This article is based on the belief that the hierarchy of Ukrainian artistic community was mainly male-centred, while female artists had to work much harder than their male colleagues just to be recognised as artists. Therefore, artistic talent was generally associated with personal characteristics rather than artistic skills. In the 1960s, manliness became one of the important features of art and the intelligentsia in general, which adhered to the ideas of human rights and justice. According to the artists’ ideas, the same qualities – manliness, courage, honesty, and willpower – should manifest themselves in the artworks. The crisis of the Soviet Union and its artistic structures, the subsequent Perestroika, and the independence of Ukraine brought fundamental economic and social changes putting this activist tradition of nonconformist female art on hold. The above-mentioned trends re-emerged after 2004, when a new generation of artists, who successfully incorporated elements of the tradition of social activism, was born.
In my paper, I will talk about the continuity of the tradition of female artists’ activism, about its features in Ukraine from the 1960s to the present day. I will try to answer the question: what is the role of the idea of manliness in Soviet and Ukrainian art, and what is the role of female artists and their artistic practice in fighting for political and social justice.
Kateryna Iakovlenko is a contemporary art researcher, art critic and journalist. She earned an MA in journalism and social communication at the Donetsk National University. For six years she has been researching the transformation of the heroic narrative of Donbas through new media as a postgraduate thesis at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. For more than seven years she has been writing about art and culture in various Ukrainian and European media. She worked as deputy web editor for „The Day newspaper” (2013–14), curator and program manager in the Donbas Studies Research Project at Izolyatsia, a platform for cultural initiatives (2014–15), and researcher and curator of public programs at PinchukArtCentre (2016–20). Her current research interest touches on the subject of art during political transformations and war, and explores women’s and gender optics in visual culture. She was the editor of the books Gender Studies by Donbas Studies Research Project (2015), Why There Are Great Women Artists in Ukrainian Art (2019), Euphoria and Fatigue: Ukrainian Art and Society after 2014 (special issue of Obieg magazine, co-edited with Tatiana Kochubinska, 2019), and Curatorial Manual (co-edited with Oleksandra Pogrebnyak and Dmytro Chepurny, 2020).