As a victim of domestic violence from the Ukrainian hinterland, became a famous artist in New York
Source: Voice of America
Today she is a successful artist, whose paintings are on display at New York fashion weeks, international art shows and will soon adorn galleries in London. American publications write about her, her unique style and extraordinary talent are admired. But even more striking is the will and perseverance of this amazing woman, who went to an unknown country with minimal resources, but high expectations, and not only started all over again, but did not give up, desperately fighting for the right to be someone.
The story of ups and downs, disappointments and achievements, the story of finding oneself and realizing desires - in an interview VOA with Oksana Tanasiv.
Alina Golinata-Slota: Oksana, how did you get to the States and become the one you are now?
Oksana Tanasiv: Everyone is given a chance in life. When I won the green card, it was my chance to come to the USA and build a new life. But I didn't even imagine that it would be so hard. America from the Ukrainian side, from the point of view from abroad, is a big colored sweet candy that you want to eat. Many people in Ukraine believe that everything is simple here, that you can easily find a job, earn money, and have a much better standard of living. There are indeed many good opportunities and prospects in the United States, but they are subtle and ephemeral.
In Ukraine, I worked as a business coach, providing psychological advice to personnel managers, company owners. Came to the States with a 10 month old baby. Not knowing English, I started cleaning. It reminded me of a fall from a kilometer height. But there was no choice - I had to get up and move on, earn money to feed my family.
At the same time, I understood that this was not what I had hoped for. I hoped for much better and believed that it would be so, it just must take more than one year until the transformation of my knowledge, skills, and abilities takes place. I forced myself to be flexible and bend to the different circumstances that America met me with.
First of all, I began to study English intensively. She became a college student, after which she entered the university. She was educated at the University of Connecticut, a bachelor's degree in general subjects. In the process I changed several works, until I reached what I wanted.
At the same time, I started drawing and eventually realized that this is my main vocation in life. I had a dream - to achieve a high level in art, to declare myself as an artist at the international level. So I started to invest a lot of time in painting and creating picture collections.
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Unfortunately, the profession of an artist does not provide financial guarantees and regular income - the financial success of an artist depends on the number of paintings sold. Therefore, it is necessary to combine artistic activities with traditional work. I got a job as a design manager for a company selling high quality furniture. She worked during the day, and in the evening, when she finished household chores, she sat down at the canvas and painted for 5-6 hours, often until three in the morning, and in the morning she went to work again. This went on for many years, until recently. This is the road until the moment when you realize that you have become an artist.
Now I combine part-time designer with my artistic creativity. As an artist, I collaborate with galleries. Before the New Year, the London Gallery of Flat Space Art turned to me with a proposal to present my paintings in the British capital. I signed a contract, and now fans of my work can buy my work in Europe too.
A. G.-S .: What motivated you to start drawing?
A. T: Unfortunately, my career began with the difficult situation in my life. I had to face the problem of domestic violence. This is difficult to talk about, but necessary. Yes, I was a victim of emotional and physical abuse and I know how painful this problem is, from my own experience.
I experienced moral humiliation and verbal abuse by my ex-husband, who controlled and intimidated me, convinced me that I was worth nothing, and deserved that he behaved with me like that. He was especially annoyed that I was educated. I didn’t have friends, and as soon as I made friends with someone, he would criticize and complain. He manipulated the opinion of the environment, successfully imagining himself in public as a model husband, but in fact, behind closed doors at home, behaved quite differently.
This tyrant's behavior was exhausting me. I found solace in drawing - at that time it became an emotional necessity for me and a kind of therapy. It was the creation of paintings that helped me find myself and made me live on. I believed in myself. Art at that moment saved my life. I am grateful for the paintings that gave me the opportunity to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But my creativity irritated my ex-husband even more, and after he hit me, after the first physical attempt to humiliate me, I realized that this would not continue, and filed for divorce. I made a decision that was right for me and my child, and since then I have moved forward - without looking back.
It's so hard to talk about it, but I want to do it for hundreds of thousands of women who live in a similar situation and do not understand what is happening to them due to lack of information and support. Perhaps my story will help those who do not even realize that they are a victim of domestic violence - when they read, they recognize themselves and their situation, find the strength to make the right decision and leave without waiting for the tragedy to happen.
The offender is a tyrant who controls, is unjustifiably jealous, jealous of success, humiliates, limits communication, manipulates, deceives the victim, setting the environment against her. It is impossible to change the offender, no matter how hard you try and please. These people don't change, no matter how ideal a woman you are.
Meanwhile, emotional abuse and manipulation, moral verbal humiliation and intimidation often lead to more suffering than physical. Mental wounds heal much longer, and years can pass before you believe in yourself, your value, and begin to live a full life.
A.G.-S.: Is there a topic of domestic violence in your work?
A. T: My Dollar Art collection partially covers this topic, especially the aspect of financial control and gender inequality. I think that more than one century will pass until women gain equal rights with men. This problem exists in the social, political, financial spheres, and we are confronted with it almost daily.
According to statistics, for every dollar earned by a man, there are 80 cents earned by a woman. I personally and more than once observed such situations when a woman with a better education and more work experience occupied a lower position and received much less pay than a man. Often it is not nearly as important to have a certain education or qualifications in order to get promoted in certain companies, as the privilege of being a man. The question arises: how much more educated, more experienced and qualified a woman should be in order to compare with a man and be assessed as a specialist, and not by the fact that she is a woman?
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The topic of the difference in payment is also very relevant because we, women, are often responsible for children, including in cases of divorce. Financial dependence is often the reason that keeps women in unhealthy relationships. There is no income or it is insufficient, there is no place to go, there is no place to look for work ... In the States, in addition, there is also a high cost of child care. By law, until the age of 12, children cannot be themselves, without supervision. This is a correct requirement, as it protects minors from dangerous situations. But a woman who alone brings up a child and is forced to work in order to pay bills, you need to constantly find someone who will take care of the child, and pay a lot of money for it. A very important issue for the state and society is how to support a woman in such a situation.
A. G.-S .: What other problems are touched in your collections?
A. T: I have many collections and about 170 works in several styles - realistic, surreal, pop-art and neo-folk. I experiment with styles, work with different materials and invent new techniques.
I started working on a collection dedicated to Ukraine - Code “U”. These are abstract compositions created in the neo-folk style, elements of which are based on traditional Ukrainian embroidery - symbols, signs, systems and unique patterns that have been used in embroidery for several thousand years. Antique symbols are transformed into abstract modern combinations and codes with new materials and colors, connecting millennia of history and culture.
The Dollar Art collection is a vision of the social, political, economic situation and the relationship between people and money. The dollar art concept is a surreal world where everything around - stairs, chairs, umbrellas, doors, business suits, glasses, trees - is created from dollar bills in order to show the influence of money on human behavior; to reveal the relationship between corruption and hunger, ignorance and war, the problem of domestic violence, gender inequality and political manipulation.
A.G.-S.: Do Ukrainian artists find support in the USA?
O. T .: There is a very big competition to get a grant, some financial support or the possibility of holding an exhibition in a particular institution. Nevertheless, I find many programs aimed at supporting artists originating from Asia or South America, but have never met any programs for Ukraine. Many talented artists from Ukraine who are personally acquainted with, are forced to survive in emigration, earning a living, although they perform an important mission of the country's cultural presentation at the international level.
We meet at international art shows, share thoughts, news, look for ways to communicate and help each other. An artist does not receive a monthly salary, he spends today - he buys paints, canvas, invests time, materials, personal funds in paintings that may never be appreciated, or they will be bought in 10 or 50 years. The artist often gives energy and gets nothing in return. At the same time, his work can serve as a powerful tool for creating the image of the state.