In Soviet times there used to be a magazine called "America". It was an illustrated monthly edition in Russia, issued by the US State Secretary Department between 1956 and 1995. As a counterpart to Soviet Propaganda it was intended to inform Soviet citizens about American life.
All together 454 issues of this magazine were issued, proposed for the USSR audience with 50000 editions of each issue. It is known that at least in 1972 the magazine was published in Beirut and shipped to Yugoslavia by sea. One of the articles in this magazine dated approximately 1973 -1975 was called "The most delicious American mushrooms" and described the 17 kinds of most exquisite mushrooms in America.
Taking its starting point in this article, the series of watercolors by Nikita Shalenny explores an imaginary mushroom culture embodied in real people, semi-fairy characters, living somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Russian villages and fairytale forests. These mushrooms’ area of habitat is quite wide – they can be easily found in the minibus, in a two-bedroom “khrushchevka” at the family feast, among the children in a classroom, etc. They sprout from imagination and live their autonomous lives as they find salvation in barely perceptible values, half-forgotten traditions, their special understanding of mental values and total rejection of the new.
On the edges of the mysterious Russian forests the most delicious American mushrooms live their dreamy lives. Seemingly free and equal, they have their own households, sing songs, wander around the forest and love each other. And they will live happily in the provinces among the birches as long as the bears andbutton accordions exist.
The story is alien to the logic and at the same time so simple and clear in its innocence. Through watercolours, the artist illustrates the adventures, everyday scenes and fantastic stories of the mushroom people. Rooted in the Russian forest, a spiritual resource, which inspires artists and folktales while also serving as a component of cultural identity, the mushrooms are specialties afraid of being consumed by the Western mind-set. Here they are – the overseas mushrooms so loved by Americans.
The Most Delicious American Mushrooms, SABSAY, Copenhagen, 1 December 2016 - 4 March 2017.