Beautiful things are born here

Kateryna Kosianenko’s stunning art exhibition, “VICTORY” displayed at the Andrea Sheptytsky Museum in Lviv captures the spirit of Ukraine. And this war. It embraces life. And hope. And murder. It screams. And whispers. Colors explode. Stories emanate from Kateryna’s sharp scrapes of the canvas. And soft iconic faces of angels and man populate her world I’ve been five times and every visit, I see and feel more. Only Caravaggio 28 years ago, in the basilicas of Rome, spoke to me as does Kateryna.
I attended the opening on April 21. A week later I met my students there for a Friday afternoon class. We walked and we talked the gallery together. I’ve posted photos of “Victory” for you to scroll through, intermixed with student-written analyses, documenting what they saw. What they thought. And how they felt. This week they will feel more. Kateryna will come to my classroom Friday and share with the girls about her art, this war, and the pain and hope of Ukraine. Unfortunately, I’ll be in the air. My visa has expired; it’s time to come home for a bit – and see if maybe I can help to extend Kateryna’s reach across the sea.
Following the post of photos, in the first comment box below, I’ve linked a YouTube playlist that digs deeper. There you’ll find, a 4:00 walk-through video, of the exhibition, as well as short movies of these same students, each discussing a particular painting. At the end is a superb 12:00 documentary, by Babylon Thirteen “Art in the Land of War” a story about Kateryna and the “Victory” exhibit. Please. Please. Slow down. Sit and take some time to explore with my students the soulfulness of the art of Kateryna Kosianenko.
Olha is one of my students. She’s in her third year of a four-year psychology program. Our class is a mix of Psychology, Sociology, and Social Work majors, all year three. Currently, Olha is applying for a full scholarship to start over again at Sheffield College in England in the field of Journalism. While she certainly values her studies at UCU – she wants to write! And she wants to do it now!
In all my teaching experience, I’ve not met a more thorough student. Her research is dogged; she reads everything. And digs to the bone, particularly when it deals with international human rights. And of course Russia. Reading her assignments has been my own education. I expect that she will earn that full scholarship. And that she’ll go to England to study and come back to Ukraine to live. And I expect that one day she will write for the Atlantic. I’ll post for you Olha’s short summary (Part II of the Assignment) a look into the life of Kateryna Kosianenko. This will give you insight into the artist and a look at a young Ukrainian journalist in the making.
Finally, on Saturday I went back to the museum and Zoomed with Vasylyna. Vasylyna’s situation is a bit complicated. She’s a Ukrainian refugee trying to finish the semester from abroad. She currently works full-time and lives in Poland with her husband. Throughout the semester, we’ve met once a week on Zoom. This time it was at the museum. Vasylyna walked the exhibition with me and my iPhone. Lviv to Poland via Zoom. “A little to the left. Now up. Step back. Right. Just a shade. Perfect!” Let’s talk.” And we did. For ninety minutes, About Kateryna and her Art. About religion, Russia, and war, and the intersection of each.
“Victory” screams Ukraine! And the girls’ insight is fresh. If after looking through the post, you have questions or thoughts about a student or the artist, ask. I might be able to hook you up over Zoom with one or more of the girls. And who knows, maybe even Kateryna. She traveled to Lviv special just to meet my students. And her goal like so many Ukrainians, is to use her skills to enlighten a world that doesn’t yet fully comprehend, or chooses not to see, the barbarity of the Russian state and its impact on her countrymen and women.
German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” I would say, that Kateryna’s work does both, with vigor. It is however to our advantage to feel that hammer. And to share its power. To take it and use it in whatever way we can.
These are dire times. There is no Ukrainian alternative to victory. Russia has proven time and again that rules of war do not exist. And not only in Ukraine. Grozny, Syria, Aleppo, Georgia, Belarus, and the streets of London, the humanity of many peoples around the globe is irrelevant to Vladimir Putin. As Taras (an 18-year-old IT student) told me, on my first visit to UCU, back in October. I asked him, how Ukraine could possibly defeat the full might of the Russian Federation.
“We have no alternative, Mr. Wood,” Taras told me. So calm. So direct. “To lose would be our demise.” I concur.
After five months here, I agree with Taras. Victory or demise.
This exhibition can open eyes. And hearts. It is another way to know and care about Ukraine and the war, that doesn’t include bombs and guns and talking heads on CNN. It is a hammer! “Victory” will show in Lviv thru July 2023. After that, it goes somewhere else. So? Why not the United States? Why not the Detroit Museum of Art or the Art Institute of Chicago? Or Cleveland? Or Grand Rapids? Seattle or Philly? Or Muskegon, Michigan?
You know people, I know people who know people. Any ideas? Any contacts? Any way that you think might bring Kateryna’s Exhibition to the US, is worth a shot. I can place you or them into contact with those who make such plans. People love Art with all their souls. A venture such as this will cost money. And it will take influence. There are those out there who have both, who are looking for a way to stand up to genocide. To provide support in these dire times. — not with battlefield weapon donations or gifts to purchase humanitarian goods, but by using their means, to share that which they love most. Art! The Art of “Victory.” The Art of Kateryna Kosianenko.
I am confident this exhibition, placed in the right hands…will move Americans as it has Ukrainians. As it has moved me. And my students.
Please help to make that happen. Thank you for continuing to care about the people of Ukraine.
Mr. Wood Bob Wood