Tishkov brought his moon to Washington with the help of Dennis O’Neil, his longtime friend and collaborator.
O’Neil, a professor of fine art at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, recruited several Corcoran students to help photograph installations of Tishkov and his moon at night on the Mall; in the predawn hours at the National Aquarium and the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore; and at night at Antietam, the site of a brutal Civil War battle in Sharpsburg, Md. “We couldn’t have done this without the students,” O’Neil and Tishkov said, almost in unison.
An exhibit of “Private Moon: America” is being shown until Oct. 14 at Hand Print Workshop International in Alexandria. Tishkov maintains an ongoing photo journal of his decade-long “Private Moon” odyssey on blogspot.
O’Neil, 67, has been collaborating with Russian artists since he took a trip to Moscow in 1988 during the political reforms under Mikhail Gorbachev known as Perestroika. O’Neil met Tishkov in 1993, when O’Neil brought his printmaking methods and workshop to the Russian capital. In an unpublished memoir about his print work called “Process & Alchemy,” O’Neil describes his first meeting with Tishkov, the artist who would later become his friend.
“Leonid has a big, wide smile as if it had been unzipped rather than opened. His smile is a disarming invitation to enter his world for which he is an enthusiastic guide. . . . He is an anomaly, and an outsider, even to the sometimes quirky art world of Moscow.” Tishkov’s fanciful work and mythological world would “fly in the face of the more serious and critical art of the day.”
“I love children’s stories and fairy tales,” Tishkov said at the Alexandria opening on Sept. 12. It’s not surprising, perhaps, that one of his favorite children’s books is Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” He says he identifies with the young boy, Max.
Like many contemporary Russian artists, Tishkov has written and illustrated children’s books. “Malchik i Luna ’’(Boy and the Moon). He also is deeply attached to the stories of Nikolai Gogol, and he has created many cartoons and visions of mythological creatures in cartoon form. But the moon series has become a more accessible, universal way for him to tell his stories.
The most whimsical piece in the current show is “Lincoln Spaceship and Landed Moon.” The scene is lit and photographed as magic realism; the Lincoln Memorial appears to be floating in space while the moon is grounded at the edge of the reflecting pool. Another fairy-tale photo, “Moon Lighthouse of the Masonic Temple,” celebrates a magical feeling with a star-like floodlight twinkling on a point of the moon, which Tishkov holds aloft.