Finalist No. 10: Kristina Bilonick

What doesn't Kristina Bilonick do? Real Art D.C. Finalist number 10 blurs the boundaries between life and art, high and low. From her line of reasonably priced t-shirts, dresses and ties to her much-harder-to-sell installations, Bilonick's work has one common denominator: printmaking.
By Jessica Dawson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 9, 2010

What doesn't Kristina Bilonick do? The artist blurs the boundaries between life and art, high and low. Her work ranges from printed t-shirts, dresses and ties (at $15 to $20 a pop, they're some of the most accessible artworks around) to much-harder-to-sell installations. The common denominator of it all? Printmaking, Bilonick's go-to medium.

When we met, Bilonick had just moved into a brand-new studio on a commercial strip of Georgia Avenue, NW, near Howard University. She's dedicating the storefront space to a printmaking studio that she'll share with other artists; a glass vitrine up front will feature a rotating series of installations. Christened "Pleasant Plains Workshop," the place will open to visitors later this fall and promises to be an exciting hang-out for artists and aficionados alike.

Ask Bilonick to describe her practice and she'll tell you about a tattered black and white Composition book from the mid-1980s. In it, she kept her most private thoughts -- at age 9. Now it's the source material for her work.

Exactly what was Bilonick the third grader interested in? Fame, fame and more fame. She obsessed over actors and actresses, T.V. and movies. The bold 9-year old was convinced she'd matter one day.

Out of this hunger came the recent project "Draw 50 Famous Stars," named after a grade school sketch book Bilonick cherished. The book taught kids how to draw 80s-era glitterati, including Kenny Rogers and Brooke Shields. Bilonick bought a handful of old copies off eBay and performed an intervention: she printed an image of herself on its cover (alongside Kenny and company) and inserted a how-to drawing page of herself inside. Her picture -- a sweet school picture of her wearing big round glasses and a pudgy-faced smile -- faces Clint Eastwood's mug.

That sense of wish-fulfillment runs through much of Bilonick's practice. For a recent installation dedicated to the artist's grandmother, Bilonick engineered a nearly six-foot tube of Maybelline Great Lash mascara -- the one in the watermelon colored tube that's been around for decades -- as an offering to her ailing relative. Called "Beautific Vision (for Mary)," the work riffs on the beatific vision of the Christian faith and offers abundance to Bilonick's grandmother in her final days.

Kristina, I love the variety of your practice and the social space you're creating with Pleasant Plains Workshop. I wonder, though, if pushing beyond childhood memories will be a good next step. How about analyzing your material and finding out what those childhood wants are really about?

© 2010 The Washington Post Company