Sculpture garden keeps husband’s memory alive for Indian Head Park woman
Zigmas Brazis' sculptures will be preserved in a photo book created by an artist friend. | Kami Booth—for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:04AM
INDIAN HEAD PARK — They stand, beautiful and silent, amid the 100-year-old oak trees in Valentina Brazis’ back yard: The Angel. The Shy Girl. The Grave Pickers.
The 84-year-old Indian Head Park woman can recall the name and a story about every one of the sculptures her late husband, Zigmas, created during their 60-year marriage. Crafted from steel, cement, wood and natural materials, the sculptures are a combination of 20th century modernism and Lithuanian folk tales.
“He loved his art,” Brazis says of her husband, a mechanical engineer who died in March 2010. “He’d come home from work, relax for a few minutes, then go straight to the yard to start working on a project.”
Zigmas inherited his talent from his father, an artist who worked in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“His mother wanted him to be a medical doctor,” recalls Brazis. “But he said ‘no’ and ran away from that.”
Zigmas studied art in Lithuania. But when World War II threatened, he and his wife immigrated to the United States. To feed his passion, he took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Zigmas always had ideas in his mind,” Brazis says. “When you have such talent, I think you are just born with it.”
Brazis says her husband worked very quickly on his sculptures, typically finishing them in about three months. Among his statues are a drowning girl being pulled from the sea, a couple holding a bronze eagle, and a shy girl “who is afraid to jump into our swimming pool,” Brazis jokes.
Lining the back of the yard is Rupintojelis, whom European farmers regard as a protector of property, and Zigmas’ lighthearted dedication to his wife, “The Flower That Never Needs Watering.”
Time and weather have taken a toll on the sculptures. Brazis says she cannot afford the cost of repairs. But thanks to friend and neighbor Rebecca Perehudoff Minton, Zigmas’ art will be preserved in print. Minton, an art therapist at Glenoaks Therapeutic Day School in Glendale Heights, has published a photo book entitled Zigmas Brazis Sculpture: Creating from the Spirit.
“I recognized right away that this was a very serious artist with sophisticated training who was largely unrecognized,” Minton says of Bravis’ admittedly humble husband. “I did this as a favor to Valentina. If she ever has to move out of the house, the book is something she can take with her.”
Smiling as she flips through the book’s pages, Brazis points out pictures of Zigmas lovingly crafting the sculptures he adored.
“He was my best friend,” Brazis says. “We were traveling buddies. I even caddied for him when he went golfing. He was the best husband in the world.”