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Ekaterina Uryutova

Interview with Aleksandra Weld Queen

Purplehaze Magazine enjoys meeting creatives — artists, designers, photographers who talk about their interesting life experience and share secret to success. This time we talk to Aleksandra Weld Queen, the artist who creates scale sculptures and installations by welding metal. And, yes, she does it herself because she is a qualified welding specialist. While Weld Queen is at work in her own castle (artist’s studio), her major works decorate both public spaces and private collections. How to combine arts and crafts, deal with artistic blocks and balance in the world where sexes do battle read below in the interview.

P.H. Hi Aleksandra! I wonder how you came to be Weld Queen? By the way, why Weld Queen exactly?
A.W. Well, you might say that this image came to me by chance. I created my first sculpture work in 2015 — waking up on one April morning, I imagined a huge meditating cat called Tikhvami and realized this was just me! I felt so much energy at that moment, so I was ready to throw myself into art. Of course, I was sure that my life wasn’t going to be the same as it used to be. I needed a kind of a stage name, so I asked a friend of mine for help. She’s a linguist. Together we could think of a couple of names but there was one that just hit me — Weld Queen, that’s how the choice was made. In fact, Weld is a noun or a short form of the adjective, for this reason many colleagues and partners tried to correct me all the time — say, you’d better call it Welding Queen. But I don’t really care as Weld Queen sounds fine.

P.H. You weren’t interested in art before 2015, were you? 
A.W. Actually, I’ve loved arts and crafts since I was a child. Remember, at the age of 17 I enjoyed putting together LEGO model kits while many girls of my age were dating boys. I took up oil painting in 2007. It was more like a hobby for me, pretty naive. However, I quickly realized I was searching for more, so I asked my stepfather to teach me to work with metal (he is a big expert in this field). I started creating small sculptures — back then I had no grand ideas, but some images I wanted to bring from canvas to reality. I entered Welding Technologies at the Polytechnic College, as I was never aiming at receiving academic art education — I had to work instead. In fact, I didn’t see myself as an artist in those years, it came much later. 

P.H.  Honestly, the image of Weld Queen looks bold for Russia. Do they consider you to be a feminist? What is your attitude towards feminism, by the way?
A.W. Good question! No, I’m definitely not a feminist. I don’t feel like proving something to the opposite sex. I appreciate men and don’t see them as my competitors. They are more like my companions, there is much to learn from them: e.g. assurance, determination, manhood. By the way, I coined a special term to describe my attitude towards gender issues — neofeminism. I see it the following way: Russian women have recently started to realize their rights and possibilities, so they want to break free from dependence on men. In the Western countries the evolution has already taken place — everyone is aware of the girls’ power. But what comes next? Yes, women do have a right to work, to have leisure time that they can devote to their personal interests. I would say, it’s internal struggle that comes next as women try to prove all those notions to themselves. When you finally achieve this inner freedom and have some faith in yourself, you just leave the senseless battlefield. I enjoy exploring my gender role as well as the position of women in society while making art. In the performance Nutrient Medium I am sitting inside the woman-shaped metal case and “charge” mobile phones with my breast (in fact, charges are attached to the case at breast height). That’s how I observe the woman’s position — in a game, watching from outside. It can be a good engine. I accept femininity and related with it expectations that arise from society — however, I’m outside the game. I am glad I realized it. It’s a work done for good, not in spite of something. 

P.H. Apart from making sculptures, you integrate your image into performances. Imagine, it can steal viewers’ focus from the art you make to your personality...
A.W. I don’t think it’s a problem. Meanwhile my artistic activity is running smoothly: I wouldn’t prioritize either sculpture or performance. My life itself is art, everything is interlinked and goes so naturally. Whatever I do, I explore the energy flow, choosing a proper medium through which I want to show the concept. Performance pieces just enhance the perception of my works. In fact, I fully identify myself with Weld Queen, nothing else exists for me at the moment. For example, yesterday evening I was going out with my friends. Guess what I had on? No, not jeans or trainers or any casual outfit, I just couldn’t dress like that! I had my hair done, just like a royalty, so I put on the Queen’s dress and grabbed an iron fan… I felt the way real woman might feel when they wear traditional clothes — totally accepted and approved by the society. My body seems to like this appearance but anyway it’s simply a convention, the one that embodies a stereotypical vision of woman’s dress. Personally I try to live as natural as possible, doing the things I like. You can see it in my art: I enjoy being Weld Queen and living her life. 

