From Art


In 1969 all men born between January 1943 and December 1950 received notice from the Selective Service System (the Draft Board) to report for duty in the military. I was born in 1943, so I was eminently qualified. I was in a Residency Training Program for General Practice that finished in July of 1970. In August 1970, I was sent to Witchita Falls, Texas, for basic training. I never thought that a doctor would be taught how to march, shoot, and crawl under barbed wire, with live gunfire above (at least that is what they told us), but I was. The US had just included Cambodia in the Vietnam War. I was expecting to go to Vietnam.   
   But then a miracle happened! I was sent to Portugal as an Air Force Captain. I was able to bring my wife, and we were stationed on Tercera, the third largest island in the Azorian archipelago, a virtual paradise. The Azores were the first place Christopher Columbus stopped on his transoceanic trip to discover the Americas. The church where he prayed for guidance still stands and was the site of many a picnic we had with our Air Force friends. Angra de Heroismo is the largest town of about 35,000 inhabitants. Frédéric Chopin also stopped there during his search for a place that would be better for his lungs, which were besieged by the Tubercle Bacillus. I even sat at the piano, where he gave an impromptu concert for Angra. If you ever get to Angra, you must try the regional specialty, “Alcatra Regional,” a beef stew cooked in an earthen pot on charcoal, which is absolutely outstanding.

Mary Jane

Our base was composed of about 4,000 troops, mostly Air Force, but there were also Marines who did the security, the Navy who surprisingly did the flying, and Air Force that did the support, including the hospital. I “fought the war” for the next two years on a semi-tropical island doing health care for basically healthy young people. We bravely kept every Viet Cong from making landfall there. I didn’t know it then, but it was probably the best time of my life. I was young, full of energy and enthusiasm. There was a lot of time to pursue hobbies. I learned to work with wood in their wood hobby shop. Mary and I built shelves using an Acacia tree, the hardest wood in the Azores, that was split just for us. We also built a copy of a 15th-century Savanarola Florentine chair. I became a more sophisticated photographer and even learned to Scuba Dive to look for treasure. Lobster was plentiful in the Atlantic just for the taking, and we did. The harbor near our house had been the scene of great battles between the English and Spanish with treasure ships laden with gold that were sunk by Sir Francis Drake.   Unfortunately, all we ever found was a few barnacles-encrusted canons and the occasional shark that lost its way. But sculpting was my favorite hobby. I had always loved to sculpt. My beautiful wife served as a model for several works, one of which is seen here.

A Book of Inspirations


      My 11th book just went off to the printer. It will be out in July, and I hope to sell a lot of them. I think it is my best book to date. I WILL DONATE ALL THE PROFITS TO THE REBUILDING OF UKRAINE. It is amazing to me that one crazy person can do so much harm in such a short time. It took Hitler a decade and Stalin two decades to destroy the world. It took Putin only a few months.         
     This new book was my therapy to counter the evil of this insanity. Art and esthetic beauty have always calmed me down and given me new inspiration that things will get better. The book’s title is Muses and Inspirations and features works of two UKRAINIAN ARTISTS, my father and me. My father was motivated by the two-dimensional muse (painting), while I paid homage to the three-dimensional muse (sculpting).
     Each work is accompanied by a write-up of why, how, and what motivated us. I have been a Surgeon most of my life, so naturally, that was a major part of my inspiration and created the work you see below, the gloved hand of a surgeon making the first incision. It is held up by the scalpel, which was quite a feat to have it appear to come from above as if guided by some unseen force. Bronze is a metal of copper mixed with 12% tin and thus is quite heavy. It would collapse if held up by a bronze scalpel, so the knife is cast in stainless steel, a metaphor for the King of the Medical Arts.

      Blacksmiths were one of my Father’s favorite subjects to paint. Painting them spanned his entire career. He admired the strength of brawn and brain that allowed them to tame iron. A blacksmith’s work is never done! Iron and steel obey his every whim from shaping horseshoes to forging swords.

This Blacksmith was a friend of my father, and allowed him to paint him in his shop. Unfortunately, the Blacksmith was very fond of “the grape.” While shoeing a horse in his shop, he was kicked by the horse in the upper abdomen. He was too inebriated to get help and bled to death from a ruptured spleen. That ended not only his life but also his career as a model and friend to my father.

