Lyuba and Aleksander Titovets are consummate storytellers, recounting stories of their history and homeland. Daughters, Anna and Nina, revel in the Russian folk tales they hear at bedtime, but listening to Lyuba and Aleksander (Sasha to friends), it is apparent that these stories are as much about own lives as they are tales of magic and fantasy.
The young couple left Russia in 1992 after the Soviet government plummeted from power. They have many – perhaps, too many – stories to tell of the difficult years before immigrating: bread lines and an entire winter with only bouillon to eat. Even so, Lyuba recalls, “We never, at the time, thought … this is the most terrible thing. We simply got by. We still had guests to our home … there were still things we looked forward to.”
The transition to a new life in El Paso has been both difficult and exciting. Arriving in El Paso in May, after leaving St. Petersburg’s just-blooming spring, was quite a shock. “We arrived in El Paso at night,” says Sasha with much drama, “So, I didn’t get a glimpse of Texas until daylight. I woke surrounded by brown, open spaces on all sides; mountains so dry and different from my St. Petersburg.”
Both artists look to their Russian heritage for artistic inspiration. Sasha’s strong brushstrokes, the periodic sweep of paint applied with a palette knife, and the heavy layering of his impasto style evoke the endurance of the Russian spirit. His images are most often scenes of his homeland, particularly his beloved St. Petersburg. With a shrug, he admits he has tried painting the landscape imagery of his new home, but finds he “paints with an accent,” and chooses to express himself through the passion he feels for his native land.
While Sasha’s work conveys strength, Lyuba’s suggests optimism. Working primarily in water mediums, she paints traditional vignettes of Russian life and folk literature. Here, her rich jewel colors and intricate detail of costumes meld into vibrant images celebrating the simple joys of life. That same feeling of warmth radiates the loose strokes of her more modernistic still life paintings where her attention to detail shifts to the subtle play of light and color. Regardless the subject or medium, hopefulness sparkles in her paintings as it does in her voice.
That same optimism has filled the Titovets’ lives since arriving in the United States. Their artistic careers have soared and both are always in the throes of significant projects.