Anton Yakushev came to the U.S. from Russia on a three-month visa to teach blacksmithing on the West Coast. A sculptor of international renown, his work was blackballed by Putin for its anti-war sentiment.
Cathy Conheim, a San Diego therapist and long-time friend and patron of James Hubbell, volunteered to house Anton and his wife at her second ‘tiny’ home in Oregon. When the war with Ukraine broke out, Anton’s attorney quit, saying it was a conflict of interest as she was Ukranian (Anton’s mother is also Ukrainian). He found himself stranded in Oregon, with no money, no attorney, and no access to the tools of his livelihood.
Cathy found excellent attorneys in Washington DC to help Anton apply for an Einstein Visa, awarded to those with extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business, or athletics. Here under asylum laws and fearing death or imprisonment if he returns to Russia, Anton remains in Oregon, a man without a country. And as he waits, he creates.
On a recent trip to visit Cathy here in San Diego he learned of another sculptor’s journey to find beauty despite great personal tragedy—the story of James and Anne Hubbell and the Cedar Fire that destroyed their home and studios at Ilan-Lael almost 20 years ago.
Cathy told Anton that after the Cedar Fire gutted buildings and charred the landscape of Ilan-Lael in Santa Ysabel, James took to his paints to find solace. During that difficult time, James began using the color black in his watercolors for the first time.
Left, Spencer Knight and Hubbell Studio artist John Wheelock in the Big Studio at Ilan-Lael. Center, Spencer Knight and Anton Yakushev at the forge. Right, Anton uses heat and fire to shape red hot metal at the forge.
Amid the ashes James’ art-glass supplies had been transformed by the intense heat into rivers, globes, and distorted chunks of gorgeous molten glass. James has used these glass elements over the years in many of his sculptures, creating beauty once again amid loss.
Anton was inspired.
Metal is heated to red hot temperatures so it can be formed and shaped.
On Monday, with James’s blessing, Anton visited Hubbell Studios along with Cathy’s partner’s son Spencer, who also learned welding in Hubbell’s metal studio nine years ago under the watchful eyes of blacksmith, John Wheelock.
John came to Hubbell Studios more than 25 years ago on Cathy’s recommendation, after he was laid off from an office job. John had the soul of an artist and with James as his teacher and mentor he developed into a great talent. Over the decades John has helped bring James’s designs to life, creating the metal works for doors, stained glass windows, gates and railings, and of course—sculptures.
Anton bends the metal to match his chalk drawings on the floor of the studio.
Soon the sparks were flying around the forge and anvil, and a new work was born.
Made with metal cradling molten glass, Anton’s piece symbolized rebirth and survival. In appreciation for all John has done for James and Ilan-Lael, and for Cathy’s role in fostering artistic talent, Anton decided that his first and only sculpture made in Hubbell Studios should go to John Wheelock, the man who helped bring so many exquisite pieces into existence. In John’s quiet and unassuming way, he accepted the gift, surprised and pleased.
Anton uses elements of molten glass cradled by metal, a symbol of rebirth and survival.
We at Ilan-Lael are proud to open our doors to artists, skilled and novice alike.
So many artists and visitors have been touched by the power of imagination embedded in Hubbell Studios. Throughout his life James Hubbell has always given artists like John and Anton the opportunity to turn adversity into art, and find a path in life they could never have imagined.
You can view Anton’s work at antonyakushev.com. Many of his anti-war sculptures were made of bits of metal from helmets, armor, and bullets from WWII. He is now planning a series of sculptures from ashes to art using pieces of fire glass from Ilan-Lael.
Please help us give the gift of creativity to our community.
Anton Yakushev’s finished piece that he made at Ilan-Lael and presented as a gift to Hubbell Studio artist John Wheelock.
Anton Yakushev is an award-winning sculptor based in the USA whose works have been exhibited nationally, as well as in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. The central message in his art is humanism and he explores themes relating to both World Wars and the Indigenous people of America. Yakushev, a blacksmith since his teenage years, primarily creates using steel.
See more of Anton’s work.
Additional works by Anton Yakushev using glass and forged metal.
PHOTO AT TOP OF PAGE: Anton Yakushev working in the studio at Ilan-Lael. PHOTOS: Cathy Conheim
SLIDE SHOW: Creating the Sculpture with Anton Yakushev at Ilan-Lael
This series of photos by Cathy Conheim takes you from the finished piece by Anton Yakushev back through the process to its original elements where it was created along with metal artist Spencer Knight in the Big Studio at Ilan-Lael.