On the outside, it appears to be just an ordinary house in Great Falls, Montana, but on the inside are the extraordinary studio and personal art gallery of artists Echo and Ron Ukrainetz.
The couple’s home is chock-full of wonderful art, mostly Western, such as a striking clayboard engraving of a Native American headdress that Ron did, which Echo admiringly points out and calls “awesome.” Echo’s work is equally awesome, but in an entirely different, and unusual, medium. Her fine-art batiks — in which she re-creates historic turn-of-the-century photographs of American Indians, like those of famed photographer Edward S. Curtis — are so accomplished that you wouldn’t necessarily guess they’re accompanied by a certain amount of perfectionistic vexation.
“I’m a frustrated oil painter,” Echo says. “When I start, I have this idea that it’s going to look like an oil painting. I call it ‘getting to France.’ I get to Holland. But I don’t ever get to France.”
She works in the relatively unknown, “but very ancient,” technique of batik. The originally Indonesian method involves applying alternating wax and dye treatments to an outline of an image on high-quality stretched cloth. Proceeding from light to dark, the artist applies layers of dye, drying the cloth in between each application and applying wax to areas to be protected from the next layer of dye. Each piece can take a month or longer to create.
Echo consistently turns out intriguing pieces that pulsate with arresting color — which is especially interesting given that the source photographs she works from aren’t in color. “I love color,” she says. “I love the fact that the photographs are black and white, so I can do anything I want with color.”
The self-taught artist always wants to see how far she can push the medium — to the point that her pieces take on a life of their own. “After about four or five dye baths on the face, I can hold it up to the light and see the eyes looking back at me,” she says. “I love the faces that look at you. That makes the person looking at the artwork a participant in the piece.”
A regular at her hometown’s famous Russell Auction, Echo has also shown at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio. “I’m in a sweet spot because I can make them, I can sell them, and then I can make some more.”
Echo Ukrainetz’s work will be on view at the Miniature Show at Frame of Reference Fine Art in Whitefish, Montana, November 16, 2018 – January 1, 2019; and the Christmas Small Works Show at the Winston Gallery in Great Falls, Montana, opening November 2. The artist is represented by the aforementioned galleries as well as Beartooth Gallery Fine Art in Red Lodge, Montana; and Latigo & Lace in Augusta, Montana.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Helen, Clear-Omaha Southern Sioux, Medicines of the Chief, Moving Robe, and Blackman Arapahoe courtesy Ron Ukrainetz