«Jewish Observer»
April 2002
5762 Iyar

WALK OF 1953
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Early in April the "Tadzio" gallery hosted the exhibition of Inna Lesovaya. The Gallery halls were overcrowded with people but many of them saw the artist's works for the first time. She is more known in Kiev as a literary woman mainly owing to her several stories published in the almanac "Yegupets". But those who have read these stories abut "just a life" remember them and look forward to meeting the author again: Lesovaya's works are often published abroad - in America, Germany, Israel. Her only big personal art exhibition was organized in1991 in Moscow by the editorial board of the magazine "Nashe Nasledije". Nonetheless, Inna is known in Kiev as a sculptor who makes puppets. During many years it has been possible to meet puppets made after her models in many houses all over Ukraine.

The wisdom characteristic of a talented and kind person can be found in both literary and art works by Inna Lesovaya. We see the reality the artist describes. Her literary and art works are abundant in numerous very important details. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to identify the time her heroes live in. She is, in any case in art, a chronicler of 1950s. Inna easily overcomes the gap of time and accurately describes the atmosphere of those years. Whatever they might be, those 1950s were the years of her childhood. That's why we encounter her auto portrait almost everywhere in literature and art. Inna-adult draws Inna-child, a girl with scaringly wise eyes. She keeps in her memory ridiculous and charming images of old ladies-frebelles the children from "good families" used to walk with to paint them decades later and to make them literary personages. "Pleut, pleut, pleut, retafleut, retafleut--o-o". This silly song by an old lady that irritated Inna in those times is rather sweet and nostalgic now. The work under the title "Pleut, pleut, pleut, retafleut" (or "Walks of 1953") could be seen in the exhibition advertisement. The work as if illustrates the episode from Inna Lesovaya's story "Four recollections about childhood".

"Lidiya Nikolayevna shows up from around the corner with her group. They walk in pairs holding small bags with breakfasts and awkwardly sing in low voices. It is possible to understand the words only because Lidiya Nikolayevna's mild sweet voice is the loudest:

Pleut, pleut, pleut,

Retafleut, retafleut - o - o ...

Coming alongside, Mariya Ivanovna and Lidiya Nikolayevna exchange bows and we continue our walk in opposite directions.

Pleut, pleut, pleut,

Retafleut, retafleut - o - o...

I suddenly stop in joy: it is so nice that Lidiya Nikolaevna has given me to Mariya Ivanovna! I will never have to sing this foolish song. Let them sing their "cartofleut"! This is an awfully shameful song. In general it is shameful to sing in the street, especially for old women..."

Inna has a lot of pictures very closely connected with literature. These are "What will be next?", (an invalid crying over the portrait of the just deceased Stalin), "Birthday in Podol", "My garden", "A maple leaf", "At uncle Petro and aunt Marija", a charming fantasy "At my place in Japan".

"...When the last door shuts with a bang and the rattle of keys ceases, we may begin... This is simple. You draw a chair to the bed and turn the former so that the begs stick slantwise. It is not known what it is: a house, bridge or some Japanese furniture of theirs', but they immediately start gathering in the rooms, move softly on their strengthless legs, shuffle against the floor with the heaps of silk. I feel my knees weaken and bend, my palms prop against the floor, my neck bends under a black heap of hair-do and the eyes lose their expression, bulging away. I hurry to look into the mirror but..."

Reality and fantasy. The girl with the eyes of a wise man-observer is present everywhere. At the opening of the exhibition they asked a question, "What is Jewish in your works?" The answer was, "The eyes". The question was not occasional, as Lesovaya's exhibition was organized by the Institute of Judaics within the "Agada" program that looks after the painters who work on the Jewish themes. Works of art, be it literature of painting, convey, first of all, the information about the world, about common human spiritual laws. But, at the same time, the work contains other information - on the author's world, on his perception of the surrounding. Inna was born and brought up in the city of Yegupets of 1950s (Sholom-Aleihem used to call Kiev "Yegupets" in his works). At that time there were places in Kiev, which miraculously preserved the Jewish traits. Many elders spoke a sound local accent, missed no Jewish holidays, performed "bdihat kamets" on the eve of the Easter and held the Seder after every rule. They experienced Jewish fears and joys and looked at the world with the "Jewish eyes".

Her genre canvases are rather literary. This is narration about life, and this is not a monologue but expectation of an interlocutor.

Some Rabbi said that the prophet had believed it a huge misfortune if he had stopped receiving prophesies. The prophet already couldn't live without that. Inna Lesovaya cannot but create. She writes, paints, makes puppets for her grandson. The "Tadzio" gallery presented only a small part of painter's collection. The American Jewish Distribution Committee "Joint" and the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine helped the Institute organize this exhibition. We have to hope there will soon appear another opportunity to represent the complete exhibition by Inna Lesovaya.


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