Artists display cultural history through visual arts


Photo by: Elodi Breg

A sculpture from the exhibit called “Beneath the Surface” by Olga Yukhno is displayed in the Adele Kassab Art Gallery.

The FMU Fine Arts Department exhibited the works of Susan Fecho and Olga Yukhno, which are investigations into aspects of human identity and culture, from Feb. 18 – March 28 in the Adele Kassab Art Gallery.

Fecho, dean of the school of visual, performing and communication arts at Barton College, works with a variety of mediums, including printmaking, fiber, illustration and assemblage. She said most of the works she brought were from overlapping projects that morph into each other.

According to Fecho, one of these projects is completing a botanical illustration certification from UNC Botanical Gardens, requiring her to focus on local surroundings. Fecho said she also pulls in regional historic architecture, which includes Tarboro, a historic town with many National Register properties. During this time, she worked on the series “Living Legends,” which are the large tree series on exhibition at FMU. Another project is “The Trousseau Book,” which she said investigates the concept of trousseau, parceling a collection of items as a sign of wealth and social standing within American Victorianism.

Fecho said her areas of interest provide her with sensory material that inspires her process of constructing a piece’s meaning.

“These sites are filled with sensory experiences: historic buildings, Victorian gravesite sculptures, pre-Civil War botanical plantings, which means gnarly trees,” Fecho said. “I have developed an abiding love of interpreting the past. Before I construct a piece, I construct its meaning – a matrix of personal, cultural and archetypal associations within which my assembled fragments will find their place.”

Fecho said when it comes to people viewing her work, she accepts it as an opportunity to learn, especially from her colleagues.

For Fecho, her role as a professor goes hand in hand with her penchant for research-driven art-making. She said her professorial and managerial positions have been a quality choice, allowing her to pursue her research and her interests in traveling and taking studio classes. As art has always been a part of her life, she said these professional responsibilities have allowed her to make a career.

Fecho earned both her B.F.A. and M.F.A from East Carolina University. She has also pursued postgraduate studies at institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Hailing from Pyatigorsk, Russia, Yukhno began pursuing her artistic interests early in her life and has continued to do so throughout her extensive travels. Although she had always wanted to be an artist, it wasn’t until a few years ago that she was able to focus on the creative side of her career full time.

“With the encouragement of my husband, I decided to turn my passion for art into a full-time job,” Yukhno said. “And that was the best decision I have ever made – nothing brings me more joy and fulfillment than being able to focus on the creative process and dedicate all my time to developing and growing my art practice.”

While she works with many forms of three-dimensional and sculptural pieces, Yukhno said her current primary medium is ceramics. In addition to her work with mixed media, she said she loves the endless possibilities that working with clay offers, especially as a resource for storytelling. In this exhibit she explored her fascination with human psychology through her ceramic art.

“The pieces in this series are focused on different questions around psychology and self-searching,” Yukhno said. “Because of my background in this area, I tend to analyze my own behavior a lot, as well as that of others. I’m absolutely fascinated with how we come to different decisions, how our brains develop coping and escape mechanisms, ways to deal with trauma or justify our actions and choices. People are definitely the main source of inspiration for me. For right now this body of work is complete. But I can see myself revisiting many similar subjects in the future – people always give us a lot to think about; they are a constant source of inspiration and wonder.”

When it comes to showing her work to the public, Yukhno said she thinks of it as a constructive opportunity rather than something that causes apprehension.

“I’m always very excited to hear people’s feedback regarding my work whether it’s positive or not so much,” Yukhno said. “In either case, it’s an opportunity to grow for me, put more thought into my work. I love learning what people ‘see’ in my pieces, what emotions they evoke. Sometimes it’s not what I had in mind, but it’s even more interesting that way – you can witness all different ways viewers might connect with your work. So I’m always very excited and grateful for the opportunities to exhibit my work and engage with the viewers.”

According to Yukhno, she is also passionate about creating opportunities for other artists. She volunteers at several local art organizations in Columbia as a workshop coordinator and a public galleries curator, as well as organizing independent shows. She said her current job as the Gallery Director at McMaster Gallery at the University of South Carolina aligns perfectly with this passion as well.

Yukhno earned her bachelor’s in linguistics and her master’s in education and psychology from Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University in Russia. After that she took an advanced enameling course with N. M. Vdovkin, a well-known Russian artist. In the last few years, she has studied with a number of artists in Southeastern America.