Having grown up in a small town in Siberia where some folk customs are still the norm, and then adapting to cosmopolitan Los Angeles, Lena Wolek has fascination with observing and analyzing the recent and rapid changes in both societies. This allows her the unique ability to integrate observations of value and loss in both social contexts, in order to compare and contrast the mentality and cultural attitudes of the two.
These conceptual formulations are visually translated and expressed through drawings, sculptures, videos, and installations. In addition to contemporary formal aesthetics, the work incorporates old craft techniques such as ceramics, sewing, and weaving that have been utilized out of necessity for centuries by common folk for everyday needs and beyond. Drawing upon Siberian traditions of folk humor, Soviet-style animation, propaganda messages, as influences and instigators of this multivalent critical perspective, Wolek’s work seeks to navigate a path between high and low cultural and socio-economical perspectives in the global culture in which we all now dwell.
Based in Los Angeles, Wolek came to visit Louisville with her husband, a native Kentuckian, and fell in love with its warm hospitality, rich cultural traditions, and beauty of nature, that was reminiscent of her of native Siberia. For her first exhibition in our city, Wolek embraces her observations that most every house in the older Louisville communities, like here in Crescent Hill, have a prominent front porch with a swing, chairs, or couch inviting folks to relax, communicate, and observe the world going by.
To honor this specific vernacular, Wolek collected driftwood from the shores of the Ohio River to construct a sculpture alluding to a porch swing fabricated in a homespun style. Upon this she has placed her hand thrown coffee mugs that highlight drawings of cats, dogs and horses that are reflections on characters and imperfections of often humorous and awkward human behavior and culture.