My art is autobiographical: those persons and things which made me what I am
have become the underlying themes of my work.
In 1975-76 I experienced a series of major upheavals in my life. Graduate school,
marriage and a move to a distant city—all in quick succession—left me with a deep
sense of disorientation. My life goals and views necessarily changed, and these, in
turn, affected the direction my work was to take.
Imprisoned within a strange environment, I first developed images of windows in
my paintings. The windows were a vehicle for expressing my feelings of entrapment
and alienation from the outside world. In time, insulated as I was, I was forced to
confront my selfhood. I began to rediscover my family background, my Ukrainian
ethnicity, and my emotional and associative responses to these experiences. And
finally, I accepted my true self.
I needed to express, through art, this personal affirmation of my self. The resultant current work recreates images of my grandparents. My grandparents embody
the traditional values, the ritual-laden customs, and the Slavic sentimentality and
love of the past that are an undeniable part of my cultural identity. In my paintings
and drawings, they exist in an environment that is an extension of their own selves.
They assume a spiritual, cultural presence—like icons.
Self-portrait by Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak
My current themes are women and children, but not on the same canvas; each needs
breathing space separate from the other. I had made a complete break with abstract
painting in 1974, and the circumstances of my life were quite naturally influencing
the future direction of my art.
By 1976, I had two small children and could only paint during their nap time.
Their father, like many other Houston men in their 30's with a responsible job, was
out workingTate. All I could see for four years was closed-in walls with some precious windows—cramped psychological space, noise and hassles—yet this was somewhat tempered by the biological love for my children.
I began to paint the dual sides of my feelings and environment: the anguished
nude in a velvet jail, and the joie de vivre of carefree childhood. This viewpoint
could have only developed with children present, as before being pregnant I was
naturally less constrained in movement. I just wasn't involved with children earlier;
adult goals and ambitions were all I needed, and I had forgotten how to see through
the eyes of a child.
The children are relatively happy: they have lots of energy and life keeps unrolling its magic carpet. At the end lies Being Grown Up. The children still have both
their illusions and their energies.
The nudes have anguish as part of the human condition, whether their particular
jails are made of velvet or metal. They also have maybe not learned (they were certainly not trained) to take full charge of their lives. Maybe they were thinking and
vowing to do just that as they sit, protected and also trapped, in their bedrooms. Or
maybe anguish will remain after they free themselves, simply because they are all
The Human Experience, a figurative art exhibition, sponsored by the Women's
Caucus for Art—Houston Chapter, is comprised of paintings and drawings by artists
Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak and Diana Parker.
The exhibition runs December 3 to December 27 at the Houston Public Library,
500 McKinney. Opening reception to meet the artists and see 40 of their paintings
and drawings will be Friday, December 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Nude Reaching for Something by Diana Parker
1728 Bissonnet • Houston 77005 • 773 527-8522
Fine feminist books and magazines including
Heresies, Chrysalis, Woman Spirit and Women Artists News