Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine and the atrocities began to mount, Daytona North artist and massage therapist Carol Brown booked a stay at an Airbnb in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
Like tens of thousands of people around the world who have booked Airbnb accommodations in Ukraine since the start of the war, Brown had no intention of visiting the Eastern European nation: Rather, her ghost booking was a way to give a bit of financial support to one Ukrainian woman, and to show solidarity with that country’s 44 million citizens.
But Brown, who is one of the 60 artists whose works are carried by the Gallery of Local Art (GOLA) in Flagler Beach, wanted to do more. The result is “The Face of Ukraine,” a benefit art show that will be held 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday April 23 on the outdoor patio at GOLA, 208 S. Central Ave., Flagler Beach.
Brown and other area artists are donating works to be sold. All proceeds from sales will benefit World Central Kitchen, an aid organization whose website, wck.org, says it is “first to the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate and community crises.” A headline on the website on April 16 read: “#ChefsForUkraine nears 300,000 daily meals, expands relief efforts in Ukraine.”
GOLA is seeking donations of works from area artists, and not just GOLA members, for “The Face of Ukraine” show. Artists interested in making donations should email [email protected]. Artworks do not have to feature a Ukrainian theme. Entries will be accepted right up to the start of the exhibit on April 23, Brown said.
The show will be accepting monetary donations from patrons who do not wish to purchase art, and other fundraising activities will be held during the event, Brown said.
“I rented a loft in Kyiv from a lovely young woman named Selena, who I’m still in touch with,” said Brown, who was born in Queens, N.Y., but who “grew up in the woods” in tiny Chester 57 miles north of the Big Apple. Brown moved to Florida in 1972, and to Flagler County in 1998.
Making a de facto donation through Airbnb appealed to Brown “because Selena had a face. I wasn’t just going to give my money to some nonprofit organization that I wasn’t familiar with, that doesn’t have a face. I wouldn’t know if I was supporting somebody’s CEO or if I was feeding a Ukrainian. So, at first I found an Airbnb and supported one person. I said, ‘Well it’s great I’m helping one person, but I would like to help more than one person.’ ”
Brown choose World Central Kitchen because it was the first aid organization she encountered on Facebook that was helping Ukraine, and because “I’m a foodie,” she says. “I feed people. I have been a raw food chef since 2002. I’ve been a cooked-food chef my entire life. I have a great deal of respect for people who are risking their lives to feed people. Food is essential. Yes, people need sleep and they need clothes and they need shelter, but without food they’re dead.”
Brown says she came “from people who know how to do stuff. My grandfather always said never to pay anybody to do or make something that you can do or make yourself. So I did.” Her parents and grandparents taught her to knit, crochet, carve, use a lathe and lapidary equipment, make quilts and a host of other hands-on skills.
On the art side, Brown has worked in acrylic paint, stained glass and wood carving. However, her current artistic medium is draped hypertufa, a process that recently led her to create “The Face of Ukraine,” a sculpture of a giant sunflower – the national flower of Ukraine – with a face at its center, and painted in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Hypertufa is a lightweight, porous material made from various aggregates such as sand, vermiculite or perlite, which are bonded together by Portland cement. While still wet, the material can be shaped or packed into various molds to create various objects such as flower pots. Once dry, hypertufa is hard but lightweight.
Six years ago, a friend of Brown’s sent her a YouTube video of a person creating with draped hypertufa.
“You take a blanket or a towel or some other fuzzy form of fabric and use it as the aggregate instead of the sand or the lightweight vermiculite used in traditional hypertufa,” Brown says. “The more nap a fabric has, the better it holds what we call the slurry, which is a very liquid cement. The whole piece of fabric gets dumped into and saturated with the slurry, and then gets set over a mold.
“I do a lot of flowerpots and planters, but I also make sculptures. There’s a lot of people out there making pots and planters out of old blankets and towels. Yet I’ve looked on the internet and I haven’t found anyone doing what I do. I take draped hypertufa to the next level where I’m also making people and sculptures and ‘The Face of Ukraine.’ ”
Brown, whose pieces take about a month to create, began working on a sun face and “it just kept getting bigger and I just rolled with it. I said ‘I have to paint it yellow and blue and I’m going to sell it and give all the money to Ukraine.’ ”
While “The Face of Ukraine,” which is about 40 inches in diameter, was still a work in progress, Brown shared a photo of the piece with Marge Barnhill, owner of GOLA.
“It wasn’t even finished yet,” Brown says. “I hadn’t painted it. I showed her the picture and she said, ‘Well, we’re just going to have to have an art show.’ She got on board all the way.”
Brown says the Russian war against Ukraine is “genocide. I can’t believe this is happening in the year 2022. It makes me sick to my stomach on a daily basis when I think about it. So I wanted to do something. I wanted to help Ukraine. I’m a massage therapist, I’m an artist, I’m a this, I’m a that. How can I help somebody? I can make something and sell it and get other artists involved and see what we can make happen.”
–Rick de Yampert for FlaglerLive