||The Sun Post - June 4, 1998
South Florida's Most Important Artist
By Brian C. Cronin
There's another "Anastasia" script, however, thats true to life, less violent, and relates an equally enchanting fairy tale, whose most dramatic chapter presently being written eight here in Miami. In it, Anastasia, the child of a Russian Orthodox priest and an Italian mother, leases her regimented life at the monastery in Zagorsk in search of adventure is Western Europe, sleeping in train stations until the is "discovered" and offered modeling work in Italy. Supported by her glamorous new vocation, she pursues her tine passion ‹ art ‹ perfecting her craft sod gaining commissions from such notable clients as the Jordanian royal family and the Vatican. Her root lifestyle lands her in Miami, where she hopes so spearhead an artistic renaissance and transform the Magic City into the "Venice of America." This is the unusual and unresolved sale of 32 year-old Anastasia, the versatile and prolific Italian artist who bus assumed the moniker "the Great". and lopped off her cumbersome surname in an act that can only enhance her star potential.
In just six short months in South Florida, Anastasia has cultivated a loyal following, appearing in such South Beach club as Salvation, The Living Room, and the Shadow Lounge, where she has captivated partygoers with her flamboyant style and electrifying.
According to Shadow Lounge part owner Gerry Kelly, Anastasia presence at her performance art appearances can he rammed sty in three words "Fantastic. Provocative, and electrifying." He adds that "she has a huge fan club and she's extremely approachable."
Anastasia alas made a Memorial Day weekend appearance as the Free Lolita fundraiser sold at the Albino Hotel where she transformed a large blank canvas into a whale of a pointing in under 21 minutes. The work will probably bring in dose so $10,000 let the campaign to liberate rise Seaquariam's most famed marine animal. According to Alan Roth, a producer of the event, "Anastasia has a unique vision and she's a lot of fun, She's an entertainer, and she does an incredible job." At the Palm Island home and studio of Roy Hansen Anastasia's manager is on the phone, aggressively courting a cruise line executive and potential benefactor of Anastasia's grandest ambition so date ‹ the Glory of Miami project. A colossal golden bronze monument that would teach 70 feet and overlook Biscayne Bay, the project would leave a distinctly classical imprint on the city's unmistakably modem skyline. In her designs, Anastasia bus planned for 2000 marble steps leading to the sculpture¹s base, where fountains and laser lights would draw the eye. Above, a torch bearing risen, representing the glory of Miami, would lunge toward the heavens, bolstered by an outstretched man and fluttering birds below. The monument is a dream that both Hansen and Anastasia convey with a scow of urgency and enthusiasm.
Anastasia appears through the back door, looking rather plain in contrast in the eccentric, neo‹Gothic look she sports after dark, She proudly points our that all of the paintings that fill the atrium are hers. Then she saunters out the buck door to return to her work in progress. It is outside, on the dock that looks out on the downtown skyline and the maritime traffic of Government Cut, where she says the finds the energy and inspiration to create her eclectic brand of art.
Hansen, a towering Scandinavian with flowing golden locks, succeeds in brokering a dinner date and now seem eager to expound on the virtues of Anastasia's craft. Like the painters of the pre 15th century Renaissance, whom Anastasia closely studied and imitated during her rigorous, monastic liberal arts training, she paints no specially treated hardwood, rather than canvas. The wood is finely sanded, he explains Œwith a texture as soft as baby skin." The painting's images are then intricately carved in the wood through the use of a silk paper stencil.
Near, Anastasia applies her trademark technique, layering 24-karat gold leaves upon the paintings background using an adherent called bull's blood. At one time, such gilded embellishment was reserved for saints. This painstaking step leaves a luminous sheen that uses and reflects named light in remarkable ways and gives the work an almost three-dimensional quality.
Egg tempura, a combination of egg yolk and natural oxides, is used for color, which is absorbed into the wood some four so five millimeters deep. For this reason, she can only paint a single color a day. The colors are then protected from light and water with a costing of natural beeswax, which Hansen claims will preserve the paintings vivid colors for at least 2,000 years.
