Alexander Saidoff was born in the most unusual family one can only imagine. His grandfather was a part of a Tabasaran clan that once ruled the Dagestan Part of the Caucasian mountains. The clan now consists of about 80,000 people, half still living in the region, half scattered around the world. The main reason Tabasaran went from fame to virtual extinction is vendetta. Once a member of your family was killed or woman’s honor involved, the only way you can clean your honor is to wash it in the blood of the relatives of the person who killed our dishonored your family. Alexander’s grandfather went to a village of the family that killed one of his distant relatives and murdered eight members of his enemy’s family. Then he fled to a nearest city and was apprehended while defending an honor of a totally unknown to him waitress against a patron who spoke to her without proper (in grandfather’s opinion) honor. The grandfather’s family had to flee the region being sure they will be killed in retaliation of the murders. This is how Alexander’s grandmother and his father (then a small child) ended up in a Russian city called Krasnodar, where his grandmother found a refuge and safe heaven for her kids
On the mother’s side everyone was an artist. Maternal grandfather and both uncles, their wives and children, and many other relatives were dancers, musicians, singers and painters. Until age 13 Alexander didn’t feel he wants to follow his relatives footsteps. He wanted to be a sportsman, and was training to become a runner. He changed his mind when his family took him to the St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, where he saw Rembrandt, and said that he wants to become a painter “like this one”. At the high school, Alexander was know as a kid that can ‘paint anything”. He constantly made bets that he can fool people into believing that there was a window in the wall, or open door to step outside to a warm weather, a strawberry or a cherry on a table… His favorite joke and pastime was to paint on a surface of a wooden table in a park a small object such as berry, key or more often a coin, and together with other kids hide and watch how by-passers try to grab the object and see astonished and bewildered look on their faces.
His ability to paint money brought him once a scary experience. One day when he was 13 years old he made a bet with his friends that he can paint a bill and buy something at a local store using this bill. He pained a one-ruble bill and got himself a chocolate bar…. Next morning a squad of armed and masked policeman woke up the neighborhood and arrested Alexander on the counterfeiting charge. They were looking for a ring of counterfeiters and thought they finally got them, but where bewildered why someone bothered to counterfeit one ruble bill, not the usual hundred ruble bills. After spending two days at the jail and a thorough check of his whereabouts for the last several years, Alexander was released, but only after he painted portraits of the head of the station and two arresting officers. The portraits were for years on display at the station and Alexander was known as “the kid who can paint money”. During his college years, Alexander became avid lover of the classical music and opera. He was earning good money by painting walls at people houses (huge bargain to them taking into consideration the quality he produced), and spent all he had on concerts, and recorded music. But when the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra came to town he was out of money…. He tried to borrow some, to get a fast job, to sell anything… and when all his attempts failed, he painted a ticket and got himself into the grand performance of one of the best philharmonic orchestras in the world.
After graduation from the Krasnodar art college, Alexander wanted to paint still lives but his relatives and friends told him that no one wants to have still lives in the homes, especially in the kitchens. He was told that people want landscapes, cityscapes, water scenes… to escape from the kitchen. He was told that they want to look at the places they had been and remember, or dream to go to. He believed them, cut from one of his paintings his favorite bunch of grapes, glue it to a notebook cover and went to paint quick portraits on the streets. He worked on the streets in Russia and Ukraine, then moved to Mediterranean – to Italy and France. Once he was painting a portrait of a visiting American lady-tourist who noticed the grapes on the cover of his notebook. When she learned that he painted them, she purchased the notebook cover for three times the portrait and said that he should go to America. Everyone she knows would love to have such wonderful fruits in their kitchen. From this moment on Alexander understood that he and the Americans have similar taste and that he has to paint his wonderful still lives and somehow find a way to bring them to the United States .