11.11.2023 / 11.01.2024

The Withstanding exhibition showcases works by women artists from the Bashkortostan Republic who did not receive professional education and/or embarked on their artistic journey at a mature age in the 20th century. In the Soviet times, formal education and membership in the Artists Union were the entryway into the profession but it is obvious that this path was not always available and was not open for everyone. In the first half of the 20th century, at the time of repressions, war, and hunger, the question of survival was much more acute than the education problem. Later, during a quieter period, the education system was fairly open, and yet there still was a category of women who were not able to engage in art practice or remained in the shadows for political, social, or personal reasons.

We suggest turning away from “great artists” narratives with their seamless and consistent formation trajectories leading from academic institutions to personal exhibitions at museums. On the contrary, our project is an attempt to highlight easy-to-miss episodes from life and art of both widely and little-known women artists, in order to find “gray zones,” outline the history’s pressure points, and look into the depths of the past with closer attention.

We focused on four artists: Vera Georgievna Morozova, Adia Khabibullovna Sitdikova, Klara Parferyevna Tayganova, and Faniya Akramovna Shevchuk. Each of them lived through their own experience of self-acceptance and formation as an artist, overcoming various obstacles, withstanding dire circumstances, and acting in spite of “comprehensible” scenarios. Thus, for instance, Vera Morozova found herself in Ufa as a result of political exile, being a spouse of “an enemy of the people,” but became one of the founding members of the Bashkir sculpture school. Adia Sitdikova earned a living doing embroidery for a long time, but happened to get a job as a maintenance worker at an art center and discovered her talent there. Klara Tayganova lived in the village of Balykly all her life and worked at a state farm, but at the age of 42 became the director of the local House of Culture, where she started to paint and design sets for theater productions. Faniya Shevchuk spent many years of her life taking care of a large family, raising three children, all the while painting independently, but was only able to study art formally at the age of 48.

We decided to showcase four artists of different social and ethnic backgrounds who rose to different levels of fame and recognition both in the artistic community and among the general public. There are certainly more women artists that stayed beyond the scope of this particular project, and we hope to fill in the remaining gaps in the future.