By Dani Williams 


Winter  Wonderland:
Olga Nabatova

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You may have been wondering what to do this holiday season as indoor activities may be put on hold until further notice. Well, look no further than through a window: the Junction BIA and its local artists have come together to create a whimsical walk through an Augmented Reality (AR) project called Window Wonderland

Olga Nabatova, artist and resident of the Junction neighborhood for 25 years, joined the company of other great local creatives for the Window Wonderland installation and transformed a window at Latitude 44 studio’s using her painting and AR.

“Latitude 44 has beautiful oak windows, which are decorated with Christmas garlands year after year.  For this Window Wonderland exhibition, I wanted to show the happy, magical world of winter outside the window. In my drawing, children catch snowflakes with their mouths, and go tobogganing and skating.  And the surprised dog is trying to eat a snowflake, and the cat is indifferent to everything!  Wrapped in scarves and mittens, the townspeople rush about their business – life goes on in city windows.  And in one window on the top floor, children pour all this snow onto the winter city. Magic!” says Nabatova in regards to her window.  Having worked with AR before, she predicts that, “As soon as we will have a universal augmented reality app for viewing art, this kind of AR exhibition will be everywhere. And I see how new VR and AR tools are being used for public art, like my animation for this piece was made in virtual reality”. And so, we could be seeing a lot more installations such as Window Wonderland around the city in the future! Nabatova is deeply embedded in her community and its local business, which is why this project is so dear to her. 

For this piece, Nabatova “found inspiration from the children and families in the neighborhood” and wanted to give a bit of inspiration back to them. Hoping to boost morale and bring a smile to those passing by while she painted, she brought in the help of a magical unicorn onesie! Nabatova got the idea for the unicorn from her neighbors' young children (three and five), whom she had spent a lot of time with during the pandemic, “I had no one here, no family or children, so my neighbors asked me if I wanted to join their bubble and I did, for a long time the children were my only company!” Nabatova was previously teaching art classes, but due to the circumstance they were cancelled. Once invited into her neighbor’s bubble, she began helping out with the young ones while their parents worked from home. That is the origin story of our unicorn of the Junction so if you ever see her roaming the area, don’t be alarmed, she’s rather friendly! 

The process of creating a piece such as this with today’s restrictions presented some obstacles for Nabatova while trying to plan and communicate with others. In order to make the paintings come to life, she used the Google tilt brush. This brush allowed her to create the illusion of falling snow and pouring sugar you see when looking at the window through the app. It was a long road to the final result: “ It took eight different versions, many sketches and planning, all communication with gallery was over the phone and 90% of work was done at my studio,” Nabatova says, while explaining how difficult it was to create something with so many people involved while still social distancing and remaining safe. When imagining what this AR collaboration would look like for the community, Nabatova says, “I see families walking in the Junction, looking at painted windows using the phones. They learn about AR art together and having fun and that's the goal”. When asked if she has any rituals to prepare for a painting of this size, Nabatova responded, “Just drawing, every imagination has a very long story”, and isn’t that the truth. 

She has some exciting upcoming projects to keep a look out for and one of them includes a gift that you and your neighbors can enjoy! 

“Stay tuned for "VRolga's adventure on a big Apple "  VRolga is my avatar - she is VR artist girl in a green dress with VR headset on her head.  And she is traveling in VR to the BIG Apple, my imagination of Manhattan during the holidays. VROlga meeting the charging bull gets on Chrysler building and travels New York bridges and gets face to face with Liberty lady”   
“And for the holiday season here is my gift to everyone! Download the free AR app Artivive and point to this image to see the magic! You can print this Toronto winter fun to give to your loved one as a gift”. 

by Dani Williams 

Photography by Bethany Brown

Photography by Bethany Brown