On Oct. 6, the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center unveiled the “Musings of a Seeker” exhibition from Petr Rudnev in its the Allie Jensen Memorial Art Gallery which was displayed for the month of October.
Rudnev is originally from Russia and has lived in the U.S. since 2018. He was raised and lived in a small village near the Mongolian border. When he was 16, he moved to St. Petersburg and attended the highly-selective and prestigious Stieglitz Art Academy.
The artist explained in Russian, “This is my first exhibition and I have displayed paintings with various styles and made with acrylic paints. Many of the works shown portray a big stylistic spectrum; they are classical, impressionist, as well as my personal take on contemporary art with an addition of various effects and textures.”
The artworks include using unusual art materials such as aluminum cans, metal caps, straw, and wood. He also recreated many ancient Slavic art techniques, such as basket weaving with straw in his art piece “At Grandma’s,” which illustrates how distant memories of spending time with his grandmother warmed his soul.
Much of Rudnev’s art tries to communicate to the gallery audience.
“We see all that happens in our lives as ordinary and routine. We don’t consider how magical it all is, and we don’t understand that these gifts are priceless and generous. The present will never repeat again, and everything will be different. I want people to find the time and the energy to stop and try to remember this moment just how it is, so it stays within your heart and warms your soul.”
He touches upon many topical themes of the contemporary world in his art. These include ecology, a world without war, and the importance of the time given to us in our short lives. He said, “Everything and everyone surrounding us has a grander meaning: the people that are dear to us, clean water and air, and the breathtaking but very fragile beauty of our planet.”
The piece, “Heritage,” took a whole year for Rudnev to finish because it is made of polygons of aluminum cans that needed to be bent, and arranged with jewelry rings. The piece calls back to Eve’s original sin, and asks the audience to think about the heritage that is left for the next generation: trash that is polluting the planet.
As a gay man, Rudnev faced persecution in Russia because of which he was able to obtain asylum in the U.S. Russia has had a law since 2013, called, “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating a Denial of Traditional Family Values,” which is better known as an anti-gay propaganda law. The law condemns presenting homosexuality as being a norm in society, and often targets gay couples in public places.
He said, “All my life I understood that I was different from other people…From preschool, I was confronted with homophobia. Adults and kids were trying to tell me that I was gross and I didn’t act appropriately, even though I was just a more sensitive boy than others. All my life I had to collide with this sentiment. School, college, job and neighbors. People sincerely wanted to show me their dislike and disgust of me, and they weren’t shy at all to tell me their thoughts.”
When he was living in Russia, Rudnev felt excluded from spaces, and he had to build confidence in spite of people’s hatred. He said, “Being in America for the past three years, I am still getting used to the thought that I am absolutely free and I can… start a family and have children…I am 38 years old and only now I am learning to be free. I can breathe freely and build my future and career without the presence of anxiety.”
In the future, Rudnev hopes to change his current career from graphic design to illustration. He said, “ In my childhood, books with beautiful illustrations fueled my imagination and gave me so much energy and love for achieving my dream of becoming an illustrator. Specifically, after seeing these picture books, I began trying to draw when I was just a one years old, and my passion for art has grown into work in my adult life. I want to imbue this atmosphere to others, where I could take them on a journey through my love for the beauty of the world and take them through my own imaginative worlds.”
To him, there is nothing unfeasible in life, and his journey to the U.S. has brought him freedom and the ability for self-actualization.