The Grown-Up Prodigy


Ann Krasner never put a brush to canvas until this year.

If I were a struggling painter, say, 20 years in a garret withnothing to show for my art but empty paint tubes and unpaid bills,I’d probably hate Ann Krasner.

Krasner’s oils on canvas win awards and sell briskly, at $750 to$1,250 each. That’s pretty good for someone who just started puttingher work on the market a few months ago. And it’s even moreimpressive when you consider this: Krasner never painted a singlework — never put a brush to canvas — until this year.

About eight years ago, Krasner and her husband emigrated fromMoscow to Los Angeles. With the help of the Jewish FederationCouncil, Krasner, who has advanced degrees in computer science andmathematics, found a job at a computer software company. Then, forher 30th birthday, Krasner received some paints and a blank canvasfrom her husband, Paul. “Maybe he felt something,” she says now,thinking back. “He always said I saw things differently.”

Krasner’s first paintings were street scenes of her native Moscow– bleak yet somehow fanciful works of nostalgia. Friends and familyencouraged her to do more. She entered some in the annual Malibu ArtAssociation Competition and won the People’s Choice Award — out ofthe works of 300 artists, the public liked hers best. Malibu ArtGallery began selling her work.

“I thought it was very exciting, different and refreshing,” saidgallery owner Val Gajik. “Funny but kind of serious.” In a slow artmarket, Krasner’s paintings flew off the walls. Within weeks, theprices tripled.

The city of Santa Monica selected Krasner, along with fellowRussian-born artist Irene Fire, to exhibit her work at the CommunityCorps space at 1423 2nd Street in an exhibit organized by Self TaughtArtists Resources. Fire has acted as Krasner’s mentor in Los Angeles,and both women use their works to reflect on the bewilderingexperience of the immigrant.

How does Krasner explain her sudden incarnation as an artist?Perhaps the talent comes from her father, Alexander Kahn, apre-eminent Russian optic physicist and accomplished photographer.”Thanks to him,” she says, “I notice what other people don’t.”

And not to draw too many comparisons, but they say that HenriMatisse didn’t start painting until he was 28.

Whatever the cause, Krasner is free with the credits. “It’s allthanks to the Jewish community of Los Angeles,” she says. “Theyhelped me leave Russia and find a job. This is like another life forme.”

Now living in Malibu, Krasner, who has a 5-year-old daughter, ishoping to one day make painting her day and night job. “If I havethis chance to be a successful artist,” she says, “I really want totry.”

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