Aleksandra has come a long way since moving from Minsk to the Netherlands at the age of 19, where she was then enrolled at the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam. In addition to letting go of the rigorous old academic training of her home country, she has also made peace with her past and learned to accept herself as she is.
It’s not a feat. Coming from a family where her mother was rarely present at home due to her work and where her father spent the majority of his time living and working abroad in the United States, Aleksandra suffered a lot from loneliness. This only added to the shame and societal pressures she felt as a woman, where even the smallest of pimples could leave her housebound “because a woman’s appearance is extremely important. in Belarus and constantly under surveillance”.
These struggles with self-acceptance and her traumatic upbringing inspired Aleksandra to create The Caterpillar Girl and a curiously magical short animation in which she could be completely honest and open about her past. And in addition to turning her own experiences into art, Aleksandra made her feelings universal by interviewing other Eastern European women to find out how they grew up in an oppressive environment. “In the end, I merged their stories with mine to create a kind of collective experience,” she tells Creative Boom. Watch it below.
In addition to her personal background, another important influence on The Caterpillar Girl was the culture of Aleksandra’s home country. Relying on online posts and creating mood boards with weird architectural elements and weird social media characters was part of the creative process. “My works are often inspired by the whimsical, funny and often ugly environment that played a big part in my childhood,” she reveals. “I try to keep those flaws visible while filtering them through my own magical, humorous lens.”
However, despite the confrontation with rather heavy subjects, The Caterpillar Girl does not seem depressive. In fact, the most difficult hurdle Aleksandra faced when making animation was settling on a subject. “When I started working on the film, it took a completely different direction, which I struggled with,” she explains. “I felt too limited in expressing my dark emotions, which led to a more polished and dishonest portrayal of my concept. I tried too hard to fit it into others’ expectations of a short film focused on narration.
“It was almost done at this point, but I decided to take a fresh approach by dismissing any doubts and starting my film again, just months before graduating. However, due to the challenge and time constraints, I was able to develop my own method of creating digital worlds and animations. The time limit freed me from overthinking and doubting, allowing me to fully immerse myself in my imagination and my fantasy.
These magical feelings are part of the nostalgia that Aleksandra has had for Belarus since her departure. She claims that the more time she spends away from home, the more the image of her home becomes distorted and takes on new shame in her memory and through her dreams. It’s an effect that’s clearly seen in The Caterpillar Girl’s bright and bold aesthetic.
“I embody the essence of magic and fairy tales in my work, paying homage to the huge, vast worlds we dreamed of growing up,” she adds. “I incorporate an unleashed sense of femininity, something that I only started expressing in the last two years after accepting my personality and my body as they are. Now I want femininity manifests in everything I do, allowing my worlds and characters to be as free, funny and moody as they want by embracing their true selves.
“I like to incorporate subtle, whimsical moods and objects into my worlds, and I’m not afraid to explore ugliness because the ugliness of the environment was a big part of my upbringing.
“However, I never wanted to deliver very complicated or depressing ideas through my works: After all, the creation of magical worlds has always been a process of finding peace of mind and escaping the harshness of reality. So even though the idea behind the piece is complicated – I try to convey it in simpler and more humorous ways.”