WASHINGTON — The Gibbs Library presents works of Ukrainian folk art by Lois Eastman, including a display of the process and materials used in creating psyankyi eggs. The exhibit will run through May and June
Lois Eastman's interest in art began in childhood. She began making pysanky when she was five years old. Growing up in a household that included her grandparents, she was surrounded by family members engaged in a variety of art forms and Old World traditions. Although her childhood was spent in New Hampshire, she later moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where she established a photography studio. Eastman later moved to Maine and enjoyed a twenty-year career as a high school art teacher. She now resides in Rockland where she continues to create art.
I was introduced to making Ukrainian Easter Eggs (pysanky) by my grandmother, who was from the “old country,” a small village in the Carpathian Mountains. She told stories about her life there and how she met my grandfather at a village dance in the valley between two mountains.
Every year before Easter, my mother, aunts, various cousins and I would gather at my grandmother’s kitchen table to make pysanky. We were taught the “pin-drop-pull” technique, which meant to stick a common pin over a candle, dip the hot tip into a cake of beeswax, then drop the tip onto the egg and pull a teardrop shape. A series of teardrops created designs all over the surface of the egg. We could change the color of designs by dipping the eggs into colored dyes, lined up along the shelves in my grandmother’s pantry.
This process lasted one or two days. Sometimes a few of us would come back and do more. It was always a big production and a lot of fun. Everyone enjoyed the companionship, food, laughter, teasing, and polka music in the background. The only problem was if someone dropped and cracked an egg they had been working on, especially if it was almost finished. (It happens)
There was a large collection of eggs that had been made over the years. The Ukrainian belief is that as long as pysanky are made, goodwill overcome evil.
This year, when Russia attacked Ukraine just before Easter, I felt an overwhelming sadness and compassion for the Ukrainian people. I could imagine families having their homes destroyed along with all the beautiful pysanky and other heirlooms that had been carefully saved for generations.
A week later, the opportunity presented itself to display artwork at the Gibbs Library. Inspired, I painted a series of egg-shaped canvases to reflect pysanky designs, along with some of the Ukrainian folk stories and Traditions I had learned from my grandmother. Most pieces are for sale. A percentage of each sale will be donated to Ukrainian relief.
This exhibit can be seen at the Gibbs Library, 40 Old Union Road, Washington. For library hours check the website https://www.gibbslibrary.org/ or call: (207)845-2663.