Friday, March 22, 2013

A Visit to a Russian Artist's Home

Kristen says...

Last Sunday we had a most remarkable experience.

 We were hanging out at home when the phone rang. It was one of the Russians who works at the consulate, asking if we wanted to go somewhere that evening with the most recently-arrived consular guest, Amy Ballard of the Smithsonian Institution (More about Amy in the next post...she deserves her own post, as does the gentleman you will shortly read more about!)

 Chris and I assumed we were going to the home of another consular officer for a small meet-and-greet party, but were surprised to be told we were going to the home of a local artist, John Kudryavtsev.

His home was an older brick building with this in front:
These stones were brought from the sea and laid in this road in 1895!!!
 We were told "Be prepared to be hugged!" (apparently not a normal greeting behavior in Russia) before we knocked on his door, and very soon we were met with a warm welcome and, yes, big hugs.

John's outer door was normal and gave no hint about what we would see inside.

 However, upon entering his home we were hit with a visual cacophony of artistically-placed items that marked this room inexorably as the home of an artist.

 John graciously allowed us to take pictures, but I just don't think they do the place justice. It was so, so amazing;y 3D; cluttered but not messy, you could tell that everything was exactly where he wanted it and almost all had a secondary function.
Russian spoons and chess pieces above the door

 Every item in this room had a story, and throughout our 2+ hour visit we heard most of them...most of the items were found/artistically re-purposed, and many had a historical context. The door (above right) was particularly meaningful, having to do with self-reflection and finding the human in the face of the police/those whose job it is to keep order and enforce laws.
One side of the room had a "Soviet" theme...directly across was covered with Religious icons

The five photos are various portraits of the artist...also it's hard to tell, but the framed picture/signature were from Liza Minnelli's 2011 visit to Vladivostok!
The radiator was found in an old house...John said some men seek gold, but he all he found was a radiator...except the radiator was better than gold, because gold can't keep a man warm. Also notice that the tree holds things like cups and a pair of scissors.
We were ushered in an immediately offered tea, something that I am now coming to expect...I refer to this as "tea-pushing," but I am truly reveling in it. (I am also coming to appreciate fruit-flavored teas, something I could not have said a few months ago.) I love tea!

He also gave each of us a piece of candy:
It was St. Patrick's Day, and I was wearing the shamrock necklace my mom sent me as a bracelet...he tucked my candy in my bracelet because "the colors complimented each other." This guy was awesome!
 We talked for over an hour (John in Russian, Chris, Amy and I in English...thank goodness for translators!!) about John's life, art, and many other topics. John has had a very interesting life; he was well-known as a political cartoonist during the Cold War. He and US political cartoonist Daryl Cagle had a joint exhibition of cartoons in 2010 (pictures here).

 John didn't have any of his cartoons at his home, but there is a book from the exhibition that I will be sure to get before we leave Vladivostok. He also didn't have too many of his works around, because he had recently had another gallery showing, but he did have a few:

This is the artist's take on Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus"
And here is the Artist himself. What a guy!
These two works are particularly interesting...the one in the back was a sketch he did and then mailed to himself along with some other historical elements which are included in the frame. The one in the front is contrasting the myth of the yeti with the flight of the first Russian Space Shuttle Buran (in the top left corner of the work). It sounds weird, but it totally worked. Also, the pastels in front are the ones he used for the picture...he hasn't used them since.
 Sweet, right?!

What an amazing time we had!

 After many cups of tea, 2.5 hours of fascinating stories and gorgeous art, we took our leave of John, but I hope we will see him many more times during our two years in Russia!



  1. You are obviously so glad you accepted and so am I. I've enjoyed hearing about John, his home, and his work. Thank you.

  2. Thank you! It was such a great day, I'm glad you enjoyed it, too! :)


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