Moving to Instagram enabled us at Rusyn Art to get in touch with several contemporary Rusyn artists. One of them is a wonderful Sarah Kushwara whose Lemko great grandparents were deeply connected to their roots and their villages. Sarah’s family, and Sarah herself, have never lost that touch with Rusyn culture, whether it was through talking to her grandfather, who spoke Rusyn, “making pirohy all day,” as she puts it, or celebrating Christmas the Rusyn way while living in America – in January. But let’s hear more directly from the artist herself.
Sarah, what led you to art?
Art found me. As a youth, I was always artistic and would draw and write in calligraphy, but I was involved in a plethora of interests. It was when I worked in Istanbul as an adult that I started to paint cityscapes and views from mosques. It was the time that I worked abroad in Turkey, and travelled, and the time that I worked abroad in La Paz, Bolivia, that led me to art. I learned to paint in oils in Bolivia. The elevation was about 14,500 ft above sea level, so the air was thin, and the light changed rather fast—but it was also incredibly defined. I learned about light and the absence of light in Bolivia and that was essential to painting. It was then that everything started to look different around me—and still does. That is the beauty of being a painter. The outside word was my classroom that led me to art.
What was the first creation you were satisfied with?
It was a watercolor I painted overlooking Cihangir, Istanbul, while looking at the Bosphorus from my apartment. Being untrained then, I was unsure of my technical skills, but I felt satisfied with them.
Are youyour best critic or do you have people advising you on your work?
I believe I am my toughest critic.
What’s your creative process like? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I have always had so many ideas ever since I can remember. I am that person who scribbles down ideas on anything in mid-conversation, just so I can pay attention to the conversation without getting caught up with the idea in my head. Sometimes I draw inspiration from my vivid dreams, my time living in the East, and other places, like folklore and myth, and my own Hero’s Journey.
What do you consider your biggest success?
As far as art goes, my biggest success is using art as a tool to heal. I would say that my first solo show this summer was a success for me.
What’s the main message of your art – is there any? What do you want viewers to take from it?
Different pieces have different messages. Many people have said my art is expressive and also a narrative — so it reveals what I feel. My pieces usually reveal an intense emotion.
How do you think your artworks fit into the 21st century?
Some of my pieces challenge the idea of globalization by highlighting the uniqueness of different cultures, including my own.
What are your next plans, exhibits, projects?
I would like to experiment with visionary art, and take art to a deeper, spiritual level. I would also love to partake in an artist residency.
Well, these sound like ambitious plans I’m sure you will bring to fruition. We wish you the best of luck, Sarah! Thank you so much for sharing your world with the rest of us.