New ‘Ukraine Defiant’ exhibit at Museum of Russian Art depicts first year of war
A new exhibition is now on display at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. The series ‘Ukraine Defiant’ depicts the first year of the war in Ukraine through 12 paintings.
Artist Elena Kalman uses bold colors and textures that come off the canvas to depict the courage of Ukrainians, their resilience and the horrors of war.
“I was feeling angry, I was feeling sad but also there is a release when you are putting it on paper,” said Kalman, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the United States in 1979.
She was inspired during a trip to Berlin last March as the country welcomed Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
“Since I am originally from Ukraine, it touched me in a special way and I felt very moved,” said Kalman. “The only way I could react to emotional stimulus, to that outrage that I felt at the time was through art.”
She drew on her childhood memories as she created each landscape. The artist used a variety of elements, from plastic bags to bubble wrap, to add dimension to her paintings.
“I want people to feel passionate about the war the way I feel passionate,” she said. “I think that maybe it will motivate the people to do something either help Ukrainian refugees here or do some political actions that would help.”
Kalman described her work as “dynamic” and “confrontational.”
She lives in Connecticut but before moving to the United States, she attended both the Moscow Architecture Institute and the Kyiv Art Institute. She calls the war a tragedy.
“It’s something I did not expect to happen, honestly, I have a lot of friends in both Ukraine where I’m from and Moscow,” said Kalman. “My friends in Moscow at this point are even afraid to talk about the war […] It’s just too dangerous for them to even talk about it.”
“I have a cousin in Ukraine. Her son is in the army and just to imagine what they are going through is unspeakable,” she added.
The art depicts the invasion, the bombing of Ukrainian cities, the loss of farm fields and homes, the destruction of Russian tanks and other realities of the war. It ends, however, with a message of peace.
“Hopefully that’s the end of it,” she said, pointing to the final painting which shows a tank leaving the country, a rainbow and the return of flowers. “I hope the war is going to come to a wonderful end and Ukrainian people will have the chance to rebuild their country.”
There is an exhibition preview with Kalman on Friday, March 3 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The exhibit officially opens to the public on Saturday and will remain up into July.