By Erin Brody, Arts and Culture Editor
On Sept. 8, students, faculty members, and art-lovers attended the opening of the newest exhibition at the Verostko Center for the Arts: East Meets West: Women Icon Makers of West Ukraine.
Andrew Julo, director for the Verostko Center and curator of the Saint Vincent Art and Heritage Collection, typically picks what will be displayed in the Center, but the curation and background information about this exhibition came from John A. Kohan. Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kohan thought “East Meets West” was an appropriate title to show unity within a land that is influenced by many cultures. Before focusing on curation, Kohan was a former foreign correspondent to Russia for Time Magazine, and he has an interest in Eastern European art, specifically iconography.
Icons, as Julo explained, “ are religious images or holy pictures that people use in worship,” and are especially prevalent in Catholicism, specifically in the Byzantine and Orthodox traditions as a means to show reverence towards the person depicted, not the icon itself.
“What makes these icons different is they are created explicitly by known artists or women,” said Julo. “Women have often been excluded from icon-making practices in various Christian traditions. The exhibit essentially focuses our attention on a specific rite within Catholicism known as Ukrainian-Greek Catholicism.”
Ukrainian-Greek Catholics follow a more Byzantine liturgy while obeying the Roman Catholic pope for spiritual direction, and each of the artists featured in the exhibit attend an art school in Lviv that specializes in Ukrainian-Greek iconography.
What is interesting about the featured icons in the exhibit is that the artists blend the traditional shape and symbolism of iconography with modern techniques ranging from splashes of color to the layering of paints.
As featured artist Hlafira Shcherbak said, “My art is about feelings and experiences, a dialogue and process of co-creation with viewers in all their differences, creating a sense of integrity in the presence of God.”
When considering what he hopes viewers will think about as they see the exhibit, Julo said, “A lot of what these artists are doing is a kind of resistance against the domination of Russian control. We definitely wanted to draw attention to the good work being done by artists who are met with the tremendous challenge of being in a nation that’s under attack.” As a finishing thought, Julo said, “My hope is that people come to this exhibit and think about not only a very particular and fascinating part of Catholicism [...] but also think about this as contemporary, in that these are people whose city is experiencing a tremendous influx of refugees.”
East Meets West: Women Icon Makers of West Ukraine will be on display now until Nov. 18 during Verostko Center hours. A free-will offering to support the Ridni Charitable Fund, a Lviv-based organization that helps children and those orphaned as a result of the war, will be available during this time also.