A Portrait of Vika from the monthly "Time in Athens" (an English-language journal), article written by Ellen Sutton.
The word sculptor is Bildhauer in German -- a "hewer of pictures", and masculine in gender.  Vika Culver is a different kind of artist in this medium, a sculptor whose work responds more to the round shape of the letters s, c, u, p, and o and above all to the meaning of the word: to form.  Looking at her pieces, one can almost envision her hands cupped around the clay, moulding it, shaping it, coaxing it into giving birth to her final creation.

Vika has just been exhibiting work in the 3rd show of the Sculptor’s Union, outside the Athens Conservatory, the gardens of which are a lovely setting for the larger pieces of sculpture.  The Greek Sculptor’s Union is an attempt to go beyond the limiting confines of the galleries. 

The formative years

Vika had all her life expressed herself in drawings when she saw the sculptures of Frosso Eftimiadou.  She was so excited by them that she went to the artist to ask: how can I do that?  The advice was, go to Maroussi, get some clay, and shape it.  Taking for her model a young girl, Vika set to work -- and felt an unprecedented satisfaction in what she created: a plastic shape, a form in the round which she felt took her beyond anything she could achieve in her drawings.

That was the beginning.  An American, working for UNRRA (United Nations Rehabilitation Relief) at the time, managed to get her out of a Greece bleeding from the wounds of the war and the civil war, to study in America.  At the Kansas City Art Institute, she completed the lessons she had begun in Greece with the sculptor Aparti, a student of Bourdelle.  The New World gave her a tremendous sense of freedom after the miseries of the war years in Greece, and the progress she made in her work both fed on this sense of freedom and expanded on it.  Meanwhile she did not forget the country of her origin.  Dressed in the costume of her native Thessaly, she interrupted her studies to speak to women's groups, etc., asking for medical and other aid.  The response was generous, and the letters of gratitude from the recipients warm and plentiful.

Since 1973, Vika and Roy Culver have lived and worked in Greece, and now that she is free of her family commitments she is working harder than ever.  What are her plans, her ambitions?  "Just to go on working.  I feel so full.  I don't want fame or fortune.  I don't believe in that.  I want just enough to be able to work, to go on working and loving it."

She met her husband, the poet, in the States and had three children with him, and now also young grandchildren.  The fact that his blood is largely Cherokee Indian is a circumstance which fits quite naturally with Vika's work.

The work

One of Vika’s main themes might be said to be human relationships and intercommunication.  There are two pieces in the exhibition -- one large, one small -- which exemplify this to perfection.  The couple in "The embrace" are one single form although clearly man and woman; the exquisite small work "Sisters" is the epitome of comforting love, of mutual supportive sharing.

Vika's work -- largely in bronze -- shows a predilection for wholeness, roundedness, a sense of completeness.  Not for her the fractured, jagged spindly forms with which other sculptors express themselves.  This is evident even when the piece is composed of two units -- for instance the head of an old woman and that of a young girl: the two complement each other in form and content, the one expressing age, knowledge, compassion, the other innocence, curiosity, love.

A larger sculpture "The wave" is of a reclining female nude whose form echoes that of the earth -- hills, valleys, the surface growth of vegetation (long fine hair, rippling drapery over the knees) and, above all, the swell and foam of the sea.

Vika is without doubt a woman sculptor.  Not because her work lacks the massive size and thrusting aggressiveness of some of her male colleagues, but because of the creative content: all her sculptures are positive, expressive of the miracle of creation, of the unity of the cosmos.

This is not to say that they are all solemn; her "Lyknisma" -- the Greek word for an undulating, dance-like gait, half sauntering, half skipping -- is a joyful span-high masterpiece which evokes a smile of happy empathy.

All of Vika's work is a celebration of Life, and none more so than the superb "Offering", a hand holding in it's palm a newborn child.  This for me expresses more than any other of her sculptures Vika's innermost concern as expressed in her work: a deep compassion, understanding and love of life, a prayer of thanksgiving.

More commentary in English:

--from Greek periodicals

--by Christos Koulouris

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