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From Russia with love

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Irina Galunina, of Stephens City, shows an illustrated children’s book from Russian artist Alexander Koshkin. Galunina, a friend of Koshkin, plans to show some of his work from her collection for a show at Irina’s Gift Shop in Kernstown. Behind her is Koshkin’s “The Seller of Cicadas.” Rich Cooley/Daily

About the artist

Russian artist Alexander Koshkin was born in 1952, and started drawing at the age of 3. He began working as a children's book illustrator when he was still a student. When the USSR opened up to the West, Koshkin was among the first illustrators to collaborate with foreign publishers -- in Britain and the U.S.

Koshkin became well-known in the 1980s, after the publication of "The Town in the Snuff-box," written by Russian Prince Vladimir Odoevsky and illustrated by Koshkin.
He began easel painting in the 1990s, creating works that are far different in style and subject matter from his book illustrations.

Koshkin has received various Russian and international awards for his illustrations, including a nomination in 2004 for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, sometimes referred to as the "Nobel Prize for children's literature."

In 2007, Koshkin's "Alice in Wonderland" was named the best book of the year by the International Board on Books for Young People.

Koshkin lives in Russia and is a professor at the Stroganov Moscow State University of Arts and Industry.

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Irina Bosworth, owner of Irina’s Gift Shop, holds some children’s books illustrated by Koshkin in Galunina’s home. Two more of Koshkin’s paintings hang on the wall behind her. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Koshkin's illustration of the poem Ruslan and Ludmila. Rich Cooley/Daily

Local women share heritage, plan exhibit in Kernstown

By Laetitia Clayton -- lclayton@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Irina Galunina's Stephens City home could almost be an art gallery for the works of Russian artist Alexander Koshkin. Seven of his paintings hang on the walls -- with an eighth one on the way, she said -- and stacks of children's books illustrated by Koshkin are piled on a table.

As a way to share Koshkin's art with a broader audience, Galunina and her friend, Irina Bosworth, decided to organize an exhibit at Bosworth's Kernstown business, Irina's Gift Shop.

The exhibit will be free and open to the public on Aug. 19 and 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. An invitation-only opening and cocktail party will be held Aug. 18 from 5 to 7 p.m.

"I've been thinking about [an exhibit] for a long time, but I didn't have the opportunity," Galunina said. "Then I met Irina ... and it just clicked. I have all these paintings and not too many people can see them."

Even though both women are from Moscow, they met each other through the gift shop after Bosworth opened it 21⁄2 years ago. Bosworth said she started six years ago with a boutique in Front Royal, where she still lives, but decided to move the business to Winchester in early 2009 to better serve the Russian community. At about the same time, she formed the Russian Club, which now meets monthly at her shop.

Irina's Gift Shop offers Russian and European food and gifts, items that Bosworth said were difficult to locate here.

"I always wanted to sell some Russian specialties and food items, the food items we grew up with," she said.

The shop's food section is not huge, she added, "but it's enough for the Russian community."

The two women estimated there are about 50 Russians living in the area.

The club has been a way for them not only to connect and socialize, but also to learn more about Russian history and culture. They discuss food, writers, poets, composers, artists and more, said Bosworth, who also teaches Russian language and Russian literature. She said she has been tutoring students privately for the past five years.

"That's why I'm so interested in Russian culture and literature," she said.

The exhibit is just one more example of the women's desire to share all things Russian.
Galunina said she met Koshkin in 1999 in Russia, when "he wasn't that famous."

"He is now," she added, "but he doesn't have that 'star disease,' as we call it. He hasn't changed."

Galunina described Koshkin as a kind and modest man who doesn't seek out publicity. But he also believes that art improves people's lives, she said.

"He still thinks that beauty will change the world," Galunina said. "He believes art helps people to be more kind, more tolerant."

Bosworth noted that these qualities can be seen in Koshkin's illustrations.

"They are realistic and kind," she said. "You can feel this warmness and kindness."

Galunina said Koshkin also is a historically accurate artist who studies and researches time periods for each book he illustrates.

"There are no mistakes in his works," she said. "Even if it's a fairy tale. He will study the clothes ... the whole period."

The exhibit will have seven original Koshkin paintings and nine books illustrated by him -- published in English and Russian -- from Galunina's private collection. There also will be two book readings for children during the exhibit on Aug. 20: A fairy tale in Russian will be read at 4 p.m., and in English at 5 p.m. The book will be one from the exhibit, the women said, but which book depends on the ages of the children who attend.

Even though Koshkin will not be at the exhibit, Galunina said he was "very pleased and very happy" that more people will be exposed to his art, and to art in general.

"Maybe it will make people feel a little better, maybe smile," Galunina said. "His books can unite us like nothing else."

Irina's Gift Shop is at 3349 Valley Pike in Winchester. The exhibit will be on display from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 19 and 20. Admission is free. Children's book readings will be at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Aug. 20. For more information, call 450-8600. Irina's Gift Shop also is on Facebook.

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