The Associative Press

Russian American Cultural Center of New York
Dec 30, 2013 1:05AM

The Associative Press (TAP), a literary and arts journal, interviews Dmitry Borshch:

Please describe “The Making of Brothers”.

This drawing is an allegorical interpretation of the ceremony of adelphopoiesis, which I translate as “the making of brothers”, hence the drawing’s name.  I started drawing it in ninety-eight simply as a ceremonial double portrait with a reptile; two Polish youngsters posed for this as yet unnamed ceremony during one afternoon.  Unsure of the ceremony’s name and purpose, I left the drawing unfinished for about five months.  When something reminded me of adelphopoiesis, which I read about in the book called “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe”, probably in late ninety-five, I rushed to finish the drawing.  It was finished in January of last year and is about forty-two by thirty-seven inches.  The reptile, which could be a crocodile or an alligator, symbolizes homoerotic yearning.

How did thisdouble portrait with a reptile” come about?  Was it something you were commissioned to do?  If the idea of adelphopoiesis didn't strike you until later, what was the original impetus for the portrait?

Two thoughts led me to draw “The Making of Brothers” which was not commissioned.  Firstly, I saw a yellowish nineteen-fifties photograph on eBay of a preteen girl riding a wooden crocodile. It reminded me of my being photographed by somebody in Yevpatoria on a similar photographer’s prop when I was four or five.  Such reminders are valuable because they allow one to personalize a found image.  Secondly, I was challenged by some technical difficulties: the youngsters were sketched at different scales, one sketch was nearly twice as large as the other.  “If I can organize them into a coherent portrait,” I thought, “my abilities as a portraitist would be strengthened.”

Prior to the camera, portraiture was exclusively in the hands of the fine artist. Now that everyone carries around a cell phone camera in their pockets and can capture anyone at any moment in their life, what roles do the traditional methods of portraiture play?

The place one assigns to “traditional”, meaning not photographic, portraiture depends on how he views photography. As a collector of photographs for about ten years now, I view it as a fascinating craft but not a “fine art”. For many it has become Art, no less so than painting or sculpting, which is wrong. So, for me non-photographic portraits have increased in importance commensurately with the increase in acceptance of photography as Art.

Does not the attentive photographer select his subject and compose his image to the same degree as a painter?

A photographer – unlike a painter – never fully owns the facture of his works and I always place the best painter above the best photographer.

It seems like capturing a perfect likeness of your subjects is secondary to something else in these portraits. Can you talk about the importance to you of capturing a “meta-physical” vs. physical verisimilitude?

If by “perfect likeness” you mean a photographically precise rendering, that is not possible in my type of pen-and-ink drawing. If it were, I would not strive for it. There must be a balance between the idealized and the factual in art; photorealism, because of its overreliance on photographs, fails to achieve that. I regard a drawing as unfinished, or preparatory to a more finished one, until it achieves a metaphysical significance.

Russian American Cultural Center of New York
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