Empty Stretch is happy to announce the first recipient of our zine grant is photographer Margo Ovcharenko, for her series “Country of Women.” Ovcharenko uses portraiture of queer women in the former U.S.S.R. as a way to reflect upon and discuss a generational disillusionment as the prospects of acceptance towards the LGBTQ community slips further away into hostility. She is interested in a lack of cultural memory available for queer women in a post-Soviet world, and how that relates and translates to their own identities in an aggressively heteronormative society.


Ovcharenko evokes posing similar to female gymnastics, which she considers the derivative of Soviet-era female body representation, throughout this series. For her, it is a means to highlight the idea of physical tension under intangible circumstances, an idea both lived and shared through competition and oppression. It results in a powerful emotional build through the work, as the lines between dichotomies like voyeur/participant, objectifier/lover, and judgement/support are blurred and contrasted. This tension, which was once quiet, ends in a roar.


We look forward to working with Ovcharenko over the coming months and hope to release her publication in late summer or early fall of 2017. We would also like to highlight and bring attention to the other four finalists for the zine grant and encourage everyone to follow their work:

Catherine Feliz
Dagmar Kolatschny
Lindsay Tripp + Kate Schneider
Yael Meiry

Thank you again to all who entered and to those who have helped to support this grant. We have learned a lot from this first endeavor and look forward to continuing to build and push this initiative to showcase and support artists.