By Gregory Strachov
Two of my paintings, To Lux Aeterna and Icon of Common Man, have particularly interesting stories behind them.
I had a dream three nights in a row of a woman standing in a field. In front of her were dark soil and white bones. I felt that this was an important dream and tried to speak with her. I learned that she was my grandmother who had come to warn me. I wrote these dreams off as nightmares, attributing them to too much work, too much coffee and an overactive imagination.
A few days later, a neighboring rancher, a very bright man who’d worked in law enforcement, stopped by. I told him of this bizarre dream with the scattered white bones on the ground in front of a woman. He told me to get in his Jeep, and we drove onto his ranch for a few miles before he stopped near a clearing. There I saw the white bones!
He told me one of his cows had died from a disease in her udder. That’s when I realized what my intuition was trying to tell me. I called a friend who had breast cancer and asked her to give me the name of her surgeon, who was top in the field.
I kept his name in my wallet and, three months later, my wife received a call on a Friday afternoon, during which she learned that she had lobular carcinoma—an aggressive breast cancer. Immediately, I pulled the name of the doctor out of my pocket and called him. The nurse said that the doctor was booked for ten weeks. I asked to speak with him, and she said he was with a patient. I said I would wait. When the doctor got on the phone, I apologized for the interruption and then asked him if it would be logical, if his sister or his mother or his wife were diagnosed with lobular carcinoma, to ask them to wait ten weeks. He told me to bring my wife in first thing Monday. He operated that Thursday and saved my wife’s life.
The name of the painting comes from the music I was listening to while I was working on it—Lux Aerterna in Mozart’s Requiem.
Icon of Common Man
Icon of Common Man (above) has been used in museum tours, especially those in which young students participate, to illustrate the danger of “judging a book by its cover.”
I was in Nova Scotia drinking coffee at a diner when I noticed a man walking. The other patrons made fun of the way he looked, which bothered me quite a bit. I was fortunate to run into this man a short time later near the docks. We started talking and soon became friends.
I learned he was a French war hero. He’d taken care of an invalid wife for 35 years before she died. He’d built his own telescope. He was living in a one-room cabin with a pot belly stove in the middle. All his walls were covered with books he’d read, and he had collections of Beethoven conducted by Bruno Walter, Karl Bohm, Herbert von Karajan, and Leonard Bernstein. He could describe how each conductor interpreted the beginning of the third part of the 7th symphony differently. And this was someone who strangers would feel free to make fun of?!
I made several other observations about this individual. On a medical note, his lip can either indicate a stroke or the fact that he smoked a pipe, and his swollen eyelid indicates blepharitis, which is an immune disorder. He’s frugal, as is indicated by the fact that his belt shows signs of wear in many different weight ranges.
For all of these reasons, I painted this individual as an icon of Common Man. I consider the work to be a teaching painting. Although several oil people in Dallas would like to add Icon of Common Man to their collections. I do not want to sell it.
See more of Gregory Srachov’s artwork and learn about his painting process in the July/August issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Click here to order the print version of the July/August 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
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