Moldovan art makes the trek to Greensboro

by Amy Kingsley

Moldova is almost as far away from Greensboro as a place can be. Likewise, the show of Moldovan artwork on display this rainy Friday evening is about as far a haul from YES! Weekly’s Adams Farm offices as any place within Greensboro’s legal city limits.

It’s at a private home in a ritzy Lake Brandt neighborhood. The address markers are barely visible through the gray slicing rain, but I arrive there after a number of wrong turns and false starts on the maze of streets that connect the cardinal northwest to the southeast.

I start up the driveway to the grand entrance of a stately brick home before being redirected by a man taking shelter from the storm in a massive moving van.

‘“I think the art show’s around back,’” he says.

So around back I go, past the two-car garage tucked discreetly out of view and a private pool fed blue water by its own private waterfall. Following the natural curve of the walkway places me smack in front of landscapes painted by Vlad Tabac.

Tabac’s oil paintings are the most characteristically Russian of the items on display, says curator Melanie Golter. In ‘“Sunshine Path,’” Tabac portrays the shadows of the forest by charting a golden path down the center of monolithic darkness.

Golter tells me that the light really emphasizes the painter’s ability with contrast. But the dimness, the glistening of humidity on the canvas, imparts a sense of the artist’s homeland.

Moldova is Greensboro’s sister republic, one of a number of former Soviet states gone independent after the fall of the Iron Curtain. A slip of country roughly the size of Maryland, its 4.5 million inhabitants have seen more than their share of hardship since gaining independence in 1991. Moldova borders Romania and shares the latter country’s problematic orphanage system, one that inadvertently led to the art occupying Mike Winstead’s home.

Golter’s sister traveled to Moldova to help facilitate adoptions of the impoverished country’s orphans by Americans. When Golter accompanied her on a trip, she discovered native artisans exceptional in their skill.

Her interest in their folk fashions and local textiles ‘— tied to professional experience in fashion and design ‘— led eventually to her discovery of Moldovan visual artists.

‘“I found that the artists were very skilled and very well trained,’” she says.

They are also very diverse. Aside from Tabac’s dark Russianness, there’s the whimsy evoked by Nikifor Svirinstukin (although the Moldovan’s don’t have a word for ‘“whimsy,’” I’m told). In his large oil ‘“Not Only the Sausage’” a cat stares at a piece of meat as it wraps its tail surreptitiously around a girl’s leg.

Golter started buying and selling Moldovan art soon after her first visit; her most successful artist has been the sole watercolorist represented in the exhibit, Ion Carchelon. Golter compares his work to Andrew Wyeth. About seven small frames enclose depictions of open landscapes and wood houses that could likely fit inside the basement floor where we stand.

While I peruse the various works, an eager collector marches straight to the Carchelon display and promptly snaps up two paintings. At the behest of the hosts, Golter and local gallerista Tracy Marshall, a Phil Collins song materializes from flat speakers wired into the ceiling.

To that soundtrack, I wander out into the hall to gaze at paintings by art professor Veschelav Fisticanu. A modern number titled ‘“Carnival’” involves opposite earth tones affixed to a massive canvas. The celebratory tone of the piece couldn’t differ more from Carchelon’s restraint.

Golter knows these Moldovan artists personally, and she insists on paying fair prices for their work. The man staring at the Carchelon pieces is trying to make a deal, but Golter and Marshall aren’t having it.

Marshall used to own a gallery, and this is the first time she’s shown art inside a private home. The exhibit has gone well, except for a brief electrical failure that’s particularly detrimental during an art exhibit. With this house show, it’s almost as if the art world has taken a cue from punk rock, without the Mohawks or torn clothing. Marshall says she might do it again, if she gets the sort of crowd she’s expecting for tomorrow’s daylong exhibition.

In addition to funding artists ‘— who have a tendency toward poverty in even the best of economies ‘— a portion of the painting prices funds impoverished Moldovan orphanages.

A handful of people have cycled through the exhibit, braving the weather for a display of art from around the world. One woman takes a long look at Plotr Fazli’s ‘“The Dance’” before pronouncing it a perfect candidate for UNICEF stamp art.

From afar, the figures in the painting appear to resemble a group at once diverse and harmonious. But closer inspection reveals iconic historical images: an astronaut (Neil Armstrong? A Russian counterpart?) and the girl photographed running from her napalmed village at the height of the Vietnam War. I can’t place the other characters, which are painted in broad and colorful strokes.

The rain tapers off as I leave the exhibit, but the sun still hasn’t emerged from the clouds to light the Tabac paintings. Inside the house the lights blaze as customers perambulate the carpet, listen to American music and view art from a world away.

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