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'Guardian Angel' saved from Cedar Falls fire to be featured in art show

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WATERLOO – Many people believe guardian angels are sent by God to watch over and protect them. Tatiana Ivaschenko Jackson captures the ethereal innocence of such an angel in her impressionistic painting, “Guardian Angel.” The color and details in the angel’s dress were inspired by cloisonné enameled Russian silver works, “easily recognizable in the thick impasto palette knife strokes,” Jackson said.

The Cedar Falls artist painted the angel 21 years ago after the birth of her first child. It remains one of her favorites, and family friends Amy and Ken Lockard commissioned Jackson to paint them their own “Guardian Angel.” When she completed the commission, Jackson wrote a short prayer on the back of the canvas: “May this angel always watch over your family.”

That prayer proved prophetic.

Both paintings will be displayed at Jackson’s solo show, “God is Love,” opening Friday with a reception in the gallery at COR at 220 East, 220 E. Fourth St. One painting is pristine; the other is scorched, covered in soot and bubbled-up paint, but the angel wasn’t destroyed.

On Nov. 22, the Lockards’ rural Cedar Falls home caught fire around 9 p.m. Their 19-year-old son, Michael, rescued a younger sibling and tried but was unable to reach his 32-year-old brother, who uses a wheelchair, trapped on the second floor. He entreated firefighters to rescue his brother, showing them how to access the staircase.

Cedar Falls Public Safety Officer John Zolondek couldn’t reach the second floor from inside the house because of the intense heat and smoke, so he climbed a ladder set up outside and entered the house through a window, carrying the man to safety. Later the firefighter re-entered the house and carried out the “Guardian Angel” painting.

“Thankfully, everyone in the family was safe,” Lockard said. The brothers were treated for smoke inhalation, and recently Michael’s rescue efforts were recognized with an American Red Cross award. The house was a total loss from fire, water and smoke damage.

“I don’t know how the ‘Guardian Angel’ survived the fire when everything else was ashes, including our family portrait Tatiana painted for us. Nothing else survived the fire in that area of the house,” recalled Lockard.

She asked Jackson not to restore the painting. The Jacksons lived next door to the Lockards, and watched the firefighters battle the blaze. “She wants to keep the ‘Guardian Angel’ the way it is now as a symbol of gratitude for the many miracles and blessings we all witnessed,” Jackson explained.

The COR exhibit also will feature about 30 other paintings by Jackson, a native of the Ukrainian city of Odessa. She studied art history and technical drawing in St. Petersburg, Russia, and graduated with a master’s degree in painting from the University of Northern Iowa in 1995.

She chose the title “God is Love” because in a literal sense, the artwork speaks of the true love of God and humans’ ability to love. “Love begets love, and a gallery is common ground for people to view art and be open to different opinions and experiences,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s impressionist paint brush creates still lifes, portraits, landscapes and figurative compositions. “I don’t embellish or transform reality. My job as an artist is to recognize beauty and spill it onto a canvas.”

Although religious elements such as rosary beads, statues of saints and angels may be part of her compositions, Jackson described them as “beautiful artifacts that enrich the composition. What really is pointing to God is the brilliance of light and color that makes our mundane life beautiful.”

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