(NEW YORK, NY) -- The Ukrainian Museum, often described as a "little gem" in the East Village, reopened it's doors after a year of closure due to the pandemic lockdowns by mounting an exhibition reflecting an artist's personal journey through a body of work that would redefine her studio practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding Sanctuary, an installation consisting of over 130 pieces created over the course of 18 months by Christina Saj, is on display at the Ukrainian Museum through the end of January 2022.
Saj, a New Jersey artist stifled by being in the “hot spot” at the start of the pandemic lockdown, retreated to her home studio to channel the angst, fear and frustration we were all feeling.
In between caring for older and younger generations in her family and now stuck at home, she found solace in art, aiming to deliver hope and faith through image, form, and color. Her pandemic collection took it’s shape by accident, from an abandoned record collection she found just before lockdown driving her kids to and from school. Overtaken by a wave of creative energy, Saj started painting vigorously, producing the vividly hued disks nearly every day of the pandemic.
Christina Saj, The World is Upside Down, acrylic on vinyl 7” diameter 2021
The circular shapes reminded her of the coronavirus as seen under a microscope, but they also evoked a sense of perfection and continuity. The painted vinyl disks are reminiscent of mandalas, symbols of the universe or cosmos, which offer sacred space and connection to a deeper plane. For Saj, they are a window through which to illuminate the collective state of being.
Using her signature bold and brightly patterned palette, Saj offers respite from the gloom and pallor of a world largely restricted to the all-too-familiar and unchanging walls of monotony that surrounded us all from the start of the pandemic. The disks are bubbles of visual delight that provide sustenance to endure the vacuum of cultural stimulation and sameness that overtook our lives. Saj offers us beauty as an antidote to chaos and uncertainty. She believes that “paintings can glimmer in the distance. They can surprise us out of our torpor. They can mirror hope. Art outlives us all and will therefore continue to tell our story long after this pandemic ends.”
Christina Saj is a contemporary artist whose abstract paintings reveal a fascination with vivid color and rich pattern. Her distinctly recognizable style calls on modernist roots and an interest in unconventional materials. In contrast to much of modern art, Saj’s work hails beauty and visual joy to build her vocabulary. She is an iconographer of the future. Her colorful and playful paintings, while steeped in Old World traditions, beckon to the inner child. Her images allude to the tradition of sacred paintings, informed by her early training and work with Byzantine iconographer Petro Cholodny the Younger, who introduced her to the ancient methods of painting in egg tempera. Saj holds a B.A. in Painting from Sarah Lawrence and an MFA from Bard College. She studied Byzantine Art History at Oxford University.
Christina Saj; Chrysanthemum; 2021, acrylic on vinyl; 12” diameter
Saj continues adapting and innovating her techniques to engage audiences in new ways with the use of unusual materials that expand her reach as a painter. Her work has been exhibited widely, in such venues as the Museum of Biblical Art, the National Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, Union Theological Seminary, the Museum of Cultural Heritage in Kyiv, the National Museum in Lviv, Ukraine and the American Embassy in Qatar, as well as at the White House. Her works reside in private and museum collections in the U.S. and abroad.
The Ukrainian Museum acquires, preserves, and exhibits articles of artistic or historic significance to the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainian Americans; its collections include thousands of items of folk art, fine art, and archival material. At its founding in 1976 by the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, the Museum was hailed as one of the finest achievements of Americans of Ukrainian descent. Since then, and particularly since its move in 2005 to a new, state-of-the-art building in Manhattan’s vibrant East Village, it has become known as one of the most interesting and dynamic smaller museums in New York City. Each year, the Museum organizes several exhibitions, publishes bilingual (English/Ukrainian) catalogues, and presents a wide range of public and educational programs, including concerts, films, lectures, courses, workshops, and special events.
In accordance with New York City mandate, all visitors age 12 and older must be vaccinated against COVID-19. At this time, appointments are not necessary however social distancing practices and masking are enforced. The museum has resumed normal hours Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 to 5:00pm. The museum is located at 222 East 6th Street (between Second Avenue and The Bowery in New York City.