May 10, 2006

Nicholas and Alexandra in Winston-Salem

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looking for the hidden message
© pochitai 2006

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Yuri Chervotkin (aka Mishka< clown of the Moscow Circus, me, NAdia Bakhireva< russian singer from St.Petersburg, Russia, and her voice teacher Barbara Caprilli, opera singer from Milan, Italy

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busts of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Tzarina Alexandra by Chase Winfield: ©pochitai 2006

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Nadia and i...

This is my interview with the sculptor - published in "Panorama Charlotta"
(copyrighted material - use this text only with the author's permission)

Phone call. “Chase Winfield. I finished it. It's done!". I hear his voice trembling from excitement. "It started drying this week and will dry for two weeks before I can place it in the kiln. I can’t wait to show it to you”. Chase Winfield is a sculptor. He was talking about his great accomplishment - the statue of Last Russian Tsar Nicolas II. “What about the hidden message?”- I asked Chase. I knew that the statue will have a hidden message to Russian people. “Did you receive it?”. “Not yet. But we’ll get it!” – Chase promised.

We have met the following week in Borders bookstore. He and his wife Rosalyn Langley came to Winston-Salem from Charlotte, where they reside. I had so many questions to ask Chase.

Being an American sculptor you are working on the statue of the Russian Tsar… How the idea of the project came to you?

It happened in St.Petersburg, Russia. While visiting an artist friend, we were innvited to the famous “Peterburgzhski Khudozhnik” (“Petersburg’ artist”) Gallery on Nevsky Prospect. We met the owner Galina Stepanova, her lovely niece Anna Veron, and the artist Anatoly Perevyshko, and other friends. Galina told me “We know that you are a master sculptor, we want you to make a life size bust of the great Tsar Nicolas II”.

Most of the sculptures of Nicolas II were destroyed in Russia during soviet time, she said. But then everything changed, and several years ago Russian Orthodox Church put the entire Russian Tsar Family – Nicolas, his wife and his children - into sainthood. Galina said it would be a great idea from an artist in the United States to do the sculpture of the Tsar’s entire family as a tribute to our country and Russian people. Her gallery would sponsor this project, she said. She asked me if I am interested in working on this project. My heart went all the way down to the floor! I had this love for St.Petersburg as far back as I can remember myself. I went to St. Petersburg in November of 2005 for the first time. As strange as it seemed, I felt like as if I have been there before. My wife Roselyn – a music major and opera singer - was teaching voice to the children in the city orphanage. And I was teaching sculpturing. We spend ten wonderful days in St.Petersburg.
Russia is the most wonderful country. I can’t even begin to pinpoint all of the interesting aspects. It is such a diversified country. The largest nation on earth. And its history blows my mind. I mean, it’s unbelievable!

We plan to go back to Russia to carry this sculpture of Nicolas The Second. We hope to have this piece of sculpture to travel to various places in Russia. My wife is hoping to have music lined up from that period of time. The music that Nicolas The Second and his family would have heard. She is hoping to organize other Russian singers to work with her. The idea is that people will be listening to Russian music from the beginning of 1900s while seeing the sculpture.

You see it as a traveling exhibit?

Yes. This project is bigger than myself. I feel very fortunate to be a small part of it. The bust is going to be roughly 36 inch high with the pedestal. The sculpture will be antique ivory looking. It will not be painted. I am using a baroque gold leaf design beneath the sculpture of Nicolas II, it will serve as a Golden Holy Grail that holds the sculpture in place. You can see this same design on the walls of the Katherine’s palace in St.Petersburg.

What is the most interesting for you personally in this project?

As strange as it may seem, I feel that I have a past in Russia. Once I came back from Russia, I could not tell if I was at home or I was still in Russia... I would wake up frightened. This feeling of being frightened, very Russian feeling. I could not understand where it was coming from. But you know, the Russian people have gone through so much! Fear and being frightened of things that they could not control – this goes back to the Tsars. Even Russian Tsars didn’t know if they are going to be on the throne tomorrow…

Russia is a wonderful society that has been brought to its knees. I can see Russia raising to greatest. I think Russia will be able to be again the greatest country on Earth. Russia has gone through too much. Just the foundation of what Russia has survived will propel it to greatness. A history of Russia - like no other country has! And things that have been achieved architecturally – it’s just unbelievable! The beauty that still remains even out in the middle fields. You can see these gorgeous remains of structures that are almost gone…

What is you favorite period of Russian history?

Nineteen hundreds... The decade of elegance. The world will have another Renaissance, and I think that Russia will be the center of this upcoming Renaissance, with it’s high heels on.

Of all members of the family which would be the toughest to portrait?

Nicolas with all his medals. The medals itself is the most difficult to do than all seven sculptures. It’s so many details! And if I could not do details, I would not even take this project. One Russian artist, Anatoly, whom I met back in St.Petersburg, has done sketches of the uniform for me so I can see the details. We are talking about project that has so many massive details. All the medals that he worn on his chest – I have to sculpture these things! And I don’t have a copy! And it is a live-size. You can look in the photographs, but his beard covers a lot of his uniform. It wasn’t easy. I have to say special thanks to the Russian artist Anatoly Perevyshko for his sketches of Nicholas II uniform and Frederick L. Monroe for the historical research on Nicholas II.

