Ukrainian women are continuing to create during crisis, using art to share stories of war in a new traveling exhibition making a stop in eastern Connecticut.
The art exhibition, 'Women at War', opened this week in Eastern Connecticut State University's art gallery. The exhibition is a partnership between Fridman Gallery in New York City and Voloshyn Gallery in Kyiv, Ukraine. Curated by Monika Fabijanska, the exhibition features about 50 pieces of artwork from a dozen Ukrainian artists.
"Mainstream history as we know it, passed down from generation to generation, is spoken in male voice," said Fabijanksa. "I was wondering what would happen if we gave the floor to women. What would we hear from them?"
Roughly half of the works in the exhibition were created prior to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, highlighting the struggle that has existed in Ukraine for years. Fabijanska described the exhibition as an effort to make Ukrainian art better known in the United States and to help the war effort through information and appreciation for Ukrainian culture.
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Depicted in the exhibition, Fabijanksa said people will learn more about women's fate during the war.
"Still, the majority of the society experiences war through traditional gender roles," said Fabijanksa. "There is this division and the art that you will see in the exhibition will speak to this- to being a mother during the war, to being raped during the war, to having to leave your boyfriend when you escape."
The artists focus on the defeated rather than on the victorious, Fabijanska said, battling the idea of heroism and showing the cost of war on the entire society.
While being used to document and inform, the art also helps process the trauma.
"Art helps to survive this," said Fabijanksa.
Lesia Khomenko has four pieces featured in the exhibition. She used to work as an artist in Kyiv, but fled the country with her daughter after the full-scale invasion. One of Khomenko's paintings depicts her husband, Max, who went from being a musician and artist to now serving as a soldier.
“I wanted to show the military situation through him, through his view, a very personal view," said Khomenko.
Khomenko, alongside curator Fabijanksa, will speak at an opening reception for the exhibition on Thursday, September 15 at 3 p.m. A full schedule of programs can be viewed here.
The traveling exhibition will be in Willimantic at ESCU through mid-October.
“It is a quiet corner of our state and I wanted to hear the sounds of this real current war going on," said Julia Wintner, coordinator of the Eastern gallery. “I think art transcends all the wars and artists can teach us how to survive and continue to be creative during times of crisis. I think it’s an important lesson for everybody, no matter if we are at war or if we are here in America.”