By Brian D’Ambrosio
Santa Fe artist Tatiana Klimov begins her paintings with a preconceived theme – a serrated rock structure, a pasture of budding flowers, a casita, a bison, or a lightning strike in the vulnerable sky. Beyond that, the shades that find their way onto the canvas are spontaneous outbreaks of her creativity. Though the color choices are impulsive, the end result invariably teems with a striking array of vivid paints.
“The subject might be a horse or an animal or a bear or a donkey. It might be a mouse or a church. But it will need color,” said Klimov, owner of Art Mozaik Gallery in Santa Fe. “I can’t paint dull, gloomy colors. Physically, it is impossible to do for me – paint without the brightness or paint without happiness.”
At her gallery, Klimov says she doesn’t just make and sell art; rather, she exchanges happiness and deals in delight. Her own mixed-media paintings are prominent among a wide range of colorful works by artists from Russia and the former Soviet Union. In her world, art equates with positivity, joy, and energy, as well as the popping of stunning pinks and glowing reds.
“It might not only be the location of Santa Fe that draws me to bright colors,” Klimov said. “It’s more my personality. In Russia, many of the art works have dark, dark colors and scenes. Black. Gray. Stormy. Winter. But the hard and cruel side of it. (Gallery co-owner) Vera (Neel) and I use the same colors – orange, yellow, red. She is more landscapes, and I’m more into animals.”
It has been a long time coming to Santa Fe for Klimov, 62, who was born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the nation’s second-largest city. There, she worked in the fashion, beauty, and textile industries and owned a private school. She said that she has always taken pleasure in designing and making clothes, knitting, crocheting, quilting, and embroidering.
“I always had a passion for art since I was a child,” Klimov said. “For many years, I was teaching sewing, knitting, needle point, and designing and making clothes. My degree and education is in metallurgy.”
More than 25 years ago, she moved for personal reasons to Los Alamos. In the spring of 2017, she decided to start a new career as an artist in mixed media, the transition made possible by a combination of blessing and destiny.
“I took a workshop from a Russian artist who was giving it in Albuquerque, and I had never ever even painted before,” she said.
At the workshop, she met and befriended participant Vera Neel. At the conclusion of the three-day event, Klimov ended up with a small number of works and the very next day she sold three of them – all flower paintings. The experience built her confidence and planted the idea of painting as a career.
“Three years ago, Vera and I during the pandemic, we decided to open the gallery,” Klimov said. “If it’s a gallery, it must be on Canyon Road, we thought. The pandemic freed a few spaces, and it was opportunity for us to open.”
Santa Fe has always held a special place in the ambitious observation and dreamy eye of the artist, and Klimov’s story is no different.
“We wanted to be on Dream Street for an artist – and that’s Canyon Road. We have the reputation now for being a bright, happy gallery. Happiness is always first. The first impression, we are told, is that people are impressed by the colors, and that’s exactly want it is we want to hear.”
Klimov said she is endlessly buoyed by the joy of creating and constantly energized by the relationships that she has formed through the gallery with regular patrons, passing tourists, and other artists or gallerists. “Happy” is the word that she most frequently uses to explain the experience. She talks about the creation of “happy paintings,” which she clarifies as a desire to express her inner self through the depiction of trees, plants, wildflowers, butterflies, adobes, mammals, or the land and sky configurations influencing the landscape.
When she considers her philosophy as an artist, she speaks of using art as a means to “show positive energy” and “merriment” through dynamic colors.
Inspiration, she added, is ubiquitous in the American Southwest and a sharp contrast to the harsh climate that she associates with the Baltic Sea and the Russian port cities of her childhood.
“I don’t like too many cold days, like there is there,” Klimov said. “New Mexico has the beauty and inspiration and all of these colors, shapes, textures, scents, sounds, and tastes to be experienced. It is easy to be a productive person when you are surrounded by all of this.”