A huge sculpture in Washington’s Union Station marks the centennial of modern Lithuania
On 23 May, a big sculpture “Garden” by an internationally acclaimed Lithuanian American artist Ray Bartkus was opened in the Union Station, the main station in Washington, D.C.
“It’s symbolic that the Union Station features this art installation. Stations connect people. And we would like to further build our connections with the U.S.A.,” said Lithuania’s Ambassador to the U.S. Rolandas Kriščiūnas.
“Lithuania cherishes the close and multiple links - political, economic, and cultural - between our two countries. But the most important ties are between the people. Lithuanian Americans have always played a special and very important role in the relationship between the two countries. A century ago, Lithuanian Americans helped us build modern Lithuania. They helped us keep hope during the darkest years of the Soviet occupation. Today, Lithuanian Americans still make their invaluable contribution to strengthening the Lithuanian-U.S. relationship,” said the Ambassador Kriščiūnas during the opening ceremony.
“Today one of the most renown American Lithuanian artist Ray Bartkus presents the art installation “Gardens”. The motive of a garden has centuries-long tradition in the Lithuanian art and culture. By portraying it in this contemporary form, Ray Bartkus bridges ancient and modern Lithuania,” said the Ambassador.
The installation “Gardens” is inspired by the Lithuanian folk art ornaments called “Sodai” -- strands of straw woven into complex 3D polygons. Ray Bartkus has reimagined these traditional ornaments through a contemporary magnifying lens, using modern materials and technology, now shaping LED and aluminium instead of straw, into a slowly rotating, giant geometric kaleidoscope.
Ray Bartkus noted that he wanted to present the Lithuanian traditional folk art to the U.S. public in a modern way.
"As Lithuania celebrates the centennial of restored independence, I wanted to introduce Lithuania to America in the form of art. All the people who will see the installation, they will see Lithuania. This is a modern interpretation of Lithuanian classics," said the artist.
The event was organized by the Embassy of Lithuania and the MO Museum in Lithuania.
The Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois was present and gave a speech during the opening ceremony, which also included a musical performance by the percussionist Dalius Naujokaitis-Naujo, a New York-based pioneer of avant-garde experimental music and free jazz. The installation in the Union Station will stand all day on 23 May. Later it will be featured in Philadelphia, New York, ant other cities across the U.S.
Ray Bartkus is a conceptual artist, who explores our visual comprehension of space, colour, light, and forms. His large-scale installations, which range from ethereal to imposing, from unsettling to whimsical, open up new ways for the viewer to relate with their environment. Born in Lithuania in 1961, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1991. He splits his time between New York City and Philadelphia.
His illustrations have been featured on the covers and pages of many national and international publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Time, Newsweek, Harper's, Billboard, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The New Republic, Smart Money, The Fortune, and Businessweek. Ray Bartkus’ works are in collections in numerous museums worldwide, including The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
MO museum is a world-class cultural destination opening in autumn 2018 to showcase local art and explore its links with the global art scene. The museum has acquired one of the largest private collections in Lithuania.