Inspired by his bittersweet Ukrainian childhood, the strength and beauty of the feminine form, and the sweeping simplicity of nature, Leon Oks’s paintings take his viewers on a journey of the human spirit. “It is important that my audience in a very simple way draw satisfaction and pure pleasure when looking at and living with my work,” Oks explains. “This is the power of art: to overcome the problems and realities of everyday life and offer a hopeful view.”
Born in Ukraine, Oks was raised by his mother and grandmother after WWII took the life of his father when Oks was just two years old. They moved constantly, seeking safe, unoccupied areas that eventually would become unsafe themselves. Beyond the hardship and instability of his life as a youth, however, Oks discovered the joy of creating art. “I spent each evening in our tiny kitchen, looking at the reproductions in the few art books my family owned,” Oks relates. “My local art museum also served as a sort of informal school which acquainted my eye with the beauty of oil on canvas. I was also drawn to create studies from nature and spent many days walking through the nearby woods, parks, and streets observing the awesome beauty and grandeur that surrounded my town.” He was captivated not only by the beauty of his natural surroundings, but also by that of the female body, which is evident in his lush, lyrical, female-centric work.
Filled with sensual shapes, warm tones, fluid brush strokes, and evocative images, Oks’s oil paintings reflect his leap into a freer way of expressing himself in 1980 when he immigrated to the United States from Soviet-controlled Ukraine. The conservative professors of his early days looked down on Oks’s unique style, but his work flourished when he moved to the U.S. And now, as a teacher in Illinois, Oks passes along the importance of that creative freedom to his students. “As an art instructor, I tell my students to develop their own individuality. Admire the masters, but you must have your own style,” he says.
Oks has won numerous awards for his artwork, which can be found in private collections, corporations, and museums across the U.S. and Europe. Make sure to look for him at Artexpo New York in the [SOLO] section, Booth S501.