Art has always been representative of cultural movements. The American Civil Rights Movement is represented by protest songs. Anti-war protests are bolstered by photography. In the current Ukrainian crisis, religious icons are painted on ammunition boxes.
Started in 2015, Icons on Ammunition Boxes, by husband and wife Olexander Klimenko and Sonia Atlantova offer a current take on historical religious icons. These wooden ammunition boxes are salvaged from the battlefields by soldiers and medical volunteers and brought to the artists’ studio. This series of paintings have been on display in the European Parliament in Brussels, St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, and many other cities across Europe. And now they’re coming to New York.
Thirteen of these icons on ammunition boxes are currently up for auction with 100% of the proceeds going to Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital. The hospital is a volunteer-based, non-government entity but has support from the ministry of defense and ministry of health. Klimenko and Atlantova have raised more than $450,000 for the hospital since 2015, after the first Russian invasion of Crimea.
“The main idea is this idea of transformation of death into life and creating the new idea, the new culture, and the fight for freedom,” says Tatyana Okshteyn, a Southampton resident who is the creator and curator of the auction.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the breadbasket of Europe has taken center stage in international news. Okshteyn knew she had to help. She immigrated to New York from Ukraine in 1980 with her late husband, also an artist. Okshteyn owned a gallery in Brooklyn for almost two decades before moving to the East End. She knew auctioning Klimenko and Atlantova’s work would not only show off their artistic ability but also showcase the importance of art during a time of war.
On the auction site, after clicking on a painting, bidders see the artist’s description of why a certain saint was used, what the imagery represents, and the relevance of it all.
One painting, titled “Guardian Angel,” is described on the auction site as “both a symbol of life overcoming pain and horrors of war, and a dream of how Ukraine will recover and flourish when the war will end.” Other imagery includes Madonna and child and Saint George on horseback.
“It’s not just a beautiful image,” Okshteyn says, “it’s a multilayered concept.”
The Watermill Center in Water Mill has invited the artists for a residency, but due to Klimenko being a man of fighting age, he might not be allowed to leave the country. The main focus of the artists though is to raise money for those fighting the Russian invasion.
“Art has always been very important,” says Okshteyn, “it unites people to really help the fight. They’re going through their fight for freedom.”
Bidding is live until 7 p.m. on August 25. The artwork will be on display at Jamesport Meeting House on that day from 5 to 7 p.m. See the art and place a bid at app.galabid.com/icons.