Sculpture Postcards (Tbilisi)
How about a discussion section for posting Sculpture-Related Postcards and travel updates.
Here is a brief from Roger Colombik who teaches sculpture at Southwest Texas. He is on a residency in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
We had a great weekend in the mountains at a ski lodge a few hours from Tbilisi. The snow was wonderful as was the evening gatherings of laughter and liquor. The village is rather quaint, with horse drawn sleighs, little children being lead around on tiny sleds and of course, plenty of red meat. I have eaten more red meat in the last two weeks than I have consumed in the last seven years. its alright, it digests just fine with the brandy. Actually, when we are at home, we cook just like we were in Texas as the markets are outstanding. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, are plentiful. Eating with Georgians is another story but we cherish the friendships with those who have taken us in.
We are preparing for a snowy weekend in the village of Garikula where the students and I will begin working on proposals for installations and we will begin working on oral histories in the village with the older people. The students are very excited and the director of the art academy is going to allow us to have our own little room at the school. Its quite a dump and we have full approval to redo the space. We will gut it out next week, clean, paint and then I will buy some used equipment for the kids-welder, hand tools, etc. I gave a lecture to a very large audience the other day on African-American Art-it was a big success, even though I am a white boy and have to speak from white subjective eyes. They have never seen the imagery before so it was great fun to share. We are planning next months big talk on What is America. I am kept very busy with all of the classes, the students love it, and our movie club will start next week(many people are very anxious for this). The big projects in the village of Garikula take up quite a bit of time in terms of planning, organization and teaching-and it has all been a joy. The art academy has an additional building of an old silk factory, that prior to the civil war in '91, was outstanding. It is now in real bad shape though little by little they are remodeling. They teach decorative metal work, jewelry, and foundry there. Unfortunately, all of these facilities and technicians and faculty are geared towards the decorative arts, recasting replicas of ancient Georgian artifacts and a lot of religious stuff. It would be a disaster for me to try and work there with the studio kids on studio oriented works, installations etc. But the gutted spaces are very cool and I will be thinking about those areas for my own interests and for student installations. We just wont be using the facilities. Rolling blackouts-we are adjusting well, it makes for nice candlelight dinners. Jerry has begun painting and so she is now quite excited. She will probably have a show at the Ambassadors house and in a gallery in town with Georgian artists in the late spring. I continue to write lousy poems but I am persistent, recording my experiences and thoughts daily, I am shooting a lot of imagery and beginning to print them on a Epson printer that I bought in order to make a book(s) while I am here. So in regards to our personal studio work, we are both very busy and pleased with the progress if not the results yet. I could do without the paranoid thoughts of being beaten with a club and robbed each time I enter the dark stairwell but we can only hope for the best. The neighborhood park is beautiful with trails up into the forest, the old ladies on the corner selling fruit are delightful(gotta support the locals!) and so far we have been able to keep the stomach demons at bay. There are many people to meet but there simply isn't time for it all and I am staying focused on our project in the village and on the students. I have not met with a lot of artists yet, I am not sure how many know we are here. Once school actually begins in march I am sure that we will meet plenty of professionals. It was important for me to begin my own classes before school officially opened in order to get the students motivated and charged up, and also to influence the director of the academy that we are genuinely here to help and share everything we can. It made a huge difference that the previous Fulbright person, Joe kagle (Waco) kicked down some pretty large and heavy doors to pave the way for the rest of us. This was the only reason that we were able to begin teaching immediately upon arrival(and after the proverbial two days of sleeping). The facial features of the people are quite unique, you see a lot of the same faces in the street, like one big family. Sadly Tbilisi is a shell of its former self(pre war) as the huge influx of refugees from the territories has changed the cosmopolitan make up the city and have caused several social crisis issues. But there is a lot to explore and relish and we look forward to warmer days with which to frolic.
Roger & Jerry
one last note-I lecture in a room that is definately colder than the outside temperature. Gas went off yesterday along with the electrical which fortunately came back on in order to plug in a electric heater. The director of the academy has given me permission to take one of the small sculpture rooms and redo it for my students here and to begin getting some equipment. Everyone is quite excited.
We are off to the village of Garikula now to begin our work.
Sounds like a great ideas to me, with the web you can stop in at a Internet coffee house just about anywhere in the world and boom be connected.
Dear friends….sorry I haven’t written in awhile…but I’m having a blast.