P.H. Can you think of the work that you’re really proud of and the one that didn’t meet your expectations? 
A.W. The Mother sculpture exhibited in Zaryadye Park is a very important work for me. It took me almost a year to create it: from the moment the idea was born until its complete realization. People who came to lie in the arms of the Mother shared their impressions — they reached the outer space, they say! Some of them came at night to avoid crowds and spend more time interacting with the figure. Visitors who had this experience appreciate the feeling of acceptance and protection they had in Her arms. Probably I fulfilled my duty bringing the Mother to life — It made people happy for a moment. You know, everything in life is a part of the World harmony, for this reason I don’t find any of my works disappointing. Actually, visions come to me, I don’t make them out, that’s why there is no point in hesitating, I just put my ideas into practice. 

P.H. Does it mean that you never change the design of the objects during the working process? 
A.W. Well, it happened once. I had an idea to create a woman-shaped figure wrapped into a robe. When my team and I started working, I suddenly felt I was going to change my mind about that image. As the steel casing showed up, it struck me — she doesn’t need any clothing! Later I understood why — the figure lacked openness and courage. Was I afraid to admit it to myself? Anyway, at that moment it became clear. We corrected the casing, so it all made sense. You see, it’s all about the inner feeling that guides you. Just stay true to yourself. 

P.H. Does your creativity depend on such external factors as weather?  I wonder if you work more or less on gloomy cloudy days…  
A.W. Well, I don’t really depend on that. I love all the seasons and have no idea what Moscow melancholy (as we call it) is. Moscow is Moscow — sometimes it’s gloomy, sometimes it lacks sun. The latter is a problem, by the way, but still, it’s easy to solve — you just buy a plane ticket and fly away somewhere warm. Apart from this, I love this city. It’s beautiful in the meaning of architecture and culture and even weather. My studio is located on the territory of a real working factory, many trees grow there, so in autumn the ground is fully covered with colourful leaves, while in winter it’s all in the snow. Just stunning! In fact, I can’t understand people who don’t love place where they leave. If it’s so, why not to change it? However, this is hardly the case. Feeling bad inside, you won’t change things drastically just relocating to Goa or Thailand. You need an answer from within. 

P.H. What about artistic blocks? Do you face any?
A.W. Yes, I do. However, they are not about the weather changing or anything happening in the outside world. When I have a work overload, I get quickly tired and start digging myself out. Here is what I found out: if you don’t feel good, a nice sleep, vitamins, hot tea and maybe an intimate conversation are all you need. Declines happen to everyone, however, I wouldn’t like to put it on public display. 

P.H. Are you looking forward to participating in any specific exhibition/project? 
A.W. As an artist I would really like to take part in Art Basel Miami. This summer I went to the art fair that focuses on the works by emerging artists called Scope Art Miami Beach. It’s been my fourth trip to the US, meanwhile my goal is to take a look around. I can’t think of any specific galleries I would like to work with yet. One thing is for sure — America is my destination, I am also interested in the Asian art market. I would say Western countries are more involved in the contemporary art field, local art institutions have much to offer to artists. The scope of services provided by some American galleries just amazed me — I could only dream of it!

P.H. Thank you for such an interesting conversation, Aleksandra! Before saying goodbye, please wish something to Purplehaze readers. ❤️ 
A.W. I wish you to listen to your heart, doing the things you enjoy. Trust yourself and follow your inspiration. If something gets you carried away, stop looking for excuses, just commit yourself to this activity. This is my secret to success.