'Sometimes Vėra Looks Like That. Photographs by Veronika Šleivytė (1906-1998)' at the National Gallery of Art

September 28, 2022
Author Echo Gone Wrong

With her camera, Veronika Šleivytė explores both the world and herself. A different angle each time, a different light, a different composition, and the same person, the same fragment of space becomes a new work of art. This way, an abundance of shots accumulates. So many of them – over 250 originals and prints of yet unseen negatives from the artist’s archive – will be exhibited for the first time.

Veronika Šleivytė was born on December 6, 1906, in Antašava, Kupiškis District, grew up in the nearby Viktariškiai Village, lived and worked in Kaunas, died there on April 21, 1998, and was buried in the Antašava Cemetery. The photographs document her life between these two locations in Lithuania: her transformation from a daughter of landless peasants of the Russian Empire into an artist, the chairwoman of Lithuanian Women Artists’ Association in the temporary capital of the country that had regained its independence, and then into a weird Soviet artist who was only painting flowers.

Photographs by Šleivytė are interesting to us today both as her artistic heritage and as documents of her roles: a daughter, a sister, an artist, the public woman, an educator and a lover. The photographs recording Šleivytėʼs love relationships with women are a particularly important part of this exhibition as it creates the history of the LGBTQ+ community.

The artist had thoroughly ordered her archive and donated it to the Kupiškis Ethnographic Museum together with the letters from her friends and lovers, sketches, notes and paintings. By using all of this material, the curators have reconstructed Šleivytė’s life and tried to imagine what she was like. The image has been enriched not only by exhibiting some of the things she possessed, but also by the contemporary artist Eglė Ridikaitė (born in Kupiškis in 1966) who, especially for this exhibition, has created a painting interpreting a pattern found in Šleivytė’s photographs. The curators have also almost fully recreated Šleivytė’s display at the exhibition of the Lithuanian Photo Amateurs Union in 1933 by looking at its photographic documentation.

Šleivytė treated photography also as a means of communication. Having printed a photo as a postcard, she would write something on the back and send it to her family or friends. “Sometimes Vėra Looks Like That” is one of such inscriptions. It demonstrates the artist’s introspection and reminds us of the temporariness of all states of being, the freedom of mutability and that photographs are but appearances for which everything has been performed.

Text by Milda Dainovskytė and Agnė Narušytė.

Curators of the exhibition: Milda Dainovskytė and Agnė Narušytė
Exhibition architect: Vladas Suncovas
Coordinator of the implementation of exhibition architecture: Mindaugas Reklaitis
Graphic designer: Eglė Ruibytė.
Project leader: Giedrė Zuozienė.
Project coordinator: Lolita Jablonskienė.

Texts by: Agnė Narušytė, Milda Dainovskytė, Ieva Burbaitė, Laima Kreivytė.
An artwork by Eglė Ridikaitė is presented in the exhibition.

Organizers: Kupiškis Ethnographic Museum and National Gallery of Art of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art.
Partners: UAB Surikatos, Lithuanian Photographers Association.
Lenders: Kupiškis Ethnographic Museum and Lithuanian Photographers Association.

The project is financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and Kupiškis District Municipality.
Media sponsors: artnews.lt, echogonewrong.com
Sponsors: UAB “Kupiškėnų mintys”, Foto ProCentras.

Special thanks to Vadim Šamkov, Mindaugas Reklaitis, Julija Česnulaitytė.

Photography: Laurynas Skeisgiela