Carmel Magazine’s Quarterly Quotable Notable
Evgeny and Lydia Baranov: Inseparable in Life and on Canvas
brilliant fall day, I spied two artists painting the
sun-drenched Carmel Mission Basilica. I was incredulous. They
were painting, simultaneously, on the same canvas – a duet of
dancing brushes. Occasionally dueling brushes.
“We have our differences,” said Lydia Baranov. Her husband,
was 2003, and during our interview I learned that this
inseparable couple, who moved from Moscow to America in 1990,
may be the only one in the world who paints this way. Their four
hands and four eyes create incendiary works that hang in
galleries, corporate offices and VIP’s homes throughout the
world . . . Now, the Baranovs call to order more copies of my
new book, StarWords, in which they appear.
dream of my childhood was to get to Carnival,” Evgeny says of
their current spate of paintings, after experiencing the
renowned feast last February.
comes their lusty teasing and bickering.
told him I’m afraid of crowds,” Lydia countered. “I might be
stomped upon, or we might lose each other. I kept saying, ‘No!
Over my dead body.’ . . . We kept fighting and, finally, we came
arrive in Pebble Beach and, after being politely asked to remove
my shoes, step onto the highly polished hardwood floors of their
large home, a gallery of their works. They have turned the huge
vaulted living room, the hub of the house, into their artists’
studio. Their paints and brushes are neatly laid in a circle at
the center of the room and their huge new works, still drying,
stand on easels – each one a symphony of luminous pigmentations.
their work space is chosen for the benediction of light that
pours onto the canvases.
drawn to the splendor and opulence of their stereoscopic visions
of Carnival, especially “Masked Flirtation,” depicting men and
women in swishing satin, feathered hats and seductive masks,
standing in Central Square before the historic San Marco
“Venice is a place where fairytale meets with reality,” Lydis
says. “It’s a return to childhood.”
adds, “It’s such a captivating experience you can’t believe your
eyes. The day it was over, there was suddenly a void. We,
literally, had tears in our hearts.”
Inspiration radiates from the couple: Lydia, 42, an outspoken
powerhouse and, conversely, a porcelain-skinned, pony-tailed
woman child; Evgeny, 45, shades of Andy Warhol with his white
shock of hair sprouting from beneath a baseball cap, and those
round, penetrating eyes - an inward man who doesn’t understand
iPods or how to order designer coffee.
remark about their diverse styles and subjects: conflagrations
of light and color, then Rembrandt-dark portraits of their
parents, and earthen tones of a dimly lit riverbank landscape.
surprisingly, they answer, “We don’t like to repeat ourselves.”
Q: You merely rent in Pebble Beach. Why not get rich
reproducing your art commercially?
She: It’s not us. (Laughs) We probably like the hard ways of
life because we’re Soviet born . . . The positive side is
our independence. Even though there’s a lot of insecurity,
we can paint what we want.
When do you get painter’s block?
She: I think becoming a commercial artist is almost an
invitation to a block . . . We’re always looking for new
Regarding my art, I care:
that it enriches others’ lives
b) how it is perceived
c) that it never becomes bastardized
She: I’d say all three apply . . . I can’t tell you how
touching it is when we get e-mails that say what we do
reminds them of something dear or inspires them.
He: We do tend, generally, to be on the dark side. We go
through depressive periods where you constantly wonder,
“Does the world really need what you do? Or are you only a
machine for digesting food and wine?”
She: Weeks come, the phone is dead, the world is not
contacting you and it seems the world is rejecting you and
what is the purpose of your life? If not for being together
with each other, I don’t know how we’d deal with it.
In our previous interview, you laughingly accused me of trying
to split you two up. You said, “That’s very capitalistic!” Jest
aside, in what ways is American life doing just that?
She: It’s not. The divorce rate is amazingly exactly the
same in both countries. In our case, the fact that we’ve
moved to another country and culture makes us feel more
strongly connected to one another.
Lydia, are you still doing all the “dirty work” - computers and
business - of your partnership while he purely paints?
He: (laughs) I have the luxury to refuse these things. But it’s
hard just painting . . .
She: He’s teasing but, interestingly, he is right. He may be
working 10 hours and be crazy trying to decide which color
to put in front of the other one, and I (work on the
computer) and come back refreshed.
He: Sometimes I feel I’d like to do miner’s work. I become
tired of this constant decision making. Doing something
mechanical is like a little getaway.
You’re both graduates from the Moscow Architectural Institute,
where you met. How does that training translate to painting?
She: It gives us some discipline to add to art which is
largely about the soul.
He: We have the ability to organize.
Aside from each other, what is your constant muse?
He: Right now, I run about two hours every morning and I’m a
scuba diving instructor. In Mother Nature I find a little
piece of eternity.
She: We take a long walk together in the forest every Sunday
. . .
& Terwilliger Galleries represents the Baranov’s work in Carmel.
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