Mother and Daughter Express Themselves With Art


Valeria Barnhill and her daughter Eva Malevanskaya are one example of the cliche “like mother, like daughter.”

Both are artists. Both were juried into the recent Art Walk in downtown Tyler. Both have intertwining interests in other art forms.

Valeria began painting just a very few years ago, when she was 42; Eva, at 11, is already an accomplished artist (with room to grow).

This is part of their story.

Valeria grew up in Russia, where her family owned an interior and floral design company with about a hundred employees. She earned a civil engineering degree from St. Petersburg State Transport University.

In the family business, Valeria would sometimes sketch quick images to illustrate ideas to customers; she’d drawn all her life, she said, but only with a pen.

She and Eva came to the United States in 2008 after a two-year MySpace friendship with Terry Barnhill that turned into a courtship. The Barnhills now live in Whitehouse.

“We listened to music together and sent messages online,” Valeria said. “In a year he decided to come see me in Russia, and we decided to get married. In another year, we got married.”

Valeria didn’t actually begin to paint until she came to the United States.

“When I started to paint, Terry didn’t take it seriously,” she said. “I always try something new. I was in a new country with new opportunities. It was something I dreamed of, so I am doing it. A long time ago, I dreamed of an art gallery somewhere in Europe, maybe Germany or Sweden. I didn’t imagine life would bring me to America.”

Valeria tried to find work as an engineer, but said nobody was hiring. One day she repaired her own necklace, and decided to begin making jewelry.

“I did some shows, but I always wanted to make art on canvas with real paint,” she said. “All my work before was drawing sketches, to show an idea of what I wanted to give the customer. I was making it with the pen, and I never or very seldom used other colors.

The first time she painted acrylics and colorful inks on canvas was in 2010; she also makes some art on a computer. Right from the start, the paintings were bold.

“I was always attracted to bright colors,” she said. “In Russia, we have many museums in the classic arts but they are not so bright. Modern art always attracted me more.”

Valeria is a prolific artist whose sometimes whimsical subjects — often influenced by modernism and cubism, and the works of Marc Chagall — come from her own imagination.

“Always from the head,” she said. “Sometimes I want to draw one thing, but I will change the subject in a few minutes. Always from the head. I like fantastic subjects, and my art is always emotional. That’s what people tell me.”

She encourages other people to paint, although she never had to encourage Eva.

“I would like to tell people who never tried to do it, to know that they can draw,” Valeria said. “I started to paint when I was 42 years old. It’s not hard. The art is just your impressions. You just need to, like in anything, want it. You need to want to draw, to paint. Just work, don’t wait for inspiration.

“Eva encouraged herself. When I am painting, she is trying to do something too.”

Eva said she’s been drawing ever since she could hold a pen.

“It’s interesting and it’s fun. It inspires me to be even more, to learn how to do new things and make your art better,” she said. “You can express yourself. It calms me down, and gives me time to relax.”

Eva also likes to make jewelry and she recently made a three-minute iPad movie, “The Genie Dog,” about a talking dog that could grant three wishes. Naturally, for an 11-year-old, the third wish she wanted was for kids to rule the world. She also went on the runway at a youth fashion show at the East Texas State Fair, wearing a red, gray, black, and white cotton fleece poncho she designed. When she was five years old in Russia, she was a child model in two shows and did two art shows of her own.

Eva is a prolific reader.

“I like the writer of the ‘Magic Tree House’ books (Mary Pope Osborne) and I also like A.L. Alexander (author of Poems that Touch the Heart),” she said. “And Roald Dahl is awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome.”

Like her mother, Eva is a prolific visual artist, too, using acrylics, watercolor, pens, colored pencils, and crayons.

“Sometimes I just make doodles on my folders for school. I don’t even get in trouble because first I finish my work for class and then I draw. That’s something I love about it.”

Family is the most important thing to Eva “because my family loves me and because they care about me, and I love them and care about them.” With all the attention Valeria and Eva get, she calls her stepfather, who is a master electrician, an artist in the kitchen.

“He likes to cook. He’s really good. He can cook everything, and he’s always looking something new,” Eva said. “I like spaghetti and I love his macaroni and other pasta. I also like his pork. He makes it on the grill.”

She said her mother is her hero.

“She helps me go through life. Sometimes she helps me not to be nervous, and she’s taught me lots of art things. She taught me my manners. She moves me to the goal. She just makes my goals come true, makes me reach my goals,” Eva said. “Once my mom brought me to One Source Talent (a modeling and acting school), and they said I was good and to come to the second meeting. But we decided to wait a while because it costs a lot of money and there were more important things to do, so we decided to wait.”

While Eva pursues her own, many goals, she’s also sure to spend some time at Valeria Art Lab, 8362 Paluxy Drive in Tyler, which her mom opened this summer. The lab combines an art gallery with some of the other elements she grew up with in Russia: floral arrangements, floral design, interior design, jewelry design, design classes, and more.

“I like to star in my movies, and to film movies, and to hang out with my friends, and to make jewelry. I also make greeting cards,” Eva said. “I want to be an actress, a model, an artist, a businesswoman, and to be the president of the United States.”

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