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Russian-Born Artist Exhibits Christmas Mosaics in Midtown

By Mary Johnson | December 2, 2011 5:59pm | Updated on December 3, 2011 11:39am
The exhibit includes several pieces that take a more modern view of traditional images. This one gives the mother and child blue and red hair, respectively.
The exhibit includes several pieces that take a more modern view of traditional images. This one gives the mother and child blue and red hair, respectively.
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Oksana Prokopenko

MIDTOWN — Russian-born, New York-based artist Oksana Prokopenko works in glass, arranging tens of thousands of tiny shards into colorful mosaics that are now on display in Midtown Manhattan.

An exhibition of Prokopenko’s work opened Friday in the Narthex Gallery inside Saint Peter’s Church on Lexington Avenue and East 54th Street. It will remain on view throughout the holiday season, closing Jan. 8.

“It’s prayerful,” Prokopenko said of her work, which consists largely of pieces depicting religious iconography. “It’s intended to allow the viewer to connect to the divine that is present in daily life.”

Prokopenko, who is Russian Orthodox, was born and raised in the Ukraine, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. When she was growing up, religion was outlawed. 

“When I came [to the United States in 1997] and I realized that I was drawn to religious imagery, I knew that I lacked some theological background,” she explained.

So she enrolled in a seminary to gain a stronger foundation in her faith.

Now, religion is a driving force in her work, which requires calmness, patience and a quiet mind, she explained.

“You become the pencil in the hand of God,” she noted. “It’s still me, but it’s a procreative practice where you allow yourself to be guided by the divine influence, by the divine spirit, so to speak.”

Her work also requires time. Most of Prokopenko’s mosaics take about a year to finish, in part because of the intense focus required but also because she is manipulating tiny pieces of glass into a larger image.

Her masterpiece, a work titled “The Archangels,” is composed of some 40,000 tiny pieces of glass and took her about two years to complete.

That particular piece is now on display in the Narthex Gallery of Saint Peter’s Church, as are several other mosaics, paintings and mixed media pieces that Prokopenko has produced over the years.

The artist, who lives in Midtown, said her collection is a particularly appropriate choice for a Christmas-time exhibition because it is the time of year when many people return to church and reconnect with their faith.

She hopes that those who peruse her pieces will “just stop and feel that Christmas is not just for shopping and who to get what, but also about slowing down and appreciating what’s here and what’s now and remembering that life is so much bigger than what we see with our eyes.”

“To remember that divine piece of yourself is really important,” she added, “and I think it’s easier for people to do it at Christmas time.”

The exhibition of work from Oksana Prokopenko is free and open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Narthex Gallery of Saint Peter’s Church at 619 Lexington Avenue.