Yuri Trushin and Stretch Smith

Joshua artist Yuri Trushin shows Rotarian Lowell “Stretch” Smith Jr. pieces of his artwork during Thursday’s Cleburne Rotary Club meeting.

Many, Joshua artist Yuri Trushin said, might wonder who is this guy in Texas with the strong Russian accent?

Although born in Moscow he “all the sudden” moved to Lubbock in 2000, Trushin explained.

“From huge, big city to Lubbock, Texas,” Trushin said. “My wife went to medical school at Texas Tech. My first question was, where are the people? I grew up in a huge city. Here there were no pedestrians, no people. Then I figured out where are all the people. They are in the cars. If they’re not in cars they are in malls or shopping.”

Once his wife finished medical school the couple decided to relocate.

“In Texas, of course, because Texas is the best state in the United States,” Trushin said to enthusiastic applause. 

Trushin discussed his life and art gallery during Thursday’s weekly luncheon of the Cleburne Rotary Club.

A former Soviet Army border patrolman, Trushin also worked as a historian, international journalist and logged several years on Radio Moscow. In addition to Russian, Trushin said he speaks fluent Thai, Laos and several other languages as well as “a bit of English.”

“Which is why, if you come to the gallery, you will see a lot of art from different places,” Trushin said. “Asia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, India, France, Italy. A lot from Russia, of course.”

The Red Horse Art Gallery, 205 E. Henderson St., grew out of a suggestion from Songbird Live owner Tom Burkett, who also owns the gallery building.

“Last November Tom asked us to do a pop up art exhibition for Christmas,” Trushin said. “The building was not good but we thought, okay. That show was very good and a success.”

Trushin demurred when Burkett broached the idea of a permanent art gallery but reconsidered once Burkett agreed to renovate the building. That led to the front room of the building opening to the public in March. The hallway and two back rooms have since opened. The gallery stays open late on the nights of Songbird Live concerts across the street, Trushin said, so as to add to the options of downtown activities.

Trushin said that, with five kids, he was considering trading his old vehicle in for a new one last year.

“But, instead of a new minivan for us, Cleburne has a new art gallery,” Trushin joked. “It’s a good, upscale gallery so you don’t have to got to Fort Worth to see something interesting. People say it’s a nice business but for me it’s not a business project. It’s an educational project.”

In addition to Trushin’s works, several of which he displayed during Thursday’s meeting, the works of fellow Cleburne artist Tim Goss are displayed and for sale at Red Horse Art Gallery.

So are artworks for special shows and other area artists. 

A reception will be held 12-4 p.m. Saturday for Fort Worth artist Darlia Hobbs who creates through acrylics, mixed media, collage and paint pouring techniques. 

The Skeleton Leaf Art Show, including works from India, China and Vietnam, runs through September, a delicate art form believed to have originated around 3000 BC. Trushin hopes to schedule a show of European etchings and engravings for October.

“Unusual shows we want,” Trushin said. “Things you cannot see anywhere but here in Cleburne so that you can go to Cleburne instead of [Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum].”

His passion for art, Trushin said, stems from a young age and credited his uncle, a famous Russian watercolor artist, for mentoring him. Trushin said he also gives back through his art. 

“Every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. we have art classes,” Trushin said. 

In addition to traditional art classes, Trushin also specializes in neurographics, a technique developed by a Russian psychiatrist that relies on the strong link between visualization and memory.

“It helps with problems of memorization, cases of brain damage and restoring memory,” Trushin said. 

A course on art history is also in the works, Trushin added.

The classes are generally for those 14 and up. 

Trushin encouraged residents to follow Red Horse Art Gallery’s Facebook page for upcoming events and classes.

Rotarian Jeff Pakeltis recommended the Skeleton Leaf Art Show to all and asked Trushin to repeat the story of the monks in Laos.

Trushin explained that he likes to take his easel outside to paint the nature surrounding him, something that often results in curious people coming around to bother him. Laotions being no different.

“A bunch of them came around talking and wondering what’s this white guy doing?” Trushin said. “They couldn’t imagine why I was standing there painting. When I turned to talk to them they scattered. So I decided to go to a Buddhist temple instead of the public spaces for quiet.”

The Buddhist monks were no less interested.

“A whole bunch of younger monks in orange robes surrounded me while I was painting,” Trushin said. “I put my Walkman on to listen to music. Then, here comes the big guy monk. Painting is like a process of meditation. I need to isolate myself. It’s very hard for me to concentrate otherwise. So I used that and told them I was meditating. They understood that. They were saying, ‘Oh no, don’t come close to him. He’s busy meditating.’ So, you just have to find the right word sometimes.”

The Laos language proved a challenge in his younger days, Trushin said. During his student days at Moscow State University Trushin said he was already fluent in Thai and planning to spend a semester studying in Thailand. Civil unrest in that country scuttled such plans and the powers that be sent Trushin and fellow students to Laos instead.

“They asked if we wanted to go and we said, ‘Yes, of course,’” Trushin said. “But we didn’t know the language  and had to learn in on the spot. It felt like learning Spanish but then being sent to Italy. It took a couple of weeks just to understand what was going on around me, how to buy food and do this and that. But, when I came back home I was probably the best Laos speaking Russian in Russia.”

Cleburne Rotary President Mollie Mims said the Red Horse Art Gallery represents the beginning of something great in Cleburne. 

“It’s a destination in Cleburne and absolutely wonderful,” Mims said. “I was blown away by the skeleton leaf exhibit and encourage anyone who hasn’t paid a visit yet to stop by.”

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