October 23-30, 2023. Days 605 - 612 of war.
This week my parents and I talked about dogs and swimming. That's it for the safe subjects of this week. Wars, informational wars in particular, and who is winning them were not safe subjects. Some old fables, songs, poems and novels were quoted numerous times and then all went back to to the dogs (in the good sense). There is a large golden retriever that is friends with my Dad and comes over to "their bench" for a good scratch. It appears way before the owner. Later the owner makes it to the bench and walks further and soon the dog runs after him. There is no common language between humans so they just smile at each other. But I think Dad and the Dog are talking at length.
October 23-30, 2023. Days 605 - 612 of war.
I posted about my dream art exhibits at the beginning of 2023 and recently realized that I've been saving information about more art events that I would love to visit, remember, and share.
Each of these giants of color, brushwork, composition and subject matter would bring me to a museum many times over. But to have both in the same space - is amazing! And the whole idea of juxtaposing these works of art, the idea of trying to parse their many years of artistic argument, rivalry, and dialogue is something that takes the work of the museums to a different level. And this is the first trip of Olympia to this side of the Atlantic!
Whether you could make it to the museum or not - there is a wonderful video put up by the Met that will give you a very interesting tour of the exhibit.
Maria Primachenko is one of my art heroes. I've seen her work since I was a kid - in my parent's home in Kharkiv we have several catalogs of her work, filled with clippings from newspapers and magazines - my parents collected all the reproductions that they could find. She was a self-taught artist with a brilliant imagination and the ability to bring joy of color and whimsy with every piece of work she created. She had a long and very hard life yet it was filled with art-making to the end.
This is the first exhibition of Maria Primachenko's works outside of Europe and has over 100 pieces including some 3D pieces. You can read more on the Ukrainian Museum's FaceBook page or Ukrainian Museum Instagram Page.
Ruth Asawa was an American sculptor best known for her hanging wire sculptures. I've borrowed Ruth Asawa's biography from the library so many times that I lost count - yet I could not finish reading it because every reproduction of her work sends me away to work on something or to look at the shadows of something and draw them. I recently saw her "The Faces" installation at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University and it blew me away with the infinite personal feeling that I got from looking at all the faces.
The exhibit the Whitney Museum of American Art is showing Ruth Asawa's line works. Here is a quote from the description of the exhibit: "For Ruth Asawa (1926–2013), drawing served as a center of gravity—the activity she described as her "greatest pleasure and the most difficult." Although now widely recognized for her wire sculptures, Asawa drew daily. Her exploratory approach to materials, line, surface, and space yielded an impressive range of drawings that speaks to her playful curiosity and technical dexterity as well as her interest in the aesthetic possibilities of the every day."
I also recommend reading an excerpt from the essay by Kim Conaty, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawings and Prints - “Your Hand Is Already Flowing”: Ruth Asawa’s Daily Practice of Drawing". There are amazing examples of work there too.
October 16-22, 2023. Days 598 - 604 of war.
This week we talked quite a bit about the chemical properties of semi-solids - a topic interesting to both of my parents as they are both chemists (Mom is a biochemist and Dad is a physical chemist). It started with me explaining to them that I am experimenting with gel printing in my practice (in fact I used it to make these portraits - these were mostly blindly drawn layers of color which I overlayed with pencil lines). Talking about gels turned us to some cooking subjects and a topic of everyday schedules. We exchanged the news from all our relatives and friends: my aunt's birthday, the first snow in the Carpathian mountains melted, it is getting quite cold at night where my nephew is in the army and they don't have windows, there was a horrible attack on the post office in Kharkiv region. Some interesting books are being published despite the war, though they are about the war (I am looking for the next book to read in Ukrainian). People are preparing for the winter month in different ways - we talked about our plans a lot too.