On one of my trips to Paris, France, I became enchanted by the “gargoyle.” That is a sculpting adorning many cathedrals of Europe. The word “gargoyle” comes from the Spanish word “garganta,” which means “throat.” Originally the gargoyle was used to divert water from the roof of a church and the water was channeled out of the mouth of the gargoyle. The legend claims that these hideous faces actually discouraged evil spirits from attacking. They protected the people and the cathedral. I, too, had to have one to protect my house. So I sculpted one, and so far, it has been successful. No evil spirits have infested our house. Here is my version of the gargoyle.

Winter is filled with fun and excitement:  Christmas, holly, mistletoe, sleigh rides, chestnuts, and sitting by toasty roaring fires. Snow is difficult to paint. It is white, that is true, but it has character, substance, and it is cold. To convey this with a brush on a canvas with white Zinc Oxide oil paint and make it believable is quite a trick. The New England Winter, 24″x36″ oil on canvas,seems to be inviting a horse-drawn sleigh with jingle bells to pass over the bridge. This painting comes from the Santa Monica period of Vladimir’s life. A time in sunny California, 1965 to 1974, which made Vladimir reminisce about his time in colder climates. He forgot how bad winter could be: the house calls to the farm at the very peak of the mountain in the Austrian Alps in waist-deep snow and the cold winters in Peoria when he was night physician on call for six thousand criminally insane (that is for another book). His car had to have an electric heating blanket covering the engine so he could start it.

     To my knowledge, I am the first sculptor to incorporate the artistic rendering with a real object. In this sculpting, I took a real violin and have bronze hands positioned as if playing the violin. I call this piece Air on the G-String. Sometime between 1717 to 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote “Orchestration No. 3 in D Major.” Orchestration No. 3 did not get much exposure and languished in a drawer for around 150 years, very much like J.S. Bach’s other famous Opus, the six Brandenburg Concertos.

  A very talented violinist thought to be Germany’s best violinist, also a friend of Richard Wagner, discovered Orchestration No. 3 in D Major. He re-scored it so that he could play it on just one string on the violin by changing the key to C Major and lowering the entire score one octave. That string happened to be the lowest string on the violin, the G-string. His name was August Wilhelmj. Audiences came to use the name “Air on the G-string for it.” It was an immediate success and remains so still today. You would recognize it instantly as it is frequently played at weddings. The G-string has a more lusty connotation. To learn more about it, you will have to wait for the book. I shall put out a notice when it is available.         


Air on the G-String       

I have been a busy sculptor. My next piece combines a real violin with the sculpted bronze hands that are playing it. The note that is being played is on the G-String, hence the name of the sculpting. To let you in on the secret of how I named it is a true story that comes from history and has done its part to change it.      

Sometime between 1717 to 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote “Orchestration No. 3 in D Major.” He composed this piece for his patron, Prince Leopold von Anhalt. Bach was in his early 30s and not yet an established composer, furthermore, the Anhalt family was not enamored with Bach’s music. Orchestration No. 3 did not get much exposure and languished in a drawer for around 150 years, very much like J.S. Bach’s other famous Opus, the six Brandenburg Concertos, that he composed as an application for a new job, with the Margrave of Brandenburg. Since his career with Prince Leopold von Anhalt was at risk, he tried to entice the Margrave to hire him. He sent the six Concertos to him, but just like the “Orchestration No. 3 in D Major,” the Margrave didn’t even listen to any of them, nor did Bach get the job when Prince Leopold unceremoniously fired him.      

Luckily a wise and music-savvy scientist named Carl Sagan was in charge of picking the music for a gold-plated CD that was to be sent into deep space for a future Alien to find. The second Brandenburg Concerto went out on Voyager I in 1977, but the job application to the Margrave of Brandenburg was just a few hundred years too late. The Orchestration No. 3 in D Major at least had a second chance to be heard sooner.

A very talented violinist, a friend of Richard Wagner and the son of Prussia’s Chief Prosecutor, thought to be Germany’s best violinist, discovered Orchestration No. 3 in D Major. He re-scored it so that he could play it on just one string on the violin by changing the key to C Major and lowering the entire score one octave. That string happened to be the lowest string on the violin, the G-string. His name was August Wilhelmj. Audiences came to use the name “Air on the G-string” for it.  It was an immediate success and remains so still today. You would recognize it instantly as it is frequently played at weddings. 

