Ukrainian artists Sonia Atlantova and Olexander Klimenko have been using the unlikely material of wood from war torn ammunition boxes as canvases for their artwork since 2015 when they started their conceptual project, Icons on Ammunition Boxes.
Since Russia declared war on Ukraine in late February, their work remains more relevant than ever. Black and White Project Space, the nonprofit art organization, will be sponsoring an online auction that will culminate with an event Aug. 25 from 5-7 p.m. at the historic Jamesport Meeting House.
The auction is currently live here. All proceeds from the auction will benefit Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital (PFVMH), a nongovernmental organization created in 2014 that is providing medical care on the frontline of the war in Ukraine. It is made up of volunteer civilian healthcare professionals. According to its website, since 2014, its mobile volunteer hospital had treated about 50,000 patients.
The icons depict images such as Virgin with Child, painted by Mr. Klimenko, on a wood box from AKM assault rifle cartridges left by Russian solders on a battlefield near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, according to the description of the image on the auction site. The minimum bid for that piece starts at $2,200.
“I saw what they were doing, those incredible icons on ammunition boxes [and] really got very excited about this project and the concept of how art can really transform the lives of people and can really, as they put it, transform death into life,” said Tatyana Okshteyn, founder of Black and White Project Space and Gallery, currently in Southampton.
Both the artists are in Ukraine and unable to attend. According to a statement from the artists on the website, members of the military and medical volunteers bring those empty ammunition boxes from the battle fields. The statement said the artists consider these people “full participants of our project, a kind of co-authors.”
The statement also includes the artists’ explanation to the deeper meaning of the artwork being made on such a particular medium.
“Military ammunition boxes are visually similar to coffins. Moreover, these boxes are usually like coffins, stored deep underground in military warehouses and arsenals,” the statement said. “The war begins and, like in a Hollywood horror movie, those coffin boxes appear in the world of God, death jumps out from them, destroying everything in its path. But the final chapter in its destructive journey is written by the artist when the cartridges carrying death begin to radiate life…One of the core metaphors of our project is that military ammunition boxes after the battle get a new life, acquire a new function, become icons — symbols of victory of life over death,” the statement said.
According to the auction website, the Icons on Ammunition Boxes have been exhibited at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, Parliaments of Ukraine and Lithuania, in Poland, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Canada and U.S. Since 2015, Icons on Ammunition Boxes project raised over $450,000 for the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital.
There will be 18 icons on display in Jamesport that will be shipped from Ukraine. Bidding starts at $2,200 through $5,000 on the online auction.
James Farley of Riverhead Rotary Club helped arrange the event at Jamesport Meeting House. He said they’re hoping to raise around $40-$50,000 or more, if possible.
“I just think it’s a good cause,” Mr. Farley said. “I think [the] Ukraine situation is a terrible situation and I think the country needs support to resolve things in its favor.”