Following Marco Polo’s Footsteps By Edward Kiersh

Afflicted with incurable wanderlust, an unquenchable desire to discover unique, thought-provoking art, she became a treasure hunter. At first it was only traveling through the Ukraine to small, remote villages. Delighted by the “purity” of artists who passionately wanted to paint, to live life and to drink vodka, she expanded her orbit becoming familiar with important Ukrainian (or Soviet) artists, and establishing connections throughout Europe. Today Mariya Titova is fascinated by Mark Rothko, longs for “parts unknown,” and hopes to popularize “lost” artists deserving our attention.

“Soviet ideology put artists in certain rigid frames, and I wanted to see how they were finding narrow paths and unsteady colors and shapes (to go against the strictures,” says Titova, who became friendly with these Soviet-Era artists, their families, and now owns a  “plein-air” collection of 390 prized works that celebrate Sino-Ukrainian creativity between 1940-1990. “It was a strange period, most artists were working against Soviet reality. My heroes like a Gregory Shpenko (her for sale collection boasts several of his evocative sketches and paintings) were so passionate…emotional about their true to life, plein-air art. He was so different than Soviet realism…He was free. Offered at auction throughout the world, Shponko pictures an intimate gentility for the “Common Man.” It’s most dramatically explored in Totova’s “Swimming Pool” set of drawings and paintings. These free-spirited, impressionistic-nuanced works went against ‘official art.’ They had life.”

Laughing at the suggestion that she supported a salon for these rebellious painters (“I would be bored sitting around”), Titova has been intent on unearthing “El Dorado” works ever since studying at Kiev’s Art Institute in 2000, and later while working for a British art dealer. Going to artists’ studios for him was “exacting,” a time to develop a trained eye for art that possessed lasting significance. Now her voluminous, impressively-diverse plain-air collection–from Victor Gaidux’s Zaporegic paintings of fairy tale forests to the poignant 1950s’ sketches of Volodymyr Korobov, numerous industrial landscapes, and a glorious A.G. Pavluk nude–are inspiring her to again take flight. She hopes to follow Marco Polo, and to pursue new excitement in Uzbekistan–to follow the fabled Silk Road. “I love different realities,” confesses Titova, chuckling, remembering her recent visit to Vienna where she adored a Mark Rothko exhibit. “His art is alive, free, dynamic. That;s what I like in life and plein-air painting…discovery…that is calling me to Uzbekistan. I greatly need to find new treasures.”

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