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Maine artist connects her work to her Ukrainian roots

Artist Lesia Sochor in her studio in Brooks, Maine. (Tanya Tkachenko/YJI)

Brooks, Maine, U.S.A. – Artist Lesia Sochor is a first-generation Ukrainian-American. Her parents immigrated to the United States as refugees during the World War II, together with her 6-month-old sister.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sochor developed a strong connection and love for her homeland, Ukraine, encouraged by her immigrant family.

For decades, she’s made her home in Brooks, Maine, a small town not far from the coast, where she works in a studio filled with paintings and natural light.

Artist Lesia Sochor’s studio in Brooks, Maine. (Tanya Tkachenko/YJI)

Growing up, Lesia and her family embraced Ukrainian traditions, particularly during Easter, when they would spend time decorating traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs known as “pysanky.”

Once considered talismans of protection, fortune, or power, these eggs are decorated using bright colors, various motifs, and techniques. Beeswax is typically the main drawing instrument.

In ancient Slavic traditions, pysanky were religious symbols, often placed around the house to invite luck.

Lesia considers these eggs a prominent symbol of Ukrainian culture, a tradition she passed down to her children.

“Art has always been a constant in my life,” said Sochor.

Some of Lesia Sochor’s art on her studio wall. (Tanya Tkachenko/YJI)

Sochor’s creative journey began at a young age, influenced by her family, particularly her mother’s love for fashion and her aunt’s artistic tendencies. At 12, her aunt introduced Sochor to watercolor painting, lighting the girl’s passion for art.

Young Lesia enrolled in painting classes at her local school, eager to explore various art forms. Despite her parents’ aspirations for her to pursue a more “serious” path, Lesia, faithful to her artistic calling, decided to attend art school to major in painting, dedicating herself to her craft.

Today, as a successful artist, Sochor showcases her work in exhibitions across Maine and beyond.

Her art, primarily inspired by women, decorates her studio with paintings and sculptures portraying famous women or Sochor family members. Her work often delves into female fashion, highlighting unique styles and intricate details.

“I am all about women,” said Sochor.

The artist prefers to work with real-life models, usually friends of her family, and women often inspire her.

Sochor’s artistic ambitions often take the form of series. One of her favorites is the “Babushka” collection, conceived in response to the Maidan revolution in Kyiv in 2014.

Paintings from the “Babuska” series on display at the University of Maine in Augusta. (Tanya Tkachenko/YJI)

Deeply affected by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, she directs her emotions and grief for her family’s homeland into her art. She pays tribute to her heritage by employing traditional Ukrainian colors, ornaments, patterns, and Cyrillic script.

Her latest series, “Symbols,” is a testament to her fascination with symbolism. Exploring the theme of communication, this series features paintings of hands making gestures in sign language, conveying words such as “protect,” “love,” and “family.”

Lesia Sochor with one of her latest works, done in chalk. The hands spell “PROTECT” in American Sign Language. (Tanya Tkachenko/YJI)

Still a work in progress, Lesia is passionate about incorporating more words into the series, driven by her interest in gestures and her ongoing study of American Sign Language.

Tanya Tkachenko is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

The author and the artist. (YJI photo)

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