Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Thrill of the Trip

When I was in my third year at Amherst College in 1964, I chose Fine Arts as my major field. Why? Truth be told, it was the last department in which I could major and still graduate with the Class of 1965. I had previously tried both Physics and Pre-Med, and in both cases discovered that I really didn't want to work that hard. So, I fell back on an old love from high school, technical drawing, and majored in Art with a concentration in architectural history and design. I graduated having taken the first course in almost every science taught at Amherst, plus a bit of Latin, Spanish, and Classics, along with the minimum requirements for an art degree. Today, I am satisfied with that checkered record.

How did fine arts lead to a career in manufacturing, and a second career as a business professor? That is too long a story for this time and place. But, as I have told my students, one never knows when his schooling will become relevant, though, in time, most of it will, often in ways that thrill us. An example is in Sunday's Moldavia post. My fascination with the depicted outcropping of shale and slate, both formations standing nearly on edge, but with contrasting shear planes, and my recognition of the differing ages and types (sedementary and metamorphic rock) was a result of my having taken Geology 101 at Amherst.

At Putna we spent on Saturday over an hour walking the grounds and going through the museum. When we came out of the museum, my arthritic right hip was aching, and I was hungry. Alexandru asked, "Do you want to go into the church?" I said, "I do not feel compelled... Well, okay, if you'd like to." I came that close to missing my meeting with Mihai Moroşan ("Moroshan").

Moroşan at work in Putna Monastery

When I saw Moroşan at work, I walked to his scaffold, and stood watching for at least five minutes. Then, he turned to me, and our grey beards produced immediate rapport. I introduced myself, mentioning that I was a visiting professor in Cluj, from a small university in New Hampshire. He asked in perfect English, "Hampshire? U.K?"  I replied, "No, NEW Hampshire, USA."

Mr. Moroșan said, "USA! I have worked in Los Angeles and San Diego. I love San Diego."

We talked for at least the next twenty minutes. Mihai speaks Romanian, Greek, English, German, French, and Arabic, and "gets by" in Italian and Spanish. He has two sons living in Cyprus, where he owns a second home. They, too, are fresco artists, and are helping to paint a church on that island, under Mihai's direction. Moroşan  had two students/apprentices working with him at Putna, as well, painting the borders of his frescoed saints' faces. It appeared that he alone was doing the faces. It was dark in the church. I asked if I might take his picture, and he consented, so long as I not use a flash. The image above was digitally brightened. Here is the original.

Mihai Moroşan is my latest friend in Romania. I hope to see him again, and to accept his invitation to bring Shirley to his home to meet his wife and family. I hope to hear more of his stories, for those that he told in our brief time together were spellbinding. (As the time he faced a firing squad in Syria, accused of being a spy. He credits his knowledge of Arabic with his very life.)

In closing, I offer thanks to the late Professor Charles Morgan of Amherst College, in whose History of Art course I first learned of the fresco, and of the rich tradition of such illuminated walls in and on Eastern Orthodox churches. Little did I expect ever to be present during their creation.

[For Search Purposes: Morosan]


nedeia said...

Dear Duncan,

We have also met Mr. Mihai Morosan this year, a few days ago. Me and my husband are Romanians, but we talked to him in Romanian, French and English, as I think he loves foreign languages and loved to "test" us :) .

the church is more beautiful than before, and now it is almost finished.

If you are interested , it will be inaugurated on September 7th 2009, and I guess he will be there to explain more about his work. Maybe my husband and I will be there that day too, but one never knows ...

Nice meeting you via this story! I really hope that you loved Bucovina and that you will visit us soon!

Nell said...

Mihai Morosan is a great friend of mine. We met as he painted a Byzantine church in Amman, Jordan. He has painted some of the greatest monasteries and Cathedrals in the world. He should be honoured for his work!
I too have been a gust in his house in Suceava but have since lost his address. I wrote you a personal email to which I hope you will respond, in order to send me his address.