“The Light Keeper” by Ksenia Lisna
Ukraine is not a dream. Ukraine is my home.
Україна, це ні сон, ні мрія. Україна, це моя Батьківщина.
What does my art mean to me:
Coming as I do from a port city and shipbuilding centre in the southern region of Ukraine, the ethos of sea, sky, and steppe are never far away. Mykolayiv is situated on the river Buh, which flows into The Black Sea. Here, the water is deep. During the Cold War, Mykolayiv included a military base, was closed to outsiders, and did not exist on maps.
I grew up learning and speaking Russian, which was the lingua franca in Mykolayiv, until the onset of the war.
I am a boundary-crosser and new world visionary. I seek beauty in everything and everyone.
As a creative woman, I define my creative identity in the following way:
I started designing and making my own clothes in high school, and graduated from the institute as a mechanical engineer in shipbuilding. Despite my love for the seas and ships, eventually I knew that I did not want to build them. In search of myself, I purchased a digital camera. Some people play computer games; I played photoshop. One day, photography became my way of living. Now, I am a portraitist and visual artist. With the war on Ukraine, I started advocating for Ukraine: Its people, culture, and traditions. Through the camera lens, I can see into people’s hearts.
As a creative woman, my deepest need is:
15 years ago, I was asked what my goal was, and my response was to be a world-renowned photographer. Today, my need and purpose remain the same. I want my imagery of Ukrainians to show every aspect of Ukrainian life, beauty, and strong will. I want my photographs to be synonymous with these. My wildest dream is to be featured in Vogue. At this time, I am displaced and living in Germany. A stipulation of my residency is that I enroll in language courses. It’s almost impossible to work here at this time, to start fresh, yet I am free to create. I will have to begin from ground zero. Against this backdrop and reality, I seek to create a vision of hope and beauty for Ukraine and Ukrainians back home and in exile. And in so doing, to show the world how strong we, the Ukrainian people, can be. My photographs bring into view Ukraine’s far-back culture and history, and its independence, which no one can deprive us of.
I imagine other women being a part of my creative life in the following ways:
Ukraine will always be my homeland, but, as an artist, my creative life, my creative space is inclusive and transnational.
I continue to create portfolios of actors and performers, as I have with this exhibition series of the ad-hoc choir, Volia, in Germany.
I would love to work with international fashion brands. For many years previously, I worked with children’s wear brands. This work, which I loved, was interrupted. My artistic signature is defined by a focus on Women and Children. I have exhibited in public spaces and master classes. I am the stylist, creator, and critic for my work.
To me, being part of the AROHO circle means:
It is a privilege and honour to be recognized as a Ukrainian Woman and Artist during the time of war, and to be part of this renowned women’s circle, which has established the creative footprint for other women, who are joining now and will join in the future.
The title of my submitted work of original art or writing is:
“Vil’ni Ta Nezlamni” (Free and Invincible), which evolved in the United States into the project, Vines and Threads for Ukraine.
English translation facilitated by Inna Walker and Andrea Mozarowski