You may have noticed, over the last few months, the major upgrade in the quality of the art and pictures featured here. That is thanks to a new friend that I am happy to introduce to you today.
I work in the Western Cafe in Amritapuri. We get a lot of people coming through here so sometimes it takes a while to get to know them. A few months ago I started working on the same shift as a friend of mine – Sasha. After a couple of days together it came out that both of us were in possession of secret blogs. Not secret in the anonymous sense, but rather we walk without most of our peers knowing about them. Sasha told me that she was an artist and I thought, ‘oh, that’s nice,’ as I know a lot of artists and casually took her blog address thinking there might be something good to steal from there. But, when I reached her site I was shocked and amazed. Sasha, known in the blogging world by her full name Aleksandra Kerzhentceva, was an ARTIST! Not just drawing or painting, but etching, sculpting, all mediums and styles – the full shebang. My first impression was that it wasn’t just that she could work in all mediums but more importantly she could make you feel her work in all mediums. Immediately I asked her permission to use her art on my blog and now you can see it all over the place here.
Sasha grew up a Russian army brat traveling to wherever her father was stationed at the time. Before turning ten she had traveled to many different places throughout Russia – from the mountains to the cities. Through beautiful different landscapes her constant companion was her drawing pad. It was a meditative style as she would contemplate life while staring at natural scenery and duplicating it with her pencils. It wasn’t until settling in St. Petersburg at ten, that her family and friends told her she needed to take her talents more seriously and study.
At sixteen Sasha got admission into an art school in Togliatti, but she wasn’t yet ready to settle into the life of a serious student. She became the bad seed of the school – a bit of rowdy and bored with studies she spent her time in making mischief and skipping class while getting her classmates to go along with her. The problem was that she was a natural, and not ready to sit for learning the basics. Eventually she was dismissed from the school.
Lucky for Sasha, her mother was her biggest supporter and was able to get her daughter into a training institute for the The The Russian Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. There Sasha met famous Korean artist Klim Li, who befriended young Sasha and became her mentor, helping her to hone her natural abilities and make it into the prestigious school. Although she had a great teacher, she was still a young teen alone in the big city, going to school with older, more experienced artists, and she would have to settle down slightly to make it on her own.
After getting her degree, Sasha was still restless. She had a burning desire to see the world. After her first gallery exhibition in St Petersburg, one of her friends came to see her. He told her that he could get her a job where he worked in China. Sasha eagerly agreed and left Russia for a new adventure.
After spending one year in an art institute in Linyi, Sasha got a job working for a university in Beijing, instilling in her own class of students the foundations needed to make it at the university level. Though this work was fulfilling, Sasha wanted more. She had a growing desire to live a life of service. She had heard about Indian Ashrams before but didn’t know of any first hand. Reading about some ashrams in a book she picked one, Amritapuri, and flew there after her contract was completed in Beijing.
She had no idea what she was in for when she reached Amritapuri. The guru of the ashram, Mata Amritanandamayi, known the world over as Amma, The Hugging Saint, was traveling abroad at the time, but Amma’s energy could still be felt pulsating throughout the place.
Sasha was especially drawn to the kalari, a small temple in the ashram where Amma had given darshan to devotees many years ago when the crowds were small. Every day, puja, or worship, was done in this temple and Sasha would hang out and absorb the energy in this magical place; often getting lost in tears for hours as an unknown healing was taking place within. The Pujari noticed her and invited Sasha to learn this system of worship. Over the next couple of months Sasha would learn how to do many of the elaborate pujas that were done there.
But nothing could prepare Sasha for the experience of Amma’s arrival back in the ashram. When Amma came back the crowds came with her; the festival environment returned to the ashram routine. Sasha was lost in the awe of Amma as she had never seen such a loving majesty coming from a human form before. On the first darshan day Sasha made her way through the mob to receive Amma’s loving embrace. Afterwards she could not control her tears as the questions of a searching soul were finally answered. Sasha had reached her destination and was ready to live a life of service to humanity, with the guidance of a teacher that could support the crying of her very soul. The artist was now following the embodiment of art; the seeker was now home.
All of Sasha’s work can be found on her website: http://www.kerzhentceva.com/. Check it out.
Some of my favorites pieces by Sasha: