KOLIADA ON FIFTH AVENUEYara Arts Group & the Ukrainian Institute of America present:
the Koliadnyky of Kryvorivnia
Alexis Kochan & Julian Kytasty
plus the responses of sixteen visual artists to the ancient koliada texts
December 15-16, 2006
Ukrainian Institute of America
2 East 79th St (at Fifth Avenue)
New York City
“Contemporary Art Inspired by Ancient Texts
Celebrates "Koliada" at UIA”
by Olena Jennings
Ukrianian Weekly, February 11, 2007
"At the Ukrainian Institute on Fifth Avenue the Yara Arts Group not only created a unique performance to celebrate the Ukrainian tradition of koliady, or winter songs, but also presented art by fifteen visual artists inspired by the songs.
On the ground floor of the Ukrainian Institute were Annette Friedman’s sculptures. The representation of birds inspired the same optimism that is present in the words of the koliada: No one knows the heart of the dove/ This dove has a heart that is alive/ The dove sees the bee in trouble/ And wants to rescue her from death
Winding up the staircase were Alexander Khantaev’s vivid photographs of the koliadnyky, winter song singers. Some of the photographs featured the same koliadnyky who came from Ukraine to share their rituals and participate in the performance. The bright handmade costumes of the koliadnyky were accentuated against the snowy backgrounds. The photographs also gave insight into different aspects of the koliada ritual including the training of young koliadnyky and the playing of the imposing rih, or mountain horn.
Zhy! Ice and snow in the mountains/ Zhy! Poppies bloom in the valley In one of Peter Ihnat’s photographs a salt crystal was magnified to reveal its hidden aspects. It might have tricked the viewer into believing it was ice. His other photograph featured trees draped with ice, leaving the viewer with the feeling of winter isolation.
The bright sun was complaining to our dear Lord/ Lord, I don’t want to get up early in the morning/ Because wicked housewives have appeared/ Who do laundry on Sunday morning Sofika used pysanky to interpret this koliada. Her pysanky were all adorned with different representations of the sun. They were displayed on a mantle where their reflections shone in the mirror.
The peacocks were flying in the mountain above/ And dropping their feathers in the valley below/ There was a path from long ago/ A fine young lady walked there Larissa Babij sent her photographs from Kyiv. The landscape photos were presented in two forms. On the tables in front of them were puzzle versions that invited the viewers to participate in the construction of the photographs.
The peacock struts/ Dropping its feathers/ A beautiful girl/ Follows after Yara recently discovered the art of Halyna Zakhariasevych Lypa, which was done in the 1940’s. Lypa’s interpretation of the peacock koliada recalls folk drawings.
Honest woman wake up, don’t sleep/ Oh rejoice, oh Earth rejoice for the Good Lord was born Marc Kehoe’s painting was a depiction of the honest woman, alert for Christmas miracles.
May God grant you fine herbs in the garden/ Fine herbs in the garden, and a fine wedding in your home Olga Maryschuk’s graphics used monochromatic colors and traditional Ukrainian motifs, striking in their simplicity and the cultural information they conveyed in the depiction of a wedding and sunflower.
Before the world began/ Before there was a heaven or an earth/ There was only the blue sea/ And in the center of the sea stood a green tree Roman Hrab, Chrystia Saj, Joel Schlemowitz, and Stefan Tur all had different interpretations of this koliada. The blue neon in Roman Hrab’s installation added a touch of the contemporary and the scintillating silver seemed to portend the future. When viewers made their way up the grand stairs, they couldn’t help but be lured in front of Joel Schlemowitz’s video installation. Schlemowitz used footage of the koliadnyky and projected it on a screen that had the uneven appearance of an animal hide. The wavering hazy quality of the images invited the viewer to re-imagine the koliada in a modern experimental light.
In those wild grasses roams a stag so grand/ This grand stag has three and nine horns/ On his tenth horn a great castle stands… Anya Farion’s piece invoked the traditional coziness of winter, but gave it a new twist. A reindeer looked through a window that a curtain created in the viewer’s imagination. Her son Andriy Keeley populated the piece with origami birds.
Is the master home? Andrea Odezynska’s video transported the viewer to the landscape of the koliada, the Carpathian Village of Kryvorivnia.
Shadows were used to invoke a narrative in Marybeth Ward’s piece. In the darkened room, a light shone onto the crisp pile of leaves that the shadows moved across. Sounds emphasized the movement of the shadows, giving the viewer the pleasurable feeling of being lost in the woods. The piece also had a fairytale quality when, in a shadow, the viewer saw a wolf stretch open its wide jaws.
The fine young lady named Maria/ She gathers herself and goes to church/ / Oh the church doors, they open themselves/ Oh the books, they open themselves.
The themes of the koliada go beyond those of winter rites. This was especially evident in Margaret Morton’s piece in which she drew attention to the place of the “fine young lady” in the winter songs. The image of the lady was represented by the assumed perfection of the strands of blond hair wrapped around a book. Pieces of paper on which lines of the songs were written served as bookmarks.
The ancient winter songs were infused with new life and meaning by contemporary artists working with both traditional and modern media."