Without honesty in life, there is no honesty in art...
Ola Rondiak was born in the United States in 1966. She earned her Baccalaureate Degree in Psychology and Education at Hunter College in NYC. After working as a social worker in Brooklyn, she went on to receive her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and Community Counseling and began working as a Psychotherapist. Ola and her husband, Petro, began their journey in Ukraine together in 1995 at which time she began to study art in Ukraine and Hungary. Ola's parents had emigrated from Ukraine during WWII and had raised her with a love and curiosity for her roots. Ola and Petro currently reside in Kyiv with their dogs, Dolya and Ami, while their son Roman and daughters Kalyna & Maya have moved back to America. She works between her studios in Kyiv and New York City. Ola’s paintings stem from her family’s experiences living in Ukraine, the events of WWII, Stalin’s Iron Curtain, the Orange Revolution, and the Revolution of Dignity in 2014.
These events shaped Rondiak’s worldview; emotional experiences began to surface in her paintings, family history intertwines with Ukrainian history and tradition. Her iconographic portraiture of Ukrainian women depicts their “determined and indomitable spirit.” Often referred to as “Pop art” or “folklore,” her work has been said to recall the icons of the Byzantine period.
Some of her recent exhibits include the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City, Dzyga Art Center in Lviv, Ukraine, Tauver's Gallery International, in Kyiv, The Delaware Contemporary in Wilmington, DE, the US Embassies in Kyiv and Rome, Ukrainian Embassies in Berlin and Munich, Odessa Opera House in Ukraine, Nymphenberg Castle in Munich, and Ukrainian National Museums in Cleveland, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois. Her paintings can also be found in private collections throughout the world.
Ola's artwork is currently on display at Zorya Fine Art Gallery in Greenwich, CT. Upcoming exhibits include Ivan Honchar Museum in Kyiv, Institute of Directors on Pall Mall in London, and Miami Basel’s Context Art Miami in Florida.
Rondiak's portfolio consists of oil paintings, acrylic paintings, acrylic on cardboard, plaster of paris sculptures and mannequins, video installation, and acrylic and paper collages incorporating a number of mediums including pencil, oil pastels, and markers.
My grandmother's story greatly influences my work...
The piece below is from my Behind the Lines exhibit in 2017.
Embroideries from the Gulag
In 1943-1944, during the second Russian invasion of Ukraine in WWII, Ukrainian intellectuals and nationalists, Ola Rondiak’s grandfather among them, were forced to flee from their homeland to Western Europe or face certain death at the hands of Stalin’s secret service (NKVD). A sympathetic Russian soldier warned Ola’s grandfather of his imminent arrest and he set out on foot, with his daughter Maria, Ola’s mother (then eleven-years-old) for western Europe. His wife Paraskevia Michniak, Ola Rondiak’s maternal grandmother, stayed behind with their other daughter who was ill and immobile. The plan was for the family to reunite later. The reunion never happened. The daughter, Ola’s aunt and namesake, never recovered and passed away in Kolomiya, Ukraine in 1944. On March 28th, 1947, Paraskevia was arrested by the NKVD, charged under Statute 20.54.1.A “Assisting the Ukrainian Partisan Army (UPA)” and sentenced by a military tribunal to 25 years of hard labor at the Women’s Strict Regime Prison in Mordovia, Russia. There was no trial, no court, and no judge.
While in prison, at great personal risk, Paraskevia began embroidering religious icons at night, by the light of the northern latitudes. She used cloth and threads from her clothes and fish bones for needles. In 1953 Stalin died, and in 1956 Nikita Khrushchev granted amnesty to political prisoners who were victims of Stalin’s repressions. Paraskevia received her “Certificate of Rehabilitation” on July 2nd, 1956 and smuggled the embroidered icons (which were strictly forbidden by Soviet authorities) out of the prison by sewing them into her clothes. Unable to join her family in America due to the Iron Curtain, she returned to Kolomiya, Ukraine after which a written (albeit censored) trans-Atlantic correspondence began with Ola’s grandfather and mother. In the late sixties, an American tourist successfully smuggled the embroideries to her family in the west. Paraskevia passed away in 1975. She was well-known for her sewing, drawing, embroidering, and traditional cooking skills. This is only one story of millions of displaced, imprisoned, and repressed Ukrainians in WWII.
Since independence in 1991, Ukrainians have struggled to fight the forces of corruption and Russian influence. Ola Rondiak witnessed the Orange Revolution (2004) and the Revolution of Dignity (2014) first hand. Her collage “Maty Revolution”, a symbolic completion of her grandmother’s partially completed prison embroidery, captures the struggle of Ukrainians to move towards European values of openness and democracy in the face of a tyrannical regime.
In March of 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and invaded the sovereign territory of Ukraine in the Donbas region. To date, the casualties include 2,777 non-combatant civilians, 3,714 Ukrainian soldiers, 3,599 hybrid Russian forces, and 400-500 Russian regular forces. The death toll climbs daily.
--- “Behind the Lines”, Ola Rondiak, August 2017