01 February 2023 – 17 May 2023
Oil on canvas; over 2.2 meters by 2.4 meters (over 7 feet by 8 feet)
The word “кошмар,” or “koshmar,” means “nightmare” in both Russian and Ukrainian.
For instance, a Ukrainian speaker in Ukraine might have called it a “koshmar” when bombs fell on a Ukrainian maternity hospital in March 2022. Similarly, a Russian speaker in Russia might have called it a “koshmar” when all Russian H&M stores closed in November 2022. What a nightmare!
In my painting, the left hand figure of blue and white is based on a statue called “The Motherland Calls” in Russia. Excluding pedestals, it is the largest statue of a woman in the world.
The bottom right hand woman and child in my painting are inspired by images from the invasion of Ukraine. She is displaced, as you can see – her world has been turned upside down.
Look at her face. A dreamscape unfolds before her eyes, but it is not the baby having a nightmare.
So whose koshmar are we seeing, in which a frozen, isolated heart in a leaking snowglobe is also the moon, pulling the tides past nature’s limits, over homes and lands, flooding the Earth with disregard to all life?
In which a distant spectator sits and stares out from two perspectives, which are in truth only ever one perspective?
In which the massive wave of the Motherland calls and coils and roils with the spikes of a human heartbeat, a heartbeat which flatlines by the time the wave reaches a Mother?
Look at her face.
When I think of the Ukrainian women I have met and known thus far, I think of quiet strength. Defiance. Women who have been forced to leave Ukraine and who are directly affected by displacement, war, and cultural and literal genocide, have shown me casually, as a matter of fact, that they are not victims.
One such woman told me, “I am not a refugee. I am a runner.” I asked her – “What did you mean?”
She laughed and explained that it was wordplay. She refused to adopt біженець, the Ukrainian word for refugee, which sounds like “bizhunets”, and instead reworked it to бігун, the word for runner, which sounds like “bihun.”
Now look back at the face of the mother in my painting.
In her eyes and in how she clings tightly to her child, we can see a shell-shocked woman.
She has been displaced.
Her world has been turned upside down.
However, she is a runner, not a refugee. She will make every sacrifice to protect her child from the ravages and realities of war.
And she knows that the dawn is coming.
As for the cry of the Motherland – an expression designed and molded by a man – look from this blue face to the face of the mother, and back again.
“The Motherland Calls”?
And yet I say that absent from this dramatic cry is the silent fire of truly fraught motherhood.
I think there’s a huge rift, a dichotomy, between the idea of the Motherland and real mothers on the ground, who are the ones who lose everything in a matter of seconds.
Question from the audience: “Who is the sitting figure in the back? The one drawn with white lines?”
I welcome others’ interpretations, but I painted the seated figure for two purposes:
1. It’s a clue that the background and the foreground show the same thing – just from two different perspectives at once. A flip, like a mirror, from the pivot point of the spectator. (Not unlike how the orientation of the heart and mother are clues to flip the work upside down.)
2. It brings into the frame observers of the conflict, sitting and watching and hearing about two different narratives, both written from a different perspective, but of the same events.
Please take your time to process and enjoy Koshmar. If you or any others have any questions or would like to speak to me for any reason, please call or text me at (732) 991-9799 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To view more of my work, please visit the rest of my website at michaelalozada.net.
I invite and encourage you to show my work to anyone whom you would like to share it with. All I ask is that you do not use any of my work to promote violence in any context, and that you credit the painter – Michaela Jane Lozada.