Shane Verandez: Flesh for Fantasy

Text by Shanell Verandez, Copyright 2024


Flesh for Fantasy


Flesh will never last, but a sculpture lives on forever…
What an incredible vibe to have a sculptor capture a piece of your essence within the compounds of clay to be seen by future generations to come. Imagine that…
My encounter with the sculptor, IIya Livshits, first started as friends on Facebook. I didn’t know that he was an artist let alone a sculptor, his art wasn’t displayed on his Facebook page. I just thought he was an avid hiker/ Nature lover, who likes to dance. So naturally, when he asked me if he could do a sculpture of me, I thought it was a spam message. I mean, it’s not every day or any day that you get asked that lifetime question!
I was apprehensive, but curious and expressed interest, so we met in person at an Ethiopian cafe in West Philadelphia. I needed to meet this undercover artist in person and catch a glimpse of this man… Read the vibrations. The meeting was a success and I decided to go ahead and model for project “claymation”. It turned out that the sculptor is an avid hiker, naturalist from Kharkiv, Ukraine Who is a self-taught sculptor since he was 12 years old. IIya now resides in Philadelphia,Pa., and is a Center City based software engineer by day and sculptor extraordinaire by night. The undercover artist… Some of us tend to take on dual lifestyles… “Pleasing others to please ourselves” in order to create our art.
During the day of project “claymation”, I was a little nervous because I am going to be in a private studio setting with the sculptor and had to prepare myself mentally and physically for the session. I quickly informed Ilya that I want to live to be 100 years old and am armed for protection so no funny stuff! In these times, you have to protect your “temple” from harmful forces, models! We made it to IIya’s studio located in a large Port Richmond vintage warehouse. His studio was located close to the top floor. Once I entered the studio, it was like a Clay Wonderland of multifaceted figurines of all sizes, races, creeds, and gender so intricately designed by IIya’s hands. The atmosphere of the studio was safe and comfortable, IIya’s laid back and accommodating nature added much to that. I remember during our first meeting( and his Facebook profile pic) that he likes to dance , so I put music on and watched him dance as he set up the space and then without notice, started to throw down the clay and begin to shape a bust of my face. He didn’t even need me to sit still to capture my bone structure. I had realized he was studying my face the whole time in motion. Now that’s impressive…
To capture art in motion and mold the subject into a real form.
To IIya, I was a living work of untamed art that he wanted to capture and mold into separate pieces. First the face, and then as he danced and pranced around the studio, started on the second piece, my nude torso, while taking pictures for future photo references to the sculptured pieces done that day. This will help the sculptor continue the focus on his work as the clay is drying for the final phases of completion. It turns out that IIya is a pretty decent photographer too. As the sculpting session began to wind down, and the sculptures were taking shape, a sense of pride started to overwhelm me. You see… I grew up as an “ugly duckling” and never had any confidence about my looks. Even now sometimes I still feel like that duckling, but through the forms of my clayed face and torso sculpted by IIya’s hands and eyes gave me a great profound sense of worthiness. Watching myself being sculpted was an “outer body” experience… A mirrored twin, as I look at a reflection of myself. A clayed form of my evolution that captured little trinkets of my soul into a solidified figure. Not only do I consider this act of art a compliment from the sculptor, but a lasting tribute, that I am here, will be here and made a “beauty” mark in this world. Thank you, IIya Livshits for the incredible experience! May there be more pieces to explore…
Portrait of beautiful black woman wearing a scarf nude underneath and dark fashionable sunglasses
Shanell. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024.


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