Capturing the Art of Imprisonment
Prison Art Soviet
Over the span of about four decades, the late Russian artist Vasily Konovalenko (1929–1989) produced more than 70 wonderful gem-carving sculptures that depict themes and scenes of Russian folk life. Twenty Konovalenko sculptures are on permanent display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science; another 20 sculptures are on permanent display at the State Gems Museum in Moscow.
One of Konovalenko’s most spectacular pieces is called “Prisoners,” in which two cold men use an ax and a saw to build a shelter at a Siberian labor camp. The snow-and-ice surface on which they work is a single slab of white quartz; the wood being sawed is actually petrified wood carved to look like milled lumber. Their uniforms are made of zebra jasper; their boots are obsidian.