Week #8 Finalist: Nicholas Zalevsky

Morning at a Nursing Home
Nicholas Zalevsky, Morning at a Nursing Home

We are glad to announce Nicholas Zalevsky as a finalist of The Art Sprinter Emerging Jewish Artists Awards. Together with nine other contest finalists, Nicholas will exhibit his artworks in One Art Space gallery on June 3, 2015. Also, Nicholas will be interviewed for the contest’s website and featured in the 2015 Art Sprinter Catalog. If you are interested (or know any artists that might be interested) in submitting artworks for The Art Sprinter Awards, please apply at TheArtSprinter.com/Participate. The deadline for week #9 submissions is Sunday, April 26, 2015.

Nicholas Zalevsky was born in Kiev, Ukraine when the country was still a part of the Soviet Union. Developing artistic skills at a rather young age, Nicholas was admitted to a special school for exceptional young artists which provided middle through high school education. He graduated from this school and went on to study graphic design at Publishing Institute in Lviv, Ukraine. Though he possessed the credentials, it was unfortunately close to impossible for somebody with Jewish roots to be admitted to the prestigious Kiev Art Academy. His diploma work (illustration to “Tom the Thumb” by Charles Perot) was printed by a Ukrainian Publishing House in 200,000 copies.

Dutch Still Life, 2005
Nicholas Zalevsky, Dutch Still Life

After graduation, he worked odd jobs such as a stoker, security guard, and marina hand; this was the only way for him to earn living, his artistic views being greatly different from those that conformed to the state-approved Socialist Realism. Once in a while he would get a commission as a book illustrator. The chances of becoming a “legitimate” painter enjoying exhibitions and sales, were slim.

In the 60’s and 70’s, a new generation of painters who rejected any compromises with the official Union of Painters made their voices heard. Their works have become known as artistic underground: a nonconformist art style which evolved as an antipode to the official forms of art of a totalitarian society. Nicholas joined this movement.

Self Portrait with Salome
Nicholas Zalevsky, Self Portrait with Salome

He was never a dissident for the sake of being a dissident; Nicholas had no such ambitions to bring communism down through his paintings. He simply wished to explore hyper-realism and other genres considered decadent by the regime. The exhibitions of nonconformist artists took place in private apartments, abandoned offices, and parks. More often than not they were under KGB surveillance. Sometimes one or two participants would be detained as a warning to others. Able only to exhibit in the underground art scene, Zalevsky jumped at the opportunity to move to America.  His last picture under the Soviets was made in 1989, and he kept working for publishers until his emigration to the United States in 1991.

Nicholas settled in West Hartford, where his brother had lived since the late 80’s.  Here Nicholas earned his living working as a janitor, artist’s model, grocery bagger, and health aid. After a while, he was able to set up a small business between Connecticut and Kiev that has allowed him to spend a few months a year working on his art. Since coming to the U.S., Nicholas has created a number of paintings, although it takes him up to two years to complete each work.

Website: http://nick-zalevsky.com