Thursday, July 1, 2010

Springville Art Museum

Yesterday I got a text message from my friend Oliver “the Juice” Johnston alerting me that it was “College Day” at the Springville art museum. Naturally, because of our deep affinity for culture my roommates and I decided to go and check it out. Now the cultural devotion to which I am referring is not actually a love for painting though we, some more than others, do have an appreciation for the arts, but rather a love of Mexican food, and the fliers announcing the event proudly advertised “generous refreshment provided by Rubios.” We loaded up in the minivan, rolling seven deep, and drove to the museum.

Rubios has great salsa. For those of you not familiar with the place, it’s really the exact same as Baja Fresh. They serve the same roasted chipotle salsa and guacamole, which is fantastic if you mix the two together. Also on the refreshment menu was my personal favorite, churros. I love these Mexican delights. In fact, on my mission, because Ukrainians have never really heard of Mexican food, for our Cinco de Mayo celebration, I made homemade churros. They are simply too delicious to go two years without.

After our fill of free chips and salsa, we decided to go look at the art work. I never realized how big a collection they have at this museum. It was really cool. Especially neat for me was that the Springville Art Museum houses the largest public collection of 20th century Russian impressionist and realist paintings. Looking at these pictures took me straight back to Ukraine. I had actually gone to the birth home of Repin while over there and a few local galleries and seen some pretty similar works as those housed in Springville. But most fascinating was how though many of these paintings were created 50 of 60 years ago, not much has really changed about the country. Here are a few of my favorites that I have found images of:

This picture is titled Sevastopolis Fishermen. Sevastopol is a city in southern Ukraine, on the Crimea, originally part of my mission, but split out when the mission boundaries changed. The picture was painted in 1960, yet those very same guys could be sitting at any table in Ukraine today. They would be dressed the same, eating dried fish and probably talking about the same thing. It really is a timeless style.

This one is called Enemy at the Door. I love the look on the little girl’s face, and how tightly she clutches her doll. The grandmother lies sick and helpless in her bed. I can’t decide if it’s an apartment of a hotel room, not that there’s much difference between the two, but again the buildings have not changed in the last 60 years there. I think that the focus of the picture is the strength of the child. I was talking with Oliver as we looked at these paintings about the resiliency of that generation. There were several pictures of babushki, with their weathered hands and face and we were talking about the tough lifestyle that brought them to that point.

This picture, Election Day at the Collective Farm, shows another aspect of why life was so difficult for that generation: collectivization. The soviet government turned all the farms into collective farms and took all the food from them, effectively creating a famine for the working class. Death tolls are in the millions, and the full extent of the damage is not known as the Soviets did well to keep it covered up to the rest of the world.

This one is called “Gray Day.” The title alone reminds me of every winter day I spent over there. Colors all seemed to melt away from the world around us and blend into one gray existence. The sky, the ground, the trees, the buildings, all of it was just gray and barren, like this forest.

Last there is this piece: Curious Onlookers. The children over there are adorable. I particularly remember the daughter of one investigator I worked with. The girls name was Dascha. It was the cutest thing to hear her speak Russian, and it was always fun to play with her while her mother studied at our English club. The children are so bright and cheerful, especially compared to the circumstances that surround them. I had the opportunity to, on more than one occasion, work with some orphans, some of whom were being adopted by American families. Visiting the orphanages was an incredible experience, definitely a highlight of my time over there. If there is a hope for Ukraine, it has to lie in the future generation and their optimism and drive for happiness.


Melissa said...

Love it! Thanks for sharing! I want to put the Springfield Art Museum on my list!

J.M. said...

I like the cultural immersion, this is cool stuff. What a jacked up history and country.

Sara said...

You're so cultured