Stimulus and response: The collaboration of Aka and Christina Pereyma

Note from the producer: this is the third episode of the third season of a series on WYSO called  Studio Visit. This season, I focus on artists who regularly work with collaborators or, alternatively, have creative partners in their families who influence or participate in making art.

The featured artists will use various media, from photography to sculpture. Each segment will feature artist collaborators and include a brief biography, a sound-rich scene of a visit to their studio, and an interview about their work and how they connect creatively.

Christina Pereyma comes from a family of artists. Christina’s mother, Aka Pereyma, was a master of the Ukrainian folk tradition of painting elaborate designs on eggs.

The Pysanky, literally ‘the written egg,’ she was just perfection at that,” Christina says.

Aka’s art went beyond eggs, too.

She welded monumental steel sculptures and made paintings, ceramics, and textiles based on the folk songs and culture of her Ukrainian homeland.

In 2001, the Ukrainian government honored her as a living treasure.

“She always acknowledged that her fundamental understanding of design and color came from the folk art that she practiced as a child,” Christina says, “and that her mother practiced and her grandmother practiced.”

Aka Pereyma Sculpture

Susan Byrnes

Aka Pereyma Sculpture

Christina practices Ukrainian folk art, too. But outside of that, she and her mother’s artwork part ways.

“I grew up with an American education, studying all of the Zen Buddhist existentialist philosophers,” Christina says. [I learned] that I was just a grain of sand on the surface of the earth.”

In 1944, Aka and her family moved to Austria from Ukraine and soon after to Germany. In 1950, she immigrated to the United States, settling in Troy until she died in 2013. Aka studied at the Dayton Art Institute from 1960 to 1963 and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1963 until 1964.

Christina says, “My mother was the opposite. She could change the world, and she approached things that way. My aesthetic has always been ‘less is more.’ I winnow things down to their most fundamental. I generally start with a material that speaks to me, and then I respond to the material. With my mother, I think that the material was almost secondary to her force.”

Then came a yellow fabric, which turned into an opportunity for collaboration between the mother and daughter.

The yellow fabric piece made by Aka and Christina

Susan Byrnes

The yellow fabric piece made by Aka and Christina

“I have hundreds of yards of this horrible yellow fabric, and I couldn’t find a way to use it, and I couldn’t find a way to throw it away. And so I started doing the rust printing on it,” Christina says.

She Imprinted round saw blades with jagged edges and let the rust bleed into the fabric. Aka loved the patterns and started to sew beads around them.

“In the last couple of decades of her life, she loved to embellish. And so she started embellishing my patterns.” Christina says, “the courage that she had with color. I could never go in those directions. But she worked intuitively. It was collaboration, but it was a sense of stimulus and response. So I stimulate by creating the pattern, and then she responds by embellishing it.”

Christina's patterns with Aka's embellishments

Susan Byrnes

Christina’s patterns with Aka’s embelishments

One day, Christina changed the pattern. She brought the new piece to Aka.

“And I said, “What do you see?” And she said, “I see underwater. I see coral.” And then she died.” Christina says, “I was left to struggle to finish it by myself, and I added the beads, and every day, I would set out some crazy color like I’d put out a purple or I’d put out a brilliant blue. And I would take them back off every morning because it wasn’t me. It wasn’t the way I could handle color. It’s not what Aka would have done. It would have had a boldness. Mine were much more cerebral and calm, as opposed to the cacophonies that Aka would create, which were extremely successful. They’re wild, and that was Aka.”

Aka’s legacy is Christina’s current project. She’s been helping with a retrospective show of her mother’s work. “The Artistic Life of Aka Pereyma.” It will be on display at the Dayton Art Institute from February to May 2024.

This post was originally published on this site