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Culture news
Perfection is pursued inside an old church
02.26.2006 13:53

painters Galina Perova, of Holladay, is known around the world for her powerful portraits and striking still life paintings. She competed with more than 1,000 students to study at the Repin Academy of Art in St. Petersburg, Russia, and came to Utah in 1991 to teach art at the University of Utah.

Soon after she arrived in Utah, she created a studio space in Sugar House in a building that once was used as a church.

Now it has been transformed into a workplace, second home and gallery.

“The whole place is like a tapestry of elegance, a wonderful place to sit and observe. It's as if you're planting yourself in the middle of one of her paintings - surrounded by rich textures, dramatic lighting and inclusive vignettes,” says Jean Mueller, a friend and admirer of Perova's art.

The studio is shared by a dog and two cats rescued from homelessness. Their antics offer endless entertainment, and Perova's older sister, Albina, provides support and is Perova's personal assistant. Sometimes she accompanies Perova as she packs up her easel, paint box and umbrella and explores the country in an RV, her second studio on wheels.

"She has the ability to travel to unique places, such as the desert in springtime, in order to capture the real-life energy,” Albina said.

Perova's oil paintings appear in more than 2,000 private collections throughout the United States and Russia. She has exhibited in international galleries, institutions and museums.

One recent project is a 100-foot-long mural called the “History of the Health Sciences in Utah,” located in the new Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Health Sciences Education Building at the U.

Julian Maack, former head of the university's Department of Medical Illustration, recommended Perova to paint the mural.

“Why Galina? You cannot walk by a Galina landscape, still life or portrait without her brush strokes becoming written words stimulating a dialogue in your mind's eye. Galina is indeed a unique soul of creativity, painting images that speak to our inner self,” Maack said.

To ensure accuracy of every detail, Perova studied the history of health sciences for six months prior to collaborating on the project in 2005 with Alexander Charin, a colleague from St. Petersburg.

“She worked with the curator at the Museum of Natural History and carefully examined old objects and photos. She was intense and meticulous about her research,

living and breathing it,” said Nancy Huntsman, a long-time friend and also the subject of a portrait.

Perova's portraits include several university presidents as well as former Salt Lake City mayors Deedee Corradini and Ted Wilson. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is on a waiting list.

To complete commissions, Perova works seven days a week and only sleeps four or five hours a night. Occasionally, this demanding schedule catches up with her.

Huntsman said she has seen Perova lying on a mat next to her painting, catching two or three hours of sleep.

“She will exhaust herself with total devotion and focus. She's world-class, and has a prestigious talent combined with almost fanatical discipline. I feel fortunate just to be in her orbit,” Huntsman said.

Music strongly influences Perova's painting technique and she often listens to classical music as she stands at her easel.

“You have to feel the music of your painting. You have to find the rhythm,” she says.

A fan for 15 years and owner of six of Perova's paintings, Kay Papulak feels Perova's strongest trait is her perfectionism.

“She's never completely satisfied with her work . . . even the frames have to be perfect.”

Perova hesitates to put a signature on any of her paintings, and says she'll never really be finished with her work.

“I feel like I can always improve it,” she admits.

Perova pictures herself engaged in her artwork for the remainder of her life.

“I won't ever be lonely or bored because I have my painting. It will always

be my companion, my passion and my love.”

Get to know the artist

To learn more about Galina Perova, visit or call 801-466-9494.

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