blog > 2011 > February

Where is your Picasso?? by Misha Lyuve

Feb 24, 2011

Writing about Picasso’s guitars in the last posting had me question what it would be like to walk around life having Picasso’s vision. His art is an expression of the vision, but the vision itself — is it accessible to us, mortals?? Can we learn it? study it? develop it over time? What would it take to uncover a not-readily seen beauty in a bottle of water or a plastic spoon full of my breakfast oatmeal? I was up for an experiment.

An opening came from nothing less glamorous as a lid of NYC sewer.  It was a very ordinary sewer lid, round, with sticky mud around the edges in a broken filthy sidewalk and a sign “NYC SEWER”, just in case one would get it confused with a passage into Alice’s wonderland. 

But as I sharpened my vision and zoomed in on the object, leaving behind what I knew it to be and what was underneath it, I could suddenly see a pattern and texture that in my eyes had a value of beauty. 

The rest was easy. Suddenly, most ordinary buildings, fences, stairs and floors were rushing to me to share their secrets.

Undressing a guitar by Misha Lyuve

Feb 20, 2011
This posting is inspired by Picasso: Guitars (1912-1914) exhibition in MOMA.


(To the left: Still life with Guitar. Variant state. Paris, assembled before November 15, 1913. Paperboard, paper, string, and painted wire installed with cut cardboard box)


The only reason we don’t have our eyes come out on the other sides of our heads looking at Picasso’s work is because we’ve been seeing it everywhere for a while. But if we did, like our predecessors in early 1900s, see it for the first time, we would be shocked. And I am inviting you to be shocked.  

Let’s start with how we normally see: our sight gently glides across an object paying attention to at most its superficial, obvious and/or already familiar to us characteristics. Picasso’s vision of his objects is from inside out, like of a lover. He strips his guitars naked, bringing out the most striking features of the outside and the most intimate of the inside, putting them together in a way that they turn alive, move and make sound even on a two-dimensional canvas. 

Violin Hanging on the Wall. Possibly begun Sorgues, summer 1912, completed Paris, early 1913. Oil, spackle with grit, enamel, and charcoal on canvas. 25 9/16 x 18 1/8" (65 cm x 46 cm). Kunstmuseum, Bern.

 Newspaper, wallpaper, cardboard and sheet music - old and retired from their dialy duties - were not neglected and masterfully repurposed through Picasso’s vision for a new life in the world of high art. 

So yes, let’s be shocked by the creativity and vision of this man. My only problem with Picasso’s vision is that it makes me feel blind.   But also inspired.

Guitar. Paris, March 31, 1913, or later. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The romantic season of revolutions by Misha Lyuve

Feb 16, 2011

While I’ve been quietly contemplating on art, beauty and daily life, the world’s been on fire, lighting revolutions like matches. I guess freedom is contagious, or at least a noble idea of it.

Whatever the cause of it, economic turmoil, un-satisfaction with governments or a spark by outside interests, a revolution has often created a broad spectrum of opportunities — from heroism to looting, from democracy to tyranny, from excitement to disappointment.

And the mere possibility of a great outcome, surely brings a romantic feeling, like falling in love. And as unreasonably and not fully grounded into reality romantic feelings have us experience the world, they also make status quo and its predictability as exciting as a yesterday’s sandwich.

But what happens when the romanticism evaporates – what if we glance back?

Russian revolution in 1917 started not without noble intentions, but at the end created a repressed state whose heavy past till now impacts the country’s  economic, political and social lives  

(on the left, Boris Kustodiyev’s “Bolshevik”)


Iranian revolution in 1979, greatly popular at its time, moved Iran into a theocracy; and as recent and not so recent events showed, it doesn’t have much tolerance for diversity of opinions or human freedoms

The Urkainian orange revolution in 2005 caused a change of power in disputed elections, but the ideas of freedom and economic prosperty that had fueled it were largely unfulfilled and left people dissapointed and resigned about their  government 

What’s your pick: status quo or revolution? Or is there some place in between? 

Or those who sit in their comfy chairs and judge, don’t have a say?

The day of commercial love by Misha Lyuve

Feb 12, 2011

Just when you are about to sink into the pink laces of the valentine’s day, I might actually spoil it for you, of course if you choose to continue reading this post.

