Q&A Nikolai Lesnikov
INTERVIEW BY SIERRA STINSON | PORTRAIT BY MEGUMI SHAUNA ARAI
Nikolai Lesnikov is a dancer and performance artist we have seen in a number of festivals and exhibits throughout Seattle over the years. His latest performance, Believe Me Or Not, begins this week at the new 12th Avenue Arts building. We spoke to him about the creative community in the region and the long list of those who influence us.
Sierra Stinson: Tell us about yourself. What are you interested in the world and what do you do professionally?
Nikolai Lesnikov: I am a Russian-American student of contemporary movement practices. I seek to embody an applied philosophy of creative life. I practice in various media that include digital photography, music, and drawing. I work as a corporate attorney and sometimes dance professionally.
SS: How are you involved in the artistic community in (and outside?) of Seattle? What brought you to the Pacific Northwest?
NL: I’ve been actively engaged in the Seattle dance and performing arts worlds since graduating law school in 2006 – as a student, patron, and performer. I have been witness to the growth of visual arts in Seattle in recent years and hope to find the (logistical) means to share some of my own artwork in the near future. In addition, I feel very fortunate to now be able to financially contribute to creative projects that show a potential to awaken and stir collective humanity at large.
I came to the Pacific Northwest with my parents in 1996 – I attended high school at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences on Capitol Hill. A number of their former buildings are now veritable beacons of creativity. I’ve taken arts classes and performed in musical theater productions at what is now the Northwest Film Forum and the space currently hosting Velocity Dance Center used to be my high school gym. In addition, I attended introductory dance classes at Cornish on a scholarship in ’97-’98. I love having this historical sense of place and feeling very rooted here now after having previously spent my childhood in a collapsing Soviet Union and my puberty in Italy.
SS: How do you feel your practice is influenced by your environment and community?
NL: The dance community is very interconnected and one’s artistic growth is directly tied to witnessing the work of others. The Seattle landscape is pregnant with a poetry that speaks of loss and of life. The American form is well-installed here and growing even, but the spirit of the land passes through every thing and these are the passions of our times. A profound injustice remains inherent in the American way of life. Art is the optimal vehicle for the manifestation of truth in collective consciousness.
SS: Do you collect work? Who are the artists you are inspired by lately?
NL: I do acquire work from time to time, but collection is not a priority right now. I enjoy the work of artists who push the boundaries of medium. My recent art crushes include Kimberly Trowbridge, Buster Simpson, Steph Kese, Erin Pollock, the New Mystics, and the artists from The Feast Has Ended show at the Frye – Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin, and Nep Sidhu.
SS: Who have been your greatest influences in life? (Georgia O’Keefe was a big one for me when I was young, hence why I was recently in NM)
NL: We are what moves us. Each dance, aerial, and/or yoga teacher I’ve had over the years has been a role model of sincerity and passion for life – there are too many for all to be listed here, but I am especially grateful to Veronica Mendonca, Lou Henry Hoover, Jill Schaffner, Elizabeth Rose, Amy O’Neal, Kate Wallich, and Stephanie Skura. Many authors have profoundly affected my understanding of the world and human nature – Lautréamont, Arthur Rimbaud, Stendhal, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Friedrich Nietzsche, Robert Graves, Lawrence Durrell, Joseph Campbell, Vladimir Nabokov, Victor Pelevin, etc. Among visual artists, Wassily Kandisky has been the greatest influence not only because his paintings move me in a cosmic way, but also because of his book ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art,’ which has greatly informed my approach of tuning into my own “inner necessity” in creative practice. Certain recording artists have inspired me to work in the sound medium – especially Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, David Byrne, and Paolo Conte. a number of film makers have broadened my horizons of what can be visually and/or emotionally striking: Alfred Hitchcock, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Federico Fellini, Andrei Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa, David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, the Coen Brothers, etc. A final honorable mention is due to the collective being known as On The Boards and everything and everyone it has manifested over the past decade or so – the best years of my life (ongoing).
SS: What are your goals for this year of the goat? I hear it is a nurturing year focused on peace and self care. Do you agree and what will you be working on?
NL: This year I have resolved to find patience while letting go of hesitation. In addition, being a capricorn, it’s nice to have a whole year to get in touch with my inner goat, which is the most joyful and passionate aspect of my being. My plan is to keep allowing creativity to manifest. I am performing in a show coming up – Believe Me Or Not at 12th Ave Arts March 6-8 and 13-14!
SS: What fuels you in life?
NL: Food. Chakras. Feelings.
SS: Where would you go outside of the region if you could go anywhere and why?
NL: According to some internet quiz, I belong in India. My notions of it are romanticized enough to want to dissolve that maya and get a real sense of a place with a richer, deeper, and more contradictory history than any I have ever known.
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