"Forging Love and Wearing Sculpture"
The Art and Romance of Svetozar and Ruth Radakovich
Young lovers, torn apart by the Cold War's iron curtain, overcome impossible odds to be reunited and forge their place in the world as pioneering designer-craftsmen.
Amid reviving interest for midcentury art and design, the Radakovich's work and creative lifestyle - where work and leisure become indistinguishable, are put into context as we highlight San Diego's studio crafts community.
Ruth Clark and Svetozar (Toza) Radakovich employed their artistry to survive and escape from post-war Yugoslavia then make their place in the international art world. The story is pieced together by their daughter Jean, after her promise to preserve their legacy. Her travels to research her parents story becomes a journey of her own as she interviews artists and visits museums across the country. From Europe to New York to California, Ruth and Toza take the art world by storm and enliven the Post-Modern Arts and Crafts Movement as they settle in an exciting and innovative art community still thriving in San Diego today.
Why the film?
The Radakovich's contribution was significant and little has been documented on film about this important and innovative art movement.
The post-modern California Design era and the American Arts and Crafts revolution mark a unique time that developed through a confluence of events after WWII. That pioneering spirit is making a comeback in the form of the makers studios which are gaining popularity. We hope to help enliven the revival of this independent, creative lifestyle.
Svetozar (Toza) and Ruth Radakovich forged a remarkable adventure together through art and love. After their deaths, it became clear a legacy was slipping away. The process of creating this film has brought out personal insights, inspirations and an excitement to share the creative part of human nature common to us all. Story telling is an age old art form that connects people across time and culture. Inspired and expanded by the experiences of others, we become more than the sum of the lives we learn about. This film is for anyone touched by love, courage and art.
A book is no longer the only primary media of the times, particularly among the younger generation. A film seems a more appropriate vehicle to share our largely visual adventure.
Where we are with the project:
We continue to collect interviews with artists, peers, historians, curators and road trip discoveries that detail their lives and the art scene they helped shape. We filmed their works in museums and private collections and interviewed friends and collectors whose treasured pieces have become the keepers of the memories they share of Ruth and Toza.
There is an outstanding archive of love letters, including the clandestine originals passed through the iron curtain once hidden under watercolor paintings, still color stained. There are telling sketches of life and of designs taking form, volumes of photographs, documents, audio tapes and artwork which we are organizing to help us tell their story.
I was advised by James Hubbell, an artist and contemporary of theirs - a visionary and master of transforming intention to reality - not to wait for funding. "Just start working and what you need will come." He said. He was right! We were gifted the resources for a significant start. We have taken full advantage of our donations and are working hard to continue.
The process of researching, has reconnected the Radakovich's legacy to galleries, museums, curators and collectors. As a result, they have been enthusiastically included in many recent exhibitions, books and articles. Midcentury artists are currently the subject of celebrated focus. This film comes at a perfect time.
There is exciting work in front of us. Filming the backdrop for their love story requires travel to Europe (former Yugoslavia, France, Denmark) and then comes the artful task of editing.
What we need now is YOUR HELP!!!
We are drawing on the creative spark that animated Ruth and Toza to boldly ask for help to complete their documentary. To continue we need financial backers and grants. We welcome help in ANY capacity... man hours, research, grant writers, printing, anything to reduce our expenses. We also need help spreading the word via social media and promotion. We welcome your ideas, information and support in any form.
We are now focused on funding our final filming trip; Europe in the spring of 2016!
Ultimately there will be a feature length film which will be shown at events, film festivals, galleries, museums, aired on PBS and art film theaters.
We urge you to become part of our filming journey!
Allow us to tell their story and you will be rewarded with a great film.
Please pass the word. Please donate - funds or time, we are enormously indebted for any help.
Finally, I would like to express mountains of gratitude to all those who are already supporting this project. It's an exciting adventure. Thank You! -- Jean Radakovich and family
A daughter’s perspective
Eating a steak dinner could reveal an award winning design for my mother. What was left on your plate could be worth more than the meal you'd eaten (one of her prize winning pieces was a brooch inspired by the shape of a t-bone). Life for my parents was all about form and texture. Analysis of food bones, naturally, became part of our dinner ritual. My sister and I thought this sort of revelation was normal - it was for us, but none of our friend's families did things like that.
At the beach, we were trained to look for just the right shape of rock to be used as a base for small sculpture. Playing in our neighborhood we developed radar for seed pods and oddities; we knew what could be cast in metal and what would bring ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ upon presentation. We also knew which desert weeds would make treasured additions to the 'delight mom and dad' collection.
It was an easy thing to make them happy, what I didn't realize was why. I knew my father was from an 'iron curtain' country. I'd heard that term and people said he had an accent. They were resourceful, unafraid of new territory and my mother often made guarded but disquieting reference to their experiences in ways that mostly escaped me at the time. These were clues to their epic tale of love and survival. I now marvel at the challenges they overcame, not just to survive, but to be together. Through political tyranny and separation they sent messages to one another hidden in pill bottles and letters written and painted over. My father told of forging documents at gunpoint, stowing away under trains and an escape attempt across the Adriatic in a stolen boat.
In the world of art, Ruth and Toza's innovative style-of-being coincided with an exciting and formative time and they became an integral and dynamic force in the post war craft revolution. This was a rich and discrete movement that is both everywhere and still largely unrecognized, yet continues to inform us in the evolution of style. Although the Radakoviches were best known for their 'wearable sculpture' (usually referred to as jewelry) they were masters of many media, continually mining inspiration from the natural world.
"The things you like and are exposed to all your life become a part of you and emerge in your art." - Ruth