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"Ukraine's Cherished Tradition: The Gifting of a Pysanka" by Peter Voitsekhovsky

Hand-decorated Easter eggs are known to several different ethnic cultures of the world, but the Ukrainian tradition of pysanky is particularly prominent.

Archeologists have discovered ceramic pysanky in Ukraine dating back to 1300 B.C. In the folk life of Ukrainian people, pysanky are attributed talismanic powers. Receipt of a pysanka is not only a token of friendship or esteem, but it also brings with it protection from harm. With the acceptance of Christianity in 988 A.D., the pysanka became a part of the Easter ritual. It came to symbolize the rebirth of man, as represented by the Resurrection. Eventually, the art of pysanky grew into a deeply cherished Ukrainian cultural tradition.

The pysanka is one of just a few cultural icons of Ukraine that Russia has not tried to claim for itself: the pysanka was always identified as Ukrainian. The Communist government viewed the pysanka tradition as a “harmful peasant cult” and tried to suppress it. For Ukraine, the pysanka might be one of the greatest antidotes of all time against the Kremlin's propaganda. This art tradition survived and regained glory, in part, owing to efforts of the Ukrainian community worldwide. In 1988, Nadia K. McConnell, who was in charge of government relations in the National Committee for the Commemoration of the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine, organized an exhibit of 1000 pysankas in the Senate Russell Building of the U.S. Congress. [link to article published in 2018] This exhibit came to celebrate the pysanka as a symbol of Ukraine’s rebirth and spiritual renewal.

There are over a hundred of meaningful symbols used in pysanka ornaments. They denote wishes of family well-being, prosperity, good harvest, love, kindness, good health, protection from disease and evil. For example:

You can find out more about the language and the rituals of pysanky here:

https://destinations.com.ua/art/pysanka-tradition-in-ukrainian-culture

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pysanka

WRITERS

The book describes a journey of a heroine, a Ukrainian-born girl, going through varying hardships and tragedies in life, journeying from youth to adulthood. Her story illustrates afflictions taking place in Ukraine under Stalin’s regime as well as the dehumanizing conditions within Hitler’s labor camps. The book then describes the rest of her life, encompassing her traversing to Italy alongside the Italian prisoners of war and her immigrating into the United States as a political refugee in the later years. One Woman, Five Lives, Five Countries is an incredible depiction of resilience in difficult times, which makes the readers both laugh and cry as they go through the pages.
In the Soviet Union under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, Drach came into prominence with his poem, “Knife in the Sun,” published in one of Kyiv’s literary magazines. Using his writer’s talents, he later played a central role in the founding of Rukh as well as the advancement of the Rukh’s ideals. Rukh, formerly known as the Writer’s Union of Ukraine, was a grassroots opposition movement to the USSR’s system of authoritarian governance as well as a uniting force appealing to the common interests of all citizens of Ukraine. There, Drach had underscored the significance of multi-ethnic respect within Ukraine and actively supported the reintroduction of the Crimean Tatars after their previous mass deportation by Stalin in 1944 through the support for the Mejis of the Crimean Tatar People.
Shevchenko, to this day, remains to be one of the best Ukrainian artists. He was adept at painting portraits, landscapes, doing architectural sketches, and producing various book illustrations. Amongst his many famous works, he had produced an album, “Picturesque Ukraine.” This collection of works is dedicated to his love for Ukraine – both represented through his artwork and poetry alike. In fact, his literary heritage can be called the foundation of what today is known as the modern Ukrainian language. For all which he did to represent Ukraine and its beautiful culture, he was politically convicted and exiled at one point. Writing in Ukrainian language and promoting the independence of Ukraine especially was egregious at the time, but it placed the roots which structured what is now known as an independent, strong, and culturally rich Ukraine.
Chuck, the author of the award-winning novel Fight Club, has Ukraininan roots. His paternal grandfather migrated from Ukraine to Canada and then New York. When not writing fiction, Palahniuk tends to write short non-fiction works. Working as a freelance journalist, he writes essays and reports on a variety of subjects. He sometimes participates in the events about which he writes, which are heavy in field research. He also has written interviews with celebrities, namely, Juliette Lewis and Marilyn Manson.
Nikolai was a famous dramatist of Ukrainian origin. His early works, such as Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, were influenced by his Ukrainian upbringing, Ukrainian culture and folklore. His later writing satirised political corruption in the Russian Empire (The Government Inspector, Dead Souls). The novel Taras Bulba and the play Marriage, along with the short stories "Diary of a Madman", "The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich", "The Portrait" and "The Carriage", are also among his best-known works. D. S. Mirsky characterized Gogol's universe as "one of the most marvellous, unexpected – in the strictest sense, original– worlds ever created by an artist of words".
Gregory was a philosopher of Cossack origin. He was also a poet, teacher and composer of liturgical music. His significant influence on his contemporaries and succeeding generations and his way of life were universally regarded as Socratic, and he was often called a "Socrates."Gregory Skovoroda was very educated in different languages, in particular, Latin, Greek, German. Skovoroda's portrait is placed on the 2nd largest banknote in circulation in Ukraine, the 500-hryvnia note. He requested this epitaph to be placed on his tombstone: “The world tried to capture me, but didn't succeed”.
Vasyl was an active member of the Ukrainian dissident movement. For his political convictions, his works were banned by the Soviet regime and he spent 13 years in detention, until his death. In 1985, an international committee of scholars, writers, and poets nominated Stus for the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, but he died before the nomination materialized. In 2005 Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko posthumously awarded him the highest national title: Hero of Ukraine. Stus is widely regarded as one of Ukraine's foremost poets.
Ivan was one of the brightest Ukrainian writers. He was also a journalist, interpreter and the author of the first detective novels and modern poetry in the Ukrainian language. He was a political radical, and a founder of the socialist and nationalist movement in western Ukraine. In addition to his own literary work, he also translated the works of such renowned figures as William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Dante Alighieri, Victor Hugo, Adam Mickiewicz, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller into Ukrainian. His translations appeared on the stage of the Ruska Besida Theatre.

