Elene Lukhutashvili, 88, Telavi

„My mother was a teacher, a proud and beautiful woman. But she was paralyzed from childbirth after she had twins. Her husband abandoned her and left her alone with three children – my three-year old brother, my twin sibling and me. It was 1930 – the year of famine. My brother and my twin sister died of starvation. I was the only child that survived in the family. My mother had to start begging to feed me. Finally, I ended up in an orphanage. Somebody there wanted to adopt me. When my mother learnt about this, she took me back. She had to go through many suffering and difficulties to bring me up. When I turned 15, I started working at a thread dying factory. I worked there until it was demolished. I was so happy to buy a full loaf of bread and bring it home when I got my first salary! We had never head a whole loaf of bread at home before. I even devoted a piece of work to that loaf of bread. When I worked at the factory I illustrated the wall newspaper, I wrote poems and everything went well. I still write poems (she quotes her poem: „You brought me life and a lot of joy, let your journey of life be full of violates and roses, this is all I can offer you.”)

I loved painting but I did not have pencils and paints. I could not afford them so I used flower petals of different colors whenever something inside me pushed me to make pictures but after a couple of hours flowers would wither. I started wondering how to paint to make my pictures last longer. I realized that small stones were of different colors – grey, white, blue, black so I could make as many pictures as I wanted. So I used them as paints! Then I started collecting different items, broken vessels, etc. Do you know how I make different colors? I stick colored papers (used for folding chocolates) under the glass. I use everything, I create this beauty from rubbish. Rich people have everything but what should poor people do when they do not have anything but rich ideas? They should use their brains and think. So this is the product of my brains.

I have had a happy and joyful life. I put a message up at the entrance of the gallery (which is in the cellar) – „ My Old Age is Warmed by the Sun“- my creative work is my sun, which makes me happy. So I am happy that… well, I do not know… I always feel happy! What was I talking about?! Yes… there was an regional exhibition and I became the winner. I don’t want to sound cocky by saying that. One might think it’s not a big deal. But this is what really happened – I won. Then there was an exhibition in Tbilisi. Later, my works appeared in France. I visited France twice. There is an exhibition hall Grand Palais. When they saw my works, they probably thought “how can this plain woman make these pictures”?! They asked me whether I made paintings without sketches. I didn’t even know what that word meant. They told me sketch means an outline. I started making a picture right there. I feel like crying, do you know why? Is this anomaly or am I normal?! How do I do these things?! Anyway, one way or another, I made a picture in one week. After that my colleague, a lady – Elene, came up to me and told me “Do you know who you are?” “Who?” I wondered. “I am just an amateur who loves doing such kind of things”. “No, you are our national treasure”. Oh, am I?!… But I do not like exaggerating things. In short, they saw it and liked it very much.

I have hung my works in my cellar. I could not throw them away, could I? So I exhibited them. Do you know what I have done recently? I have built a castle of dreams. I want to build a dream castle in the new garden, which is in the square in Telavi. My work won’t be bad, I promise. I can imagine how young lovers will say to each other: “Let’s go to the Castle of Dreams and have some rest”. There is nothing better that being in love. Nothing better than being in the lover’s arms…the time goes so quickly, you are old in no time. So enjoy love my dear girls. There is nothing in the world that is without love. It so good to be young, when you are flirting with someone, when you want to get a boy to like you. When you flirt with your body. I used to flirt as well…

There is no art without audience. It does not make sense to do things and then hide them under your mattress. This is a disaster… When you create art, you believe that you do that not only for yourself, but for the future generation too. So, this art is not mine, it is yours. I will leave this world, I know that I will do that soon, I am already 88… I cannot sell my pictures. Would you be able to sell your child? So, I will not be able to sell them. When I am no longer alive, these pictures will become yours! There is neither museum nor any gallery in Telavi, they destroyed everything, but you will be able to find my pictures. I have over 500 pieces of work, which I have made for Telavi.”