Sunday, April 17, 2011


It seems like so many of the best stories I have are of the disasters, the misadventures, the challenges that I've come across, so I'm very pleased to finally tell a story about something unexpected and pleasant.

Yesterday, while enjoying the gorgeous spring weather, I ran into an American colleague and his wife, who invited me to join them to see an art gallery where they were going to finish a payment and pick up an order. I'm not a huge art enthusiast, but having nothing else to do, I went along.

The art gallery turned out to be the private residence of the artist, who is well known and respected within Tajikistan. The home was easily the most beautiful I've seen in Central Asia. There are two rooms to the small gallery/studio that they showed us. The entry way is lined with the proudly framed work of children who take art lessons there. The main gallery is bright with natural light coming in through the skylight in the high ceiling. The walls are lined from ceiling to floor with brightly colored heirlooms--wall hangings passed down through the generations, grandmother's embroidered wedding dress, and, of course, the artist's work, which is stunning. The best part of this room was the grapevine, which the room was actually built around, so that the vine comes up through the floor and out through the wall onto an arbor outside, creating shade in the courtyard. The vine itself was another heirloom, having been planted by the grandfather.

As if this weren't surprising enough, the artist's family had laid out a full feast for their expected guests (making me feel guilty for tagging along, but Tajik people are always prepared for extra guests, and I think this family sincerely enjoys being hosts). This particular spread was in gratitude, I suppose, for the substantial purchase that my friends were making. The artist's life work, it seems, is reviving the Persian miniature style of painting. I thought that this meant little paintings, but most of them are quite large. It simply means that the subjects are miniature, which means that his work is rich with detail, and they are like illustrations--they tell a story. He also makes these beautiful chess sets, one of which is what my friends were there to pick up. These chess sets are also beautiful and richly detailed, and each set is specific to one region in Tajikistan.

After enjoying traditional Tajik food and chatting about the history of all the interesting things in the gallery and about the family's work, a huge amount of picture taking ensued. We were taking pictures of everything in the beautiful gallery, and the family was taking pictures of us enjoying the gallery. We all ended up laughing about it the situation was so funny--all of us taking pictures of each other. We even took a group photo on a timer.

Ironically, I actually didn't have my own camera at the time, so I don't actually have any pictures at the moment, but check out the artist's website at this address: