about the Exhibit
These artists created a visual dialogue through their lineage and personal discovery. By learning about the truth of their roots and then painting about it, they invite viewers to engage in their beginnings, find some similarities or simply discover how the “American Story” brought them to the here and now.
Priscilla Bailey Sandoz – Biography – Artist Statement
The trending popularity in DNA tests was my stepping off point for this body of work. I had a grandfather that was adopted leaving a few questions in my ethnic make-up. While we thought we knew what we were, I set out to determine if it was all that we believed. What I uncovered was surprising. It led me down this crazy adventure of not only learning where my ancestors were from, but some of their stories as well. It was fun because I got to imagine their journey and ponder the complexity of the decisions they made; why they came to America and what drove them to make the choices they did. I am just as much a product of these decisions as they were. As I began to discover them and their stories, it was only fitting to place them within their rightful place in history. I had no idea learning history from this lens would resonate with me as well. Suddenly the dates and facts I had glossed over in school became personal to me. Over-whelmed with the reality that it took all these people to make me. I had decided upon the show when I was faced with the challenge of how to make something as personal as “My DNA story” palatable to others. I was explaining this challenge to a collector one day when they put it into perspective for me. They said “because, it is everyone’s story… it is the American story.” And so, as I tell my story in “paintings” and it is a hope that others find a bit of themselves.
Yelena Khanevskaya – Biography – Artist Statement
When Priscilla and I discussed possible ideas for unifying our joint show with a cohesive theme, we had the intriguing idea to base it on our DNA results that we had decided to “test” months earlier. We had high expectations/excitement about the possibilities of unexpected discoveries. We hoped to uncover long-buried roots of our respective “family trees.”
The DNA test results fulfilled all of Priscilla’s expectations, including some connections to some very prominent European royalty. Mine…well…not so much. The only connections I was able to make were to some general regions of Northern and Eastern Europe mixed with a tiny percentage of Asian; no doubt a genetic legacy of the Khans rolling through Slavic lands! Due to the relative lack of DNA “contributions” from this part of the world, I was unable to identify any clear lineages…my genetic “roots” remained well-hidden. My cultural “roots,” however, were already visible and available, based on my family history and my rich personal experiences.
Both sides of my family come from countryside – my dad’s family being decidedly “peasant” for many generations. I spent every summer for the first 20 years of my life in the small rural village where my dad grew up. That area still has a strong hold on my heart, and the happiest memories of my life in Russia are attached to it. While the village life was likely quite hard for my ancestors there, I tend to romanticize the place in my memory.
While the Russian Orthodox church is understandably a part of many Russians’ cultural heritage, I have a personal connection as well. My great-grandpa on my mom’s side was a priest; that side of my family history is reflected in many Orthodox-related pieces in the exhibit, something I’ve continued to explore in many different ways over the years.
Priscilla and I chose different ways to interpret our “roots” for this show, but however different our ancestry and paths to Western Nebraska, they still converged here; two of many that contribute to “the American story” as Priscilla explains in her statement. So, I do hope that our viewers find many ways to relate and see pieces of their own history in some of our work.
A special thanks to volunteers Vic Bentley, Vicki Schmitt, Jan Durnin, Mary Hunt, Michele Denton, and Karen Mecklem, for their assistance in the gallery. And thank you to the North Platte Valley Artist Guild, Main Street Market, Food Questors( Domerockers) for providing food for the opening reception.
The West Nebraska Arts Center is a 501c3 cultural non-profit organization committed to education, awareness and excellence in the arts, serving the North Platte Valley Region. WNAC is located at the corner of 1st Avenue and 18th Street in Scottsbluff, NE. Visit the gallery free of charge Tuesday through Friday 9 to 5, Weekends from 1 to 5. www.thewnac.com. find us on Facebook.
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