I didn't plan on this - honestly I didn't. My original goal was to blog and post some pictures about my journeys and other traveling topics when they occurred or about every week or two. But when you discover something unexpected - as we did when we visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science - it is hard not to share.....even though I just finished blogging about my trip to DC yesterday....so here it is:
On the third floor of the museum there is a small but magnificent gallery containing the gem-carvings of Vasily Konovalenko. To find it you must walk towards "Exploring Colorado" - walk through that exhibit towards the "Leprino Family Atrium". When you are standing in that center crossway - turn right and you will see the sign - "Gem Carvings of Russian Folklife - Konovalenko as shown in the picture on the left.
This is a one room exhibit on permanent display in the museum. The gallery is included in your museum ticket so there isn't any additional cost to view it - but it is priceless.
After leaving I decided to do a little more research on Vasily Konovalenko - so what I am writing has much of the information as gleaned from Wikileaks.......
Konovalenko was born in 1929 in the Ukraine. He passed away in 1989 in New York City. His earlier career was in the theatre where in was a set designer and later received training in art and architecture. He was self taught in gem carving and through his extensive studies and developing his carving skills he began to produce pieces of art made of gems.
He refined not only his skills but his knowledge of gems through many travels to mineral sources in the - USSR. His works became accepted by the party leaders and he was employed to produce art for them as well as for gifts that they could give to others.
He accepted this state for a number of years but felt constrained in pursuing the freedom to produce what he wanted to produce. At the same time - he became involved in a power struggle between dueling party leaders and was determined to be guilty of breaking the law when buying and selling precious gems. He wanted the chance to leave the USSR to pursue his art - except he didn't have a good reason for leaving. He felt stuck. But........
Vasily's wife was Jewish and between 1961 and 1982 there was a plan for Jews and their immediate families to emigrate from the USSR - legally. In 1981 because of his wife he left for Vienna and soon the rest of the family followed,. They subsequently moved to New York City.
According to Wikipedia - the sculptures went on display in 1984 to great acclaim.
The works are simply amazing. To give you an idea in the next photo - I am going to include the gems that were cut to create this masterpiece......
This collection is so unique - in 2016 the first ever international exhibition of his work was held in the Patriarch's Palace, Kremlin - Moscow. The 40 items shown were on loan from:
Moscow Kremlin Museums
The Samotsvety Museum - Moscow
The Russian State Precious Metals and Gems Repository - Moscow
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
DMNS - Trustee Alvin Cohen has purchased 20 of Konovalenko's sculptures which are on display at the DMNS. It is the only collection on display outside of Moscow.
Take the time to visit the museum and admire and appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of these fine pieces. It is a "Gem of a Gallery".......Konovalenko.
Travel safe Travel well
P.S. - any thoughts or comments on these blogs would be greatly appreciated.....I am working to improve them.
After sharing this post with folks at the DMNS I received an email from Steve Nash who is the Chair, Department of Anthropology and Curator of Archaeology for the DMNS. He has written a book on Vasily Konovalenko and is currently working with filmmaker Erika O'Conor on the life - times and works of Konovalenko. I am including links to their efforts - which - no doubt will be a fascinating and an illuminating look at one of the finest and most unique artists of our time that you may never have heard of.......until now........
And......in 2013 from Erika's comment below: NPR former Russian Bureau Chief Corey Flintoff did a story on Konovalenko while they were working in Moscow. He will be the narrator for the film.
I especially enjoyed this piece.......Sauna II - Woman enjoying the traditional Russian Banya - "therapeutic message".
WHY? In Denver and Parker there are two IZBA Spas that employ this traditional practice. We visited the one in Denver and it is quite the experience........
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.