Ukrainian American artist 'protests peacefully' with her works of art
Ukrainian American artist Mira Hnatyshyn was one of the artists chosen to display her painting at an all-women group show in honor of Women’s History Month at Blue Star Arts Complex. Her piece, titled “Invasion” (2015-2020), is a mixed media piece that is a collection of her feelings about the past Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine and protests that were driven to demand closer relations to the EU.
Hnatyshyn relates messages of socio-cultural issues embedded in feminism, identity and gender roles. Her art assemblages of paintings are textured with uses of cloth and unconventional materials that are layered on top of large canvases.
Most recently, Hnatyshyn dedicates her works to express her feelings on the current Ukrainian Crisis, where many of her extended family still resides. She has not heard from them since the beginning of the war. Her abstract oil painting named “Red” evokes her raw emotions after the Russian invasion and bombings of Kyiv. She leaves the audience to decide if the colors symbolize love or violence or both.
“So that was very, very emotional for me…the only way I can deal with things in times like that is just to put it all into the work. ('Red') was what came out of it. I work in a lot of different images and things. But when things are happening that are the underpinning of current for everyone, the reason why I do what I do as an artist in the first place — my family and the tragic history of Ukraine,” Hnatyshyn said.
In another piece, “The Braidbasket” (2014), Hnatyshyn rendered a collage based on a photograph she took of a woman in a market square when she visited Ukraine in 2012. She identifies the woman in traditional Ukrainian garments heading West, envisioning a brighter future with peoples’ hopes of joining the European Union.
Tying it in with the current situation, Hnatyshyn explains, “Ukraine is the bread basket. Ukraine has a tremendous amount of wheat and other produce that they create to feed other continental nations with. So given what's going on there now, there's a war and there's not enough. The production of wheat is halted, if all the foodstuffs that feed all the continental globe in that area do not get what they need, then these countries are going to starve.”
She added that Ukraine has become a melting pot of Slavic cultures.
“So literally when you're saying ‘brother fighting brother,’ it's like one of those things where Ukrainian people have their own identity, but over time, Russians, married Ukrainians. People (come) from neighboring countries because everybody takes trains. So it's like it's a beautiful way to live – being able to go from one place to another and people often speak four or five different languages,” Hnatyshyn said.
Along the top of the canvas, Hnatyshyn incorporated pieces of traditional embroideries she had sewn. With some strands of the string itself, she has braided them into braids that traditional Ukrainian women wear. The patterns are from “Pysanka” eggs, traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs, just like her mother used to decorate.
Hnatyshyn keeps up with the news and has painted two paintings with blue and yellow — colors of the Ukrainian flag.
“The blue is a symbol of the sky — which is a symbol of freedom — and the yellow is a blessing. Sure, the yellow is the symbol of wheat, and that is bread. Basically, it's freedom over bread is the interpretation of that, so would that means that when we can feed nations, we are free. If we cannot feed nations around us, then none of us are free.”
In “Freedom Holding The Bread,” a yellow figure is uplifted and held by a larger blue silhouette. Hnatyshyn explains that this resembles hope of “sky above grain” or “freedom above bread,” she (Ukraine) is the matriarch feeding millions of people in the world.
Onto "Fatal Run-Kyiv," Hnatyshyn uses a different media and recreates a digital image of only yellow-filled silhouettes with a light blue background. She referenced a New York Times image of a family being massacred when fleeing from Kyiv, March 6, 2022.
Above all, Mira Hnatyshyn is devoted to her stance against war and as an artist she declares “I create my art in a way — the art is a peaceful protest as well, you know? And I don't want to hold on to any kind of animosity for anybody. The Russian people themselves also, you know, not don't want war.”
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