Creative magic through two centuries, two homelands, two wars, two emigrations.
One worthy century of life, which moves artistically on the “spindle of success” into new and newer artworks.
The well known (or celebrated) Canadian-Ukrainian artist Maria Styranka, a native of the Zolochiv region, began her difficult path of emigration during the war years of 1940’s through Europe, then North Africa, France, the United States and at last established herself and her family in Toronto, Canada. But, no matter what environment the artist was in, European or North American, she always acknowledged her Ukrainian heritage as is evident in her constant active connection with the Ukrainian Association of Visual Artists of Canada (USOM). The path of integration into foreign lands always had its own philosophy, which was based on her familial bonds, her historical memory, her religious consciousness, her respect for the Ukrainian folk traditions and her willingness to respond to new societal challenges.
Maria’s strong artistic force has radiated ever since her youth in Chortkiv, Ukraine, but she developed her career in Canada, where she received her professional education at the Ontario College of Art, while being a caring mother and a loving wife. The main promoter of her creative potential, and her constant moral support was her husband Mychaylo, with whose help Maria was able to develop artistically and had more than 20 solo exhibitions in Toronto, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, London (Ontario), Limoshi, Brussels, New York, and Kyiv. At her exhibit in Paris, Maria received a high award for her watercolors from the commission of the “Grand Palais“ in Paris. Canadian-Ukrainian artist Volodymyr Magdenko pedagogically supported the young artist’s first creative path. Mykola Krychevsky’s watercolor technique was also a great inspiration for the artist.
The figure of Maria Styranka is often unjustly restricted, calling her only a “famous watercolorist”, forgetting her equally important authorial techniques and genre-thematic typologies, such as oil landscape, pastel still life, charcoal and sanguine painting or mixed media portrait. Analyzing her heterogeneous picturesque heritage, we observe an interesting fact of “consistency and devotion” to a certain color palette: if it is a landscape – then definitely a favorite yellow, if it is a portrait – it is a turquoise accent and silver-bronze background, if it is watercolor – then it is restrained colors, extinguished gray cobwebs, and stories from memory “deciphered” sepia semitones. The most emotionally successful works are the characters from the artist’s family tree – archetypal images of Ukrainian women and men, which the artist bequeathed to the canvases. The thematic nerve of her painting is “Grandma – My Crucified Soul”, this work carries a generalized image of many milestones of women’s cyclical life. Here, the author did not miss the smallest detail: a look, a gesture, eloquent facial expressions, or innocent sentiments, which hang on the tip of a smile. It is the recognizable smile on the “face of creativity” and on the face of Maria Styranka that draws us captive to her artistic magic, which she has displayed throughout one hundred years.
Khrystyna Beregovska – PhD Fine Arts.