Ukraine meets UNC in new FedEx Global Education Center art exhibition

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Image of Ukraine: Exploring Ukrainian Culture through Embroidery and Painting is on display until Dec. 8.

The rich cultural history of Ukraine has found its way into North Carolina through art.

A partnership between the Ukrainian Association of North Carolina and The Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies has brought the folk arts an opportunity to be showcased in Image of Ukraine: Exploring Ukrainian Culture through Embroidery and Painting.

The exhibit, covering three floors of the FedEx Global Education Center, features two forms of Ukrainian art: vyshyvka and Petrykivka. Vyshyvka is a form of embroidery and Petrykivka is a painting style named for the city it was developed in.

The first floor features traditional costumes and embroidery, the second floor features modern Petrykivka paintings and the third floor features more traditional Petrykivka paintings.

This exhibit has been a long time in the making, the Vice President of the Ukrainian Association of North Carolina, Oleh Wolowyna, said.

“This idea came half a year ago, to try to organize this exhibit about Ukraine embroidery and painting," Wolowyna said, "The Center for Slavic, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies and the FedEx Global Center thought it would be a good opportunity to publicize these cultural aspects so that the students, faculty and visitors would have an opportunity to appreciate that.”

Many community members contributed to the exhibit, loaning costumes and embroidery pieces, and all the paintings were done by local Ukrainian artist Olena Zintchouk. Zintchouk’s paintings showcase both modern and traditional Petrykivka painting. 

According to Ingrid Smith, events and exhibitions manager at the FedEx Global Education Center, the paintbrushes used to create the paintings are made from cat fur, and the style evolved from paintings on houses.

"The painting was used to ward against evil spirits, and was done around doorframes," Smith said. "The idea was that the evil spirits would be prevented from going inside the house, and it evolved to painting on canvas."

While Petrykivka evolved from painting on houses to canvases, vyshyvka has grown from a folk art form into something more in recent years. It is now commonly worn in Europe and around the world.

“In recent years embroidery caught the imagination of the fashion industry in Europe and has become very popular in the high fashion end,” Wolowyna said. “Quite a few stars in Hollywood and royalty in Europe have been wearing the expressions in the high fashion form.” 

The outfits displayed in Image of Ukraine are more traditional, worn for religious and historical activities and reflecting both eastern and western Ukraine. Many of the pieces showcased are wedding outfits and family heirlooms.

“It’s a unique exhibit that really illustrates a serious dedication from the local Ukrainian community and introducing their culture in a way that’s meaningful to them… A lot of what you’re seeing is sincere community effort,” said Associate Director of The Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies, Adnan Džumhur. “This is really a grassroots effort. It’s really all communal.” 

Local community members will take part in an opening reception on Sept. 14 beginning at 5:30 p.m. The reception will feature fashion demonstrations, Ukrainian food and a keynote lecture from Natalie Kononenko, professor and Kule Chair in Ukrainian Ethnography in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Image of Ukraine is on display until Dec. 8 at the FedEx Global Center, open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and select Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

@lookingforashes

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