Artists are artists no matter where they are found. They bring to their work their hopes, their dreams, and their fears, inspired by the world around them and the world that resides inside their hearts. This past year I have come across several such artists trying to ply their craft in a world where no one should have to do anything but stay alive. Ukraine.
My first journey into the world of Ukrainian artists began about a year ago. I had become friends with a photographer from Kyiv, Dmytro Buyanskyy, and his lady and model Marie. Regular readers might already know them. They were on a photo shoot and vacation in Sri Lanka when the war broke out. To help out the war effort, they took the profits from their photo shoots and donated them to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Now Marie is starting to feel guilty about being in such a wonderful place while her family and friends are suffering in a living hell. Dmytro worries about his parents who are farmers living close to the action.
As I communicated with Dmytro and Marie I came into contact with several others in Ukraine. There were soldiers, farmers, photographers, models, and artists. Lots of artists. And musicians. I am amazed at the amount of talent there. Incredible singer/songwriters and some of my favorite bands. I have no idea what they are singing about, but I really like it. Their pop music often reflects a deep tradition of folk music and, these days, the terror they are living under. Many of the musicians tour to raise funds for the Armed Forces.
Ukraine is a land of artists and farmers. One particular artist caught my attention. Her name is Iryana Mazipchuk. Iryana sells her paintings and takes commissioned work. She sends the funds from her work to help the Armed Forces with warm clothing and such. I had already fallen in love with her work and was anxious to purchase one particular painting which I think of as the Ukraine Madonna.
I believe one of the things that struck me was the fact that some of her paintings reflect the reality in which she lives. Paintings of women and girls showing the wounds of war. Some of these are not the images of Ukraine I want to remember. But artists paint not only what they see but how they feel about it.
As we were finishing up arrangements to purchase the painting, Iryana asked if she could divert some of the funds. Could she use some of the money to help the victims of the apartment complex in Dnipro, bombed by the Russians? Remember that? She told me about the survivors of the rocket attack. In the middle of a snowy and bitterly cold winter, their homes had been destroyed and they had no place to go but the street. Of course, I said yes.
Trying to get money to Ukraine in the middle of a war is easy if you know what to do. I didn’t. First, I needed to find the address where the money would go. Her bank seemed like the perfect place. She has been selling pieces in Europe, but this is her first time selling a painting to someone in the US. Here comes trouble. Iryana’s bank is in Kyiv and all of the information I needed was in Ukrainian. Our correspondence had been easy. It involved messaging and I have a “translate” function on my Mac. For the printed material I was lost. It took a while, but with Iryana’s help, everything worked out, and the money was on its way.
Irayana does portraits from photographs to help fund her art. I had already ordered the “Ukraine Madonna,” so I sent her some pictures of Jan, my Ozark Madonna. She said she will be able to start on that on Feb 14th. Valentine’s day. “How appropriate,” I thought. So in a couple of months, my studio will have some new artwork to grace its walls. It will be a constant reminder, should I ever need one, that there are folks in the world who will get together and take care of each other.
Taking care of each other. That seems to be the way that Ukraine is getting by. Everybody chips in. When rockets fall on a building, people gather at the site and start rescuing people. And when the dust clears neighbors gather around to feed and warm the survivors. And groups form to provide funds for warm clothing for the military. Groups also take care of the animals. Since the war began too many animals have lost their homes. The people have rallied around them, built shelters, and done what they could to keep them safe. Soldiers on the front have taken up the call and added stray cats and dogs to their platoons. They call them “their protectors.”
In closing, I would like to show you some examples of Iryana’s work. Art in a war zone with Russian rockets knocking at the door. Amazing. Stay safe Iryana.