Anastasia's portfolio showcases her extraordinarily diverse repertoire. From classical Madonna and child depictions to tile mosaic and frescos, from trompe l¹oeil landscapes and still life, so exquisite architectural and interior design at restaurants in Rome and Milan, the artist finds expression in a wide range of styles and media. She bar eves designed a humidor for Sly Stallone, on top of which shows a glistening Rocky Balboa going head so head with his original arch nemesis, Apollo Creed. Outside on the dock, the "maestra," as Hansen calls her, is seated in front of her easel, angled toward downtown as thc sun begins to fade behind the city's glitter. She is putting she finishing touches on a work that portrays she mythological beast Medusa, with serpent-like head is suspended high above the sea and mountains. Anastasia explains that "she is an innocent Medusa," unaware of her ghastly appearance and lethal powers.
Anastasia it similarly oblivious to the frightening connotations of the word "monster," choosing to call herself the great. When asked why she has chosen this designation, she laughs and replies mater-of-factly, "Because I¹m the best (laughter). In the style in which I work, nobody does what I do." Though she makes no pretense of humility, Anastasia has a genuinely likeable and engaging personality, and her accented speech is heavily seasoned with laughter She refers to many of the artists she¹s known, particularly those from the old country, as "old, fat, and very serious." By contrast she proclaims, "l am the anti-artist.
When considering modern artists, her admiration is reserved lee Salvador Dali, who inns "an excellent artist and an interesting person." She considers it part of her role as an artist to be social, so that people can get to know the person behind the work, and she con better know use who an interns in hoe art. As suds, she is no stranger to the South Beach club scene, and her work schedule, consequently, doesn't begin before noon.
The life of Anastasia, despite all appearances, is nor just fun and games. Like her parrot, who speaks five languages, she is the product of a highly disciplined education, She has honed her skills since the age of five, when she first sat down so the copy the work of "the master, Leonardo." Though she claims that an artist must always study, she downplays her mastery of both the inherited and invented techniques she now employs.
"Technique is nothing ‹ you have to he a philosopher first,¹ she explains. For Anastasia, the message is the most critical facet of art, and she feels it is incumbent upon her to convey a positive message. "I don¹t express my interior problems. I work for other people. I give energy to people." ŒThis empowering function of art, she says, grew out of the Humanist movement, whose peak coincided with the flourishing of the arts during she Renaissance.
Many of her commissioned works take up to three months to complete, and she makes it a point to carefully study her clients while creating art for them. "I¹m like a psychoanalyst. I try to understand what this person really needs, and then express what he desires." Again, she traces her practices hack so Michelangelo, who carefully studied his Vatican patrons before creating works for them. By getting to know a client, she hopes so create a piece so personal that the person is moved to tears. This, she reveals, "is the best compliment for an artist.
Anastasia seems at home in Miami, though she notes that is a city wanting a vibrant art scene. As a young artist, she feels Miami is more receptive to her work and ambitious than, say, Italy, where the art establishment requires one "to be seventy years old in order to do important things." She seems determined to see her Glory of Miami project through, and dearly delights in envisioning a scenic and romantic gathering place on Biscayne Bay where "guys kiss the girls, and eat ice cream together". She also speaks of hopes to open an art school for pre-school children, where she will instill in them the discipline, skills and hope to pursue their artistic dreams.
In the meantime, she awaits the arrival of her piano from Italy. A conservatory trained musician and composer who enjoys plunking out jazz and blues tunes, Anastasia "Can't live without singing, dancing, playing and designing" This Renaissance woman does not conceive of her varied creations in terms of separate elements, Rather, "Everything, altogether, this is my art.
As she¹s putting the finishing touches on her Medusa piece, a jet skier, who has been conspicuously circling for several minutes trying to sneak a peak at the artist and her work, slides up to the dock, She screams to him over the rumbling engine, "Do you like this?" so which the man replies "Yeah!" He draws nearer, eyeing the painting, and then asking he obvious, "Did you paint this?" Anastasia smiles, and boasts, "Yes, l am the monster. The Monster of Art." She then bursts into laughter.
While Hansen hands the soggy admirer a business card and invites him to an upcoming event, Anastasia is already musing over her now brainchild ‹ an exhibition where the public would gather at the Palm Island shore on the recreational aquatic vehicles to sip wine and watch her create art. It is but one of many dreams Anastasia has for broadening her stage and drawing the people of Miami closer to her grand artistic vision.