In early March, a missile tore into a high-rise apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, upending Bella Logachova’s life and that of her 8-year-old son Nikita.
They fled their home on the 16th floor and found temporary shelter without water or cooking facilities, before eventually moving in with a friend.
That’s one of the many grim experiences Logachova has faced as Russia’s war against Ukraine, deliberately targeting civilians, enters its seventh month. But like her fellow Ukrainians, Logachova has remained defiant, continuing to produce political art that chronicles the war and its terrible impact along with Ukrainians’ brave resistance.
An exhibit of Logachova’s artwork opened Friday at Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum. The exhibition, titled “Living Through War: Works from Kharkiv by Bella Logachova,” features 19 large canvases of digital art displayed chronologically. They begin when Russian forces invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014 and conclude with six artworks depicting the war that began with Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
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The exhibition in Niagara Falls came together quickly.
Museum Director Ellen Owens and Michael Beam, curator of exhibitions and special projects, were approached by Sabine Kutt, a photographer and art curator, about the idea of exhibiting Logachova’s work.
“We were so moved by looking at this work that we decided, if possible, to put on an exhibition by an artist in another country living through a war and do it in three months time with three different language barriers,” Owens said.
“We want to bring the realities of this war to life in a way that is powerful but also approachable,” she said.
It’s particularly timely now, Owens said, as the first Ukrainian refugees begin to resettle in Western New York.
“This talented artist who shares these stories from her personal experience helps all of us at Niagara University, including students, faculty, staff and guests, better understand the causes and the effects of this terrible war,” said Tim Ireland, a university provost.
Logachova, who lives in danger while continuing to teach media arts at Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Art, made a brief video greeting viewers and expressing her thanks to Niagara University for the exhibition.
Her artwork uses cultural references, historic and modern symbols and accents of color to tell her framed stories.
“The traditional embroidery often shown is not just an elemental decoration, but a symbol of both Ukrainian identity and resistance,” said Kutt, who co-curated the show with Beam. “It is connected to images of tanks, rocket launchers and other military equipment.”
The rooster, which shows up often, is a symbol of war. Brown and orange colors, Kutt said, are the colors of Ukrainian separatists, while figures in black represent people who have created havoc within Ukraine and are spoken of as “terrorists.”
“WARWARWARWAR” depicts bursts of gunfire and explosions, with images of airplanes dropping bombs and bombs, produced on the day of Vladimir Putin unleased tens of thousands of ground troops and terrifying aerial bombardments.
“Kindergarten 2022” shows a stuffed teddy bear and alligator in free fall as an explosion rocks a school.
Two pieces, somewhat ironically, depict major symbolic military losses to both Ukraine and Russia.
In “Mriya 2022,” the wings of a Ukrainian cargo plane are shown on fire in the first week of the war, leading to the loss of what’s claimed to be the heaviest aircraft with the largest wingspan ever built. “Moska Fire 2022” depicts big explosions and soldiers falling into the Black Sea after Ukrainian jets sank Russia’s flagship cruiser on April 14.
Five prints of Logachova’s artwork are on sale at the museum, with all proceeds going to her to dispense in the ways she feels will best help needs on the ground.
“The exhibit is powerful,” said Yuri Hreschchyshyn, president of the Buffalo chapter – Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. “It made an impression on me to recall those events and how it’s part of a larger narrative of continuous aggression by Russia on Ukraine.”
Victor Bandriwsky, a volunteer with the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, said the exhibition will help keep awareness of the war in the public eye. He also hopes it will spur sympathizers to support both the war and humanitarian effort.
“This is an unprovoked attack, but being so far away there are many things Americans can do to help, including not only keeping our friends and family informed but also to help Ukrainians,” Bandriwsky said.
The Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation, which owns the Dnipro center, has shipped 30 tons of medical supplies to Ukraine since the start of the war, including surgical equipment such as catheters, sutures and scalpels, along with wheelchairs and hospital beds, Bandriwsky said.
Some $400,000 has also been raised locally since the start of the war to buy armored vests, helmets and tourniquets.
The foundation has also partnered with Help for Ukraine, a local organization, to pay for multiple shipments of humanitarian supplies to war-torn cities, including diapers and baby food.
“I ask that you continue to stay informed, donate and support Ukraine by participating in Ukrainian events in Buffalo,” Bandriwsky said.
For more information, or to donate, go to dniprobuffalo.com.
Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He’s also a former arts editor at The News.