— Milton Christianson and the people he met in Russia may
not have understood each other's language, but they connected
through his art.
really love art over there," Christianson said. "It's a universal
language. Once they found out I was an artist, they couldn't do
enough for me."
56, an impressionist painter from Wellington, recently returned
from a three-week visit to Russia, where he took part in a 12-day
painting seminar with several Russian artists, a painter from
London, a photographer from Germany, and two artists and a videographer
[from] Los Angeles.
artists traveled together in and around Kotlas, where they painted
churches, dachas — camps used as vacation homes —
and other buildings. The more-than 100 works that emerged from
the seminar were exhibited at a museum and now are part of a traveling
show in Russia.
Russian people were wonderful and they were glad that I was an
American, and I never felt any hostility," Christianson said.
"The German and English guys were a little hostile, because they
don't like our government and what we're doing in Iraq and the
way we bully other nations."
visited Russia at the invitation of the Waterville Committee,
based in Kotlas. A city of 70,000 people about 480 miles northeast
of Moscow, Kotlas became Waterville's partner city in June 1990.
Kotlas Connection, a committee in Waterville, contacted Christianson
after being asked by the Russians to find an appropriate artist
to attend the seminar. This week, he shared highlights of his
trip with members of the Kotlas Connection — Philip Gonyar;
Jack Mayhew; Mayhew's wife, Pauline; and Herb Foster. They perused
Christianson's artwork, looked at some of the more than 300 photographs
he took in Russia and talked about the Russian friends they now
have in common.
who is co-chairman of the Kotlas Connection with Mayhew, said
the group recently received a grant through the Open World Program
that will bring the mayor of Kotlas to Waterville in the spring.
arrived in Moscow on July 2 and was greeted by Zinaida Egorova,
a member of the Waterville Committee who has been to Waterville
three times. He spent two days in Moscow, visiting museums and
touring the Kremlin, and then took a 24-hour train ride to Kotlas.
train was the best part of the whole trip for me," he said. "It
was the most romantic part, like being in a movie or a novel,
watching the Russian countryside go by. The Russian trains are
really nice. They're old trains, from the '40s and the '50s."
Kotlas, he was greeted by eight women bearing flowers.
set the tone," he said. "I was escorted and pampered and they
never let me do anything by myself," he said. "They wanted to
make sure I was well-fed and comfortable, and they'd take me everywhere."
weather was hot and sunny for most of the trip; according to Christianson.
He stayed with the other artists at a health spa, and ate in a
food was very simple, with typical lunch consisting of bread,
cheese, salami, cucumbers and tomatoes, he said.
in Kotlas knew about Waterville and they are very proud of their
connection with the city, he said, adding that he was interviewed
for both newspaper and television, appearing on television several
really loved the fact that I was from Waterville," he said.
only watercolorist at the seminar — the Russians painted
oils — Christianson said it as difficult to discuss art
with them because of the language barrier; but they liked his
works, and he liked theirs.
museums they visited were exquisite, he said.
Borodin, a professional artist from St. Petersburg who ran the
art seminar, befriended Christianson, and when Christianson left
Kotlas for St. Petersburg, Borodin took him to museums, where
they did not have to wait in lines or pay admission fees.
was eye-opening to go to the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg,"
he said. "There were thousands of paintings covering Russian art
of all different periods. They're highly skilled; and even today,
their artists are highly trained. It's phenomenal."
Kotlas Connection will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. Oct .21 at St.
Mark's Episcopal Church on Eustis Parkway. The public is invited.
Christianson will be the group's guest, and the public may view
his paintings. He donated five of his works to a museum in Russia,
traded one, and sold one to a painter there. He did 23 watercolors
while in Russia.
Sentinel, Sunday, August 31, 2003, pp. B1 & B3. Text
used by permission.