Thursday, July 11, 2013

Meeting Ufa's Artists


Yesterday, Liobov and I went on an excursion to visit the master studio of one of Ufa's leading painters, a professor at Bashkir State Pedagogical University and long-time friend of Liobov, Grigorii Zagvozdkin. Grigorii's studio is located on the top of a 4-story apartment building (the master studio is an add-on), and features high ceilings, huge windows and tons of space. The Ufa Artists' Union owns various masters studios throughout the city, leaving the artists to cover the cost of water and heat. It's great to see this kind of community support for local artistic talent.

We had a pleasant chat over tea about life in Ufa, artistic education (I could relate to this part of the conversation because my sophomore-year roommate was an Art History and Fine Arts major, so she was always painting). We also discussed how being an artist under the Soviet Union differed from being an artist today. While artists now enjoy more freedom to select their subjects, under the Soviet Union, they enjoyed greater financial stability. What was really cool was our conversation about the leading singer of Yuri Shevchuk of the Russian rock band DDT, who is from Ufa and was a classmate of Grigirii and Liobov.

As we were admiring his paintings (I ended up buying a landscape of Ufa's "White River"), Vladislav Eduardovic Meos (whose Wikipedia page can be viewed here) walked in. Meos shared the masters studio with Grigori. It turns out that Meos holds the title of the "National Artist of the Republic of Bashkortistan." The title "National Artist" (Narodnyi Khudojnik) is very prestigious -- only four people hold the title according to Grigori.

Vladislav Meos was a character -- very charming and funny. He showed me his book he wrote on Ufa's history, flipping through the pages and referring to younger images of himself "wouldn't you date that good-looking guy?" He asked Liobov (and myself) if we were married- he is one of those types of jokesters. I of course am happy to play along with the joke. He then showed me pictures of his parents -- his father died in 1942 while serving in the war.

Left to Right: Grigorii Zagvodskin, me, Vladimir Meos, Liobov. When we took the photo, I asked if we should smile or have a serious Russian face. Meos joked we should smile and say "Hi Obama."

It was a really cool and unique opportunity to meet some of Russia's most interesting and talented artists. Thank you Liobov, Grigorii and Vlad!

I'm off to Kazan for the weekend! The Olimpiade games are taking place, but I'll probably spend my time visiting the city's historical monuments and Kremlin. 

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