Academy Summer Residencies 2016: Russia

Our second dispatch from Russia comes from Anders Fernbach MFA 2017

Our adventure began on July 16th at JFK International Airport.  We met at gate 7 set to depart for Moscow, Russia at 2:20 pm (NY time).  We would arrive in Moscow at 6am local time.   Upon boarding the plane, there was a clear shift from what we were normally accustomed to.  We weren’t in Russian yet, but Aeroflot is a Russian airline with Russian staff, and it seemed that most passengers were people returning to family in Russia, and we Americans were clearly the minority already.  All announcements from the captain were in Russian first, and then English.  I was happy to have known how to say “thank you” in Russian.  Through the rest of the of the trip, my saying “spaciba” was met with a giggle, and an appreciative “pajalsta” (you’re welcome).  

Upon our arrival in Moscow, we were greeted by our hosts, Nikita and Nikolai, who called us a cab, and brought us to our new home.  We stayed with the Cheltsov family, a very warm, welcoming family with 7 children, one of whom is a student of architecture, following in the family tradition of 3 generations of well-respected architects.  The house itself was a mixture of modern and old world.  Steel doors and marble stairs, countertops, combined with heated bathroom floors, playstation games, and iPads.  Every little detail was built to last, and from the looks of it, it has lasted a very very long time indeed. 

Nikita, our excellent host, seemed to have a key to the city.  We visited some must-see tourist destinations of course, but he also had access to many closed off areas of the city.  We were privileged to be on several rooftops of buildings, providing spectacular panoramic views of the city, and alcoves in buildings with hidden gems of Russian history.  While on one rooftop, I took a picture with my iPhone, and as I was posting it on Facebook, the location said “Patriarch’s Ponds”.  Below us, there was a rectangular-shaped body of water by that name.  I immediately recognized the name from the opening scene in  Bulgakov's famous novel The Master and Margarita.  

Both Moscow and St.Petersburg architecture are combinations of over-the-top opulence, and war-torn abandoned buildings. The history here is both rich and scarred, reflected in their surroundings.  

In Moscow, we visited the Space Museum, which was a display of the Soviet victory in being the first nation to send a man into outer space.  It was quite an insight for me to experience this from a Russian viewpoint, as my previous exposure was from an American view during the Cold War era, when I was growing up.  On view were the original Sputnik, a vessel meant to house a dog for space travel, a few claustrophobic vessels for astronauts, and a video documenting their preparation for this extraordinary journey.  I have no genetic ties to Russia, so I was surprised to have felt pride in viewing these artifacts of human achievement.  Then I realized it wasn’t Russian pride I was feeling, but rather a human pride.  There is evidence of great human achievement throughout the fabric of both of these great cities.  
The metro stations in Moscow are mind-blowing in their scale, beauty, and efficiency.  Each station is unique, enormous, and beautifully decorative.  

As a painter, I have been thrilled to see first hand works by artists ranging from Rembrandt to Jenny Saville, Titian to Cecily Brown, and Malevich to Monet.  As far away from home as we are, it has been interesting to note the dates of works created here in Russia, and their relationship to art of similar time periods in the rest of Europe.  Somehow, it makes the art world seem smaller, as our heroes are the same.  Even the icon paintings of Russia, and the frescoes in the cathedrals seem to exhibit a distinctly Italian influence.  

I am certain that this experience will take a long time for me to digest, and understanding a nation’s history and culture cannot be fully appreciated in such a short time.  All the same, I feel my horizons have been expanded for having even a limited exposure to such a culture as diverse from my own.  

No comments:

Post a Comment