So how did the G-string get its other, more lusty connotation? The 1939 World’s Fair opened in the Queens district of New York. We did not enter World War II until 1941 on the Day of Infamy. The World’s Fair attracted 44 million people, including  King George V and his Queen, along with Albert Einstein, and many more notables. But it also attracted a less lofty group, strippers! Mayor Fiorello La Guardia made it the law for strippers to wear a Bikini-like bottom in New York when performing. First, Fredericks of Hollywood and then Victoria’s Secret repurposed the  G-sting in their naming of the skimpy garment. The G-string on the violin is just a thin wire, and it happens to be the lowest in position and sound of the violin strings. What could be a more appropriate name for Mayor La Guardia’s mandated tiny modesty vestment?   


My father, Vladimir Iwasiuk, painted the picture above. My sister posed for the painting in the full Ukrainian traditional folk regalia, from the embroidered blouse and jacket to the headdress. This is what the country girls wore on festive days. But that was in the past. Ukraine has become a pawn in the chess game that Vladimir Putin is playing. Unfortunately, our  President and the EU are playing checkers. I am of Ukrainian descent. My father was born in Czernowitz (the German version of the spelling), in western Ukraine. This was at a time when the Austro-Hungarian Empire happened to be the owner of that part of the world. Ukraine has never been blessed with unity.

Its borders and territories have been disputed by all of its neighbors, each claiming a piece of it at various times. Great heroes have risen to fight for Ukraine in all those battles. Taras Bulba, a Zaporozhina Cossack (referring to lands  – wild fields – around the lower Dnieper River), was one of them at the time the Poles were tearing off a chunk of Ukraine for themselves. Yul Brynner played his character in the 1962 movie by that name, well worth watching to get the flavor of the Ukrainian nationalist spirit.

In the 10th and 11th Centuries, Ukraine was the MOST POWERFUL NATION in Europe! That era was ushered in by Vladimir the Great around the year 1000. Ukrainians are very proud of their heritage and resent being lumped together with Russians, as they so often are. More than 70% of Ukrainians belong to the Greek Orthodox Faith. Medieval Christianity split into an Eastern and a Western theology in 1054 AD at the time of Ukraine’s Golden Age. The division occurred over a variety of doctrinal issues, such as the Pope’s infallibility, the worship of icons, the marriage of priests, the understanding of the trinity, and the three-bar Orthodox cross. This cultural factor imparts Ukraine with a distinct Byzantine flavor in its architecture, art, and clothing; something you can appreciate in the painting above. If you have ever seen Pysanky, the Ukrainian Easter Eggs, you will notice the very intricate style typical of Ukrainian design. Much of the Ukrainian traditions, designs, and dress have all but disappeared except in the remote regions.           

The current crisis in Ukraine reflects the turmoil of centuries of unrest. East Ukraine has been given the better soil and has been referred to as “the breadbasket” of Russia. While the western part of the country is grassland, where the Cossacks ruled. They had a remarkable ability to handle horses, probably in part due to their having domesticated the horse in the first place ca. 6000 years ago. The East has been coveted by Russia ever since Catherine the Great, who, in fact, was not Russian at all. She was a German princess who became the Czarina when her husband, Peter III, was murdered by her lover’s brother. She started populating the eastern area with German farmers to till its fertile fields.

It has been said, “Russia without Ukraine is a country; Russia with Ukraine is an empire.” This was not lost on Joseph Stalin (or on Vladimir Putin, for that matter). Stalin claimed Ukraine for his own and demanded unreasonable production quotas of grain. When the farmers couldn’t produce that much, he decided to “collectivize” the land (steal it) and have the state administer it.   The Ukrainian farmers, known for their independent spirit, objected. He proceeded to kill 11,000,000 of them (eleven million!) in what has become known as the Holodomor (killing by starvation), an unprecedented decimation of a people that is now recognized among the several infamous genocides of recorded history. It overshadows the Holocaust in sheer numbers of murdered humans. Stalin himself confessed this “man’s inhumanity to man” to Winston Churchill in a conversation that took place on August 16, 1942, as recorded in Churchill’s memoirs. Stalin had all the intellectuals rounded up and deported to Siberia to further eliminate resistance, where about another half-million Ukrainians (men, women, and children) died from hunger and exposure. Ukraine lost 25% of its population during the Holodomor. Eastern Ukraine was resettled with mostly ethnic Russians from the north. That is why eastern Ukraine is now Russian-speaking, Russian culturally, and Russian friendly.    

