The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba Yaga)
Oil painting on canvas, 24″ x 30″ (60 cm x 76 cm), November 2014
A friend of mine called and asked me to participate in a project she already was part of. The idea was to have four or five artist who would paint images inspired by the music of Modest Mussorgsky or, more precisely, his famous “Pictures at an Exhibition”. There would be a painting for each movement, preferable in oil. Rochester’s Symphonic Orchestra and Chorale will perform the piece in March 2015 and the exhibition would be part of the event. I accepted the offer without hesitation and started making sketches right away, and soon I had enough material to start a painting. My first choice was Baba Yaga –a well known character in the Slavic folklore. Painting about the music itself, in my opinion, would take some abstract images but, I was not ready to plunge in that kind of adventure (unless I was sure I could make some works in the style of Kandinsky) so I decided to paint about the stories behind the music and, for that purpose a representative painting would be just perfect. The main attribute of Baba Yaga is her hut on chicken legs, and there are many other things that the Baba was identified with such as: snake, cloud, winter, bird, etc. I let my imagination flow freely and I came up with the idea of the central figure being a triad Baba Yaga – the hut on chicken legs – turning out to be a tree. Since Baba Yaga is a witch everything related to her seem to be quite weird: the glowing legs transformed into the tree branches, the highly stylized leaves-branches with almost skeletons-looking details, the architectural construction that defies any rule or logic, etc. As for the colors my choice from the beginning was to use the purple and yellow combination. The purple is a “risky” color and pretty hard to handle, but I knew that together with cadmium yellow and black it should be very effective and rewarding. Eventually I started adding more colors (red, blue, orange, green, brown) just challenging myself even more while having an excuse that it was the folklore and far from the academic standards. On top of all of that came the pink detail (as well as the banana-moon) that (obviously) was homage to Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground indicating my rather urban background. Entire painting is a long list of weirdness (quite appropriate to the topic) where the things seem to be ambiguous, not being definitely defined and carrying more than one developing directions and meaning. Again, it’s my offer, to the viewer to find her/his own picture and explanation in the one that has been initially offered by myself.