art exhibition curator
International Art Alliance present the project ICONS ON AMMO BOXES, created by Ukrainian artists Sonya Atlantova and Oleksandr Klymenko, professional icon painters who started working on this project in 2014. The Project is a meditation on the theme of death – symbolized by actual ammunition boxes from the Ukrainian front lines used as the “canvasses” – transformed to life – symbolized by the icons painted on them – in the midst of this conflict. The icons bear silent but eloquent witness to the tragedy and horror of this war. By this project artists give us the understanding that even violence and pain can be transformed into peace and consolation and besides, and also to become a significant source of financial support for people who suffered during the war. The main part of the money received from the sale of icons goes to the creation and maintenance of mobile military hospitals. Since its inception, the project has raised over $600,000 to provide medical care to Ukrainian military and civilians.
The story of the creation and journey of icons around the world is incredibly touching, speaking about the power of compassion and mutual assistance, humanism and solidarity in the fight against evil.
The icons created by Klimenko’s wife and husband are not only religious symbols, but are of interest from the point of view of contemporary art. That is why they were successfully sold at one of the famous Art Fairs in Florida.
“At first glance, the icons of Sofia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klymenko – are a provocation, a bold challenge to tradition. They break with the typical imagery of iconography, not to outrage, but to show that an icon that breaks with tradition can be convincing. Phoniness is not in the substance, but in the eye of the beholder. It is precisely a perfect, richly decorated and finely written icon that might look wrong at a time when a terrible war has violated the daily lives of millions of people.
Those who are wounded, are refugees, and have lost their loved ones, feel that all beauty has gone from their lives. In its place is horror, suffering and grief. But even in these days, God Himself, His All-Holy Mother, and all the Saints are near. Atlantova and Klymenko’s icons speak namely of this.
…The sacred images can be deduced even in roughly knocked together wooden covers with rusty hinges that until recently served the war. Ammo boxes lie in huge piles on battlefields, reminding us of the toll of war. But in the end, life will triumph over death.” – Sergei Chapnin, Senior Fellow at The Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University
Our first exhibition, ICONS ON AMMO BOXES, in New York was held at Wallace Hall, Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola on Park Avenue in New York City. Thanks to the help of my longtime friend and colleague at America Media Fr. James Martin and of course Pastor of Church Fr. Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., who invited us to exhibit icons as part of the Parish Art Show in May 2023.
Words by Fr. Dennis in an interview with the Voice of America perfectly reflected the essence and deep meaning of this event:
“ ….we thought it was a message from God. Let’s do something together, so that we can assist in the efforts of Ukrainians for an extraordinary cause to display beautiful works of sacred art and to bring our parishioners closer to the iconography, what icons are, as well to have opportunities to show their support financially and which is equally as important to offer prayers as well. So that’s so that the background and the history of why we’re here tonight. And this is the opening night, and so we’re delighted we invited our friends who are Muslim or Jewish, who are non-catholics to join us and so we expect to see many of our neighbors and from the Ukrainian community itself, I understand, are coming here in numbers. So to bring us together, sort of an exercise of interfaith ministry, while at the same time being a point of contact through art and culture, which is, I believe, the universal language.
I had my eye on at least one or two, three but I possibly, will plot purchase one of them to be displayed prominently in the church: A token of our, one, gratitude for being the first site here in New York City to display these, but also to show our support.”
Click here for the fragment of a video interview with Fr. Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J.
The exhibition was a great success, many guests gathered and, most importantly, the icons touched the hearts of the parishioners. Five icons were purchased, three of which remained in the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Fr. Dennis turned to the framing workshop of the Metropolitan Museum, where worthy frames were made for the icons.
Now the icons created by the artist Alexander Klimenko hang in a place of honor in the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola on Park Avenue in New York City and the inscription next to them tells the story of their creation.
The ICONS ON AMMO BOXES project is very multifaceted, full of various symbols and philosophical meanings, not to mention its artistic and innovative value. But it is obvious that our exhibition of Ukrainian Orthodox icons in the Catholic Church, in the heart of New York, had a unique symbol and meaning. The exhibition showed openness and generosity, solidarity and unity, willingness to help and support those who need it now.
“The icons themselves are gentle—the Christ Child gently caresses his mother’s cheek in a gesture of consolation; Sts. Boris and Gleb, the first saints from the region, wear sumptuous golden green robes, with no sign of their martyrdoms on them. Even an icon of a grieving Mary has a softness and delicacy that belies the horror of what she is suffering. Christ in the tomb likewise has more the character of slumber than death, suggesting something more is coming.
And that is exactly the point Mr. Klymenko and Ms. Atlantova are trying to make. “These icons are supposed to be about showing the resurrection of peace and love and also Jesus,” explains artist “Jesus is here, and he is talking to you.”
Mr. Klymenko said he also hopes his icons can be a source of encouragement for all those who struggle. “I’m not just trying to show the position of Ukraine but to speak across all countries,” he says. His goal is “to show that this war is going to end, like any other wars. As always, evil will be defeated by God.” – from an interview to Jim McDermott, America Magazine, 2023
Tatyana Borodina, [email protected]
Yelena Duda, [email protected]
Also we are open for any proposal to exhibit this project.