The Russians had already illegally annexed  Crimea on March 1, 2014. To show their loyalty to Putin and display their unity with the just-completed invasion of Crimea,  the trigger-happy pro-Russian “breakaway”  separatists of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, commanded by Russian Intelligence Colonel, Igor Strelkov, downed Malaysian Airline Flight 17, of July 17, 2014, with a BUK Russian missile. The flight was routed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The separatists saw this as an invasion of “their airspace”. That was the death of 283 civilian passengers, including 80 children.  The whole affair is a bitter and tragic consequence of social, economic, and military meddling with the hordes of useful idiots that were manipulated by the criminal minds of a couple of ruthless dictators, past and present, intoxicated by the elixir of limitless power. The blame was laid at the feet of Russia and Vladimir Putin by the European Court of Human Rights! Stalin set it up, and Putin lit the fuse. 

Now Putin’s mission is to rebuild the old Soviet Union. He has the old Communist revisionist version of history and is in the process of putting the pieces of the puzzle back together. Georgia, Moldova, Crimea, Kazakhstan, Belarus, the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and now it appears the rest of Ukraine, all are examples of how Putin plans to restore the past. It started with Stalin’s murder of one-quarter of Ukraine’s population and replacing them with Russians who now claim it as their country.      

On a personal note, my Ukrainian grandmother, on my father’s side, survived more than thirteen years of imprisonment in Siberia. When Nikita Khrushchev took over, and the de-Stalinification of Russia ensued, she was released at age 80 for her son’s crimes (my father) of evading Stalin’s clutches by escaping from the Soviet Union.    

Putin sees the opportunity to strike. The EU is totally dependent on Russia for its energy supply. We have given up our energy independence by closing the Keystone pipeline and stopping fracking. Germany has closed its nuclear power plants. We are seeing unbridled brute force from Vladimir Putin, not exactly brilliant or masterful diplomacy skills. But nevertheless, if you are not considering statesmanship, what do you expect from the mindset of a former East German-trained mid-level ex-KGB agent? Exactly what you see!

The Hand of God

Recently, I have a renewed inspiration to sculpt again, something that I have been doing off and on since I was in high school. I never had any formal training in sculpting and believe it is just a DNA thing passed down from my Father and Grandfather.
I finished a piece that just came back from the foundry. I would like to share it with you.  I call it the Hand of God. The idea of it comes from a sculptor I have long admired, Auguste Rodin, the undisputed Father of Modern Sculpture.  He sculpted over a 100 years ago in Paris, France.  This piece is not a copy of his work by the same name. Frankly, without any intended malice or envy, I think my Hand of God is better! (So how come I am not rich, famous, or undisputed anything?) But certain aspects are taken from Rodin.  The size is larger than life, which is what Rodin started doing after he was accused of using his hand and making a plaster cast of it.  I did use his idea and the name, The Hand of God, for my sculpting, and I did use my hand but as a model, not a plaster cast, and it is, as Auguste recommends, larger than life-size.  Rodin’s sculpting had what looks like the hand is holding an embracing couple, while mine holds the globe of the world, a bit of reflective difference in Rodin and my Weltanschauung (world view.) I recently learned from Legalzoom that one could copyright works of art, so I did just that. If you copy it, I hope to collect a small fortune from you for copyright infringement. I seem to be on a sculpting kick and have several other projects in the works, all based on the hand motif. Hands are one of the real challenges that many artists often avoid because of the complexities and technical difficulties of making it look like a human hand. I hope to have a small exhibit at the Santa Paula Museum of Art in the near future, and you can judge for yourself.

Auguste Rodin   The Hand of God  

Rodin Museum, Paris, France

Gösta Iwasiuk

Gösta Iwasiuk  Hand of God, Santa Paula, California