Artist quotes

Sculptor, Antoni Azarov

I love to nag people for interviews, and annoying as I may be, some very famous people occasionally indulge me.

This was the case with world renowned sculptor, Antoni Azarov. Even though the press dub him, and I quote, an “asshole,” I’ve discovered once you get used to his intensity, he’s kind of funny in his own dry way.

Let me first tell you, I admire Azarov’s work with the gushing of a sixteen-year-old at a boyband concert. This man’s hands can make clay into a sculpture so striking that you feel uncomfortable being in the same room with it; as if it were a vessel that held a ghost, one that might want to escape its ceramic shell to jump into your living skin.

Not to say Azarov’s a realist. His sculptures are minutely distorted, just slightly exaggerated–preventing them from being exact human replicas. But the distortion is what gives the sculptures souls, their naked bodies adorned by the invisible cloth of their psyches.

Azarov arrived on his Ducati, a big, black machine whose vibrating engine shook my porte cochere, flooding my house with its throbbing sound. He wore dark, indigo jeans and a black racing jacket. His dark hair was overgrown, past his jaw, and blew in tangles around his face after he removed his helmet.

I shook his hand and, as we do here in Latin America, kissed him on the cheek in greeting. I stood on tip toe to reach his face, which was covered in scruff and an a short goatee that had just a hint of silver gleaming in it. We barely spoke a word while I ushered him into my house and gave him a fresh cup of black Panamanian coffee.

He is known to be notoriously difficult. I wanted to make sure he was receptive before I started asking questions, but I couldn’t gauge his mood. I mean, would he really deign to being interviewed on my little bloggy-blog?

My Rottweiler slobbered all over his sleeve, while my smaller mongrel, Teri, cowered in the corner, shaking from the sound of his boots made as he walked around, sipping his coffee. I smiled nervously and offered him a tissue for the dog slobber. He circled the sofa as he wiped his jacket clean and stopped in front of the french doors to admire the view from the back of our house.

I rambled on about the tree that used to be in our backyard, the retirees living in the valley below, the volcano’s dormant status, and my regular gang of hummingbirds who were then fighting at the feeder.

He didn’t give a hint; no gracious smile to to encourage me, or any small talk to keep me from blathering on. I wished The Husband was home. He was much better at breaking the ice with people, especially people of fame or fortune.

Finally, I said, “Would you like to start the interview?”

“Yes,” he replied.

I rolled up an extra chair next to my desk for him. He was too tall for it, all angular elbows and knees. I tried not to dwell on my unprofessional and inadequate accommodations, and opened the interview document on my computer. I was mortified when my voice squeaked as I read off the first question.

 


 

Interview with Antoni Azarov

Me:

Mr. Azarov, how did you start sculpting?

*takes a sip of water*

 

Azarov:

I began a child when I first arrived from Russia. My parents, and my doctor, said that art would help me to communicate. I didn’t know English very well at the time.

 

Me:

Yes, I detect a faint accent.

 

Azarov:

I do not have an accent.

 

Me:

Just the faintest.

 

Azarov:

No, I don’t have an accent.

 

Me:

Okay… let’s just move along then.

 

Azarov:

*switches his crossed leg and leans back in his chair*

 

Me:

How did you end up in the United States?

 

Azarov:

I was found by Dr. Carver, an American who runs The Thrive Foundation, a charity that helps children who suffered neglect in orphanages. He was working in Russia at the time and made the arrangements with my adoptive parents.

 

Me:

Were you neglected?

 

Azarov:

*gives me the look of death*

 

Me:

Maybe we shouldn’t go there.

 

Azarov:

I thought you wanted to talk about art.

*lights a cigarette*

 

Me:

Of course.

 

Azarov:

*exhales*

 

Me:

Sorry, no smo…

 

Azarov:

*look of death returns*

 

Me:

Nevermind.

*passes moody artist abandoned coffee cup to ash in*

So, what compels you to make such provocative work?

 

Azarov:

Sometimes I do it to show the true beauty of a woman, every flaw, every nuance. Sometimes I do it to drain pain, the act of sculpting like bloodletting, allowing the black, diseased blood to silently drain from me. Sometimes I do it to block out the world. Sometimes I do it because I simply don’t know what else to do with my hands.

*flicks cigarette filter repeatedly with thumb*

 

Me:

Wow, okay.

*breathless pause*

 

Azarov:

*stares at me intently*

 

Me:

*jiggles foot*

 

Azarov:

Don’t you have another question?

 

Me:

Uh, yeah. Of course. Ah-hem. So, Mr. Azarov.

 

Azarov:

Antoni.

 

Me:

Okay, Antoni. What impression did the United States first make on you when you arrived?

 

Azarov:

I came from a system of ruins. After the fall of the Soviet Union, institutions like orphanages were low on funds. My childhood was…. very difficult. The situation was, at times, desperate. But, I was one of many children who suffered.

*exhales slowly, stares at the floor*

My adoptive parents were very wealthy, so I was in shock when I arrived. I was only twelve or thirteen. America overwhelmed me. I was dumbfounded.

