All Eyes on War

Artist Waldek Dynerman hangs up his paintings at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts. The painter says he is “emotionally drained” by Putin’s war as his recent subject matter.

This exhibit will be on display for four weeks only, so act fast. Waldek Dynerman also worked fast, not able to think about anything else, to create the painting series titled Putin’s War – expressive, heavy-textured pieces he started creating on the third day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Around 40 of these paintings, some as big as 6-by-10 feet, are being shown for the first time at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts.

“Gorgeous landscapes,” Curator Gail Enns says about Putin’s War, adding she knows how unusual this sounds in the context of war landscapes.

Dynerman’s war has its tanks, soldiers and fire, but the conflict is set where it actually belongs – in the realm of a nightmare, where a hellish pink is of an anxiety shade, there are flying creatures in the air, and monstrous faces appear in the sky. “You know that Ukrainians call Russian soldiers orcs?” Dynerman half-says half-asks, pointing out this reference to J.R.R. Tolkien’s humanoid monsters.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, the son of a Holocaust survivor, Dynerman’s whole life was dominated by the theme of war. “Political, social, global,” he says. “These matters always find their way into my paintings.”

Dynerman left Poland in 1983 with a degree in arts and spent many years in Milwaukee. A recent move to Emeryville, California shifted his attention to homelessness as subject matter.

“And then it became more obvious that there’s going to be a war,” Dynerman says about Putin’s war on Ukraine. “When they were saying these are just exercises [months before the invasion, Russian troops started to gather close to the Ukrainian border], I was just laughing.”

Dynerman says the West doesn’t understand the Russian psyche and the fact that Russian rulers (Stalin, Putin) never valued human life and are ready to sacrifice what they consider human fodder.

Most pieces were titled only for the exhibit. “I don’t title the pieces unless I already have a title in my head before I start,” Dynerman says. That was the case with the first big canvas in the series, the one he started on the third day of the invasion. It shows a soldier moving through a fiery landscape and is titled “New World Order.”

Putin’s War can be seen noon-4pm Wednesdays-Saturdays, or by appointment, through June 24. The Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Fourth and Guadalupe, Carmel. 624-7491,

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