The artwork of 10 contemporary Ukrainian artists—several of whom have been displaced and one who’s currently fighting in the war—will be on display at a new pop-up gallery in Manhattan this month.
The show, titled “Sonya” as a reference to the Ukrainian word for sunflower, will run from November 9 through December 2 in the Ukrainian Village section of the East Village. Proceeds will go to the artists and to relief efforts by Sunflower Network, a new nonprofit organized by a New York native.
“The artists right now are experiencing incredible difficulty. That difficulty ranges from under current shelling, to displaced in western Ukraine or in another part of Europe not close to their family not close to their homeland, to literally putting down their paintbrushes and being on the frontlines,” Sunflower Network’s CEO and Founder Dustin Ross said.
Of the 10 artists, several hail from the city of Kharkiv, a town in eastern Ukraine that was recently struck by four missiles in one of the most intense attacks in weeks.
Kharkiv artist Bob Basset (born Serhii Petrov) known for his intricate masks, including masks he makes for Slipknot, will be featured in the show. The artist has been displaced from his studio—removed from his space, community and daily inspiration. He’s started to incorporate used bullet cartridges into his masks.
“This last mask that he made that we have in our space was created over such a long period of time and so much pain and so much struggle,” Ross said. “And I think it’s a really tragic reflection of the country right now.”
The show also features two large paintings from Kharkiv’s Konstantyn Lyzogub, a lifelong painter who enlisted in the Ukrainian Army at the start of the war. Artist Polina Kuznetsova painted a portrait of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy titled “My Hero Dreams” in dedication to the country’s leader. Meanwhile, Anna Moskaletz’s oil paintings explore representations of Ukrainian identity and femininity.
“This art installation represents a community of people from all over the world who care, who want to help, who want to act with purpose,” Ross said. “People should come because the impact that the art will have, their presence will have, will be meaningful in the lives of people who are in unimaginably difficult situations.”
Pieces at the show range from suggested donations from $2,000 to $12,000. The proceeds will pay the artists and support relief efforts led by Sunflower Network. The new nonprofit, a registered 501(c)(3), has already provided $1 million in critical relief to the country.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Ross couldn’t stop watching the news coverage, and he knew he wanted to help. He reached out to every major relief organization he could think of, but they all either didn’t answer or just wanted a monetary donation. Ross wanted to do more, so he booked a flight with the intention of helping refugees who crossed the border to neighboring countries. He hadn’t initially intended on traveling into Ukraine until he realized there was more help needed inside Ukraine, especially in assisting local Ukrainian organizations.
To help those in Ukraine, he founded Sunflower Network, which offers aid such as food, clothing, medication, tourniquets and generators. The organization has even provided ambulances and respiratory equipment to a children’s hospital in eastern Ukraine.
Ross himself has been to Ukraine four times since the start of the war to help with relief efforts. During those trips, he started to think about how to showcase art from the country’s artists.
After interviewing dozens of interested artists, the Sunflower Network team transported the artwork of those selected from Ukraine to New York City with the goal of being able to deliver even more humanitarian aid to Ukrainians in need after the show.
“The vision for Sunflower Network is at its core to connect people who want to help to those in need. And to do so in a way that allows people to get involved in whatever way serves them,” Ross said. “Sonya, as a Sunflower Network project, is a beautiful illustration of what can happen when you start to create community around giving and around service.”
See Sonya Gallery at 352 East 13th Street in Manhattan’s Ukrainian Village from November 9 through December 2. The gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-6pm.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.