(Written by Wendell Wallach of Bloomfield, Connecticut; art not for sale)
I pulled a folder of prints down from the attic and began sorting through them to decide which I would keep and which I would pass on. One sketch of boats I came upon was by the artist Yovan Radenkovitch. Immediately my mind was filled with the memories surrounding the “trade” made for this drawing.
My mother was a great lover of beauty and art, particularly modern art. When we would go out to eat she would select a restaurant with a view, saying beauty nourished her more than food. In the late 1950’s, she opened a small basement level art gallery under the corner drugstore in Litchfield, Connecticut. This was long before art galleries became commonplace in the northwestern corner of Connecticut.
Yovan was among the local artists displayed in the gallery. He was Eastern European and had found his way out of, I believe, Communist Romania, to settle with his wife Zora in West Cornwall, Connecticut. My mother and I often visited the hillside barn they converted into a beautiful home/studio, with a spectacular view of the valley and distant mountains. Yovan was a flamboyant character with wavy greying black hair and Zora was a stunning women with long auburn red hair. She had been his student. They were both artists.
On an occasion when Yovan visited our home, he saw a project I had completed during art class in school. All of the students in the class did crayon drawings of a barn, sky, clouds, and trees, and then covered the drawing with black india ink. In a third stage, we scratched away some of the ink to reveal lines of the underlying color. Yovan said that he would trade me one of his pictures for my picture. While I had already given this piece to my mother, she was understanding and said that I could trade it if I made her another similar picture.
We visited Yovan’s home/studio a few days later. I recall that there was a 12′ by 5′ map of the world on the wall that he had just painted in oil as a commission for a corporate office. The map was not as impressionistic as his normal style, but the colors were rich and the effect was striking. In comparison to Yovan’s more abstract art, the realism of the map cued my young mind to the fact that he, like all artists, had to make a living.
Yovan pulled out a folder of sketches from which I could select one. I remember at first being disappointed that the sketches were not in color. But then I set to selecting a drawing for myself among the many black and brown drawings. Even as a child I had been brought up to appreciate abstract art. I fully expected to pick one of Yovan’s more experimental drawings, but my final selection was these boats. Perhaps this was my way of signaling to him an appreciation of the realistic world map, his drawing ability, and his artistry in capturing a mood.
Even though the memory of my childhood trade with Yovan is delicious, I have quite a bit of art. It is time for Yovan’s boats to be rescued from the folder in my attic where the sketch has sat for decades. Someone else should have the opportunity to appreciate the artistry and mood this sketch casts, just as I did some 50-odd years ago