Igor Sazevich: Painting his story

12/19/2018

Inverness architect and painter Igor Sazevich was shut out of his father’s studio as a little boy, but he now owns two of his own at his ridgetop home. This month, at Gallery Route One, where his show, “Time in My Art,” is on display through Sunday, he reminisced about his unorthodox upbringing in bohemian San Francisco. “For most of my childhood, I was pretty much on my own,” he said. 

Today, Sazevich remains devoted to his sculptor father and, in deference, included two of the latter’s wood sculptures in his exhibit. Sazevich’s show spans five of his nearly nine decades and is teamed up with Joanna Baruch’s astronomical imagery in “Here/Everywhere” and Peg Hunter’s gut-wrenching “Confronting Borders.” Each exhibit, in its own way, is a political statement, Sazevich said.

Sazevich was born to Russian-immigrant parents, but the major influence on his body of work comes from San Francisco counterculture. His painting “MiaDonna,” depicting a Madonna wearing a mask and Russian clothes, is inspired by an icon his mother brought with her from Russia after the revolution. The gold leaf he used to accent the piece was left over from his father’s studio. 

“Painting it was fun,” he said. “This is the Virgin Mary coming back to say, ‘What the hell happened?’ It’s a volatile time. Our shared leader has spread hate throughout the world. It’s much worse than at any other time in my life.”

His painting “Grounded” puts the iconic beached boat behind the Inverness Store back to sea in rough weather. “It’s the boat thing,” he said bemusedly. “Everybody’s photographing it, but this is my concept.” The boat, reincarnated amid rough waves and hovering seagulls, evokes the power of art to change the world. 

Sazevich sought approval from his father, who urged him to become a doctor, but, after two years of medical school, the painter decided he was not good at math, and became an architect instead. Sazevich married Natasha, the niece of Prince Vasili Romanov, Czar Nicholas II’s
nephew. 

(Contrary to local lore, Sazevich is not a blood-relative of another local artist, Andrew Romanov. The latter Romanov is the great-great-grandson of Nicholas I.) 

It was Vasili  who introduced Sazevich to an eclectic group of well-placed people and helped launch his career. Sazevich often found clients over vodka at cocktail parties. During his long career, he worked for sports owner Jack Kent Cooke, artist Sam Francis, musician Jesse Colin Young, fashion retailer John Nordstrom and others. 

While Sazevich was designing Nordstrom’s restaurants, he was spending weekends exploring his real avocation: painting with oils in his studio.

Looking at his work in the gallery, Sazevich mused, “People say, ‘How the hell did you do this?’ I don’t know. It just starts popping out of your head and you draw the line. It happens. Basically, stuff got to me, so I painted it.”

Homelessness is one issue weighing heavily on Sazevich’s mind these days, causing him to dig deep into his conscience. In “Trickle-Down Economics,” a forlorn man sleeps on cement, trapped by a massive grid amid paste-ups of Chronicle clippings about the crisis. These, along with the many layers of color and a tracing of a salvaged grate, intensify the depth and sorrow depicted, and solidify the artist’s message: “Pay attention to what the hell is happening.”

Sazevich’s show coincides with the publication of his biography, “Time in my Coffee,” a charming and informative local family history interwoven with vintage photographs and the artist’s sketches and paintings. The book is available at the gallery and Point Reyes Books.

 

“Time in my Art” closes this Sunday at Gallery Route One, in Point Reyes Station.

 

Peggy Day began to study art after a near-fatal brain injury due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Today, she cherishes her family, clean air, and living in beautiful Point Reyes Station.