TRANSFIGURATION RED: into the light is a body of work revolving around a little girl named Maria - a survivor of the 1932-1933 famine in my homeland of Ukraine. Her parents and 4 million others died because of Stalin’s policy of artificial starvation.
What would be my language of memorialization? The question plagued me for months. I started with an empty decaying photo album purchased on eBay. It became the container for loss and mourning. A Facebook posting asking for photographs from that period resulted in one precious image of Maria and her parents.
Intertwined with other historical photographs, they were shot and shot again, scanned and multiplied to the point where some images consist of more than a thousand layers. Each becoming more and more translucent. This was my artistic response to the language used by famine survivors when speaking of their loved ones: "a glass jar, filled with clear spring water", "a body shining as it if were made of glass”. What images these words conjure up! Yet, when you understand the process of starvation it all makes sense. First, the body consumes its stores of glucose, fats, and proteins which later cannibalize the tissues and muscles. In the end, the skin becomes thin and translucent.
How does one stop the process? As a way to keep them from disappearing, I overpainted Maria, her family and the others with ash, egg tempera mixed with precious pigments and wax. I wanted to say that they were more than images of a trauma-laden modern atrocity. They had loved, cried, and dreamed. And so, beautiful handmade garments of the period like a bread bowl, a child’s vest, a maiden’s wreath, and a bride’s wedding blouse were paired with the ghostly and specter-like people and places. The addition of the symbolic color red was the final gesture – the memorial was complete
TRANSFIGURATION is founded on the concept of the photo album and meant to help in the mourning process. By flipping the pages, over and over. By sifting through the memories - we participate in the collective act of mourning. This kinaesthetic element, the use of layering and repetition, and other sensory qualities, such as the painting with granular pigments give meaning and create the effect of a journey. The series is a remembrance, and a cautionary tale of the atrocities that we are capable of as a species.