EVANSTON, Illinois—I knocked on the steel door of Mindaugas Vitkauskas’s functional workshop in Evanston, Ill., and was cordially greeted. I had heard about Vitkauskas for several years and now was meeting the ingenuous and versatile artist.
Vitkauskas has an aura that is intense. His carefully chosen words are like blocks of glass, which exactly support his ideas and feelings. He looks like a Renaissance figure with a physique chiseled by a rich, spiritual life—experienced rather than imagined. He emanates a spiritual presence reflecting another era and place, A.D. 1250 came to mind, when the Liths united to form Lithuania (under a king named Mindaugas!).
Fast-forward almost 800 years to Mindaugas Vitkauskas, who was born in 1970 in Vilnius, the capitol of Lithuania. As a child, he studied introductory music courses and applied arts at the Secondary Arts School of Vilnius.
Monti, as his friends call him, was always surrounded by the fine arts and music. One of the greatest violinists in history was born in Vilnius, Lithuania—Jascha Heifetz.
So rich is Vilnius’s artistic tradition that early spring is celebrated with Kaziuko muge, an annual festival featuring the best weavers, blacksmiths, potters, and other craftsmen from all over Lithuania. They gather there each year with their handcrafted products made according to old Lithuanian folk traditions.
Vitkauskas works in many mediums: oil painting, murals, sculpture, mosaic, and stained glass works. The latter are superb and often huge.
Most recently, Vitkauskas was awarded an important commission of a stained glass mural for installation at the St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church in Scottsdale, Ariz. Vitkauskas transported the glass pieces in a special van he customized himself.
Church members were overwhelmed upon seeing the stained glass mural for the first time, and the installation continues to draw accolades from visitors. The work is an important contribution to the church.
While visiting Vitkauskas’s studio, I meditated upon some of his beautiful works. As in music, an overall unity and simplicity are overriding components for the consummation of an artistic idea. Understated beauty becomes its hallmark. This is apparent in Vitkauskas’s work.
Vitkauskas seems to separate himself from the pack by following his conscious side and his innermost impulses. In creating an auditory artwork or a lasting visual creation, the overview of the work is constantly considered, and yet inspiration may change the direction of a piece. In music and in art, unplanned beauty lets us escape from the tyranny of monotonous symmetry. An artist’s ability to avoid predictable outcomes is welcomed.
In a brochure, Vitkauskas describes the concepts of his art:
“You might find some mystery in my art. I have been looking for it everywhere: whether it be in the depth of the oceans of the past, in the light gust of wind from the angel’s wing, or maybe just in the elegant gesture of a woman. This is the wonder of life, this is what makes me wonder.”
Exceptional artists with much to say often remain invisible to society. I do not want to imply Vitkauskas’s work has never been noticed. His work can be found as far away as the Canary Islands. It is exhibited in St. Petersburg, Russia, Poland, and appropriately in a monastery in Lithuania. But for the most part, Vitkauskas is largely unknown in the United States, where he now lives with his family.
Vitkauskas deserves a prominent place in the arts world commensurate with his talent. Yet only the bold or inquisitive seek out the beauty of profound artists not yet in the mainstream.
Remember the name Monti Mindaugas Vitkauskas. Experiencing his art may very well provoke your own sense of inspiration and imagination.
Eric Shumsky is a concert violist. For more information, see www.shumskymusic.com.
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