A year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Today, the war rages on. More than 8 million Ukrainians have fled and upwards of 8,300 people in Ukraine have been killed.
Exhibitions at the Museum of Russian Art and the Mill City Museum show paintings and photographs, respectively, that depict the ongoing trauma.
Ukrainian Jewish artist/architect Elena Kalman's exhibition "Ukraine Defiant," which draws inspiration from Ukrainian landscape paintings, fills the second-floor mezzanine level at the Museum of Russian Art.
"Ukraine: War and Resistance" at the Mill City Museum shows a suite of 41 photographs shot by Fulbright Scholars in Ukraine. Some date to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and the invasion of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
University of Minnesota Fulbright Scholar Roman Tyshchenko helped bring the photography show to Minnesota.
"My colleagues in Ukraine realized it would be more beneficial for people from outside of Ukraine to see [the photography show] because Ukrainians see stuff like that on a daily basis," Tyshchenko said.
His journey to America was fraught by war. He first fled his home in Kyiv, living in the western part of the country for two months, and then saw his family in the east before leaving.
In Oksana Parafeniuk's photograph, two youths pose for a portrait in the woods. They hold wooden cutouts of guns and lean against each other on a break during territorial defense exercises. In another Parafeniuk photo, a resident gazes off into the distance smoking a cigarette, while sitting atop a checkpoint in his village. Brendan Hoffman's photograph shows someone removing a road sign in order to confuse Russian troops.
In Alexey Furman's picture, a girl swings on a swing and smiles at the camera; in the background, there's a residential building in the Borodianka, a Kyiv region that's been battered by Russian artillery.
The latter is Tyshchenko's favorite.
"It is just very simple like, I guess like even with the destruction around, the girl is on the swing and she's smiling, like showing the moods of Ukrainians in general," he said. "I don't think there's anyone who didn't get affected in some way but people still keep living, and trying to enjoy life."
At the Mill City show the destruction is real and right in front of you. At the Museum of Russian Art, Kalman imagines it all in her 12 8-foot-long paintings.
Kalman, who was born in Kyiv and received a bachelor's degree from the Kyiv Art Institute and master's degree from the Moscow Institute of Architecture, immigrated to the United States in 1979, and founded Elena Kalman Architect in 1988.
Her paintings feel driven by a certain urgency, as if they were painted from inside of a nightmare.
Kalman starts the show with a painting of a swan that looks like it is emerging peacefully from two menacing hawks — a metaphor for the founding of Kyiv.
In "Exploded," a truck blows up in the middle of a road, and electric poles seem to bend nearby. "After the Storm" shows a now-useless tank against a background of a rainbow, representing trust in a Ukrainian victory.
"I didn't look at any photos," she said. "It's just in my head. … I imagine the composition and then go for it."
She wanted the pieces to be landscapes but didn't want to get into social realism — like blood and guts and distorted bodies.
"In classical literature, especially in classical Russian literature, you'll find a lot of descriptions of nature or some kinds of settings that are being used to convey the mood of a person," she said.
Her painting "Polluted (Apex of War)" depicts a pile of debris and blackbirds circling overhead. It is a reference to the famous Russian painting Vereshchagin's "The Apotheosis of War," 1871, which depicts a mountain of skulls. While the Russian painting evokes war casualties, her work considers the destruction of culture.
As these exhibitions continue, so does the war.
"I think the main goal of this [Mill City Museum] exhibit is to remind people that it's still going on because I feel like after a year of the full-scale invasion, people are like, tired or starting to forget that it's still going on and it's not any better than it was in the beginning," Tyshchenko said.
"And it doesn't seem like it's going to end anytime soon, so I want people to remember."
'Ukraine: War and Resistance'
When: Ends May 14.
Where: Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., Mpls.
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
Info: mnhs.org or 612-341-7555.
When: Ends July 15.
Where: Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Av. S., Mpls.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun.
Cost: $5-$14, free for kids 13 and under.
Info: tmora.org or 612-821-9045.