|photos (around 1980) by A.S. Milovsky|
The creation in the image above is one of more than thirty scarecrows that in the 1970s/80s decorated a garden located in Vertlovo, a small village in the Yaroslavl region of Russia, about 250 km northeast of Moscow.
Life and works
This rather special art environment was created by Fedor Alexandrovich Zhiltsov (1900-1984), who was born into a peasant family in the village of Chukholza, near Vertlovo.
The photo below shows him in old age, sitting next to one of his creations, and looking at another.
Retired in 1960, Zhiltsov began making scarecrows, at first to scare birds away from his garden, but later mainly because of the satisfaction he got from making such creations. He made them freehand, without using any pattern or drawing, working elongated poles of ash wood with an axe, a saw and a knife as his only tools.
The scarecrows got a human appearance by providing them with a headgear, a face, red lips and the suggestion of an upper and lower body. His scarecrows had movable arms, one pointing upwards, the other downwards. Connected to an axis the arms could rotate, rising en felling alternately.
Zhiltsov's art environment got little publicity
In the early 1980s, Zhiltsov was interviewed by Alexander Sergejewitsj Milovsky, who prepared a book on Russian folk art, which was published in 1982 entitled Скачи, добрый единорог (Ride, Good Unicorn).
This probably is the only publication with a good description of the art environment and its creator. I would like to acknowledge that the text of this post is based upon the information in the article in Milovsky's book.
But then, in 2004, an article was published in a Yaroslav's newspaper, informing its readers about the creation of a museum dedicated to scarecrows. The article briefly mentions Fedor Zhiltsov and his art environment. It is reported that Zhiltsovs died in 1984 and that his house became neglected and empty, with a collapsed roof and a completely overgrown garden. It is also was stated that several scarecrows manufactured by Zhiltsov, came into the possession of relatives and neighbors.
A wooden sculpture of a man with rotating arms like Zhiltsov made, can also be found in the art environment made in the 1990s by Anatoly Varlamov. On the roof of his house stood a sculpture of astronaut Yuri Gagarin with arms rotating along his body. This site has also gradually disappeared.
* Alexander Sergejewitsj Milovsky, Скачи, добрый единорог (Ride, Good Unicorn), PDF-edition, 1982, -196 p