. Realistic and Soviet propaganda art were emphasized, or as she describes it, essentially 19th century art. She was trained in oil, watercolors and gouache. She was never introduced to acrylics, an American invention.
While a member of the faculty of the Pedagogical University, she also continued to create her own works which she sold at art festivals in Kiev in a country now welcoming foreigners and openness. She worked too with interior design.
Inwardly, she rebelled at the hierarchy of the university structure and the conformity of teaching the same formula over and over, "like a record.''
"I am crazy about art. Only people who are crazy about art I can teach,'' she said to explain a disenchantment with her life as a teacher.
Her college roomate had married an American, who in turn introduced her to the man who would become her husband. A native of St. Paul, Gary Schoenberger visited her in the Ukraine. A long-distance courtship led to marriage and, in 2004, her move to St. Paul.
Their home was a small apartment, and because of it, she produced small-sized versions of the European scenes she had mastered so well. She found a market for them.
A chance encounter changed everything. At an Edina art show she recognized the formal, Russian-based training she knew so well in the works of an artist exhibiting there. Katia Andreeva, trained in Russia's most prestigious art school, was living in Granite Falls at the time, and encouraged Krasovska to consider life in the small town.
She and her husband bought a home and made it their home in 2011. "Just enough civilization without the craziness,'' said Krasovska of small town life.
With her own basement studio in place of a small apartment, Krasovska was free to put away the miniature works of European scenes and experiment with a newfound passion. Or as she describes it, she jumped right into the contemporary art world and the use of acrylics in creating works as much as 6 feet tall.
As many as 30 to 60 layers comprise each work. "My project is to create a series of large-size, acrylic, mixed media multi-layered paintings with three-dimensional elements,'' is her written description.
She takes on each work as a "puzzle" to solve. She wants each to be harmonized and balanced, and always, beautiful.
It is all a 180-degree change from the niche market she had established for herself, and certainly came with its risks. She had been developing a following by selling her works at exhibits in the Twin Cities and other Midwestern markets, as well as Florida, New Mexico and Arizona.
Now she is developing a new clientele in these locations, and for the right reasons. It's the art works themselves that attract the interest.
"No idea where it is going, very exciting and very scary," she said.
Krasovska, at age 47, believes her immigrant experience plays a role in her drive and willingness to take on this new challenge.
But she also acknowledges that she has always been driven to take her art beyond the expected. The freedom of expression she found here has allowed her to do so in ways she never enjoyed before.
"I like the challenge. I feel alive again," she said of her venture into abstract art. "It's unknown territory. It's something that doesn't happen to too many people my age.''