Not sure whether valentine’s day originated with much meaning on the first place, but it has definitely turned into a holiday of commercial love, sprinkled with heart-shaped candies, plastic teddy bears and silk roses – doesn’t all this just make you wanna throw up?

Pay attention on monday: commercial love has taken over our lives creeping though the windows of our least favorite stores and neighborhood delis, dissolving in our bloodstream through the umbilical cords of television and radio, and creating an opportunity for superficial attention, making single people feel lonelier and setting some inexplicable expectation of love to the youngsters.

Anyway, I say if you value love, don’t give in, just stay home and make love, even if it’s by yourself.

Art out of nothing by Misha Lyuve

Feb 10, 2011

My previous post, actually forced me into an experiment of finding art and beauty in my every day life. And my every day for the most part consists of subway rides, business offices, meetings, conference calls and quick meals. And when I am in the subway, I’m for the most part either planning something, answering emails on my blackberry or arguing with somebody in my head – pretty prosaic. But this time around I discovered the New York city subway as a well of inspiration. 

On Monday I actually allowed myself to stop and listen to a drummer on the 42 st. station. And he was really good. And let me tell you, unlike Joshua Bell, this guy wasn’t very interested in public reaction or had any expectations of how others should appreciate his talent. In fact, he was playing drums in a confident no-bullshit way as if he was doing it in his own living room for his own pleasure.   

Then I got on the train; and though I was too shy to use my camera openly, I figured out how to casually make pictures of how people sit. And I noticed that every pose, every pair of shoes had its mood and its story — tired, flirtatious, confident, studious… And seeing these moods and stories made me present to beauty. And what got captured is art out of nothing

Are you up for this kind of an experiment in your life? Share your art out of nothing.

Of art, beauty and life by Misha Lyuve

Feb 6, 2011

On Friday January 12, 2007 between 7:51 and 8:34 AM,

at the Washington DC’s The L’Enfant Plaza station

a violinist played 6 classical pieces.

As 1,097 people passed by him during the rush hour,

several stopped by to listen and at the end he grossed $32.17 in his hat.

But this wasn’t a struggling musician,

but a world renowned violinist playing

on a $3.5M Antonio Stradivari instrument,

Joshua Bell, who 3 days before had sold out Boston Symphony Hall.

(To read the full Pulitzer winning Washington Post article click here.)


Oh yes, we know how to enjoy art when we are visiting a museum or going to a concert. We also occasionally experience beauty when for a second we halt the tempo of our daily routine catching a glimpse of a pretty cloud or shades of a sunset. So for the most part within our life our experience of art & beauty is comprised of precisely allocated time slots and rare random and very brief moments of awakening – which would add up (making broad generalizations) to an average of at most 1 hour a week and about 0.6% of our life.

Is this all?? And obviously not because of lack of beauty in the world or opportunities in life to see art and be artistic in self-expression. It is a function of our vision. So let me just rub my eyes; art & beauty are not that far away, but right here. To see it will just take being present – keeping my eyes and ears open and slowing down that ever-lasting  voice in my head.  

photo courtesy of Vika B Studio

Roerich: between Russia and Tibet to a hidden treasure in New York city by Misha Lyuve

Feb 3, 2011

Roerich Museum, New York city

Some place on the 107th st in New York city there is a small cottage that feels more like a cozy living space than a traditional museum. It is dedicated to the work of Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947), a famous Russian painter, philosopher, writer, traveler, and public figure, who left behind over 7000 painting and 30 literary works among other contributions.   

Madonna Oriflamma with Banner of Peace. 1932

While extensively traveling in Russia, Roerich observed how ancient monuments, churches and other historic objects were much neglected and saw a need to have cultural treasures protected in an organized way. It took him many years and continents, but in 1935 this idea was realized in Roerich pact, a treaty among pan-American countries that used a flag (Banner of Peace) to mark the protected historic monuments, especially during the war times. The treaty is still in force.  

Roerich and his family have done very extensive expeditions through India, Bhutan, Tibet, China and Mongolia. And I am looking back 100 years ago, when there were no planes, paved roads, fleece or gortex – but nothing could stop these people to follow their calling to visit far lands to explore them, to learn from them and share them with others. I guess I should stop complaining about the inconveninces of modern travel.  

The works of Roerich are dreamy and rich from saints to glorious mountain views to churches to nature and full of meaning and story and spirit – see for yourself: