2018-01-10 / Features

Local-Express

Victoria Hristoff

Victoria Hristoff is a “raging intersectional feminist, Aquarius, and Queens native,” who was born and raised in Bayside. During her 23 years of life she’s moved from Queens to various neighborhoods of Manhattan (Murray Hill, Gramercy, Chinatown/LES), Rome for six months, and now Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She is bilingual, speaking Greek and English.

Victoria received her BFA from the School Of Visual Arts in the spring of 2016. She maintains an abstract painting practice heavily rooted in writing and alternative therapeutic processes out of her and her boyfriend’s shared studio in their apartment in Brooklyn. They, along with close friends, have started and run Good Neighbr, an interdisciplinary arts collective dedicated to building a strong community. They promote higher ideals of collaboration which not only enforce self-sustainability, but generate new opportunities for all artists involved. The group hosts art and music shows, parties, and studio sessions, among other happenings.

During the day, Victoria is a dog-mom to her new pitbull puppy, Alberto. Speaking of day jobs, Victoria has one of those too – the face of Ithaca Beer Co.’s craft beer sales and marketing all throughout the five boroughs, Long Island, and Suffern.

Hristoff plans to pursue a career in art therapy, and is currently applying to master’s programs.

QG: What venues or institutions in Queens, and the rest of NYC, should other raging intersectional feminists check out for an event or become involved with as a volunteer?

VH: A close friend of a friend runs a space called “The Glove.” It’s on the Queens-Brooklyn border in Ridgewood. It was previously known as the Bohemian Grove. They host great inclusive events, featuring alternative theater, music shows, and anything else you could imagine.

Second, The Knockdown Center is always worth mentioning. It also resides on the borough border. In early 2017, I along with hundreds of other female artists participated in a show called “The Nasty Women Exhibition.” Every single artwork sold and all $40,000+ of the proceeds went towards Planned Parenthood.

A venue my collective, Good Neighbr, works with closely is Bushwick Public House. They regularly offer a diverse range of music shows. The bar consists of an upstairs stage with a really lovely coffee shop vibe, and a downstairs raw space which is much larger, and lends itself to total DIY transformations.

In terms of galleries (not for profit, by the way) A.I.R. on Plymouth St. in Brooklyn is the first all-female artists cooperative gallery in the country. My best friend and member of Good Neighbr interned there for several years. Their exhibitions are always worth checking out.

QG: How do you feel you relate to NYC as someone who grew up in Queens? How do those new to the city respond when you explain you’ve lived in NYC your whole life?

VH: New York City, as we all know, is a transient town. I hold my “born and raised New Yorker” badge with a lot of pride. More people I talk to than not are unable to relate. The “transplants” are typically surprised by how friendly I am, and how little of a Queens accent I have at this point.

Having been raised in Queens is just an added bonus. The diversity of the borough has allowed me to move all around throughout our city and mesh in different neighborhoods seamlessly. Diversity is what makes this city what it is – especially Queens!

QG: Did you intentionally wish to move out of Queens and explore living in other boroughs like Manhattan and Brooklyn?

VH: I intentionally moved out of Queens for college, because as a visual artist studying at SVA, I literally wanted to be immersed in the art world, and live my day to day life in Manhattan. Growing up, I never considered living in Bayside to be the same as living in “the city.” It wasn’t until later in college when my friends started moving out of the dorms in Manhattan and trying to find affordable apartments (and venturing to parts of Queens like Sunnyside and Woodhaven) did I turn to myself and be like, Oh, if it’s off a subway or in the boroughs, I guess it can still feel like the city.

QG: Favorite places in Queens to eat? Favorite place in Queens to visit with your family or friends on a weekend?

VH: MoMA PS 1 is definitely my favorite place to visit in Queens. There’s also a small bar near Kaufman Studios called Snowdonia that I love to hang out at. It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite restaurant in Queens, especially when I can enjoy my mom or yiayia’s cooking every time I stop back home. (But a burger from Donovan’s in Woodside is pretty damn awesome.)

QG: How do you combine painting, alternative therapy, and writing in your practice?

VH: My painting practice had been pretty specific for a while and I’ve always used my creativity as a form of art therapy. The writing portion of the process is vital. I set an 8 to 10-minute timer and do a free-write exercise. It almost always turns out to be a journal entry with a bunch of nonsense words mixed in. I pick one phrase from the freewrite to meditate on throughout the duration of the painting, and then wind up using that phrase as the title. I also use heavy color symbolism.

QG: What are some cool things Good Neighbr has planned for 2018?

VH: Good Neighbr has so many things up their sleeve for 2018. Our first show of 2018 is a music show featuring a collection of different hip hop artists, on January 13 at Bushwick Public House. We’re also planning a three-floor synth showcase that will be taking place at the Gateway. We’ve also just confirmed dates for an all-female art exhibition curated by me and Gabriella Moreno for the last weekend in February. Come the spring in addition to more shows, we hope to set up consistent weekly critiques at our studio space! And as always, we do a weekly radio show on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on Kpiss FM (www.mixcloud.com/goodneighbr/stream/.

QG: What do you love about your current job?

VH: There’s a bunch of unique things that I enjoy about my job. I love seeing how the craft beer world has completely exploded in the States. The hours allow me to have such a nice balance of work and passion projects. I never have the same commute, because I’m hopping around to different neighborhoods every day checking out potential bars and restaurants to sell our product into. It’s rarely ever monotonous and besides – almost everyone in the food and beverage industry is an artist just trying to pay their rent, so there’s always networking.

QG: Why are you interested in pursuing a master’s degree in art therapy?

VH: I plan on pursuing art therapy because the mental health field in New York City (in my opinion and experience) is vastly underdeveloped. I’ve seen how umbrella medications never quite do a patient justice, and then just lead to more and more people falling into the “system.” That cycle just continues to feed a negative stigma surrounding mental illness. Art is not a cure-all, and I’m not anti-medication at all.

Creativity has helped me and people very close to me through so many of life’s moments. Creativity is an innately human characteristic, it deserves to be nurtured. People forget how satisfying working with your hands can be, regardless of the finished product. Art-making has healing properties worth tapping into.

This column was originated in July, 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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