Home Interviews Mental Pause Monterey Peninsula Tours Speeches Welcome to Star Words by Susan Cantrell


Quotable Notables:  EXTRA! Inspiration

» View Archives

Carmel Magazine’s Quarterly Quotable Notable

Evgeny and Lydia Baranov: Inseparable in Life and on Canvas

On a 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, Evgeny, nodded.

This 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.

“The dream of my childhood was to get to Carnival,” Evgeny says of their current spate of paintings, after experiencing the renowned feast last February.

Then comes their lusty teasing and bickering.

“I 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 to compromise.”

I 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.

Even their work space is chosen for the benediction of light that pours onto the canvases.

I am 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 Cathedral.

“Venice is a place where fairytale meets with reality,” Lydis says. “It’s a return to childhood.”

Evgeny 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.

I 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.

Not 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.

Q: 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 inspirations.

Q: Regarding my art, I care:

a) that it enriches others’ lives
b) how it is perceived
c) that it never becomes bastardized
d) other

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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 . . .

Jones & Terwilliger Galleries represents the Baranov’s work in Carmel. For more information visit www.baranovs.com



© 2006-2014 - StarWords - Susan Cantrell. All Rights Reserved. Site Design: Byte Technology.
StarWords Enterprises
P.O. Box 221251, Carmel CA 93923
Call: (831) 372-2231