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Art Gallery: 'Women at War' brings new perspective on war in Ukraine

Published on September 21, 2022

Art Gallery: 'Women at War' brings new perspective on war in Ukraine

Paintings by Lesia Khomenko on display.

A photo from Yevgenia Belorusets' "Victories of the Defeated."

Yevgenia Belorusets' "Victories of the Defeated."

In the wake of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, a new Art Gallery exhibition at Eastern Connecticut State University offers a fresh perspective on the war. The collection, “Women at War,” is intended to show the struggles of Ukrainian women during wartime, as women traditionally do not get the amount of visibility that men on the frontlines get.

The works are intended to inspire not just sympathy, but empathy and hope. “The works in this exhibition do not necessarily focus on women’s fates,” said curator Monika Fabijanska. “They really look at the lives of regular people who are left behind.”

Khomenko's painting of her husband.
Khomenko's painting of her husband, Max, an artist-turned-soldier. 

Another purpose of the exhibition, which is a collaboration between the Fridman Gallery in New York and the Voloshyn Gallery in Kyiv, Ukraine, is to preserve and publicize Ukrainian culture. “An exhibition like this is intended as a resistance effort,” said Ilya Fridman, director of the Fridman Gallery. “Oppressed people everywhere are denied the opportunity to record their own history.” The exhibition, Fridman hopes, will be a testament to Ukrainian culture as a strong entity separate from Russia’s efforts to engulf it.

Artist Lesia Khomenko was present at the gallery’s opening on Sept. 15. She presented several of her works, the creation of which she credits for helping her to maintain emotional stability in the six months since Russia invaded Ukraine. “In six months, I moved about 20 times,” she said. “Being in the middle of the conflict, it’s hard to produce (art). It’s difficult, but at the same time, it’s very helpful.”

Khomenko depicted soldiers in several of her paintings, including one of her husband, Max. He is a musician and sound artist who is now in Ukraine’s territory defense. Other paintings show soldiers with their faces blurred or pixelated. Khomenko based these works on selfies posted by soldiers who receive aid packages. In these selfies, their faces are blurred for their safety. This “dehumanization” is what Khomenko intended to feature in her works.

The gallery, which features the works of 12 female artists, is split between works created before and after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February. It puts work by Alla Horska in a prominent position. Fabijanska said that Horska is one of the most important Ukrainian artists due to her political activism. A 1963 linocut by Horska that shows fellow dissident artist Ivan Svitlychny is featured in “Women at War.” Horska was murdered in 1971, likely by the KGB.

Curator Monika Fabijanska.

Khomenko during her artist talk.

Observers of the exhibition.

Students survey works in the exhibition.

A group of Ukrainian musicians performs in the Art Gallery.

Another important series in the exhibition is Yevgenia Belorusets’ “Victories of the Defeated.” Focusing on people who stayed in Ukraine, this series enhances the sentiment of the strength of Ukrainian civilians. This is a series of photographs taken in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine from 2014-17. Featured in the photographs are female coal miners who resisted military rule. Belorusets noted in her artist statement that conditions in the region have deteriorated since February, with a railroad having been bombed and electricity and communication lines cut.

Eastern is the exhibition’s first stop since its initial opening at the Fridman Gallery, and its movement has been swift. “I’ve never seen this happen, that an exhibit would tour just two weeks after it closed at its original location,” said Fabijanska.

Fridman said that he hopes to see the gallery tour around the United States. In the meantime, it will be open at Eastern until Oct. 12 before making stops at Wesleyan University, Rhode Island, and Washington DC.

The exhibition's opening at the Art Gallery.
Students and members of the media gather for a press conference on the day of the opening.

Eastern's art gallery hours are 12-4pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; 12-7pm on Tuesday and Thursday; and 11am-4pm on Saturday. For more information on the “Women at War” exhibition, visit:

Written by Noel Teter