Thursday, March 01, 2007

Alexey and Me

Here's a story I haven't told, yet. It's a little longer than I usually write, but another one of life's delightful curiosities. Three months ago right before the Via Colori fundraiser for The Center for Hearing and Speech, the Center hosted an artist reception. All the artists and a guest met the night or so before the event over drinks, appetizers, and door prizes, as we collected our supplies for the big street painting festival.

As Reese and I were leaving, we introduced ourselves to a young man who appeared a little confused. He was a Russian named Alexey and had a very strong accent. He needed a little assistance regarding the directions and instructions in our artist packets.

On the morning of the event, guess who's square was right across from ours? Alexey! Throughout the day we visited, ate lunch together, and exchanged contact information. During our conversations, we discovered that he had studied sculpture in Russia.

That same day there was an art crawl around town. In Houston, once or twice a year, lots of galleries and studios open their doors to the public, and people go from space to space to see what the art community is producing. Reese happened to know of a particular space where there was some sculpture displayed. So after a while, Reese took our new friend Alexey on a short art tour---Houston style. Everyone who met Alexey treated him like a rock star. Think about it....Russian artist? He must be amazing.

A few days later, we celebrated my 43rd birthday at the Continental Club, and Alexey and his wife, Marsha, and daughter, Barbara joined us. We had some good times groovin' and dancing to the rocking sounds of The El Orbits.

Not too long after that, Marsha, who is a studio member of the Houston Grand Opera, invited us to see a performance of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. It was fascinating. The opera performers were dressed in some amazing giant puppet costumes. It was surreal; not only wonderful to listen, but riveting to watch. One reviewer described it "as listening to music with your eyes."

Then when I was presenting my portfolio for review for admission to Glassell School of Art, there was Alexey! It was like seeing an old friend. He also was presenting his portfolio to enroll at Glassell.

A coupe of weekends ago, he came to the Earth Gallery reception. There he cautioned me not to be too distracted by the life drawing class because he didn't want academics to interfere with the relaxed way that I paint. He likened my style to an impetuous freedom, or something like that. It was noisy in the gallery, and his accent is strong, but that's fairly accurate.

We planned on meeting at Glassell last week, but the door to his class said NO UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY and some lady gave me the stink eye when I approached the door.

Yesterday, I received a phone call during one of our model breaks. It was Alexey. He had noticed that our class was on break and wondered if I would like a tour of the studio he gets to use through the school. So we toured and talked and arranged to meet after my class at The Menil Collection. He was very excited to show me the Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboards and Related Pieces exhibit. We walked around together discussing all the pieces. Well, Alexey did most of the discussing. Not only did he talk about balance and rhythm, he talked about the influence of this artist on art worldwide. Even though his English is not perfect, has a poetic and passionate way of describing art. It must be the Russian in him.

To me, our time together felt like what I have read happened during the Impressionist period in Europe. Artists studied, painted, drank together, and shared hopes and dreams. They were friends and comrades, just like Alexey and me.

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