Local artist fulfills destiny at Savage Mill New work reflects history of mill NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE


When artist Nadezda Prvulovic first saw Historic Savage Mill, where she's had a studio for five years, she knew the building would become part of her art.

"I saw this powerful building and I had the feeling that I had to do something here; I'm here for a reason," said Ms. Prvulovic, a 5-foot blond energy force, whose words come in a torrent of fractured English.

Ms. Prvulovic's prediction will be realized on Sept. 17 when her latest work, "Another Time" is unveiled at a reception at Savage Mill.

The three-paneled painting, measuring 9 feet by 13 feet, is Ms. Prvulovic's interpretation of the spinning and weaving machines that produced cotton at the mill from 1822 to 1947.

The installation of the painting, which will hang in a prominent space next to the mill's Great Room in the Old Weave building, marks the completion of five years and 200,000 feet of renovations at Savage Mill.

For Ms. Prvulovic, the painting is an expression of her love for the mill, where she says she's done some of her best work.

"I feel that Savage Mill is my home. I'm welcome all the time here," Ms. Prvulovic said. "This feeling gives you wings to go in the sky."

Born in Dubrovnik in the former Yugoslavia, Ms. Prvulovic, 63, is a nationally and internationally recognized artist who lives in Columbia.

Her work is included in permanent museum collections in Paris, Holland and Dubrovnik.

Ms. Prvulovic moved to this country nine years ago, when her husband's work as a chemist brought the family to Texas.

Since then she has exhibited her work in galleries in Baltimore, Washington and Texas.

In 1990 she was one of five Maryland artists chosen from 200 applicants by the Maryland State Arts Council to exhibit her work at the Baltimore Museum of Art in the prestigious Maryland Invitational.

"This was a woman who had grown up in Dubrovnik, studied art in Europe and found herself in the Texas plains not speaking English and not driving a car," said Becky Duval Reese, director of the El Paso Museum of Art, where Ms. Prvulovic will have a solo exhibition next year.

Ms. Reese has followed Ms. Prvulovic's work since she came to Texas.

"Her art is incredibly strong and she produces it on a monumental scale," Ms. Reese said.

"It's overwhelming in its power, scale and intellect," she said.

Ms. Prvulovic said she decided the time was right to create a work for Savage Mill when she saw the 13-foot by 18-foot empty space next to the Great Room.

"I told Mr. Winer [Jay Winer, the developer of Savage Mill] 'Do you know what? I have good news -- I found my wall,' " Ms. Prvulovic said. "He laughed and he told me we'll see what we can do."

An admirer of Ms. Prvulovic's work, Mr. Winer and other partners in the Savage Mill Limited Partnership commissioned a painting from her.

Ms. Prvulovic worked every day for 5 1/2 hours on the painting, using old photos of Savage Mill she had found at the Maryland Historical Society as her guide.

She works in a medium called gouache, a difficult and unusual painting technique, using opaque watercolors prepared with gum applied to paper on canvas.

The massive painting of machinery in Savage Mill is mostly in black and white, with jarring splashes of orange and blue-greens.

"For me, this is like sunshine that comes in the factory," Ms. Prvulovic says of the orange colors in the painting. "Because people who work in a factory, it's like depression. But this is everything, it's positive."

Painting machinery is nothing new for Ms. Prvulovic, who is best known in this country for her paintings of blast furnaces.

She became fascinated with the subject 10 years ago when she saw some abandoned furnaces in Lorraine, France.

"I was shocked by their beauty," Ms. Prvulovic wrote in a statement about the evolution of her work. "These abandoned objects were gigantic in nature. I was so fascinated with them that I decided to do something very special."

For the last 10 years Ms. Prvulovic has drawn most of her inspiration from blast furnaces, and she has no plans to change.

"I'm crazy about it," she said of blast furnaces. "I'm not empty -- not yet."

For her next project, she's planning to build a huge sculpture, made out of steel, wood and screens, to simulate the interior of a blast furnace, complete with sound.

In the meantime, she's putting the finishing touches on her piece for Savage Mill, by attaching actual pieces of cotton to her painting, where it would be on the weaving machines.

"What is exciting for me is that I've done something that every day will be participated in by people," Ms. Prvulovic said. "I think this is the most important role that we artists have."

The public is invited to attend the unveiling of Nadezda's Prvulovic's painting "Another Time," at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 in the Old Weave Building at Historic Savage Mill. There will be a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with refreshments and chamber music. For more information, call 792-0964.

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