By Amber Kennedy

The Barry Museum of Art at Old Dominion University is currently presenting two exhibitions related to the conflict in Ukraine and related tensions in Eastern Europe: a solo exhibition featuring works by Virginia Beach native Heather Beardsley, and a loan term by Ukrainian-born artist Jules Olitski.

In an intimate pop-up exhibition titled ‘It Will Be For Thousands Of Years’, Heather Beardsley presents works from her ‘Strange Plants’ series. The series was inspired by a trip to Chernobyl, where she witnessed nature reclaiming the abandoned, toxic site. Vintage photos and postcards from Eastern Europe are hand-embroidered with increasingly wild foliage, often renouncing or engulfing the humans who populate the images.

“There is an inherent tension in these drilled and stitched works on paper, especially as we wonder if any of the images from Ukraine still exist today, and what might be destroyed next,” said Brett Day Windham, guest curator.

Additionally, the Barry Museum of Art is celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday of Ukrainian-born artist Jules Olitski (1922-2007) and the public debut of his 1989 painting “Alexander’s Love.” The painting was made in memory of Alexander Gorby, the son of Kristina, Olitsky’s wife. This long-term loan was made possible by Ann Freedman of Freedman Art and Olitski’s daughter-in-law, Natasha Gorby Cebek.

“Olitski created some of the most original and adventurous works of the Modernist era. His life as an artist was relentless, creating beautifully alluring works in all forms, including sculpture,” Freedman said. “During his later years, Olitski continued to push boundaries with his uniquely colored compositions, rising to some of the boldest abstractions of his career.”

While Olitski would not have defined his work as political, the experience of loss was woven into his life, and the inquiry into the absence in many of his paintings conveys a sense of nostalgia. “Alexander’s Love” measures over 6 feet by 8 feet, a sprawling example of his famous “mittens paintings”, which he made while wearing large fur gloves. The sheer size, energy and volume of the paint used in this work testify to the artist’s search for meaning through abstraction.

“The Barry Art Museum team developed these two exhibits quickly in response to the war in Ukraine,” said Charlotte Potter Kasic, Executive Director of the Barry Art Museum. “We were honored to be approached by the family of Jules Olitski with the opportunity to share his monumental piece, which draws on the extensive works in our permanent collection. The Beardsley exhibition used the framework of the cities of Eastern Europe as an organizing factor to help audiences here visualize spaces that are affected by war. We are honored to draw attention to this region and the artists who come from Ukraine or who have been affected by Culture.

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