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Christina Saj
The World is Upside Down
2021, acrylic on vinyl
7" diameter


Watch the video interview with artist Christina Saj on YouTube, November 21, 2021, at The Ukrainian Museum. Saj's installation Finding Sanctuary During the Pandemic is about this artist's personal journey as she redefined her studio practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With over 130 pieces created over the course of the previous 18 months, the exhibition is shaped from an abandoned record collection the artist found just before the lockdown in 2020. Finding Sanctuary opened September 22, 2021 and will be on view through January 30, 2022.

3-D views of the installation. Move it around!


Finding Sanctuary During the Pandemic
An Installation by Christina Saj

September 22, 2021 – January 30, 2022

The Ukrainian Museum is pleased to present the new exhibition Finding Sanctuary During the Pandemic: An Installation by Christina Saj, an artist’s personal journey through a body of work that would redefine her studio practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibition opened to the public on September 22 and will be on view through the end of January 2022.

Finding Sanctuary greets visitors to the Museum with 130 of the pieces Saj created over the course of the last 18 months. A resident of New Jersey who found herself in a “hot spot” at the start of the pandemic lockdown, Saj retreated to her home studio to channel the angst, fear, and frustration that shook the world. Her Finding Sanctuary pandemic collection took its shape from an abandoned record collection she found just before the lockdown. Spending time in isolation with her family, she found solace in her art, aiming to deliver hope and faith through image, form, and color. Overtaken by a wave of creative energy, Saj started painting vigorously, producing the vividly hued disks nearly every day of the pandemic.

The circular shapes reminded her of the coronavirus as seen under a microscope, but they also evoked a sense of perfection and continuity. The painted vinyl disks are reminiscent of mandalas, symbols of the universe or cosmos, which offer sacred space and connection to a deeper plane. For Saj, they are a window through which to illuminate the collective state of being.

Using her signature bold and brightly patterned palette, Saj offers respite from the gloom and pallor of a world largely restricted to the all-too-familiar and unchanging walls of monotony that surrounded us all from the start of the pandemic. The disks are bubbles of visual delight that provide sustenance to endure the vacuum of cultural stimulation and sameness that overtook our lives. Saj offers us beauty as an antidote to chaos and uncertainty. She believes that "paintings can glimmer in the distance. They can surprise us out of our torpor. They can mirror hope. Art outlives us all and will therefore continue to tell our story long after this pandemic ends."

Christina Saj is a contemporary artist whose abstract paintings reveal a fascination with vivid color and rich pattern. Her distinctly recognizable style calls on modernist roots and an interest in unconventional materials. In contrast to much of modern art, Saj's work hails beauty and visual joy to build her vocabulary. She is an iconographer of the future. Her colorful and playful paintings, while steeped in Old World traditions, beckon to the inner child. Her images allude to the tradition of sacred paintings, informed by her early training and work with Byzantine iconographer Petro Cholodny the Younger, who introduced her to the ancient methods of painting in egg tempera. Saj holds a B.A. in Painting from Sarah Lawrence and an MFA from Bard College. She studied Byzantine Art History at Oxford University.

Saj continues adapting and innovating her techniques to engage audiences in new ways with the use of unusual materials that expand her reach as a painter. Her work has been exhibited widely, in such venues as the Museum of Biblical Art, the National Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, Union Theological Seminary, the Museum of Cultural Heritage in Kyiv, and the American Embassy in Qatar, as well as at the White House. Her works reside in private and museum collections in the U.S. and abroad. She maintains a studio in New Jersey where she welcomes commissions.

In accordance with New York City mandate, all visitors aged 12 and older must present proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Masks are required for all visitors.

The Ukrainian Museum's exhibitions and programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

About the Museum

The Ukrainian Museum acquires, preserves, and exhibits articles of artistic or historic significance to the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainian Americans; its collections include thousands of items of folk art, fine art, and archival material. At its founding in 1976 by the Ukrainian National Womens League of America, the Museum was hailed as one of the finest achievements of Americans of Ukrainian descent. Since then, and particularly since its move in 2005 to a new, state-of-the-art building in Manhattans vibrant East Village, it has become known as one of the most interesting and dynamic smaller museums in New York City. Each year, the Museum organizes several exhibitions, publishes bilingual (English/Ukrainian) catalogues, and presents a wide range of public and educational programs, including concerts, films, lectures, courses, workshops, and special events.

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