Lafayette Library Hosts New Ukrainian Exhibit

By Cedric He, Staff Writer

// The Lafayette Library Public Art Gallery is currently hosting a new Ukrainian exhibit that will remain on display until Jan. 18. Called Ukrainian Song, it features the artwork of Ukrainian-Canadian artist, Yana Verba. 

   At the age of 16, Verba immigrated from Ukraine to Canada to explore the arts. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York and receiving a BFA from OCAD University in Toronto, she began her work as an artist, using a blend of rhythm, color, and movement to depict vivid abstracts. She has displayed her works in Canada, the United States, and the Middle East. Since 2015, she has also lived and worked in California. 

   Verba’s artwork places a heavy emphasis on abstraction. She believes that abstraction is a key factor of effective self-expression.

   “In the smudges and specks of paint at the edges of Verba’s geometric parcels of color, she reveals herself,” fellow visual artist Victoria Mohr-Blakeney said.

  Verba is currently working on a series of paintings that echo Soviet monumental art and Soviet-Ukrainian mosaics. One significant mosaic that is on display in the gallery is, Birds of Mariupol, created in 2022. It uses abstract imagery to portray a bird flying through a vivid quilt of colors. 

   Art students find clarity and hope amidst the artistic nuances of the new exhibit.  

   “I think color is definitely the most prominent piece of this [exhibit]. [In Birds of Mariupol], the bird is white, which usually white symbolizes a sense of purity. But [being] surrounded by red is usually associated with anger or resentment. It almost looks like the bird is headed out towards the cooler, more calm [area]. So I think it’s kind of emerging out of the troubles to kind of establish itself as a strong nation,” senior Ava Freeman said.

   Aside from its artistic importance, the new Ukrainian exhibit presents another purpose in light of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, as many mosaics and other works of art have been lost due to the violence, bombing, and destruction.  

   The exhibit serves as one way that awareness is raised for the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the East Bay area. 

   “Ukrainian Song serves as an attempt to share a little piece of Ukraine with the community of the East Bay, [to] hopefully remind people that the war is not over yet, and ]to] ask people not to get used to this war and to stand with Ukraine,” they said in a statement.

   Yet, in spite of the destruction of Ukraine’s art, some students have chosen to develop a positive outlook towards the situation. 

   “It’s definitely very sad as history is collapsing but it’s also the beginning of something new and a lot of new art with a new story will be created instead of the old,” sophomore Alona Grechana said.

   As the Ukraine-Russian conflict continues to rage thousands of miles away, Ukrainian art continues to grow in popularity and find prevalence in American galleries and museums. While some students have forgotten about the severity of the war, others remain painfully aware of the conflict and the devastation that it has wrought on Ukrainians. 

   “I have many friends and relatives who are still in Ukraine and worry about their lives and telling me what is going on there. Perhaps it is precisely because many have forgotten and stopped worrying about the war that the situation there is getting worse,” Grechana said. 

   Many students understand and recognize the significance of showcasing such an artist and her work. 

   “It is important to remind people of Ukraine in a good light and that in Ukraine there are many people with great talents who need to be seen and who need our help and help to their country. And this [exhibit] is a good way to remind us about Ukraine and that nothing is over and we must remember this and do everything in our power to help so that these people can continue to create art and develop in their direction,” Grechana said.

Graphic by Gabi Gruber, Online Editor-in-Chief

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