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JENNY SANTA MARIA
I was a broke 19-year-old art student working little jobs and babysitting for a family friend to make ends meet. I'd put her son to bed and note she never left the house. She worked in the basement, in the dark, by the light of a flame. I was visibly curious and since she didn't have any daughters she took the time to teach me a skill that is typically passed down from mother to daughter in Slavic cultures. I knew immediately the batik-process of drawing on eggs would be something I'd dedicate my life's work to.
In between writing papers and painting still lifes, I'd always make time to work on eggs. In my many dorm rooms and apartments, I'd find time to teach this process to friends and roommates. Eventually, with encouragement, I decided to teach a workshop to the public, and it sold out in minutes. The thirst to learn this ancient art was so strong, and there were few opportunities to learn it. I'd come to learn that during the World Wars, families made their way to the United States, sometimes leaving their loved ones and traditions behind. There were more reasons to teach than just preserving an ancient art or providing the public with an art that is inherently soulful and therapeutic. Perhaps most importantly, the next generation was looking for any opportunity to reconnect with their heritage. I had no idea how privileged I was to have been taught such a desired art process as an outsider.
Every spring I teach this process all over the East Coast in intimate spaces, museums, galleries and libraries, passing on the meditative process to others. I have taught thousands of people, many of which were Ukrainian and Polish, and encouraged meaningful conversation around family history and this ancient art. All participants continue to leave my workshops with a deeper understanding of the culture, the art, and themselves.
Pysanky is typically associated with the spring; an echo of an ancient people who worked hard to survive and used the pysanka in mystical and magical rites. Pysanky are beloved and blessed objects. I consider my work batik eggs since my imagery is untraditional, my themes are secular, I blow out its contents, and I work on eggs all year round. My work features art nouveau imagery, themes that reference the natural world, the idea of "mother", femininity, and metamorphosis.
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