This tribute is dedicated to the Russian Artist, an inspirational figure who has been the muse of many a writer. The Russian Artist, painter or writer, is seldom understood in the United States, partly because so much persecution and secrecy have historically surrounded the artist in Russia. In some senses, he has become embalmed in the post-Soviet era. The citizens of Russia themselves must learn, or re-learn, their history, pre-1917, pre-Lenin, before the bloody Revolution made art into a state form of propaganda.
Doctor Zhivago, the one and only version, the Original, happens to be my favorite film in the Modern Epic category. This film depicts the Russian as real. The Urals represent the governmental regime that threatens to smother the Individual. It’s the Urals vs. the Individual: the Urals win. In the United States, the Individual wins. There are indeed “men to match their mountains” (a paraphrase of the un-erasable words by Sam Walter Foss, the writer/librarian from New Hampshire).
True art never dies. In a sense neither does the artist who poured her immortal soul into that piece of work to express everything that the Overlord tried to stamp out. Therein lies the “secret of durable pigments” of which Nabokov so achingly wrote. The Russian ballerina, the Russian ice skater, the Russian composer, the Russian writer, the Russian painter, the Russian poet — during previous eras, they all exuded an unparalleled artistic sensibility, a love of freedom, that can never die. Nabokov wrote Speak Memory because he knew all too well that the memory was the only gift that truly speaks. And when the Citizen permits any pompous, pen-wielding bureaucrat to silence him or her, the essence of life, and of art, begins to die. Memory is the only intimate treasure that an individual, and a culture, can possess that endures the test of time, and the trials of that time. Perhaps the people who have lost their memory have lost their minds as well, and we in America now watch the liberals, in their catatonic states, lashing out at the people who threaten them — the individuals who cherish freedom, and memory.
Henrik Ibsen asks in “Peer Gynt”: “If you lie, are you real?” The fomenters of the Left are, in a very real sense, not real. Americans do not know the fear of living under the thumb of the corrupt criminals who are the Government — for 70 years, and then under the gun of the KGB thug who enshrines himself as the New Dictator: killing rivals; killing freedom from within; killing art — past, present and future. No museums or art curators will deal with Putin. When Putin dies, then perhaps life and language and art will again thrive in Mother Russia. And Americans will come to know the pre-Soviet portrait artists and the art forms that have languished since the Wall fell. One wall came down; a different wall of tyranny was erected. And freedom, along with creative thought and true art, will be permitted once again in a land that has begun to savage the next generations. Russia was always an empire, never a nation. That tragedy cannot be changed. But the Russian people cannot be blamed for the sins of their government. Hopefully, that statement will not often be said about Americans. If, and when that truth is spoken, then the pompous lying perverts in this free and fine nation will learn certain truths about, well, truth.