We plan to portrait the whole Russian Tsar’s family in the separate sculptures. I’ve got some good details. I am relaying strictly on photographs. And my intuition! I search out these images in my mind before I go to bed at night. I let it soak into my subconscious mind. And in the morning I wake up – and that what I see again – photographs! I have to saturate my conscious and my subconscious mind with all these pictures.

Did it teach you something? Did it change you?

Tremendous amount of humility. I don’t know where it’s going to lead me. It is one great adventure. And I am quite humble by it. When you saturate you mind and your consciousness with someone that you are seeking, it changes you completely. That how I feel. I can see him without seeing him! And it’s becoming stronger and stronger.

Onсe I get the saturation – my hands will do the rest. I don’t even have to think about it. The less thoughts I’ll put in it – the better it gets. Once I get the saturation, hands itself seem to have the mind of their own. Unless you are an artist, you probably don’t understand what I am talking about. Sometimes I can be carrying a conversation and my
hands are sculpturing away. And I look back, and I see what my hands have done – and I am completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know that I was doing what I was doing! I wasn’t conscious. But my hands knew what to do. It’s all connected to the energy, the mind that surround us. It’s not just in the head.

Did you meet a lot of Russian people while working on this project?

I never saw so many Russian people in my life! (laughing). I think I am drawing
people to me and to the project. I am just overwhelmed! Russian people are very beautiful and very emotional.

Any other “Russian” plans in the future?

Once I get these project finished with – Nicolas and his whole family – I don’t know what I’ll be doing after that. I told my wife, I want to buy a home in St.Petersburg so I can stay a good part of my life there (laughing). It such a wonderful place!

Who exactly is sponsoring this project in Russia?

It is a ground-root group that we are getting support from. But we are hoping to get more people involved since it’s going to be a non-profit project. And we do need some funding. I hope that when we get the life-size sculpture created, we do the smaller versions. May be five or seven inches high – that can be sold as souvenirs for visitors in Russia. And these proceeds will be set aside for the education needs of Russian people, especially the children. This project is a gift from the American people to the Russian people.

What would you tell to Russian people here, in United States?

I need your support, your encouragement, your input. I want you to be involved. But I don’t want any photographs of this sculpture to be taken here, in United States, before it gets to Russia. I want Russia to be the first one to have any photographs and publicity. But we will let people here, in United States, see it, just not allow any photographs of the sculpture be made.

My intuition tells me - Nicolas II wants to send the hidden message to his people. On this sculpture itself should be a hidden message from Nicolas II to Russian people. But you will not be able to see it right away. The hidden message is in Russian. It says - “There is great love for you here”.
The great love is above all.

Natalia Tuchina,
Winston-Salem, NC

(copyrighted material - использование текста только с разрешения автора - Наталья Тучина)

А это статья в газете "Winston Salem Journal" about the unveiling:

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Fit for a Czar
People with ties to Russia attend unveiling of busts of Nicholas II and wife, Alexandra
By Paul Garber
Monday, May 8, 2006

An unveiling yesterday of a statue of the last Russian czar led to strong emotions for some local people with ties to Russia.

"I just cried. Because I can see them, and it touched my heart," said Natalia Chervotkin, a Russian who has lived in Winston-Salem for about nine years.

She was one of about 40 people who attended the unveiling of busts of Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra. The unveiling of the sculpture by Charlotte artist Chase Winfield was held at St. Anne's Episcopal Church.

The sculptures are made of clay with an antique ivory finish and are decorated with a ba-roque gold leaf design. Next month, Winfield is taking them to a gallery in St. Petersburg, Russia.

They will stay somewhere in Russia, although the final destination has not yet been determined, Winfield said.

"This to me represents some of the finest sculpture I've ever seen of any monarch," said George Fesenko-Navrotsky, a Greensboro artist whose father fled Russia in 1919. "The quality is of a Faberge quality," he said, referring to Peter Carl Faberge, the artist best known for the bejeweled eggs that he created for the Russian monarchy.

Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until the Russian Revolution ended his rule in 1917, when he was forced to abdicate. Nicholas II and his family were executed in 1918.

Sculptures of Nicholas II were destroyed and public discussions of the monarchy were prohibited for years afterward, said Natalia Tuchina, an organizer of the unveiling.

Tuchina, who has lived here for 10 years, said she is glad that artwork of the czar will be displayed publicly again in Russia. "This event would not happen in Russia when I was living in Russia," she said. "This represents a kind of freedom of speech - that we can finally express what we value."

Before the unveiling, pianist Jessica Beitel and singer Nadia Bakhireva performed "God Save the Czar," the national anthem of the former Russian Empire.

"I have not heard that sung since 1940," said George Podgorny. He said he met many former Russian nationals while growing up in Iran in the 1940s and learned much about their culture from them. "I think it's very interesting, and it's unusual to be happening here."

Winfield said he has worked on the project for about six months. He said he has had a lifelong love of Russian culture, and was commissioned to do the work by an art-gallery owner that he met while on a mission trip to St. Petersburg.

He met Tuchina at a concert of Russian works a few months ago, and she suggested that he unveil the statues here before taking them to Russia.

Tuchina said she was trying to build on a growing Russian culture here that includes a Russian conversation club that runs out of the main branch of the Forsyth County Public Library, where she works.

"I feel that Winston-Salem needs more international events," she said. "More cultural events that relate to different countries and different languages."

• Paul Garber can be reached at 727-7327 or at


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