Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Americanism of Russian-American Master Artist Alexei Antonov

I met and became friends with Alexei Antonov soon after he moved his family into our apartment complex in Peter's Creek, Alaska back in the early 1990s when I was a young Airman stationed at Elmendorf AFB, and my wife and I worked in a semi-managerial capacity on the property (We took care of new applications, some maintenance, problems with problem-tenants, etc...).

Actually, Alexei and I became friends through our wives, as Alexei's wife spoke English very well. Our boys were close to the same age and played together, and so forth and so on, and our families, despite our cultural differences, had quite a bit in common at the time. For example, we were just poor folk and young family men trying to make our way in world. Alexei and I also shared another commonality, we both believed strongly in hard work and self-discipline, self-reliance, delayed gratification and all that. And neither of us could abide the thought of taking a handout, particularly from the government.

I thought about Alexei and his family today as I was reading Mark Presco's entry at his blog, The Politically Incorrect Iconoclast. You see, Alexei and his family did not immigrate to America alone. He and his family came to America with another Russian family, with the aid of the Russian Orthodox Church which both families were members of. The differences in these two families, and the two men, were, however, striking. I personally had absolutely nothing in common with the other family. But other than their common nationality, neither did Alexei and his family.

The other man was supposed to be some kind of an artist too, and though his artwork wasn't that bad, it was (and is, I'm sure), trust me, much, much, much inferior to the work of Alexei Antonov. This man was simply not gifted with Alexei's talent, nor with Alexei's work ethic, but this didn't stop him from demanding from Alexei more and more and more of the proceeds derived from Alexei's work as art enthusiasts became aware of the work of Antonov, and the proceeds naturally followed. I could tell you some stories. And Alexei and I engaged, through his interpreter-wife, in several conversations on the subject. I said to Alexei more than a few times during these conversations, "This is America, not Communist Russia. Part of the American Dream is for a person to be able to use his talents and giftings to create wealth and make his own way in the world, not for someone else to do it for us as we complain, no matter how much they're giving us, that they're not doing enough for us."

Anyway, I've checked on Alexei and his family from time to time since we left Alaska in October of 1992, just to see how they were getting along. And it's good to see, though in no way surprising, that they're doing so well. If you're an art enthusiast, particularly of Classical Painting and the works of Masters of Classical Painting techniques, and if you have ten or fifteen thousand dollars to spend, then maybe you can own your own Antonov.


Ted said...

Obama says his "recovery plan will include UNPRECEDENTED measures that will allow the American people to hold [his] administration ACCOUNTABLE" yet Obama refuses to be held ACCOUNTABLE to the same American people for his UNPRECEDENTED refusal to show his actual birth certificate.

Vanishing American said...

Beautiful artwork!
It must be great to see your friend doing so well with his art.
And of course the point about personal responsibility and the 'need' to share wealth is well taken.

Terry Morris said...

VA, thanks.

I was navigating Alexei's site and ran across his bio. where I read that he enjoys bass fishing. Even though we developed a friendship in Alaska, I did not realize he was a fisherman. But maybe he took up fishing sometime after we left Alaska.

As for the seven-step Flemish technique he uses in his painting, he tried to explain it to me on a couple of occasions during my visits to his apartment-studio. But I'm afraid, language barrier aside, that I wasn't a very good student. I was a budding calligrapher at the time, and his advice to me as far as my work was concerned was simply that I needed to develop more freedom, more verve. I think he'd be impressed with how much my calligraphy has since improved. I truly did take his advice, but more particularly his instructions on how to achieve it, to heart.

I do have very good memories of our short friendship...

There is the story of the time that he and his wife decided to buy a new couch for their living room. Our couch was a little ragged, and Alexei offered to give us their old one, which we graciously accepted.

Picture Alexei and I toting the old couch out of his upstairs apartment onto the landing of the stairwell which separated his apartment from another apartment adjacent. As we're trying to work this thing around the bend, and onto the stairway, the lady across the way, apparently hearing the commotion, and seeing the trouble we were having through her peep hole, opened her door and said "bring it in here." So I backed into her apartment as she was reaching over me, removing the falling cushions from the couch, which, again, was very helpful given that we weren't smart enough to remove the cushions to begin with.

Anyway, we managed to get the thing turned and worked our way to the bottom of the stairs where we, by then exhausted from wrestling this thing, dropped it onto the ground and both sat down on it to rest for a few minutes before carrying it the rest of the way to our apartment, which was a separate unit from the main complex. When all of a sudden a flying cushion narrowly misses me and hits Alexei square in the head. At which point we both sprung from our seats, peering around the corner of the enclosed staircase, only to have a second and a third round fired at us in quick succession, with cursing in the background.

Watching Alexei dodge these projectiles, coupled with the look on his face, was one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life. Literally I was on the ground, almost in tears, laughing.

I later learned that this neighbor of ours had got wind that Alexei was getting a new couch, and had asked for his old one. He promised he would consider giving her the couch, but wanted to ask us first. This woman was absolutely livid that he had "betrayed" her when my wife and I were so much "better off" than she was.

But you'da had to been there, don't ya know. LOL

Call Me Mom said...

Terry, I had posted a comment yesterday, but it apparently didn't make it onto the page.
I wanted to thank you for posting the link. I enjoyed the artwork.
I was also curious to find out if Mr. Antonov ever became an American citizen.

Terry Morris said...


That is a good question, and I think the answer is yes, but I don't recall for sure. I do know that they were working on establishing permanent U.S. citizenship as early as 1992, utilizing all the proper channels, unlike some immigrants we know. The last time we spoke over the phone was a couple of years ago, I think, and I don't even remember whether the subject ever came up. I should probably call and ask.