This is perhaps the most poignant of my mnemonic series. On April 26 1986, when the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 exploded, I was in a village some 15 miles away. We were evacuated a week later, but by then I was severely radiated and developed a tumor in my throat. I spent nearly 2 years recovering from the surgery, but the radiation affected my body forever. Yet I never considered myself as a victim, just a happy survivor. It was only after the premature birth and death of my first child that the specter of Chernobyl began to haunt me.
This series combines my personal grief with the lore of the local folk in the Chernobyl region, foretelling the end of the world with the coming the Beast in the shape of a silver cloud. This Beast swallows all living things and even the sun/child is not immune. Here, in the triptych titled “The Harvest,” I combine folk elements (borrowed from the work of the Ukrainian “primitivist” painter Maria Prymachenko, who then lived in the nearby village) with figures of reapers wearing masks–the grim harvest is the fur of the Beast, the one which brings death and devastation. Only the Beast’s oracular eye (rendered through collage of my childhood photos in Chernobyl), betrays its zoomorphic dimension--the reapers become its eyelashes, while the unblinking eye itself, if not an ultra-sound imaging, then an apocalyptic eclipse.
Conversely the “The Fields of Silver,” evokes not only my memory of that post-apocalyptic dawn when the meadows and trees around the village were covered in an iridescent silver dust glistening against the rising red sun (the eye of the Beast) but also the immanence of death embodied in the figure of the reaper bearing the scythe and holding the hand of the progeny–a stylized child/doll of nuclear energy. “The Ferryman,” drawn straight out of Greek mythology, taking the girl (me) across the river toward the power-plant/Hades, denotes my own brush with death at the operation table following the radiation.
Finally, in “The Omen” I confront the ancient concept of "kaimo", the Beast tears out the golden child out of my womb, yet the child sprinkles me with the gold dust of life and love. While these works seem mono-chromatic, specific primary colors are associated with my memory: red/blood (with surgery), black-white (old photographs), yellow (radiation), and brown-blue (iodine and Prussian blue, given to drink to absorb heavy metals). Other pieces will follow, some invoking the concept of space-time continuum in terms of maps and symbols. In all, it is not so much a commentary of the vagaries of nuclear power as on the vagaries of life.
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