ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2008 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Volume 54, No 4 - Winter 2008
Editor of this issue: M. G. Salvėnas

Golden Anniversary Exhibition of Lithuanian Diaspora Artists

Laima Apanavičienė

Laima Apanavičienė is the director of the Čiurlionis Art Gallery and editor of the Lithuanian daily Draugas.

The directors of the Čiurlionis Art Gallery and Museum decided to mark its fiftieth anniversary by announcing a juried exhibition open to all diaspora artists who were invited to submit two pieces of their work. The response was overwhelming: the Gallery received art from 65 professional artists residing in the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Germany, France, Ireland and Israel. Eight artists were selected for prizes sponsored by Magdalena Stankūnienė, herself a painter and a generous patron of art here and in Lithuania. The gala opening and the awards ceremony took place on February 22, 2008. 

Photo by Jonas Kuprys
Opening reception for the fiftieth anniversary exhibition at the Čiurlionis Art Gallery. From left to right: Irena Šaparnienė, Alvydas Pakarklis, Vidas Zimkus, Gintaras Jocius, Danguolė Kuolienė, Petras Aleksa, Vanda Aleknienė, Daina Lukas.
Photo by Jonas Kuprys
Some visitors enjoying the opening reception.

The jury, composed of Jolanta Kuprys, Vincas Lukas, Danas Lapkus and Val Ramonis, selected the following winners: first-place prizes went to Irena Šaparnienė (Saparnis) (for ,,Target“ 2007 and ,,Track” 2007) and Alvydas Pakarklis (,,A Look within” 2007; “Shadows” 2007). Šaparnienė graduated from the School of Architecture in Vilnius, Lithuania, and is an established batik and silkscreen artist with numerous exhibits in the United States and Lithuania. Alvydas Pakarklis graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts and is known for his work with ceramics. He perfected his technique at the Panevėžys Glass Factory, where he organized The Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposium in 1983 and 1990. His novel technique lies not in outward shapes and forms but in the images he creates on the inside walls of his bowls and vases.

Irena Šaparnis, “Target.”

Alvydas Pakarklis with his
ceramic sculptures “A Look Within.”

Second-place awards went to Gintaras Jocius (“Amber Lady” 2003; ,,Barbora” 2005) and Vidas Zimkus (“Comrade” 2008; “Refugees” 2008). 

Gintaras Jocius, “Amber Lady

Gintaras Jocius is a versatile young multi-media artist who studied at the Vilnius M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art. He is largely known for his graphic designs, illustrations of children’s books, character portraits and paintings in oil and acrylic. The prize-winning paintings highlight a woman’s face against an intricate mosaic of colors and shapes, creating a striking contrast between the pensive face and the multifaceted garment. 

Vidas Zimkus, fragment from “Refugees.”

Vidas Zimkus comes from Telšiai, a graduate of the local Academy of Applied Arts and the Department of Art at the Šiauliai Pedagogical Institute. He came to Chicago in 1994 and is known for multi-media montages, combining wood, leather, metal and scraps of any other material to give shape to his fantasies.

Danguolė Stončiūtė-Kuolas,
“Silence of the Night.”

Third-place prizes winners were Danguolė Stončiūtė-Kuolas (“Aftermath” 2005; “Night Silence” 2005) and Renata Palubinskas (“Triumph” 2006); “Unconditional Love” 2007). Kuolas, born in Chicago and a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, is primarily a printmaker, specializing in calligraphy and block printing but experiments with various other modalities. (A three-dimensional wire basket of her creation is currently on display at the Fuller Museum of Art in Brockton). 

Renata Palubinskas,
“Unconditional Love.”

Renata Palubinskas is known for her symbolic compositions and meticulous professionalism. She studied painting and art restoration at the Stepas Žukas School of Applied Arts in Kaunas and worked at the Kaunas Čiurlionis Art Museum restoring paintings. Since 1993, residing with her artist-husband in Grosse Point Park, Michigan, she has participated in numerous exhibitions. Her present work reveals a new shift toward a deeper spiritual dimension. 

Vanda Aleknienė, “Spring.”

A special Čiurlionis Art Gallery Award was given to Vanda Aleknienė and Petras Aleksa (see p. 4), both previous directors and curators of the gallery. The Lithuanian Community of Brighton Park Prize went to Saulius Kvoshas, from Israel, and the Jesuit Youth Center’s Young Artists Award to Daina Lukaitė.

Petras Aleksa,  “XXI Century Pegassus”

 Vanda Aleknienė is a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute and has participated in numerous exhibits. Petras Aleksa graduated from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1957 and the Art Institute of Chicago and is known for his multi-media sculptures. One of them, “Resurrection,” hangs above the main altar in the Lithuanian Jesuit Chapel in Chicago. Daina Lukas, the youngest award recipient, was born and raised in Chicago and holds a degree in Industrial Design from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. She is gaining recognition for her photography. 

Daina Lukas, “Untitled”

The success of the exhibition demonstrates that the Čiurlionis Art Gallery still serves a purpose as an important institution for American-Lithuanian artists and as a cultural center. The opening was a festive event, drawing artists and art lovers representing all age groups and locations. Twenty percent of the contestants were younger than thirty-five and most of them represent the latest wave of Lithuanian immigrants. Their eagerness to participate shows that they appreciate and value the opportunity the Gallery afforded them. Although a good many of these so-called “Third Wave” immigrants (Rimas Čiurlionis, Rolandas Kiaulevičius, Renata Palubinskas, Irena Šaparnis and others) have already found their niche in the American artistic community, they desire to maintain ties with the émigré community and their home country. The Gallery offers them the forum to do so. Its Golden Anniversary is thus also the beginning of a new cycle of activities.

Looking ahead, this writer, as the new director and curator, wishes to fulfill the original mission of collecting and preserving émigré art but at the same reach beyond the immediate needs of the community and develop the Gallery’s new role as an intermediary. One of the first such projects was to organize an exhibit of photographs by Jonas Kuprys called “Lithuanians in America” which opened at the National M. Mažvydas Library in Vilnius and is now on an extended tour to other libraries. 

A significant innovation was to establish contact with the prestigious Chicago Cultural Center in downtown Chicago and, with support from Lithuanian Consul General Arvydas Daunoravičius, arrange for a three-months show of embroidered hangings by Petronelė Gerlikienė called ,,Embroidered Myths and Everyday Stories,” opening on January 11, 2008. The hangings on display were on loan from the Lithuanian Museum in Vilnius courtesy of the director Romualdas Budrys, and from private collections. Another exhibit, called “Generations,” took place at the Čiurlionis Art Gallery, showing Petronelė’s hangings together with paintings by her son Pranciškus and prints by granddaughter Jurgita. 

Presently the director of the Gallery is organizing a individual show in Vilnius for the textile artist Regina Pilkaitis-Benson and is negotiating with the Lithuanian embassy in Warsaw for an exhibit in Poland of five American-Lithuanian artists. 

For January 2009, the Chicago Cultural Center reacted favorably to our new proposal and out of 103 submissions chose two exciting young graphic artists from Lithuania: Eglė Vertelkaitė and Birutė Žokaitytė. One may assume that this is only the beginning of further cooperative endeavors and without doubt the most effective way to bring new talent to Chicago and make it available to the American public. 

Adapted from the Lithuanian by M.G. Slavėnas