Lesya was one of Ukrainian literature's foremost writers, best known for her poems and plays. The poems and plays of Ukrainka are associated with her belief in her country's freedom and independence. Between 1895 and 1897, she became a member of the Literary and Artistic Society in Kiev. One of the main Kiev theaters, the Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Theater of Russian Drama is colloquially referred to simply as Lesya Ukrainka Theater. There is also a bust of Ukrainka in Soyuzivka in New York State.
Leopold was  a prominent Austrian writer and novelist. In his novels and stories, Sacher-Masoch focused a lot on his homeland, Galicia. The term "masochism" was coined by Austrian psychiatrist Kraft-Ebing based on his work (specifically Venus in Furs) but his texts and topics have much wider significance. Born in Lviv in 1836.
Svetlana is a writer, essayist and journalist, 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature winner. Born in Ivano-Frankivsk in 1948, her father was Belarusian and mother Ukrainian.She has been described as the first journalist to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. 26 October 2019 Alexievich was elected chairman of the Belarusian PEN Center.

ARTISTS/DESIGNERS

A leading figure in the pop art visual art movement, Warhol was known for his experimentation, working to explore the relationship between advertising, celebrity culture of 1960s and visual arts. Because of his work, most notably , a silkscreen painting of Campbell’s Soup Cans, he became a subject of a myriad of publications, exhibitions, and documentary films. In Pittsburg, there even is The Andy Warhol Museum which holds the title of the largest museums dedicated to a single artist within the United States. What is interesting is that both of his parents were from the Zakarpattia region.
Born in Kiev, Malevich became one of the most famous Russian avant-garde artists, pioneering the culture of abstract art during the 20th century which sought to explore the nonconventional and the non-objective. After exploring Impressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism, and eventually Cubism too, he felt the most passionate about creating an approach combining the geometric forms with minimalism. Because of that, he became incredibly famous, creating the Black Square - a representation of the most radically abstract painting known to have been created so far.

A Ukrainian-born French artist, Delaunay is best known for her influence on the Orphism art movement. Her works were so incredibly revolutionary that she became the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre. She was also named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. Generally, her works of art included a combination of geometric abstraction with spontaneity, often adding furniture and fabrics to her masterpieces.
Starting with merely exhibiting her work in restaurants and salons, she eventually was recognized and gained popularity to such an extent that her works are now amongst the most expensive artworks in Ukraine. Moreover, annually, she holds exhibits all over the world in countries like France, Belgium, and United Kingdom. Her works are clearly distinguished by round faced individuals with rosy noses and cheeks in various settings and acts. Around the country, her works are so highly recognized that Ukrposhta, the Ukrainian Postal Service, produced a series of 12 postal marks and stamps of zodiac signs with works by Eugenia Gapchinskaya.
Born to French parents in Ukraine, Cassandre, originally named Adolphe Jean Marie Mouron, became one of the world’s most renowned graphic designers. Recognizing his talent, especially in the way that he would project geometrical style, he was sought after by many major names in the fashion industry, including Christian Dior. Most notably, in 1961, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé asked Cassandre to design the famous YSL logo - the one that is recognized as the face of the brand, representing modernity and elegance.
Sofika does the traditional ornamental art of pysanky on chicken, goose, and ostrich eggs. Her brightly-colored eggs with intricate designs are showcased all over the world, including France, Italy, United States, and Ukraine. Moreover, she had participated in Secrets of the Pysanka, a Ukrainian Mission to the United Nations in New York. Her eggs have been also exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and embassies all over the world, including the Embassy of UK.
Oleksandra was a Ukrainian painter, one of the prominent representatives of the Cubism and Futurism art movements in Europe. Lived and worked in Kyiv, where she created her paintings and drawings, later emigrated to Paris. In Paris, Aleksandra Ekster became personally acquainted with Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who introduced her to Gertrude Stein. She exhibited six works at the Salon de la Section d'Or, Galerie La Boétie, Paris, October 1912, with Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp and others.
Oleksandr was a famous avant-garde artist and sculptor. Born in Kyiv to a Ukrainian family in 1887, Arkhypenko held numerous exhibitions in Europe and the USA until he died in New York in 1964.He is known for introducing sculptural voids, and for his inventive mixing of genres throughout his career: devising 'sculpto-paintings', and later experimenting with materials such as clear acrylic and terra cotta. Inspired by the works of Picasso and Braque, he is also credited for introducing the collage to wider audiences with his Medrano series.

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