Based in the Bay Area following studies at Stanford University, Pinkusevich works as a painter and multidisciplinary artist. Her background is rooted in change. Born and raised in the USSR, her understanding of rules, social status, and human achievements were uprooted when her family immigrated to the United States in 1990. Learning to adapt, observe carefully, and move fluidly through her surroundings became a survival strategy. Due to this history, Yulia possesses an amalgam of opposing belief systems which are reflected most clearly in her early, architecturally-based works. Pinkusevich’s parents were both trained engineers in the USSR during the space race. The Soviet obsession with the unknown is deeply seared into Pinkusevich’s methodology. She was born and educated until second grade during the political movement called Perestroika that precipitated a massive reform. As she recalls quite clearly, “In school we were taught that the Soviets were the first people to go to into space. We were also taught that the Soviet army was responsible for ending WWII.” When she first immigrated to New York City, she attended public school in Coney Island:
One day, we had a lesson teaching us how America was the first nation to put a man on the moon. The teacher never mentioned the Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin and the famous dog Laika, who was truly the first earthling in space. This was frustrating and puzzling for me then, in retrospect I believe this was the moment I realized that history is very relative and based on strong cultural biases.
Pinkusevich’s current work focuses on her maternal ancestors who were indigenous Siberians practicing forms of shamanism in the Sakha region of Russia. Siberia is one of the richest areas for biodiversity in the world, known for its harsh climate and extreme landscapes. Pinkusevich spent her childhood summers in these environments with her grandparents, but very little indigenous culture remains. Native Siberians were brought to the brink of extinction by white Russian settlers in the nineteenth century, and when Stalin’s regime systematically purged shamanism in the 1920s, a mutigenerational amnesia around native heritage and sacred practices afflicted the region. Seeking to reconnect with her lost heritage, Pinkusevich began to study Earth Living Systems, Gaia Theory, scientific insights built upon indigenous cultural knowledge, the practice of bio regeneration, and sustainable land stewardship. The Sakha Series depicts the artist’s journey through time, mediating upon her connection with an ancient Siberian lineage and exploring the spirituality of her ancestors as a source of inspiration and life.
Pinkusevich’s Isorithm Series was the result of her discovery of a declassified military manual from the Cold War era which gave step-by-step instructions on how to create maps that predict the impact of nuclear bomb airbursts by showing fatal and non-fatal casualty isorithms over habitable regions. She was struck by the immense tension between the elegant geometries and rational calculations of these maps against the irrational chaos and mass destruction they represent. In the series, Pinkusevich draws upon her Ukrainian and Russian identity and personal experience of growing up in the USSR at the end of the Cold War, as well as the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, to create marks that react to and synthesize the complex relationship between these two countries. Like something out of a post-apocalyptic Tarkovsky film, Pinkusevich’s work contains no recognizable figures and is instead guided by the sensation of a conceived presence, perhaps our own. The artists’s steady bend of visual perception lifts the viewer out of the familiar and into an advanced, abstracted way of contemplating space and time.
Pinkusevich received her formal training at Rutgers University (2006) and an MFA degree from Stanford University (2012). Notable collections and commissions of her work include the McMurtry Building at Stanford University, Meta HQ, Google HQ, The City of Albuquerque and most recently the de Young Museum. She has been awarded residency grants from Gray Area Arts Foundation, Wildlands, Lucid Arts Foundation, Autodesk Pier 9, Recology (San Francisco), Cite Internationale des Arts (Paris), the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Vashon Artist Residency. The artist currently holds the Joan Danforth Associate Professorship of Studio Art at Mills College in Oakland (recently acquired by Northeastern University, Massachusetts).