Post Card from Garikula -- Georgia
From Roger Colombik in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia:
---Just got back from three days in Garikula-outstanding experience and we
are looking forward to returning as are the folks who live there and my
students. The oral history project has gotten a big start and the students
realize the importance of talking to, spending time and buying food for the
elderly. The students also acclimated naturally and immediately to sitting
with strangers and stopping people in the street to just talk-something I
enjoy very much. And of course, the Sunday market in the village was great
for interviews. We live with a wonderful family and the meals together are
to be treasured. I am shooting images like mad as a means to develop a
documentary project about Garikula. I am also developing installation work
in one of the grand old buildings up on the hill from 300 years ago. The
vauled stone chambers are outrageous.
The rector of the academy in Tbilisi has given me approval to take over one
of the small sculpture studio rooms to work with students on the Garikula
project. We will be gutting it this week and the students are suprised and
We will probably start the movie club this week at the American Studies
The drinking has been very very intense but it is the finest vodkas that I
have ever had, made from fruits, its very smooth and you start out early in
Latest from Garikula
From Garikula (4/21/03)
The last few weeks have been a blur. We have a large exhibit that opens
tomorrow with the student proposals for Garikula, my photos and some of
Jerry's paintings. I have been writing a lot, shooting a lot of images,
eating and drinking more than my share. I have been unable to finish
editing some new essays as of late because of the exhibit. I have had to do
a lot of printing. Some of the experiences were too intense to clarify
immediately, so I wrote down everything, and I am slowly refining. Art
therapy class in Zugdidi was emotionally brutally, pigs roaming the streets,
palm trees line the roads, cattle wallowing in the road in pot holes the
size of pools, hoodlums with automatic weapons and "security" written on
their back, children with no food, refugees in total squalor, families who
lost everything in the war. This is the main city next to Abkhazia and its a
In the lush wine valleys of the east, life was a bit more relaxed, a giant
supra (celebration meal) with the governing leaders from Pankisi (yes, the
famous Pankisi Gorge) in Telavi. I gave a lecture at the university there.
We loved this city. The governor of this district is one of Shevernadze's
cronie commie friends and she has a small Hitler moustache--I am not
exaggerating! We met a former student of Marcel Marsoux(?), the famous
mine, who spent 40 years as a clown before everything went to pieces here.
Speaking of falling to pieces, kiss the educational system goodbye. Over ,
finished, kaput, completely corrupted and useless. More on this in a later
essay. Again, I am not exaggerating. It was great to see and meet students
and teachers from Pankisi, to put human faces to a place that media
attention has blown the problem way out of proportion.
Our last trip to Garikula was outstanding, two old sisters dropped by as we
were leaving to give us a bag of fresh picked apples and to have their
portraits taken. The pictures are turning out great. Our little Azeri girls
stopped by to say goodbye and give us some fresh milk , eggs and cheese. We
will be back in our village home by Friday, nestled by the fire, sharing a
meal with our family. We continue to support families that have welcomed us
into their lives.
I am still hustling to find funding for the book/oral history project and I
am hoping that the exhibit will lead to something other than the drain on
our finances at this point. But hey, where else can I order 20 custom wood
frames with glass and mats for $8 a piece? Everything framed up great.
We had a big pot luck party here at the apartment, a table full of food and
new friends. Jerry sold two paintings to help support the Garikula
project(the money goes toward the new kitchen and an outhouse)
Three months here and I still have not been invited by any art faculty to
visit their classrooms or talk to the students at the academy. I am pretty
fed up with their lying criminal lazy bullshit and will start spending more
time at the architecture school to provide lectures.
I cherish our experiences here and the friends who have welcomed us into
their lives. The wine and hospitality is the finest I have ever experienced
and there are many Georgians who are doing their best to transform their
world. But truth be told, this place really is a mess-socially,
economically, politically, educationally, environmentally.... I really
foresee a messy future. But Garikula and Art Villa lives on, as does our
passion for this troubled country. We hope to have a bit of a vacation soon
and head out to Baku, Azerbaijan to enjoy the old city and wonder about,
possibly give a lecture. We will also be looking into a visit to Yeravan,
Armenia for the same.
I hope to have some finished essays and more jpegs soon. I forget what I
sent out to whom, so I apologize for any photo repeats that may arrive.
We are very thankful that Jerry found a granny around the corner who
specializes in great Georgian food to go, so at least the digestion is
happy. The parking attendant across the street has taken a liking to us
which is important as Iwant his portrait-he loves to show off his one tooth.
Installation for the exhibit in the morning, reception at five, operatic
recital to attend at a friends house at 7:30. Life in the city.
Best to all
Roger & Jerry
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