Governor YEVGENY VLADIMOVICH, Miss Saperstein of the United States Consulate, and Director Elena Petrovna, it is an honor for me to be here in Dmitry Pumpyansky’s beautiful gallery. Before anything I wish to thank Creative Director and Curator Elena Shipitsyna for inviting me here as well as the United States Consulate in Yekaterinburg for their assistance. The Russian Federation Ministry of Culture, through the Rosphoto Museum in St Petersburg, and the Italian Foreign Ministry, through the Italian Consulate and Italian Institute of Culture in Saint Petersburg, originally, sponsored ‘Evaporations’ after it had begun at the Paolo Morello Studio in Palermo.
I have always been interested in this great city named after one of Russia’s most interesting women - -and we all know Russian women are strong and always try to change their men to make them, as they see it, better!
Yekaterinburg is a well-known crossroad between Europe and Asia and its museums, its people, its culture is unique and this is known not only in the Ural but also in all of Russia and in Europe where I live.
How could I, an artist, not be happy to be in the city that helped save precious works of art from the Hermitage museum of Leningrad? The difference between Moscow and Sverdlovsk is that Sverdlovsk returned the works of art after the war whereas the Pushkin museum in Moscow still refuses to do so!
As you know, I am also involved in theatre and I am aware that you have one of the most interesting theatre movements in Russia, New Drama, with playwrights Nikolai Kolyada, Konstantin Kostenko, the Prensakov brothers and Oleg Bogayev…And of course also being a lover of dance I am happy to be in what is called the Capital for Contemporary Dance with Kipling and Tantstrest…
My sons, sons who are musiciens said to me: “Dad, do you know how cool Ural Rock is”? I told them I thought Russian rock was in St Petersburg but they said: NO! NO! You must listen to Ural Rock from Yekat!
And my sister, an international poet who teaches at Harvard University told me about Ilya Kormiltsev and Evgeny Malakin or, as you know him Old Man Bukashkin! What creativity in your town! What amazing artists!
Some of you are old enough to remember a very different time, a time when the Soviet anti-aircraft, in May of 1960, shot down the American pilot Francis Gary Powers, then captured him and sentenced to 7 years of hard labor…only to be later exchanged for Rudolph Abel. Today the world has changed a lot and so the great American director Steven Spielberg has just made a film about it! A sign of the times is that, in the film Rudolph Abel is a very interesting and heroic person in his film.
I am talking about your town, about things you know. But maybe I can bring to your attention one thing that some of you, especially the younger ones here, might not know about your great city, this city of the wonderful collection of Nevyansk Icons that I saw today in Yevgeny Vladimovich’s museum and it is this:
In 1987, American singer Tina Turner, a great friend of the Soviet Union, recorded two songs in Vladimir Yelizarov's Recording Studio that later appeared on her 1989 album Foreign Affair; she did this while she was here for her ‘Break Every Rule’ World Tour.
Why do I talk about all of this? Because I am a guest in your city and guests must learn about their hosts, their culture, their ways - -and also because I believe my work must speak for itself; these photographs either speak to your eyes and soul or do not. If my work does then you have given me another reason to get out of bed tomorrow, if it does not it is also OK and I will still get up - -only because I have to, sadly, catch a plane.
Whatever the result I am honored and happy to be standing here tonight, with you, my Russian cousins, to show you my work. I hope that you enjoy it. Spasiba agromni!
John R. Pepper Wednesday
December 16, 2015