Ukrainian-Canadian Artists - Sterling Demchinsky fonds
Leo Mol’s name is most often associated with Ukrainian Canadian art, however there are several other prominent Ukrainian Canadians who have distinguished themselves in the area of the fine arts. Since the beginning of Ukrainian immigration to Canada in 1891, the church has always played a pivotal role in Ukrainian community life and identity. Many of the first Ukrainian artists were those that studied and were immersed in traditional Byzantine church art, -- from painting churches, writing icons, creating mosaics, and designing iconostases. With another wave of Ukrainian immigration following World War II, a new generation of church artists emerged. This new group would have a significant impact on how Ukrainian church art is perceived, not only by those Canadians of Ukrainian descent, but by non-Ukrainians alike. It is this group’s legacy which continues to influence and shape the present generation of artists.
Like Leo Mol, many of these artists began their careers in Canada as church painters, and continued to excel professionally in this area. One of the early such artists was Yakiv Maydanyk, whose work can be seen in the interiors of several Ukrainian churches throughout Manitoba. Maydanyk was a fascinating, talented, and multifaceted individual. His life story was presented as a National Film Board of Canada documentary titled, Laughter in My Soul, by Canadian film director Halya Kuchmij. (Halya Kuchmij, Laughter in My Soul, 1983) He not only painted, but was a caricaturist, wrote poetry and comedic dramas, and owned a church goods store. Born in Western Ukraine in 1891, he came to Canada in 1911, where he attended the Ukrainian Teacher’s College (then known as the Ruthenian Training School for Teachers) in Brandon, Manitoba. (Mykhailo Marunchak, Biohrafichnyi dovidnyk do Istoriii Ukraintsiv Kanady, p. 404) It was during these years as a teacher that he created his famous cartoon character, Vuiko Shtif Tabachniuk, whose antics satirized the early Ukrainian immigrant, and appeared as a cartoon series in the Ukrainian Canadian Press.
From the 1920s to the 1950s, Maydanyk did most of his church paintings, as well as some secular artwork. His religious paintings were very traditional, yet contained a rich beauty to them, as exemplified in the canvas paintings found within St. Michael the Archangel Church in Olha, Manitoba (Anna Maria Kowcz-Baran, Ukrains’ki Katolyts’ki tserkvy Vinnipegs’koi Arkhieparkhii, p. 165). Later, Maydanyk recruited young artists like Leo Mol, to help with the painting of the interiors of Ukrainian Churches. During the last several years there has been a growing interest in Maydanyk’s art, with collectors trying to locate many of the paintings he completed during his life.