“Blue and Yellow: Persist.” This show is running through Oct. 2 at Mathais Fine Art over in Trevett. It is a recording of the destruction and death, and is also a celebration of the Ukraine people’s fortitude and pride of country, and the strong leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Six months in, this invasion by Russia isn’t covered as intensely as it was the first few months, or so it seems to me. That’s why Cordula Mathias’ decision to get a show together in a show of solidarity with Ukraine was brilliant. I went to the show a few weeks ago on a day Cordula was also giving one of her art talks, during which she noted that some of the artists, including Brigitte Keller, “were willing to adapt their methods to be part of this show.” In Keller’s case, she used acrylic paints rather than cooking up her own oil paint in her kitchen (acrylics dry faster).
The artists in this show have created pieces in a variety of media. Some pieces are passionate in their message, some are subtly done, and others are somewhere in between. Collectively though, they all represent the message, the title of the show.
And so, what can we do? Make donations to humanitarian organizations working with the Ukrainian people, is one way. To help raise financial support, Mathias is raffling off an abstract watercolor simply entitled “Blue on Yellow.” Tickets are $15 each or three for $35. Or, just make a donation. Cordula is dividing the total amount between two humanitarian groups – Women for Women International-Ukraine Relief Fund and the Ukranian National Women’s League of America. The drawing for the raffle painting will be on the closing date.
Now, on to the art – about time, right? Periodically I’ll include comments Cordula made about the art and the artist.
The first piece that grabs your attention and evokes strong emotion is “FREEDOM” by Lesia Sochor, made just for this show. This 40” x 30” acrylic on canvas has the word “freedom” repeated in yellow/gold lettering across a blue background. Freedom moves across the canvas, fills it; deceptively appearing to be in motion, or so it seemed to me; the word moving steadily across the canvas and reappearing to start a new row, which I interpreted as – freedom is not kept or won by being static. In the center of the painting is a yellow babushka, you know, a women’s head kerchief – but without a face. Noted Cordula, “The face is absent, the human element is gone.” That statement gave me a chill. In place of that human face, however, was Ukrainian lettering also spelling out “freedom.” Cordula told us this piece takes on an even more beautiful, slightly mysterious dynamic in the late day/early evening light. This piece is one of my two favorites in this show. If I had $5,000 just hanging around, I’d have bought it. And, this piece, like a few others, has the artist’s request to donate $1,000 of that sale price to the organizations listed above.
Michael Culver’s powerful photo collage “Rhyming History” with acrylic paints is one to spend some time with. And this piece is right in the entryway, mind you … you can’t miss it. You know going in, this exhibit will have elements that will take you to other places, but it won’t be a walk in the park – not that you want it to be.
The collage: the dual image of Putin inside a missile and the bombed buildings were the first images I saw at first glance. Then ... the people of Ukraine –haggard, exhausted, but still keeping on; newspaper headlines; red paint in blotches or dripping; the date February 24, 2022 – repeated throughout; sculpture of the Archangel Michael; the young children in yellow T-shirts, bombs dropping on England in WWII, a burning building, Winston Churchill. Images and headlines that collectively remind the viewer of the price paid for freedom, for sovereignty, for peace.
Also on my favorites list is Brenda Bettinson’s “Night Bombardment” created in 2018. Bettinson was a brilliant artist, really, who passed this year. This 11” x 14” acrylic on paper, on mat board and on Gesso board, may be small, but it packs a punch. At first glance I thought it was the same location in various stages of utter destruction or is it four different locations in various stages of destruction? I still don’t know for sure, but “reading” it left to right I think it’s the latter, with the final square showing the light of fire burning through a window with one shadowy, cloaked figure in the forefront ...
There are paintings of sunflowers, celandine poppies, forget-me-nots; and a few paintings that are primarily blue and yellow. There are two gorgeous, small pieces of sculpture by Antoinette Prien Schultze made in short order for this exhibition. One is white marble with a mahogany base, and the other black granite with a teak base; both have blue and yellow glass. They are just lovely and when the colored glass pieces catch the reflection of the sun, well, it just made me smile.
The other extremely gifted artists with work in the show are Kimberly Callas, Max Bartsch, Paul Feyling, Brigitte Keller, Kate Marohn, and Antoinette Prien Schultze.
Make time to see this show. Maybe even see it twice. And don’t hesitate to ask Cordula about any of the art in this show – she’s a wealth of information and has a keen sense of humor, too.
Mathias Fine Art is at 10 Mathias Drive in Trevett. Gallery hours are from noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday, and by appointment; 207-633-7404.