Nestor Topchy has lived in Houston for about 25 years. Since 2001, he
has been living on the North side on an acre compound with his wife and
daughter. Upon arriving, he remodeled the house, replanted the
grounds, rebuilt a large open-air work area and dug out a pond. He
later added another structure as his work studio and a tall, charming
chapel that he uses as a viewing space for his finished works.
Echoing a greenhouse, Nestor’s glass fronted studio is made primarily
from cast off metal casement windows. A handmade sign at the entry
encourages visitors to remove their shoes. Rolling glass doors keep out
the four dogs that run freely on the property. Immediately you notice
the smells of incense, brewing tea, and drying paint. Then you notice
the silence. The building is solidly built and heavily insulated,
creating a quiet place to work. Above are a few glass doors converted
into sky lights that reveal his collection of tools used for drawing,
painting and pysanky, a traditional way of painting eggs learned from
his Ukrainian ancestors. An old medical sink fits nicely in the corner
and a few round wooden tables serve as waiting places for drawings and
paintings in various stages of development. A very small spindly tree,
roots intact, hangs from the ceiling and casts an interesting shadow
across the wall and floor. He has created a remarkable space that is
void of all the trappings of the common everyday.
I put down my camera and we finish our tea and begin talking about his
studio surrounded by art, beautiful natural light, the smell of incense
and quietness. I think about how much people reveal about themselves
in their environments. In the case of Nestor’s tranquil working space,
the clues can be found in details like books, fetish items on shelves
and objects hanging on the walls.
Everett Taasevigen is a photographer living in Houston.