Interviewer: Luciena Krumova
May 26th, 2006
Light to the Sky, a sculpture of a Bulgarian artist is displayed and adorns the JFK international airport
SOLITUDE IS THE STERNEST JUDGE OF ALL
In New York you sit for exam every single day says
New York’s JFK international airport, the biggest airport in the world, greets its cosmopolitan millions of passengers with Light to the Sky Sculpture made by Dimitar Lukanov. Presently, he is the most famous Bulgarian in the Mecca of world art after Christo. The 37-year old man from the town of Plovdiv has won the admiration of the onlookers for weeks on.
He starts treading his way of an artist at “Tsanko Lavrenov” Art school in the “city under the hills” - town of Plovdiv - then he continues on full scholarship at Parsons School of Design in Paris and after that in New York. He obtains a Master of Fine Arts Degree at Columbia University; he has taught sculpture and painting and has been a visiting professor in the three branches of Parsons School of Design – in New York, Paris and the Caribbean. A unique plastic work of art displayed in Mexico bear the signature of the Bulgarian artist. His works are owned by private and public collections in the United States, Switzerland, France, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Canada, Russia.
-Mr. Lukanov, do you often visit the JFK Airport to “look after” Light to the Sky Sculpture?
-The weeks after the inauguration were quite intensive and full of meetings. I often go to the JFK Airport, which is a veritable microcosm. The responsibility for this work was immense. It was not only a unique honor for me but it also
AN INVITATION FOR CONTEMPLATION AND RE-DISCOVERY
in the busy, contemporary world. Perhaps it comes from the sensation to witness the admiration of a Buddhist monk from Laos, or a couple landing from Tel Aviv, a Greek lady who has just arrived from Singapore, a banker from Ireland … The Mission – optimism, striving for spirituality, open-heartedness towards the numerous and endless nationalities, races, languages that make New York so colorful as no other place in the world.
-What is the ages-old wax technique you have used?
-Beeswax is a natural material untouched by human hand, free of human production. It is plastic and vital in its own way. The sculptures I make are unique and the risk is substantial. At no day of working on this sculpture was there any guarantee that result would be technically possible. In my way of working
THERE IS NO OTHER COPY OR REPRODUCTION
I think this technique has never been used on such a scale. The sculpture was cast in the foundry in the town of Sopot by foremen Bradov and Karachumakov.
-Do you feel at home in the Mecca of contemporary art?
-Your home is where you feel at home. It could be the one-minute glance onto the sparkling Fujiyama from the bus traveling on Tomei highway in Japan, the winter fog with the colorful spectral reflections of Batak Dam Lake, the charm of a child’s picture in a public school in an underprivileged neighborhood in New York. The recollection of the walk every morning to school in Plovdiv where
THE WHOLE MAGIC
of this 8,000 year-old city (nowadays turned into an uncontrollable bazaar) would bring to your sight a catholic cathedral, a mosque, an orthodox church, a synagogue, an Armenian church and all this within the stretch of some 15-20-minute walk; or the brief bow of worship in front of Virgin Mary icon in Monastery of Bachkovo – one of the world’s miracles to me. Today, the official capital of art is New York. It is said that about 50 000 artists work there and in this connection, the fact that the world has come to know a 37-year old Bulgarian artist is a wonderful sign.
-Which is the biggest compliment you have ever received and by whom?
I HAD THE GREAT LUCK
-my first sculptures to be seen by the two greatest Bulgarian sculptors – Georgi Chapkanov and Velichko Minekov. My gratitude towards both of them is unlimited. The turning point in my professional development was in 1984-1985. Then I kept up a correspondence with Henry Moore. For me his confirmation that I should keep on threading my way of a sculptor was of a great importance–I have wanted to become a sculptor since I was 6 years of age.
-Which artists do you communicate with in New York? Do you know personally Christo and Jean-Claude?
-Well, we do not live in the years of Bauhaus or the Russian constructivism when there were movements, conglomerates consisting of poets, architects, musicians, artists, scientists. Nowadays art is strictly individual and such big ambitions and plans like “let’s change the world” are a bit alien. It seems that the
HORIZONS OF ZEAL ARE GETTING NARROW.
Christo and Jean-Claude achieved a wonderful result, which has put the idea of art literally on the table. Central Park is the “table” where all New Yorkers “sit at”. Once I have listened to a lecture given by the project authors but I do not know them personally.
When I studied for a Master degree at Columbia University each Wednesday the living textbooks used to come in the studio – these were Frank Stella, Mary Miss, Jeff Koons, Richard Tuttle. They used to apply directly the mutually teaching method.
-Are you interested in the works of other artists-compatriots?
-The premiere of one of the musical compositions by our great composer Viktor Chuchkov by the Philadelphia Orchestra was a real pleasure. I stand in admiration before his talent – he is a phenomenal world-famous composer. I often work while listening to his music.
-How does a Bulgarian feel in New York?
-Each day is a first day. Each day is a new beginning. In New York you sit for exam every single day. Every next project should be more difficult and challenging than the previous one. The advantage of Bulgarians of my generation (when Armand Hammer’s collection was on a visit in Sofia and Vladimir Spivakov was playing in Plovdiv) is our vast studiousness. The iron discipline and the steadfast consistency in achieving one’s goals are also signs. The Bulgarian is born in a world crossroad and our millennial history should have prepared us for the open world. However, the real dimension for a man is what he does, and not where he comes from.
-How does a man devoted to art and charged with so many ambitions rest?
-I listen to a lot of jazz. I go for walks along the Hudson River (the only one with high and low tides in North America), I go to the ocean, I still delve into my collection of dictionaries.
-Is solitude the most fearful enemy to the immigrant?
-Loneliness is the sternest judge of all and yet at the same time, it’s the greatest ally. The real treasure is what our heads think of. You always must depend solely on yourself. There is no bigger or fuller sensation than the feeling that you build your own way by yourself, step by step.
-You are a famous workaholic. Has America turned you in such a keen professional?
-My work is my biggest pleasure. It is an unchanged constant for the human progress. Of course, it is not equal to time. Each work, verse, flower, delicious dish, thought have their lifetime. As longer I live, as deeper I understand the geniality and eternity of Vassil Levski’s thought: “Time is within us and we are within time.” It brings for me the same charge.
-Do you dream of Bulgaria?
-Yeh. I have been dreaming of Bulgaria when there spirituality was an aim.
-Have you found love?
-Love is a stimulus and an obstacle. I am completely devoted to my ideas and I am in a hurry to realize them. Our life is quite short and the meaning of being a human is to strive continuously to the unapproachable, to change the world.