An artist in N.H. processes the war in Ukraine through sculptures of hope and resilience
If a painter’s palette reflected Natasha Dikareva’s art, it would be covered with dollops of rich blues, earthy greens and browns, ethereal whites and flecks of gold. Those colors are carefully washed over sculptures made with clay and glass that represent the solace she finds in the natural world, and the hope she holds for her home country.
Dikareva is from Kyiv, Ukraine, and has been a sculptor for over 30 years. She moved to the U.S. in the 90s and bounced from Minnesota to California and, in 2020, to New Hampshire. Her work often centers around nature, but when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, the colors and themes shifted.
“My sculptures started looking different and the surfaces are now covered with ash-looking glazes,” Dikareva said. “Their forms have been punctured as if they've been punctured by the shelling or the propaganda… They are starting to look up, either being worried that there’s going to be a rocket falling on them or searching for some signal from above. Searching for the faith that this will be over soon.”
Her works are now on display in an exhibit, “On Another Shore,” at the Millspace Art Gallery in Newmarket. “On Another Shore” has a double meaning. Dikareva is now on the East Coast after moving from San Francisco and starting a life in New Hampshire. She’s also on a different shore from her home country of Ukraine.
When the war initially broke out, she was calling her family in Kyiv five times a day to see if they were safe. She said she’s found more hope recently as Ukrainian forces have regained ground, but a part of that processing came from her art.
One of Dikreva’s sculptures that stands out in the collection is a large white hand with its index and middle finger crossed. It sits atop a billowy blue structure that resembles a cloud and an eye looking toward the sky is embedded in the palm. The sculpture is called “Crossing Fingers.”
“I have been really, really worried and I've been crossing [my] fingers that they will not enter my city,” Dikareva said. “...In this eye, it's like all seeing eye. I was hoping it will predict that it will not happen.”
In the center of the exhibit is a clay sculpture of the face of a woman. Her skin is drenched in a bright blue. Dikareva says it symbolizes her divinity. Atop her head is a golden structure that looks like an Orthodox cathedral, but it’s riddled with holes.
“She's looking for the God. Where did he go, or she go?” Dikareva said. “She's losing hope, but still having hope.”
But Dikareva stresses that her art isn’t all about the war in Ukraine. When she lived in San Francisco she drew inspiration from long walks along the water. In New Hampshire, it’s time spent in the woods. Several of her sculptures decorate her yard. She says her neighbors joke she’ll have to start selling tickets for admission to her informal outdoor art gallery.
On the back wall of the gallery are what she calls her “forest dwellers.” They’re small sculptures painted with greens and browns.
“It’s all very serene and mysterious,” Dikareva said. “I created these figures as an ambassador of the natural world.”
Dikareva’s exhibit “On Another Shore” is available for viewing until Oct.16 at the Millspace Art Gallery in Newmarket. Her work is also on display at the Seacoast Artists Association in Exeter, as well as in Cape Cod, St. Petersburg, Florida; Ohio, and France.