Watch Us: Ukrainian-American Art on Display at Corvallis


Until May 14, Tatyana Ostapenko’s paintings of women wearing traditional Ukrainian clothes are exhibited at the Corvallis Arts Center. All profits from their sales will be donated to Ukrainian refugees via Global donations.

The exhibit, titled “Looking at Us,” also features paintings by the Newburg, Oregon-based artist. Tim Timmerman. Ostapenko and Timmerman gave an artist talk on April 14, which will be uploaded to The Art Center YouTube channel.

Ostapenko, who was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, before immigrating to the United States 25 years ago, said she had sold 90 paintings and raised more than $65,000 since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 4 .

About the artist

Ostapenko always wanted to be an artist, but the circumstances in Ukraine were not “conducive” to an artistic career at the start of his life.

“After quite a bit of ‘adulthood’ in my mid-thirties, I decided to afford the luxury of going back to school to get a degree in art.[…] at Portland State University,” she said, “and since then have actively exhibited and painted and been a full-time artist for two years.

Oregon has been very supportive of her work, Ostapenko said, and without the help of the community in Portland and beyond, she wouldn’t have been able to raise those tens of thousands of dollars so quickly. She said some people were so generous that they even refused to take a painting in exchange for donating funds.

She describes her own art as “figurative representational work” and said the show was in the works long before the war started, so the timing turned out to be right. She had to scramble to create enough pieces for the exhibition after selling out at the fundraiser.

The war

According to Ostapenko, when thinking about the Russian-Ukrainian war, it is important to keep a few things in mind.

“It is not an ethnic conflict, it is not the result of a civil war,” she said, “it is a war of imperialist aggression which is not new. has had attacks on sovereign territory in Ukraine since 2014 and there has been an active war in those separatist regions – Crimea was hacked and annexed to Russia – but the eastern regions of Donbass… Russia sent militant thugs who took control of the city administration.And the disinformation campaign coming from Russia is deeply revealing and they rescind their personal statements within days with impunity.

Ostapenko has seen US mass media repeat inaccurate information, especially from sources with certain political affiliations. She calls rhetoric worse than nonsense.

“All the rhetoric about rescuing persecuted Russian speakers is…I can’t even use the word nonsense,” Ostapenko said.

As someone who speaks four languages, including Russian, Ukrainian and English, Ostapenko said Ukrainian was his weakest. She said people don’t speak Ukrainian in Kharkiv – the city she grew up in, most people speak Russian.

Today, Kharkiv is under heavy attack from Russia.

Ostapenko said she understands the desire to ignore all bad news, but the war in Ukraine is not a regional conflict that will remain contained. Russia has “imperialist ambitions,” she said, and ultimately would like to bring countries that were once part of the Soviet Union back under its control.

Donations came quickly

The majority of donations arrived in the first week, according to Ostapenko, and she expected that to be the case. She considers the attention span in American culture to be short, so she just wants to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

People can help by staying informed and making monthly donations to refugees, Ostapenko said, because once the war is over, it will take a long time to rebuild Ukraine.

Kharkiv has suffered massive damage along with many other parts of the country over the past two months with hundreds of buildings destroyed and people killed.

“Keep sharing verified information, don’t stay silent,” Ostapenko said. “If you know someone in the area, contact them and let them know you are thinking of them. And don’t share bad news with them, they heard the news, they know it.

Ostapenko’s future

As for the future of Ostapenko’s art, she said she plans to catch up on commissions and create new art since her inventory was cleaned out.

Meanwhile, Nostranaa Portland restaurant where Ostapenko painted a mural in the past, is collaboration with Oregon winemaker Cameron Winery to release a special Chardonnay labeled with its mural. Profits from Nostrana wine sales will be sent to help people in Ukraine.

More information about Ostapenko’s art and life, and a chance to donate to the cause, can be found via her Instagram @postsovietart and its website

By Zeva Rosenbaum


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