To support the Ukrainian people, the Museum of Russian Icons announced the reinstallation of contemporary Maine artist Lesia Sochor’s Pysanka: Symbol of Renewal, an exhibition inspired by the fine tradition of Ukrainian painting with intricately decorated Easter eggs, from 17 March to July 31, 2022, Three new works created in response to the current crisis in Ukraine will be featured in the exhibition. The exhibition was previously presented in 2020-21.
“The Museum of Russian Icons vehemently condemns the military aggression against the sovereign country of Ukraine. We stand with the brave citizens of Ukraine and Russia who oppose this senseless art of war,” said Museum Executive Director Kent Russell. “In solidarity, we are reassembling the Lesia exhibit and have placed a Ukrainian icon of the Mother of God Pokrova draped in a sacred Rushnyk cloth in our lobby.”
Sochor’s paintings are stories told in paint that are inspired by personal experiences. The Pysanka series evolved from Sochor’s annual springtime ritual of creating Ukrainian Easter eggs called Pysanky. The depiction of the symbolic meanings and traditional motifs of this talismanic object in oils and watercolors has spawned a new avenue of contemporary expression for this ancient art form. Sochor creates a direct link with its ancestral roots by carrying on the tradition of Pysanky making transmitted by its Ukrainian immigrant mother.
Decorated with traditional folk designs using a wax resist method, Pysanky are miniature jewelry that Ukrainians have been creating for countless generations. The word pysanka comes from the Ukrainian verb pysaty, which means “to write” or “to inscribe”, because the designs are not painted, but written (inscribed) with beeswax.
The egg, as an embodiment of life force, has been associated with mythical and religious ceremonies since early pagan times. Ancient peoples universally worshiped the sun, with eggs as ritual objects for these celebrations; the yellows represent the sun, the whites the moon.
Over time, the Pysanka, a decorated egg, has become deeply important in springtime rituals symbolizing the rebirth of nature. It was common to all Slavic peoples, and various forms of Pysanka were prevalent as early as 5,000 BC. Ukraine’s geographical location made it less accessible to new cultural influences, so the development of design was able to flourish and grow.
With the advent of Christianity, much of the symbolism of nature’s rebirth was equated with the resurrection of Christ. It was therefore incorporated into the new religion’s Easter celebrations. Today, during the holidays, there is Pysanky in every Ukrainian household. They are taken to church, blessed and given as gifts to family and friends.
The technique used is a resistant wax process. Designs are drawn on the egg with melted beeswax dripping from a tool called a Kystka. After being dipped in a series of dyes, the wax is removed and the final design is revealed. Each egg involves a trinity of symbols: the egg itself, the design and the color. This springtime tradition is passed down from generation to generation as it was passed down to me by my Ukrainian mother. I now continue the custom with my family.
Being first and foremost a painter, the annual ritual of making Pysanka was the conduit for a decade of exploring paintings in the 1990s. Representing this age-old art form, so rich in symbolism and tradition, spawned a new way of expression. The traditional meanings and motifs of this sacred and talismanic object have prompted new interpretations integrating ancient stories with contemporary content and imagery, using both oils and watercolors.
Ukraine is making headlines with the unthinkable happening. There has been an unjust and cruel invasion of a peaceful country. This exhibition is poignant in that it demonstrates solidarity with an independent nation; one with its beautiful culture, language and traditions. Ukraine has endured historic hardships, but remains strong in its convictions and its determination to follow its own course. I am honored to share this work which connects me to my roots, the homeland of my ancestors.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in Philadelphia PA, Lesia Sochor graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art with a degree in fine art. She emigrated to Maine in 1980 where she laid down her creative roots and helped nurture a vital artistic community that thrives to this day. She co-founded the first art gallery in Belfast, Maine, and started and ran an art center. She has also taught publicly and privately through museum residencies and workshops for 25 years and has illustrated two children’s books.
In addition to thriving as an artist, Lesia is a dedicated and enthusiastic art teacher who has taught public and private classes, in museum residencies and studios for 25 years.
His work has been exhibited in galleries, museums and universities and is part of public and private collections in the United States and Canada. Sochor has exhibited extensively throughout the state of Maine and beyond at various venues including Lesley University (MA), Ukrainian Institute (NY), Prince St Gallery (NY), University of the Arts ( PA), the Boston State House (MA), the Farnsworth and Gilley Museums (ME), the Freyburg Academy (ME), and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art.