I always enjoy reminiscing about my childhood. I was embraced with the incredible warmth and love of my family. The support and attention of my parents helped me to become an artist. My desire for art emerged at a very young age. I don’t remember exactly when I found clay in my hands for the first time, but I remember the feeling of excitement and wonder when I molded my first work and after that I never let go of this amazing material.
The miracle of creation has followed me throughout my life. I never thought to become anything else but an artist. In the town of Gomel in Belorus where I was born in 1955, there was a thriving artistic community, and it was there at the age of nine that I began to attend an art studio for gifted children under the direction of Valentin Pokatashkin. Working in this studio and participating in children’s exhibitions was very interesting and occupied all my free time after school.
This art studio was situated in a beautiful palace previously owned by Duke Ivan F. Paskevich. This building had various activities for the youth of the city. Here I spent my childhood, here I created my first artwork and began my journey as an artist.
Minsk, Belorus, 1970-1974.
At the age of fifteen I arrived in Minsk, where I began my education in the sculpture department of the Glebov Art College. During my years in Minsk I immersed myself in drawing and sculpture, primarily working with antique plasters and live models. I spent my time in the library, studying art history and literature. I also discovered the world of poetry which became my passion. It was a time of exploration and inspiration. Music, nature, and art and most of all the works of Rodin, Maillol, and Bourdelle inspired me.
In my early work the influence of Rodin is especially prominent. At the time, I admired his Thinker as one of the greatest sculptures in the world.
During the summer of 1973 our class went to St. Petersburg to visit the numerous monuments and museums such as the Hermitage, the Russian State Museum, and the Academy of Arts. After seeing the art of the ancient Greeks I discovered that Rodin is not my only inspiration.
After this trip my perception of art began to grow into a much larger world view. It was the trip of a lifetime; this city enchanted me with its beauty, culture and majesty. After this visit I knew that this was the only city where I would like to live and continue my education.
St. Petersburg. 1980-1989
In 1980 I started a new chapter in my life. I came to St. Petersburg and enrolled in the sculpture department of the renown Mukhina Academy of Art and Design. At the time it was considered the most progressive and prominent art school in the country. My long awaited dream came true; I was finally a student at an artistic institution that had trained many famous artists and where renowned professors taught their craft. The art of Ancient Greece and Egypt, the Renaissance, the Russian Constructivism, Henry Moore and Picasso were the pillars of our school.
These were some of the happiest years of my life. The city of St. Petersburg with its majestic monuments, especially the equestrian monument to Peter the Great inspired me. I went to the Hermitage almost every weekend. The Hermitage building seemed so vast that I felt like I was in a labyrinth that I never wanted to leave. These were also years of very hard work. For the most part we toiled in the Academy studios, creating sculptures, drawings and sketches.
My professor, Valentina Lavrentevna Rybalko, whom I remember with much reverence, influenced the way I approach the artistic process. She taught us to understand the interaction between form and space, to construct the figure and not get into the details right away; to see the sculpture as a whole entity.
I was surrounded by very talented students. We influenced each other and, by the end of our last year, we were able to express our individuality in the final Graduation Project. After graduating in 1985, I started working on commissioned projects and began to exhibit my work throughout the country.
In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, lifted the Iron Curtain and the time of Glasnost and Perestroika began. He opened “the gates” for immigration and I made a decision to leave Russia and go to the free world.
After spending six months in Vienna and Rome, I arrived in the United States; it was January 1990. The city where I settled for nine years was Baltimore. I found myself working at a local Foundry, where I started casting my sculptures.
I could not bring my work out of the USSR, because the government made it very difficult. I was starting over, but I had many ideas and the desire to create new work was overwhelming! My first sculptures in America, like Paganini or Prisoner, probably reflect my passion and effort to find the right way to express myself.
After several years of hard work, I began to work on a Holocaust project and as a result I created a sculpture called the Crying Violin. By creating a small sculpture instead of a big monument, I was trying to represent the undying human soul. Later it became an International Elie Wiesel Holocaust Remembrance Award and in 1994 was presented to Steven Spielberg for his movie Schindler’s List. I got the chance to meet Spielberg at his award ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and was moved by his enormous energy and gregarious demeanor. Such recognition of my work opened a lot of doors for me and I started to receive numerous commissions and exhibit more extensively.
I ventured out to New York and after several successful solo exhibitions there, I decided to move to this incredible city which is rightfully called the capital of the world. I discovered here a variety of cultures which continue to inspire my art and give me the opportunity to grow. I longed to escape the old world vision with which I grew up, embrace the multitude of cultures here and have the freedom to express myself.
In 2003 I joined Wally Findlay Galleries which has several locations including New York, Palm Beach, Los Angeles and Barcelona. I am pleased with the recognition I have received from the American and international collectors who continue to express interest in my work.
"Veni, scripsi, vixi"
The feelings of flying and falling down which come to us in dreams always come back to me. In art everyone has their journey. Some artists get recognition early on, and yet for others celebrity and success remain a dream until the end of their lifetime. For example, we can think of Van Gogh who never sold a single painting during his life, but for every artist his paintings are a source of inspiration.
What is art? I have been looking for the answer to this question for a long time. For me or for any other artist, the most difficult thing is to find a form of expression. I think the act of creation is not only self-realization, but also a confession. It is a never-ending dialogue with oneself, a tension between past and future, because the duality of our nature never leaves us alone. We always exist between good and evil, between dark and light, between reality and make-believe. We are always pursued by our past lives, by our mistakes and by our sins. Maybe there are many “truths” and many different ways in art, but I will continue to take my own path and express myself through my work. I feel that I have come a long way but am only beginning a new road.