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Stardust Inspiration:  The Baranovs bring new meaning to the word ďtogetherness.Ē The old song about love/marriage/horse/carriage comes to mind. This not-so-ordinary couple, in fact one of maybe three such in the world, have learned to paint simultaneously on the same canvas: four hands, four eyes. Their efforts to compromise and support one another Ė and have an occasional fight Ė are an inspiration to any partnership.

Evgeny and Lydia Baranovsí Artistic Collaboration

On a brilliant July day, Lydia and Evgeny Baranov stood, painting the sun-drenched Carmel Mission Basilica. It was an odd sight: both painting simultaneously on the same canvas - a duet of dancing brushes. Occasionally, dueling brushes. ďOh, we have our differences!Ē she said. He nodded.

The completed piece now hangs at Jones & Terwilliger Galleries in Carmel, along with a dazzling collection of the Baranovsí Russian Impressionist works. A double set of eyes and hands has created incendiary European sunsets over moored fishing boats and portraits that reflect the fiery passion of the indivisible couple. Theyíve even found the light in a portrait of Evgenyís mother in a darkly paneled room.

ďAt the end of each tunnel there should be some light,Ē Lydia said

The couple, who married and moved from Moscow to the U.S. in 1990, are widely acclaimed. Their works hang in galleries, corporate offices and VIPsí homes throughout the world. Their output is prolific; thus, they are moving to a larger home in Pebble Beach where they are working in tandem to transform a living room into an artistís studio.

The Baranovs bring new meaning to the word ďtogether.Ē

Q: Do you take turns painting?
She: At all times we paint simultaneously and the brushes sometimes meet and we say, ďNo, no, no! Thatís mine.Ē It happens all the time. Thatís part of the process. We do paint over each otherís work and that sometimes leads to conflict. But itís unavoidable.

He: Itís a constant struggle between your ability and feelings and . . . (she finishes his sentence) between reality and the ideal. Some people bring up children jointly. Itís the same idea. Our paintings are our children to us.

Q: Recall a bit of your childhood in Moscow.
She: I remember myself as being very quiet, serious, untalkative, unlike children are supposed to be. Mother said Iíd always try to find answers myself. Some were wrong. I was always drawing and painting. Mother was a concert pianist and teacher. My father was always fond of music and he always encouraged my drawing. Now I recall, we had a collaboration of drawing and painting. I always say it was Evgenyís idea but now I recall that my father and I drew together . . . I was always too much a perfectionist. I was always a triple ďAĒ student and that was disgusting about me.

He: At age 7, I started to paint and draw. It was generally a happy childhood. My father, right now, is an art teacher in Moscow.

Q: Your love story?
He: We met when we both worked as architects.

She: He was my supervisor for a while. There was something hidden in both of us. We kept joking and teasing. Sometimes my jokes were biting and critical, but that was a common way of socializing at our office.

Q: Who made the first move?
She: He invited me to his studio where we had a nice conversation and wine. We fell in love. I kept discovering good things about him every day.
Itís really hard to separate; our life is so joined. We really became parts of one another and you just canít live without that other part. Weíve been discovering so many things in common it almost scares us. Usually people say opposites attract, but we feel itís mainly because weíre so much alike. (He nods.) But sometimes that creates difficulties.

He: Itís very hard to have two people in the same profession in one family. Itís very competitive. You need to treat the relationship with each other extremely carefully to keep this marriage for a long time (13 years). In our case, weíve tried to avoid conflict.

Q: So, compromise has become an art?
He: We should learn that our entire life. Unfortunately, people donít gain much experience on that. Letís look at history: People become smarter and smarter but wars still happen and war with Iraq is a very typical example . . .

She: My perfectionism has a negative impact. For me, itís very hard to compromise. As a woman, I should be wiser. In our family, more often, he is the one whoís wise. Heís always the one who starts peace negotiations.

Q: His/her most annoying habit?
She: Let me think . . . (He chimes in with ďsmokingĒ.) No, he doesnít smoke much . . . I think I found one. His one drawback is that heís very stubborn in his refusal to improve his English and, being a perfectionist, I tease him all the time. Before we came to this country, I remember the last summer in Moscow I decided to give him private lessons. But he was lazy and drew caricatures during my lectures.

He: Basically, I do not need to know better English because, in my case, it would interrupt me from the main work. When I worked as an architect, I was a very big enthusiast of computers . . . Since I came to the U.S. I never touch a keyboard. Absolutely not. You can spend 27 hours a day on the computer. I want to have as much time as I can. I canít be interrupted.

She: People ask, do we always work together? We say 99 percent, but the funny thing is, the part thatís done separately is I have to do the dirty job of sitting in front of the computer and take care of business because I have the language skills. He has the luxury of only painting.

Q: Who paints what?
He: Itís like playing piano in four hands, very simple, but at the same time hard to describe. Itís clear whoís playing what.

She: Thereís always a temptation painting what youíre attracted to, but we try not to let that happen. It will make the final results worse and leads to breaking the ensemble into separate people.

He: We paint very normal but try to show our feelings and thoughts. Itís like the difference between being one-eyed and two-eyed. We have stereoscopic vision.

Q: Does your style cast out the Russian darkness?
She: There is no such thing as Russian darkness. People always claim that the Russian soul is so special. We donít like this view. Every nation is unique, and also has its darkness and lightness.

He: We donít want to perpetuate stereotypes.

Q: Pros and cons of cookie-cutter art?
She: Itís an oxymoron. Art is art and making cookies is making cookies.

When we feel thereís a suspicion of repetitiveness, we slap ourselves in the face and say, ďWeíre going down the wrong path.Ē Being together, we can always grab the other one. If we decide to paint a bouquet of dahlias, we donít want to get so attracted to them that we would become repetitive and paint them in the same way each time. Itís important to convey a different feeling.

Q: Other things you do in tandem?
She: We walk a lot and hike. We enjoy red wine together. He was my scuba diving teacher but Iíve become too lazy to scuba dive now. Iím not athletic at all.

Q: Most challenging piece?
She: The next one weíll be doing. Itís always the future. It keeps you going. (He agrees.)

Q: Aside from each other, in what do you have faith?
(They talk in Russian and she translates.) He says you are always trying to divide us (both laughing). Donít forget we are from a socialist country and we are supposed to be thinking alike. You are trying to separate us. Thatís very capitalistic!

Universal Update: Since this interview, the above marriage has lasted another two years, ďso far,Ē Lydia said in a recent phone call . . . laughing, of course.



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