When I was offered the opportunity to do a show at America House, the cultural center here in Kyiv, we knew what the theme would be. I had recently heard a young person say they hadn't ever read the Declaration of Human Rights. I realized I hadn't either. What are those rights? How do they relate to women?
Floor to ceiling banners of the Universal Human Rights, in both English and Ukrainian hang at one end of the gallery. The show's focus are twenty encaustic and graphite portraits of women who exemplify those rights, with short bios of each fascinating life story. Each story highlights a human right-- the right to share information, the right to protest, the right to an education. The portraits are mostly graphite, layered with paper, maps, string, paint, ink and wax. A large-scale butterfly, from the Lesya Ukrainka portrait, lets visitors don their own wings.
As an artist I can’t think of a more important issue than the rights that are fundamental to each of us—parents, students, artists, writers, those fighting for human rights and those watching in awe at others who fight for us. I wanted this show to be a celebration and a testimony to the rights that are basic to us all. For me, doing the art was an opportunity to learn about some of the incredible human beings from around the world who inspire us all to exercise our own rights. These people and these stories assure us that even in small ways, we can defend and protect the fragile beauty that, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is our birthright.