Ksenia Meleshko is one Vineyarder who doesn’t mind the cold and snow. The native of the Eastern European country Belarus welcomes the wintry weather, and sees the beauty, as opposed to the harshness, of the season. Her paintings, a selection of which will be on display at the Chilmark library throughout the month of February, are characterized by the artist’s use of a striking palette of many vivid colors. She paints the Vineyard landscape in an Impressionist style, and whether the image is of a summer or a winter scene, the colors are consistently bright, and the tone joyful.
“I wanted to show that winter in general can be very beautiful and colorful,” says Meleshko. “I didn’t want to just use white and blue.”
Meleshko describes herself as a Modern Impressionist painter whose work — though representational in nature — benefits from the use of imagined colors and unique perspectives.
“I’m pretty crazy about colors,” says the artist. “I don’t really care much about shapes. I care more about light and impressions. When people look at my art, they remember something about their past. It’s not so much about realism. It’s more impressions of what people think it seems to be, and that it reminds them of something from their memory. I try to show people the world through another lens.”
Among the paintings on display at the library is an image of a clearing surrounded by bare trees and a few snow-covered evergreens. A wintry sun casts long shadows on the snow and paints the landscape with colors ranging from violets and blues to vivid golden hues. The tree branches cut the sky into a prism of varicolored diamonds.
“I tried to show wild trees, and then someplace where your eyes can rest,” says the artist of that particular painting. “That quiet place with shadows underneath. There are all those crazy shapes, and then just really smooth shapes underneath.”
Another painting benefits from an even more distorted view. Again we see trees with the sun showing through the branches, but this view is punctuated even more by multicolored geometric shapes forming the skyline and splotches of color representing the field beneath. The painting is almost abstract in nature.
“I wanted to show that trees and nature can be different than we normally think,” says Meleshko. “If you look close, it could be leaves or sky showing through. I like that light that is coming through the trees. When you look at the sunset, it’s basically five minutes and it’s gone. I try to capture those moments in my paintings. I think it’s really important to have that with you all the time.”
The artist and graphic designer lives in West Tisbury, where she finds inspiration in the up-Island landscape. In warm or temperate weather, she likes to paint outdoors, although a lot of what she depicts is from her imagination or memory.
Meleshko emigrated from Belarus to the Vineyard three years ago. Having earned a dual degree in graphic design and 3D design in her native country, she quickly found a job working with Melissa Patterson’s business, About Signs and Design. The two women do both graphic design work and handpainted signs. Meleshko, who competed as a gymnast in Moscow and around Europe, also teaches at Island Gymnastics.
The Belarus native first heard about the Vineyard from a friend who was living here at the time. “He told me that it’s a tiny little Island,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ Once I got to this place I saw that it was really a small community. It’s like family here. We care about each other. I love it.”
One painting in particular displays Meleshko’s feelings about finding a place to call home. The painting is actually titled “Home.” It’s full of colorful energy, centering on a tiny house surrounded by a copse of trees. A dramatic rainbow-hued sky is mirrored in a field striated with colors. Meleshko describes the image as one seen from a fisheye lens view, with all of the energy converging on the house.
“What I wanted to show was that the sky above us comes together with nature,” she says. “The eye is drawn to this house at the center — home. This is where you can find yourself and find support. I wanted to show that God and nature could come together in this sweet little home.”
A year-round Islander, Meleshko is enjoying the quiet winter months as much as the busy season. “No matter what, it’s a colorful life,” she says. “It’s all about celebration. It’s there when we need it. You just have to open your eyes. Maybe my art will show people what’s possible.”
“Brave Light,” an exhibit of the paintings of Ksenia Meleshko, will be on display through Feb. 27 at the Chilmark library.