“Beauty, like love, is a limitless resource and is available to anyone,” according to portraiture artist Tatyana Kulida. “Hostile thoughts and actions are ugly and they do not sprout in harmonious soil. They are a result of imbalance and fear.”
Peace and harmony are the focus of Kulida’s latest show, “Dreaming of Peace,” at Art in Bloom Gallery in downtown Wilmington. Alongside realistic faces of friends and family are still-life floral arrangements, some of which pop off the canvas with perfectly etched lines of color representing light. In fact, it’s the true craftsmanship in Kulida’s work overall: She understands light and shadow to near perfection, which make her paintings look as real as photographs.
“Harmony is something I search for when selecting colors and creating a composition,” Kulida tells. “With my portraits, I seek for a harmonious expression and pose. The portrait ‘Reading’ carries a certain inquiry in the sitter, yet she is in harmony within her pose and herself.”
Included in the show are Kulida’s and her daughter’s self-portraits, both of which are newer works. The full-time artist—who has been painting for two decades now—puts in anywhere from 15 to 30 hours of work in each painting.
“I still heavily edit my work and not every painting I produce ends up framed and on a wall,” she notes. “I prepare my materials and many of my frames by hand. Gilding layers and preparation can take up to 10 hours alone.”
Her subject matter remains a passion: people. She often has models in her studio, including friends. And she is well-known for her commission work.
Floral still-lifes are new to Kulida, who began doing them as an exercise in composition and color, and as a respite between portraits. Some of the florals are in arrangements, others singular.
“There are a few pieces featuring traditional water gilding technique I have recently learnt from a restorer in Italy,” Kulida notes. She calls Italy her creative home, Wilmington her American home (where she has had shows at ACES Gallery, Caprice Bistro, Patterson Gallery and Frames, and Cameron Art Museum), Russia her birth home, and New Zealand her current home.
“New Zealand is a place for discovery and experimentation,” Kulida tells, “But I lived in NC for over a decade; I received my B.A. and M.A. here. In NC I have many dear and long-term friends whose faces mean comfort and love.”
Of such is local Japanese artist Mio Reynolds (cover model), who is sharing space in the exhibition with Kulida. Reynolds also has included portraits to represent ideals of rapprochement. Two were painted during CAM’s night classes at the Museum School, directed by Donna Moore.
“‘Reflecting’ and ‘Christina’ started there and I worked on them further at home, adding colors and backgrounds,” Reynolds says. “Reflecting” features a young woman whose stillness of facial expression indicates she’s looking inward and assessing the meaningfulness of her life. Reynolds and Kulida believe such wholeness comes from good will, even if the process of getting there isn’t always uplifting.
“I use painting as a way to channel emotions, some of which are very violent and have to be released,” Reynolds details. “Sometimes profound sadness can be triggered by poems; in order to release deep sorrow one has to express it. I paint a painting, and once the feeling is expressed, I feel peaceful.”
Reynolds finds inspiration from nature, music, a past experience, or even the written word. Two poems, “Over the Mountain” by Carl Busse and “Peace Prayer of Saint Francis,” hang in tandem with Reynolds’ works. The hopeful line, “Make me an instrument of peace…”, opens the prayer, which both Kulida and Reynolds are hoping to represent through art and action. Thus, partial proceeds from “Dreaming of Peace” will benefit DREAMS Center of Arts Education in Wilmington; the 2018 encore Best Of beneficiary, which keeps arts alive for at-risk youth. Kulida was a board member of DREAMS when she lived in Wilmington and when the nonprofit was fundraising for its current home at 901 Fanning St.
“Back then I lived on Ann Street, a block or so away from the original DREAMS home,” she tells. “I felt passionate about the work they were doing in the community and served as a board secretary for a year. I passionately believe investing into children and their education is much more profitable in terms of social returns, as well as financial, than having to heal and subsidize in some way adult lives that are broken or unfulfilled.”