In 1964, Kyiv (Kiev) National University commissioned artwork to commemorate the 150th anniversary of birth of writer and artist Taras Shevchenko. The display was intended to decorate a hallway at the University. The Artists’ Union selected Ukrainian artists Alla Gorska and Liudmila Semikina for the task; they collaborated with Galina Sevruk on a stained-glass panel designed by the painter Opanas Zalivakha.
The group produced a sketch for the artwork, titled “Shevchenko. Mother,” and the design was immediately approved. But later, when the finished work of stained glass was installed at the University, it was immediately deemed inappropriate and removed: the dean himself destroyed it with a hammer.
What was the problem? First, it looked like Shevchenko and Ukraine were behind bars. What’s more, from certain angles, the book that Shevchenko was holding looked like a knife! Neither of these problems were evident in the sketch. The panel was deemed “ideologically hostile” and Gorska was evicted from the Artists’ Union.
TODAY, OVER HALF A CENTURY LATER, A RECREATION OF the Gorska-Semikina glass installation is the first exhibition piece at the Ukrainian Museum of the Shestidesyatniki.
The shestidesyatniki – the name in Russian means “people active in the 1960s” – mostly born after World War II, were in their twenties when Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s cult of personality an