Legendary angels woodcarver Rimante Butkuve
Performer of a musical work: Arabai
Folk artist Rimantė Butkuvė was born in Kėdainiai District, near Apylaukis estate, and she grew up and attended school in Kaunas. At school, she grew fond of books, poetry, and theatre. Already in the tenth form, she started writing poems, liked painting, graphics, and later worked as a ceramics decorator in the “Jiesia” factory. Afterwards she started carving stone and wood, and got interested in folk art.
Rimantė chose the path of a carver accidentally. The Folk Artists’ Union asked her to restore a cross. Rimantė bought a wood carving of an interesting composition from one folk artist: Virgin Mary and an angel on their knees for a prayer at the fenced cross. That angel drew Rimantė’s attention and she decided to carve it herself. That was the start of carving wooden angels. In 2005 the Folk Artists’ Union gave Mrs. Butkuvė the Šepkos Award for artistic expression. According to art critic Dr. Laima Šinkūnaitė, “the artist succeeded in finding a distinctive way of expression in today’s diversity of forms and styles. A typical feature of all her sculptures is the planes of face oval, “protrusion”, (…) with live and thrusting spirit. The angels’ faces are different yet very similar in their spiritual state, full of inner light and sincerity”.
Thousands of angels born in her imagination and carved out of wood have spread across the world and landed in collections, in friends’ homes, and exhibitions of folk art. They range from the size of a fingernail to almost human size. They can be black or red. They can have colourful wings, be full of joy or concern, give a blessing, sleep, play an instrument, or help in all imaginable chores.
In her oasis of peace, she cannot work any time and anyhow. Before she starts work, she scrubs the floor, and the dishes have to be washed up, so that there are no worries and nothing to distract her. And once she sits down and begins to carve, anything might be happening around her. People could be watching her or speaking to her, but it does not matter.
Rimantė works in large or small cycles, and her angels from different periods are very different. Only the angels’ faces irradiate the same peace and kindness.
“I recently finished the cycle The Steps of Colours. It is based on a philosophy whereby when I look at the sky my glance becomes blue, when I walk on grass, my glance becomes green. Everything comes through observation. We take everything from nature. You see copper-coloured and red fields of buckwheat, and a red angel emerges in your imagination.”
The type of angel depends on the material. As soon as she takes it in her hand, Rimantė knows that this angel will have a round face, and this one will have its wings spread out. She says she is so impatient to see the end result that she never puts down a sculpture until it is finished. Often, as soon as she finishes, she knows how she will paint them.
“Angels are everywhere. Observe them, listen to them, and you will see that not all is so simple in life, and you will discover many things. While living in silence and nature, I feel them constantly. They follow me everywhere. And, to tell the truth, it is not they who follow me, but I who walk in their footsteps.”
Rimantė Butkuvė has been a member of the Lithuanian Folk Artists’ Union since 1990. She organised more than 10 one-person exhibitions. Her carved small sculptures have spread throughout the world, and many Lithuanian museums have her pieces of art. In 2007, the folk artist was granted the art creator status, and she became a nomination laureate of the republican competitive folk art exhibition “Aukso vainikas” (Gold Wreath) of Kaunas County. Since 1999, Rimantė Butkuvė has been living and creating in the Puzonys village, Birštonas municipality.