"Forging Love and Wearing Sculpture - The Art and Romance of Svetozar and Ruth Radakovich"
This is a love story set against the Cold War with our lovers separated by the Iron Curtain. We begin with Toza's Yugoslavian background and his post WWII romance with Ruth and their escape attempts, secret messages and codes exchanged. A happy ending as they are ﬁnally reunited and study jewelry-making with European masters, then immigrate to the United States. They settle in Rochester, NY amid an avant guard art community then move to Encinitas, CA and become part of the post-modern California Design era and the American Arts and Crafts revolution - an exciting period now being rediscovered and celebrated. Their contribution was amazing and little has been documented on ﬁlm about these important art movements.
This is a ﬁlm for anyone inspired by romance, courage and art.
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 youʼd 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 friendʼs 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 ʻdelight mom and dadʼ collection.
It was an easy thing to make them happy, what I didnʼt realize was why. I knew my father was from another country - 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 Tozaʼs 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 ʻwearable sculptureʼ (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
Where we are now
So far we have amassed interviews with artists, peers, historians, curators and road trip discoveries that detail their career and the art scene they helped shape. We ﬁlmed their artwork in museums and private collections and interviewed old friends wearing their treasured pieces while learning how they came to own them.
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 and there are volumes of photographs, documents and audio tapes which will be used to tell their story.
I was advised by James Hubbell, an artist and contemporary of theirs - and a man who makes visions come to life - not to wait for funding. So I plunged in with both feet. "Just start working and the resources will come." He said. He was right! We were gifted enough for an amazing start. We are taking full advantage of our first donations and are on fire to continue.
In the process of researching for their biography and film, I have connected with galleries, museums, curators and collectors. They have included them in many recent exhibitions, books and articles on the mid-century artists that are now the subject of celebrated focus. This film comes at a perfect time.
There is much 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
I now draw on the creative spark that once animated Ruth and Toza and ask for help to complete their documentary. We need more than we dare ask for and need help to continue. We are looking for donations and help in any capacity... airline miles, hotel and car rental vouchers, restaurant gift cards, printing, anything to reduce our out of pocket expenses, man hours, research, anything. We welcome your ideas, information and help in any form.
We are now focused on getting the trailer ﬁnished. Ultimately there will be a feature length ﬁlm. It will be shown at events, ﬁlm festivals, galleries, museums and aired on PBS.
We urge you to become part of the process!
Allow us to tell their story and you will be rewarded with a great ﬁlm.
Please pass on the word. Please donate.
I would like to express my gratitude and on behalf of my parents, to all those who are helping with this project and to those of you who might consider joining us. -- Jean Radakovich