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International Flavor:
Russian Artist Gives Painting to Colby

By Amy Calder

WATERVILLE — Stas Borodin attacked the canvas with broad brush strokes, creating swipes of yellows, greens and grays-the base for an impressionist painting of the Colby College campus.

Three hours later, his work had taken form: the Miller Library and nearby chapel reflected in Johnson Pond, in muted pastel colors.

Borodin, of St. Petersburg, Russia, was visiting Waterville as part of a month-long trip to the United States to paint, visit friends and exhibit his works. He planned to give his painting of the campus to the Russian Club at Colby.

"Maine is very beautiful — many, many landscapes," Borodin said in a thick Russian accent. "I like it. It is very nice."

With Borodin at the pond Thursday were Wellington artist Milton Christianson as well as Herb Foster and John Engle, both members of the Kotlas-Waterville Sister City Connection. The Waterville Committee — the local group's counterpart in Kotlas, Russia — invited Christianson to Russia last summer to attend an art seminar coordinated by Borodin and attended by artists from all over the world. Christianson and Borodin became fast friends.

Christianson hosted a reception for Borodin on Wednesday at his Wellington home, where several artists from central Maine shared their works.

"We talked about art a lot," Christianson said. "It was a reception and it was a mini-exhibition. I asked artists to bring their work. It was nice. Sometimes artists work in isolation so it was good to bring them all together in a low pressure social situation."

Artists who attended included Abby Shahn, James Fangboner, Robert Bobrowski, Bernie Beckman, Barbara Sullivan and photographers Richard Garrett and Martha Young.

Christianson's experiences in Russia and ensuing connection with Borodin have led to other plans for collaboration.

"We are talking about organizing an international seminar in Waterville, Wellington and central Maine, possibly next summer or the summer after that," Christianson said. "It would be similar to the event in Kotlas where a group of artists from different countries go out and paint on location for two or three weeks."

Borodin, 54, is a native of Kotlas, where his father, Yuri, was a chief building engineer who orchestrated construction of about 80 percent of the city's factories, roads and bridges, he said.

Famous for his art in Russia, Borodin's works are on display throughout the country. Foster and Engle said that when they visited Kotlas in 2002 and 1996, respectively, those who greeted them gave them postcards bearing Borodin's art.

Engle, a retired doctor and kidney specialist who learned Russian while auditing classes at Colby, helped translate for Borodin. He and Foster attended the Wellington reception Wednesday.

Borodin has already left Maine and is traveling to New York and Los Angeles before returning to St. Petersburg. Christianson said Borodin fell in love with maple syrup after tasting it for the first time while visiting him in Wellington. Borodin, a kind, generous and outgoing man, is enthusiastic about helping organize the international artist seminar, according to Christianson.

"He's very brave, I think, to come here, not knowing much English and going around. He's in a very vulnerable position as a stranger and I think it takes a great amount of courage to do that."

From the Morning Sentinel, 11/08/2003, p. B1. Used by permission.