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Friday April 19th

‘TWO YEARS GONE’: amplifying Ukrainian voices through art

<p><em>While the works of each artist vary in their portrayal of the theme, the group collectively conveys themes of mourning and solidarity. (Photo by Riley Eisenbeil / Staff Writer / “My Beautiful. Wife?” by Maria Kulikovska)</em></p>

While the works of each artist vary in their portrayal of the theme, the group collectively conveys themes of mourning and solidarity. (Photo by Riley Eisenbeil / Staff Writer / “My Beautiful. Wife?” by Maria Kulikovska)

By Riley Eisenbeil
Staff Writer

The College’s Art Gallery recently unveiled its newest installation entitled “TWO YEARS GONE.” The group exhibition, curated by Dylan Siegel, features pieces from five contemporary Ukrainian artists who, through a variety of mediums, reflect on the psychological and physical stress of the ongoing war in Ukraine as it reaches its two-year mark. 

The hope is that it will start conversations, raise awareness and overall commemorate the war, explained Art Director Margaret Pezalla-Granlund while introducing a panel discussion on opening day. 

The collection, featuring artists Katerina Ganchak, Maya Hayuk, Maria Kulikovska, Sasha Kurmaz and Anton Varga, has been in the works for about a year, Siegel shared.

“[This collection] is about a feeling and it’s about asking people to keep paying attention,” Siegel said in an interview during the reception. “As is the nature of the news cycle, with anything, things fall out of the public consciousness — it doesn’t actually matter how important they are, it just happens.”

Siegel and Jack Chase, a photographer currently dedicated to providing direct humanitarian aid relief in Ukraine, established the pop-up gallery “Sonya Gallery: A Sunflower Network Project” in October 2022. Since its start, they have curated exhibitions to raise funds for Ukraine, resulting in the direct delivery of $3.5 million in crucial humanitarian aid to date. This installation is a continuation of their work. 

To choose which artists would be highlighted, Siegel explained that it involved a blend of personal connections and thematic considerations related to the war. Kurmaz’s pieces capture emotions from within Ukraine, while Kulikovska and Ganchak’s works offer feelings from abroad. Additionally, Varga, Hayuk and some of Kulikovska’s contributions provide historical reflections on the past decade of conflict.

“Target,” by Sasha Kurmaz (Photo courtesy of Riley Eisenbeil / Staff Writer)

One of the works in the gallery, Kurmaz’s “Target,” is a slideshow of 50 photographs that were taken in Kyiv, Ukraine through a sniper rifle scope. The video, which is projected onto the wall, plays on a loop in one of the corners of the room.

“I tried to convey the sense of fear and threat that I lived with all this time and tried to cope with,” he wrote on his website

Ganchak, who immigrated to New York prior to the war, spoke of similar fear in an interview during the reception, discussing how difficult it was watching her family and friends suffer from afar. Though she has a background in painting and sculptural art, she started using watercolors as a quicker and easier way to express her feelings amidst the chaos — some can be seen in the gallery.

Kulikovska also worked with watercolors in her art, as shown in “My Beautiful. Wife?” and “The Saga About Pregnant Me and About My Pregnant Husband,” both of which were done on Soviet-era architectural paper. 

“The paintings from the series ‘My Beautiful. Wife?’ demonstrate the deformed, exhausted and injured body of a woman,” Kulikovska wrote on her website. “…so loud in the context of internal conflict, and so quiet in the context of patriarchy and war.”

Aside from those mentioned, there are numerous other works displayed throughout the gallery. While the works of each artist vary in their portrayal of the theme, the group collectively conveys themes of mourning and solidarity. Expressing her profound gratitude during the reception, Ganchak acknowledged the overwhelming support for Ukraine evident at the opening.

“The posters, the turnout, the students who are interested, it means the world to us that you guys are here,” Ganchak said. “It’s been two years, it’s a very, very heavy subject and you can check out, but you are here and supporting on the campus and it’s very important to us.”

This sentiment echoes the gallery’s commitment to fostering meaningful dialogue, as highlighted by Pezalla-Granlund’s acknowledgement of the impactful Carrie Mae Weems exhibition from the fall of 2022, which she noted inspired, at least in part, this collection. 

“With that exhibition, we learned that students are really eager to engage with important issues, and that the campus gallery could be a center for conversations about things that really matter,” Pezalla-Granlund said.

In tandem with the collection, and to further prove the idea that art can act as a catalyst for social change, the College’s Art Gallery has planned a series of roundtable discussions and lectures around the issues raised by the gallery in the coming weeks. 

“TWO YEARS GONE” will be displayed on the first floor of the Art and Interactive Multimedia Building in room 115 until March 7. The gallery is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit the College’s Art Gallery website


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