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‘Over, Under, Through’ exhibit thrills Hillel

Artist’s multi-medium examination of Russian-Jewish heritage on display at Brown-RISD Hillel

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“Over, Under, Through,” a multimedia exhibit by Rebecca Volynsky, draws on styles of Russian ornamentation to weave a symbolic thread that invites viewers to explore her family’s Russian and Jewish heritage. The installation, which opened last week in the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design Hillel Gallery, is emblematic of Volynsky’s greater practice of self-exploration and community-making that inspire interdisciplinary experimentation.

“This work is really in honor and in celebration of my cultural identity and heritage, which is really important to me as a first-generation American,” Volynsky said.

Volynsky’s family emigrated from Russia to the United States immediately before the fall of the Soviet Union through the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, she said. Volynsky added that in an effort to connect with her heritage, she began researching Russian ornamentation and design over hundreds of years. She sees “Over, Under, Through” as the incorporation of traditional motifs with her loose and abstract style.

The exhibit features around 10 works accentuated by bold, graphic lines and vibrant use of color. Some of the smaller pieces combine painting with newspaper collage, while larger paintings make use of dynamic textures, ranging from sleek finishes of lacquer and iridescent glitter to thick globs of paint.

“It’s good to have contemporary art on the (walls of Hillel), especially from somebody nearby so it connects with the greater community,” said Program Associate for Hillel Ruchel Playe. While Hillel has hosted work by professional artists before, the majority of the art on its walls is by students, she added.

Playe originally reached out to Volynsky over Facebook about organizing an exhibition after she followed the artist on Instagram, Volynsky added. She initially became acquainted with Volynsky’s art through “Cultivate, then Bloom,” a temporary mixed media public art installation inspired by botanical  illustration and Russian folk art that appeared at four sites across the city as part of last June’s PVDFest, according to Volynsky’s website.

“(The installation) had a great impact on the community and really engaged a lot of people. It started a lot for my creative practice,” Volynsky said. She will be creating a similar large-scale, permanent mural for the new location of Knead Doughnuts that is opening soon, she added.

An opening reception for “Over, Under, Through” took place last Thursday, which was well attended by both students and members of the greater Providence community. Volynsky served bagels as part of Ripka, a culinary venture of two years also influenced by her Russian and Jewish heritage. She added that she hopes that the venture, which derives its name from the Russian word for “little fish,” will eventually become an Eastern European-inspired eatery and curated gallery. “I definitely see cooking and baking as ways of creative expression. It’s sort of a similar … to creating artwork and sharing that with other people,” Volynsky said.

Volynsky’s practice is inspiring to students “as she’s a young woman … discovering herself through art (to launch herself) into this new phase of adulthood,” Playe added.

Volynsky’s exhibit will be on display until April 12.

 

A previous version of this article stated that ripka translates to “food” in Russian. In fact, it translates to “little fish” in Russian. The article also incorrectly referred to Knead Doughnuts as Knead Donuts. The Herald regrets the errors.