By: Gayle Dendinger & Kim DeCoste Issue: Transformation Section: Cover Profile Abstract concepts are sometimes difficult to conceptualize, so we will periodically use metaphors to evoke a broad array of visualizations by likening an idea to something a little more concrete and perhaps more fun.
In the last few issues we have been utilizing metaphors to emphasize important business processes. We recently wrote about Infrastructure, which is symbolized by the spider. The Resources issue used the metaphor of the bee. The Vision issue was symbolized by the compound-eyed dragonfly. Today, as you see by our beautiful cover, we draw our inspiration from the transformative magic of the butterfly. And, going forward, we will draw inspiration from the various pieces used in the strategic game of chess.
One of the great values of ICOSA is that it gives us the ability to access the best and brightest, the most talented and most interesting, and the most successful and influential people in the world. We are excited by this notion and inspired by the people we meet, whom we try to “bring to you” in the magazine and through our other media platforms.
I love metaphors because of the strong messages they portray in a very simple but vivid manner. Several years ago, I ran across the artistic works of Vladimir Kush while accompanying my wife on a shopping trip at the Miracle Mile in Las Vegas. Since that time, my goal has been to meet Kush, start collecting his work, and be able to display his paintings and their strong messages as covers for the magazine.
I am very proud to announce that all of these things have happened, and I am extremely honored to be able to call attention to the magic of transformation with Kush’s piece Departure of the Winged Ship on the cover of this issue. By coincidence, we heard from Kush that Disney has shown an interest in using this work as an inspiration for a ride at Disneyland—and it is not too hard to envision why.
I am very proud to introduce readers to the world of Vladimir Kush—where myth, metaphor and poetry combine in new forms to create metaphorical realism. I see the beauty in the work and how it brings to life the concepts I feel are essential to being successful in the game of connection and collaboration. Kush’s story is fascinating. He was born in Russia, in a one-story wooden house near the Moscow forest-park, Sokolniki. His father, Oleg, was a mathematician with artistic tendencies, who encouraged Kush’s natural talent from the time he was a boy. His father also provided him with books of romantic travel by hard-to-get, and sometimes banned authors, such as Jules Verne, Jack London and Herman Melville, hoping that his mind would carry him to faraway worlds and alternate realities. These books proved to be the foundation upon which Kush’s vision for himself was built.
He entered art school at age seven, and around 12 to 14 years of age his fascination with three-dimensional geometric figures—icosahedrons and dodecahedrons—grew. In fact, he began to build them from paper. He studied all of the classics from the Renaissance to the Impressionist period and, of course, the Modern masters. His formal training led him to the Art Institute of Moscow where he explored different mediums and styles and came to understand the science behind art, including color theory and composition. At that time, the school championed what they called the Cézanne method, which he mastered, but later abandoned because he believed that it lost form in color and ultimately emotion dominated the space instead of intellect. He believes, “Art should inspire thought.”
Like all young men in Russia at the time, Kush served his duty to the Russian Army, where they quickly ascertained his skills and put him to work on propaganda posters and murals of generals. Upon completion of school and army duty, Kush returned to his humble childhood home on Arbat Street and went to work to help support his family. Thankfully, during this time he came to know some people who worked in the U.S. Embassy. Eventually those connections would allow him to follow his dreams to what he felt was a great new land of opportunity for him, here in the United States.
Kush’s early years in the United States were important. He worked hard to produce good works, and his first great success happened to occur at a show in Coburg, Germany, in 1989. At that exhibition he sold almost every piece he brought, and he was on his way! That success was a forerunner to many more in Hong Kong and in his new hometown of Los Angeles. Among the bohemians of the Santa Monica pier in the shadow of the roller coaster, Kush sold portraits to support himself, working out of a tiny garage and continuing the quest for studio space. Ultimately, his journey took him further west to his own “promised land” in Hawaii, which he calls home today.
Over time, his work gained momentum, and by 1995 at an exhibition in Hong Kong at the Mandarin Fine Art Gallery, Kush gained even more success. By 1997, he was exhibiting in galleries in Lahaina, Hawaii, and Seattle. His own first gallery was opened in 2001, and Kush Fine Art in Lahaina is now one of four galleries in the United States. Going forward, he hopes to expand globally.
Vladimir Kush, like most of us, is still called back to his home country from time to time. Moscow’s cold, dark winters still force his imagination to roam as it did when he was young. But now he draws on his memories of the Hawaiian skies, which are apparent in many of his works. Kush says, “Due to political and geographic restraints, I was forced to travel with my mind as a child, and it is this most of all that has shaped my artistic perception and voice, but I would likely never have painted the colors or clouds seen in my paintings if it hadn’t been for the sights of my tropical, second home.”
It has been written that Kush has developed his own artistic credo. It substantiates his metaphorical realism and, above all, it demands the following likeness, which is the evidence of high professional skill—it makes the viewer believe in the world imagined by the artist, as realism does in fiction and film; avoidance of actual living forms, presenting the aesthetic object rather than emotional subjects; and the use of deep irony to reach real aesthetic enjoyment.
Vladimir Kush explains further, “I want to touch my audience on a much deeper emotional or intellectual level than would be possible by painting a pretty landscape or still life where viewers are tempted to place themselves in the landscape, or consume the bowl of fruit—the goal of realism is also its limitation. I try to provide layers of meaning for viewers to explore and emotionally respond to the discoveries they find in my art.”
It is that perspective that I love. Not only are the stories in this issue about transformational works being done by business, government, community and academic institutions, but we are using it as a platform to transform the message of the magazine and its related media forms to new heights. We look forward to further collaboration with Kush and others in the world of art. The metaphor invokes reality, both in form and in action, but it does not replicate it. Kush and I challenge you to consider transformation in this way and take the essence of the cover to draw inspiration. Do not be too literal in your interpretations. It is not unlike the mystique of Mona Lisa’s famous smile, evoking emotion, inspiring debate at its motive and enchanting all who see it.