Not many painters/sculptors write memoirs, or keep a diary. So each archlytitled “episode” selected from Grisha Bruskin’s notebooks — a living, world-renowned Russian artist — keeps its promise of an unusual reading experience, albeit in translation.
Past Imperfect: 318 Episodes from the Life of a Russian Artist
Bruskin’s 1982 sculpture, Step, on the dust jacket, is prescient, revealing his awareness of the unknown world (NYC, 1984, age 39) he would be facing — the figure looks straight ahead, garbed as a man of the past. Many entries reflect his Communist-raised background; the memories include incidents and encounters with workers and peasants; the accolades by art critics; striking examples of Soviet bureaucracy; and tenderly, his mother and family. Bruskin’s impressions of the U.S. prove both heartwarming and embarrassing.
Past Imperfect’s 365 pages have a light footprint, as some contain only five lines and none exceeds a full page. (Despite the identical title, it has no connection with Ilka Chase’s 1942 autobiography.) Gently told, memorable, Past Imperfect’s readership touches groups not often targeted in one volume— back to the Stalin days, current to 2008. Thoughtfully written, it is wry and incisive, expressing an artist’s vulnerability, steely resolve. There is anger in his art work. Illustrations, introduction.
Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in English, and has had many years of experience as a freelance writer, editor, and public relations professional.
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