by Myrna Zanetell
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A tale of two Ninas
After accompanying her parents, renowned El Paso artists Aleksander and Lyuba Titovets, on their many foreign and U.S. journeys throughout her childhood, 22-year-old Nina Titovets is now drawing from that wellspring of experience to create her own artistic outlet in photography.
“I think being able to go somewhere and see new faces and new architecture and how people interact with their locations has truly been an inspiration. At first my photography was just a way to keep the memories, but from there my interest got deeper, and I began to look at the people I saw and imagine their stories. Rather than individual images, I try my best to think of a series of photos as one cohesive thing that becomes a group project, often blending both portraits and architecture.”
While currently finishing her schooling at UTEP with a double major in marketing and multi-media journalism, Nina also has begun a side career as a photographer, gradually building a diverse oeuvre focusing on travel, portraiture, music venues and landscapes.
“In the past, I’ve photographed all kinds of subjects, and even experimented with non-flash photography and using traditional film as opposed to a digital camera. At first one of my philosophies was to say ‘yes’ to any kind of an assignment. Currently, however, I am trying to narrow it down and find out what is my primary interest. Right now, street photography is my favorite, and I am also big on nature.”
Although almost all photography is now digital, Nina notes that it has been interesting working with the old-fashioned film cameras. “Even though you don’t have the instant gratification of seeing how your images come out, it is still fun. I think the nice thing with film is that it kind of limits you and makes you really scope out the scene and focus on the details before you shoot. I use a Canon 5G for digital and for film a Minolta and even disposable cameras. Right now I send it out to Los Angeles for processing, but I would love to learn how to develop and print the photos myself.
“While I’m not totally against using the computer to enhance some of my shots for the most part I try to stay as pure as possible. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so if something needs a tiny bit more contrast or I need to brighten some things to create the mood I want, I might use the computer to do that. Otherwise, what I saw is what I print.”
Nina approaches each shoot and location with a feeling of youthful freedom and a fresh new look on the world. Because she is a master of telling stories through her work, her photos touch viewers in a refreshing way that is unique to each individual. For Nina, attaining the coveted “star” label is only a matter of time.
Nina Cobb Walker
As a familiar face on the El Paso art scene, Nina Walker could already be considered a star. However, her goal is to keep ascending and reach the ranks of nationally known artists.
Art has been an integral part of Walker’s life for as long as she can remember. Although she spent several years in the UTEP art department, her mother, Dessey Lee Cobb, was her most inspiring mentor. “Mom hated her first name so people always knew her as Lee Cobb, and that was the way she signed her paintings. An accomplished artist in her own right, she was one of the major influences in my own artistic journey so out of respect for that and keeping connection with my mom, I choose to sign my work Nina Cobb Walker.
“I didn’t really start drawing until I was 25 years old but then I finally realized that was something I love to do. Mom sat down with me every chance she had and gave me drawing lessons. Because this was the period when abstract art was the big thing, I didn’t complete my degree at UTEP.
“Living in the same neighborhood, another El Paso artist, Barbara Brown, and my mom became best friends. Mom and I took a lot of workshops from Barbara so this is where I really learned the basics of being a painter. As I developed confidence in my work, mother and I used to have exhibitions together. She lived at the Heritage Green condos so we would set up our work in their rec room, and people showed up and bought art. I have also been a long time member of the El Paso Art Association, and continue to enter as many of their exhibitions as possible.
“For me, art has always been there so I just keep evolving and trying to improve. It was when I started taking lessons from Aleksander (Sasha) Titovets that I really began to get serious about my art. He was very supportive and pushed me to show my art in shows such as Christmas Fair, Las Artistas, and I traveled to out-of-town exhibitions in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Colorado – and the Texas Masters in Kerrville. My goal was trying to get juried into as many art shows as possible.”
Walker is best known for work in the field of Classical Impressionism. “Much of my painting style comes from studying with Sasha who was trained in the Russian School which goes back to the French, but I think my art is evolving and I am definitely developing my own voice. My technique still impressionistic but I think I am using less impasto. However, I have also tried my hand at abstract. Most artists do have another side which they dabble in as a change of pace.”
As one step on her journey to gain national recognition, she applied to and was accepted in 2010 as an associate member of Women Artists of the West. “That was quite an honor because it is one of the oldest women’s art associations in the U.S. I have been a very diligent member since then. I guess the hard work paid off because I was recently elevated to the status of a Signature Member. For several years, I had thought about applying for that status, but I kept telling myself I wasn’t quite ready. Finally, however, I told myself I would never be there if I didn’t try so it was just time to make an application.”
“Being a Signature Member is an accomplishment granted to you by the Board of Directors. You have to present a portfolio of your work, an artist’s statement and a resume of your past work. You also have to tell them what you are looking for from the organization and what you can do to help it. One of the major missions of Women Artists of the West is not only to promote the organization but also women in general. Even though women artists have come a long way, when it comes to recognition in the field of the fine arts, it is still primarily a man’s world.”
Her most recent accomplishment was being juried into a prestigious national exhibition, the “Tall Grass Rendezvous” in Tulsa, Okla. “The show was held in the Price Tower, which is an amazing building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Showing there was an amazing experience as the show was well attended and nearly all the art on exhibit was sold.”
She emphasizes that traditionally she is a landscapist, but she recently did some figurative paintings for a fall exhibition at the El Paso Women’s’ Club which she titled, “Tapestry,”
“The subject was the evolution of what impressed me about my mother. It all began when I started looking at a series of old photographs. My mom and dad met at the former Hilton hotel. She was a switchboard operator, and he was a bellhop. It was here they met and later married. Based on photographs of her during this period, I did about eight or nine new paintings, but I needed 12 pieces so I used some of hers, including the first one she did in 1949 and the last one she painted before succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Eventually I will also pick up with my dad. One of my ongoing projects is to continue to do paint the connection with family and friends.”
Walker added, “In order to create my own special identity, I am in the process of rebranding myself as the “Trailside Impressionist.” Whenever I travel with my husband, I take some photos and also do some sketches and plein air painting. Some of my settings even come from the view I have from my balcony, which overlooks the city. At present my main goal is simply to share how I feel as an artist and what inspires me. If I am able to do that well, success will follow.”
Myrna Zanetell is a freelance writer
specializing in the visual arts.
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