Photo Courtesy of Kat Kavaliova.

Hi, I’m Kat! I was born in Vitebsk, a city in Belarus, which a lot of people have probably never heard of but it’s mostly known as being the hometown of Marc Chagall. When I was 8 years old, my mum and I relocated to Ireland and that is where I grew up. I attended the University of St Andrews in Scotland where I studied Art History (MA) and graduated in 2019. Somehow, after starting university my life began to incorporate a lot of travel and so in the past 4 years I have lived in Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy and as I write this introduction it is now my 4th month staying in Japan – I haven’t been able to return to Europe due to the ongoing pandemic. 

Some of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in my life have all been linked to my choice in studying art history. There is nothing I find more exciting than finding some novel or compelling information through my research and feeling like I truly am contributing to this field as a scholar. That is the reason why for my dissertation, I focused on the artist Yehuda Pen, the first teacher of Marc Chagall who is almost completely written out of art history. I received a travel grant and was able to carry out firsthand research in Vitebsk where I uncovered a lot of unpublished information about the artist, his style and the fact that he was one of the very first artists in the Russian Empire to paint realistic Jewish subject matter and established the first Jewish art school. Thus, I believe the role of art historians is an important one that uncovers an abundance of hidden or forgotten truths. After graduating, I spent a few months interning at the Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Whilst there I learned a lot about the life of one of the most important female art collectors in the 20th century, Peggy Guggenheim, and just how influential she was in the development of Abstract Expression but also in the cultural exchange between Europe and the USA post WWII. 

During the ongoing quarantine I’ve had a lot of time to read up on art but I have also managed to pick up a new hobby which brings me a lot of joy but likewise causes quite a bit of physical pain – needle felting. Over the past month I’ve improved a lot and seeing the finished woolen figurines and characters brings me endless joy. However, at times my enthusiasm gets the better of me and I end up accidentally stabbing by fingers with full force. I cannot say that I enjoy the ‘bleeding’ part of my hobby but I haven’t quit yet…

In terms of my dream job, I am certain that I wish to pursue a career relating to art history but I am still struggling to figure out which path that is exactly. As long as I can do research about art or work with it in some way, there is not much more I can ask for. 

My favourite museum is the Mauristhuis in The Hague, Netherlands. I had the opportunity to visit this museum during my study abroad programme at Leiden University. It contained all of the most formative works of my studies such as Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (1632), the collaboration between Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder in The Garden of Eden (1615) and of course probably the most famous girl in all of art history, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). Seeing all of the works which I had studied, researched for hours and searched on Google Images in real life was such an exciting yet humbling experience. Moreover, the museum is generally much less crowded than the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam whilst the collection is just as impressive so you have time to appreciate the works without worrying that you are blocking someone else’s view in a peaceful and quiet environment. I highly recommend it! 

I believe that there are many pressing issues which girls continue to face in our time and it is difficult to choose only one. For me, it would be that of self-perpetuated gender stereotypes which aren’t always obvious. When I first entered university, I enrolled in a film studies course which I was very excited for. However, upon going to my first class, I felt extremely self-conscious and scared to speak up as I felt I was inferior to the boys in class who were able to freely talk about the movies they enjoyed. I felt that I would be ridiculed for my choices, perhaps I would seem too feminine or my choices too girly. I was disappointed in my chain of thought and it was a shock to me that I felt like that in the first place as I had attended an all girls school so I had never come across such situations before. It is still something I am learning to challenge and continuing to develop. Therefore, I think it is imperative to encourage girls to speak up and voice their opinions without any self-inflicted prejudice against their own gender, regardless of their background, economic status and race.

-Kat Kavaliova
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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