Nicolai Medvedev

   Nicolai was born in 1950 in Ashkhabad, republic of Turkmenia. He was formally trained as an artist in the western European tradition both in art institutes in Ashkhabad and Moscow. His early art was influenced by French Impressionism and he painted in oils creating sunlit landscapes and still lifes. His eye for pattern and color, however, was schooled by daily life in his native Turkmenia, a land of carpets, mosques, and woven textiles. Always fascinated by minerals and gemstones, Medvedev would travel for hours on trains from Moscow to St. Petersburg to admire the massive malachite urns and lapis faced columns of the Hermitage Museum.

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   In 1980 Nicolai emigrated to the United States. There he exchanged his minerals suspended in linseed oil for the intensity and magic of the minerals themselves, virtually reinventing the tradition of pietra dura, or stone inlay, in the process.

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   Nicolai uses the colors of light - intense greens, golds, blues, pinks, and violets -created in the darkness of the earth's crust. Choice slivers of lapis lazuli, gold in quartz, rhodochrosite, azurite, malachite, sugilite, and opal are cut, polished, and placed in precise and startling juxtaposition to make his signed, one-of-a-kind pendants and boxes. Inspired by the geometric patterns of Turkmenia and the palette of the Impressionists, Medvedev's designs have recently come to assimilate the motifs and colors of the American Southwest, the source of many of his raw materials. Though he has cut thousands of stones, he is still surprised when he slices through a specimen to find the wings of a butterfly, a lotus flower, a night sky, or a gentle Tuscan landscape hidden in the rock. It is that continuing revelation that keeps the artist working in so labor-intensive a medium, inventing forms and frames for nature's own pictures.

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   The designs for a box almost always begin with an image he sees in a stone, and while the size and shape of the finished piece depend on that central picture, the box itself often suggests another natural form. Nicolai also plays with the solidity of the box, creating the illusion of windows on its surface. The openings can offer a view inward toward a darker, more intense image, but just as often they look into the skies of opal, azurite, or lapis lazuli; and the element of surprise isn't limited to the exterior of the box. The artist often breaks the spatial limits of the box by creating intimate vistas on the interior with "picture" jasper and other stones.

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   Today Nicolai Medvedev is considered a master lapidary of stone intarsia. He resides in New Jersey, and his boxes and pendants are collected worldwide and his work has been shown in major museums.

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   Given the beauty and aura of his creations, the unique nature of the specimens used in their making, and the selfless driven need to invest immense amounts of time in their crafting, it is clear that the works of this "great in any century" master are priceless.


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