Tradition meets modernity

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We love our Ukrainian Babas

We love our Ukrainian Babas

Baba’s House at the Dunlop

Article: Liam Fitz-Gerald

In January 2014, a new exhibition premiered at the Regina Public Library’s Dunlop Art Gallery at its Sherwood Branch.

Baba’s House is the creative culmination of Vancouver artists Lucien Durey and Katie Kozak who travelled to Creighton, Saskatchewan in 2012 to create artwork out of the objects in Kozak’s grandmother’s house.

Kozak herself is no stranger to art, having studied at the Emily Carr school of Art and Design in Victoria, nor to Creighton, where she grew up. Durey holds a MFA from SFU in Vancouver and is also an accomplished singer/songwriter, splitting time between Vancouver and Saskatchewan.

Sophie Ostrowski, Kozak’s Baba (the Ukrainian word for grandmother), vacated her house so that Kozak and Durey could go to work scanning all of the objects found around the house. Everything, quite literally, was scanned, things ranging from meal recipes to photographs to painted eggs to peanuts to salt and pepper shakers. These various objects were on a flatbed scanner and arranged in certain ways to create visually stimulating images.

One of these images is a Canadian inter-province vehicle insurance card from 1966 scanned overtop of garden radishes. It is a curious merger of two worlds: one where the fauna grows undisturbed and the other where regulations and licenses play a role in everyday life.

Another image shows a family photograph of generations, with a baby, mother, grandmother and great grandmother sitting at a couch together, placed on top of peanuts, smashed, intact on a black surface.

There’s an image of several pictures showing a parade from half a century ago, with clowns in cars waving to the onlookers. Yet the image that stokes the most curiosity is similar to the first one described. Several traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs surround a black telephone speaker, creating the ultimate juxtaposition of family traditions and a symbol of modernity.

Blair Fornwald, the assistant curator of the Dunlop Art Gallery, spoke about Baba’s House and the decision to showcase it. Fornwald, who met Durey in Bruno, Saskatchewan during one of his sojourns to the province, said she was drawn to the project by the artists’ desire to relocate from larger centres in BC to Saskatchewan.

Durey told Fornwald of the project and the latter came out to Baba’s house during the previous winter. Fornwald comments that the artwork really commemorates the immigrant communities that came to Saskatchewan. Indeed, many individuals could find similar objects in their homes.

“That juxtaposition in everyone’s house speaks to the hybridized venture of being Canadian,” Fornwald says.

Fornwald says the public has given very positive feedback about Baba’s House. She says that several people remembered their own Babas and the things they used to keep around their homes.

“There were a lot of conversations about their Babas and common things,” Fornwald says, recalling that several people remembered canning rings and salt and pepper collections.

Fornwald comments that she has been touched by the positive feedback from Baba’s House. Many individuals coming to see it have commented on how nostalgic the experience has been. In this time where it feels that some traditions are dying out, it is worth contemplating exhibits like Baba’s House and remembering our heritages.

Image: Emily Wright

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