New York, November 20, 2023 – The Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University (OCSC) has made history with the groundbreaking exhibition “Beauty during Wartime and Before.” This exhibition showcases contemporary Christian art from Ukraine and was expertly curated by Sergei Chapnin. The collection features impactful works by renowned Ukrainian graphic artist Yury Khymych (1928-2003), icon-painters Sofia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klymenko, calligrapher Olexiy Checkal, and artist Anna Ravliuc-Bloomfield.
The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture and C-Icon Art Gallery proudly collaborated as esteemed partners of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center for this landmark exhibition. This partnership underscores a shared commitment to exploring and celebrating contemporary expressions of Christian art.
The exhibition’s grand opening was a memorable event featuring a stirring performance by the Spirit of Orthodoxy Choir, conducted by the talented Stratos Mandalakis. Hymns composed by Ukrainian church composers filled the venue, adding a profound musical dimension to the immersive experience and providing an encounter with Ukrainian liturgical tradition.
At the heart of the exhibition is the compelling focal point, “Mariupol Deisis” (2022), a poignant masterpiece emerging from the Icons on Ammo Boxes project by Atlantova and Klymenko. Sergei Chapnin elucidates, “Departing from certain tenets of conventional iconography, their work dares to challenge established norms, not in defiance, but as a powerful testament to the transformative potential of reimagining the Eastern Orthodox tradition.” The artists extend an invitation to viewers to look beyond the untreated rough wooden surfaces of the icons, emphasizing that authenticity is discovered not in a set of rules and regulations but in the eyes that perceive it.
Emerging from the crucible of Ukraine’s tumultuous history since 2014, this project reshapes the narrative of contemporary iconography. While icons traditionally embody permanence and strength, Atlantova and Klymenko’s work emerges from the fissures of conflict, proclaiming the enduring presence of God, the Holy Mother, and the Saints amidst the anguish of war.
All income generated from this project is dedicated to supporting the “The Wings of Victory” Charitable Foundation based in Kyiv, reflecting a commitment to aiding those affected by the consequences of war.
The Icons on Ammo Boxes exhibition captivated audiences from November 2 to 27, 2023, at The Sheen Center Gallery. This collaboration between the Orthodox Christian Studies Center and The Sheen Center For Thought and Culture sets a precedent for future engagements that celebrate the evolving landscape of Christian art.
Sergei Chapnin expressed, “We are blessed to acquire this artwork directly from Ukraine, and we hope that this exhibition will also travel to other cities in the US.”
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