There was a lot of excitement when I found another avocado tree in our neighborhood. Some plants have that effect on some people :) At some point squirrels started to try fruits to see if any were ready and I started finding them on the floor. This tiny avocado was quite smooth and had no teeth marks! So it went into my pocket and then onto the art table and then into my sketchbook. It was not actually ready to be eaten.Amaryllis belladonna are fascinating plants for me - I am always surprised by their naked stalks with abundant inflorescence of unapologetically pink flowers and absolute lack of leaves. I am confused by where they are hiding the rest of the year and I recently learned that some of them have an amazing fragrance! When I got this beauty on a flower knot as gift it took me some time to realize that this is indeed amaryllis!
I enjoyed layering several different techniques in these three versions of the same group of fruits: monoprinting with acrylics, gouache, ink, stencils, color pencils.
There was an annual solar eclipse that was visible near me on a lovely morning of October 14th (when the clouds parted enough). Some people celebrated an occasion with a family outing and were well-equipped, some did not even notice. Looking at the sun (even when it is covered by the moon) is bad for your eyes! There is an endless number of ways to make shadows which all turn into crescents one way and then another. I am so glad it was Saturday!
October 9-15, 2023. Days 591 - 597 of war.
Almost 600 days of the war. No matter what we talk about from time to time Mom gives statistics: days of the war, days away from her home of over 80 years in Kharkiv, and days away from Ukraine.
This week we spent quite a bit of time talking about my new Ukrainian words - some from the book that I am reading and some my parents collected for me. Dad was in a singing mood and completed several songs in between Mom's accounts of the plants near their new apartment. There is a large bougainvillea bush that covers the roof of one of the buildings nearby. There is a guy who comes to throw away trash at the empty land plot that they see from the balcony. Mom is looking at him disapprovingly and decided to take pictures in the hope that he would stop. There are no cat friends yet at this location but there are several dogs that my Dad already befriended. The stairs are hard. The sky in beautiful.
Little things from the everyday moments with our nonagenarian. A few maintenance visits to doctors though no fall vaccinations yet. She grew several cucumbers on a single cucumber plant (which was hoisted by the stalk left from the sunflower). There was a rogue tomato plant (she claims that it grew all by itself!) which gave 3 lovely fruits. The rose bloomed and required trimming which we performed. The more elaborate and colorful the dress she chooses to wear on any day the better she is feeling. She keeps a diary and is adored by the new and "too young" eye doctor.
My sketchbook is populated by little everyday things: standing in line, fixing my pen, enjoying a fig preserve, choosing color palette, conversations with our nonagenarian, eating apples and looking at interesting seed pods.
October 1-8, 2023. Days 583 - 590 of war.
This week was one of the hardest in a long while. On a very personal front, my parents moved from one temporary apartment to another and it was extremely stressful despite all the support that they got. It is just really hard for them to move. But all was forgotten after two horrific days for Kharkiv and then unimaginable things happening in Israel. The layer upon layer of phone calls, text messages, worries mixed with relief when you get replies from family and friends, outrage and anger in between numerous attempts to find information, sort through sources, and just try and hug everyone you see. Everyone.
I buy apples at the store and the farmer's markets. People gift me apples. I find them on a street. I visit a friend and pick some right from a tree. I keep some apples on my work table but mostly on the kitchen counter. I hoard them. I hold them. I eat them. I inhale their fragrance. I bake them and with them. I make compote. Apples are everywhere - here are some from my sketchbook! And some pears too :)
Here was the first apple post of this season: A Great Reason to Paint Apples
September 25-30, 2023. Days 578 - 582 of war.
This week was emotional - between the continued bombings of Kharkiv and the upcoming move from one temporary apartment to another, we went over the main subjects of keeping tabs on all the family members, comfort food, and cursing russian invaders. However, there was time to talk about the interesting field work of entomologists which inevitably brought back conversations about books (there is a special old book about catching butterflies that all the kids in the family read at some point and of course Nabokov and Durrell). And that brought up a lot of new material for Mom's memoirs.