 

Me:

Do you ever think of going back?

 

Azarov:

Sometimes I think about going back to Russia… to close my story there, but I just like to think about going. I don’t know if I want to actually go.

 

Me:

I’m part Russian, you know. My great-grandfather on my mom’s side.

 

Azarov:

Congratulations.

*sarcastic*

 

Me:

*indignant silence*

 

Azarov:

*maintains deadpan face*

 

Me:

*narrows eyes*

Listen Antoni, I’m the one who created you, so I don’t want any of your crap. I can kill you with my next keystroke.

 

Azarov:

*laughs and smiles triumphantly*

I know you’ve thought about it, but you found out you couldn’t. You fantasized about my tragic death. Oh, yes! How you would make your readers cry!

But you can’t bring yourself to do it. You can’t kill me.

 

Me:

Oh, yeah? Try me.

 

Azarov:

Relax, crazy writer. I’m just kidding with you.

 

Me:

That’s what I thought.

*clears throat*

Now, they call you “The Hands of God.” What do you think about that name?

 

Antoni:

I don’t ascribe to that name. I only revere what already exists. Art is an act of love. Our lives are so short. Beauty fades, wilts, morphs with every passing second. I just try to grasp one of those moments and preserve it. I’m not trying to be a god, I’m think it’s more like my small way of buffering myself and others, both subject and viewer, against death.

 

Me:

You immortalize.

 

Azarov:

Yes.

 

Me:

Sounds pretty godlike to me.

 

Azarov:

Hmf, perhaps you’re right.

 

Me:

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

 

Azarov:

Hmm… *rubs his goatee* I think if you’re an artist, a true artist, you will die a slow death if you don’t create. That black blood I told you about, it will purtify. You’ll have nothing but sludge circulating inside. Anything passionate and vibrant about you will die and rot with your mortal body. Worst of all, you’ll hate yourself for being a coward.

I say, if art is what makes you feel alive, fuck your job, fuck society, fuck the discouragers, fuck everybody. Do what you were made to do.

 

Me:

Very bluntly put.

 

Azaraov:

Can I say fuck on here?

 

Me:

Yes, Antoni. This is a fuck-friendly blog.

 

Azarov:

Good. Like I said, FUCK EVERYBODY. Do what you were made to do.

 

Me:

Or you will die a slow death.

 

Azarov:

The slowest and most pitiful.

 

Me:

That’s a pretty grave consequence.

 

Azarov:

Good, because it’s especially true for writers…

*stares me down*

 

Me:

Really?

 

Azarov:

…writers who procrastinate because they are afraid of not living up to their own standards.

 

Me:

Wait. Are you referring to me?

 

Azarov:

Artists must create or wither and die. Don’t be afraid of failing your expectations, be afraid of the degradation of your soul.

 


 

Yikes! I was relieved when he stood up and said it was time for him to go. I was also thankful he didn’t ask to use the bathroom, remembering the dirty laundry sorting operation I had covering the floor.

 

I asked him to come again and he agreed. He lit another cigarette just outside my front door. He offered me one, a Lucky Strike, but I declined. He took a long drag and blew it over his shoulder, then looked down on me and wrapped his long fingers around my right shoulder.

 

“You need to finish my books already, Christa,” he said.

 

“I know,” I said. “I will.”

 

He leaned in closer, hunching down to look me directly in the eye as if I were a disobedient child. His strong fingertips dug deeper into my shoulder. “I’m serious,” he said. “You need to finish it.”

 

I nodded repeatedly.

 

“Do not leave me sitting in your computer files for four years like that poor guy, David. I won’t be so patient. I will nag at the edge of your thoughts. I will be watching you from every dark corner of Boquete. I’ll be hiding in every shadow in the backdrop your dreams.”

 

“Alright. Geez! I’ll start working right now.”

 

“That’s a good writer.” He released his grip, patting me with patronizing gentleness. Then he winked before flicking his cigarette and straddling his bike. “You can do it, and it’s going to be great. Do not even doubt it.”

 

As he started the engine, a flock of startled birds took flight from the lawn. I turned to close the door and refused to look out the window. I refilled my coffee and, as I sat back down at my computer, listened to the whine of his motorcycle echo off the hillsides of my winding road.

 

And then he was gone, the silence providing a space for me to clear my head and think.

 

 

Leave your questions and comments for Antoni Azarov below. I’ll make sure he answers them 😉

 

You can follow Antoni Azarov on Twitter. He is also available for blog interviews. Just contact me if you would like to book him.

 

Learn more about the sculptor and my Work in Progress here.

 

I’d love to see other character interviews. Fellow authors, link back to this post and pass it along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for visiting.

Please enjoy this novelette on the house.

Download my first published work in .mobi, .epub. or PDF format.

 

"Anyone who has ever secretly longed for the significant other of a close friend will immediately identify with this well-written story set in the South of France. The dialog is sharp and the characters believable. The writing is both funny and poignant."
–Max Tomlinson, author of 
The Cain File

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