A note from Jonah:
In order to understand my work, you must understand my relationship with Vidin.
Like any country, Bulgaria has a wide range of economic and geographic regions. And like many European countries, the seasonal weather change brings new experiences. Vidin has a pleasant calmness to it especially in the summer. A beer on the river costs a dollar and shops and stores close around 7pm. I came to appreciate this calmness as time passed. However, Winter was cold, dark, and isolating.
Living in Vidin was a challenge for me. Like many post-Soviet industrial towns, (and many American ones), Vidin has succumbed to economic hardship. The capital of Bulgaria’s poorest state, Vidin sits on the Danube river, a four-hour bus ride north from Sofia. Vidin is located across the Danube from Romania, and a thirty-minute car ride to the Serbian border.
Vidin is often called “Bulgaria’s forgotten corner”. What once was a thriving town of 80,000, is now lucky to be pushing 20,000. Living in what felt like physical and social isolation (especially in the winter) I too felt forgotten. I was surrounded by dilapidated communist bloc apartments and little sunlight. This population decline was a particularly challenging dynamic. Many young Bulgarians left Vidin in search of better opportunity. With them went my best bet for English speakers and friendship. It should be known that I did not nor do I speak conversational Bulgarian. I regret this deeply.
When I first arrived in Vidin, I asked everyone I could about the local art scene. I wanted to form a community there with its foundation rooted in art. I felt that through art I would be able to communicate despite the clear language barrier. Bulgaria has a rich history of pottery and weaving. I searched for teachers in Vidin and was repeatedly told that they did not exist in town. I came to understand that “no one here makes such things”. Thus, in the dead of winter, feeling the worst I had felt in years, I decided to change my artistic expectations. I would challenge my concept of beauty and pick out what was attractive and unique about Vidin. That weekend I took the bus to Sofia, an eight-hour round trip journey, and went to a local art supply store. This would be the first of many repeated pilgrimages.
Living in Vidin was beautiful. Just not in the way I expected it to be.
My work conveys a variety of emotions and experiences. I hope that like my experience in Vidin, you find his work both challenging and beautiful.
- Jonah Blumenthal