Romeo and Juliet at the Fish Market

Fishmarket Paintings

The Paintings of Kateryna Yermakova

“We are like Romeo and Juliet; we don’t talk politics.”

I frequent Stan Larsen’s Menemsha Fish Market throughout the year. This summer I was waiting near the sit-down counter and began noticing the artwork — sweet landscapes painted on shingles, hanging to one side of the front window. As I scanned the store, I noticed a shelf above eye level, along the back wall, filled with paintings end to end, all waterscapes and sunsets, all Menemsha. I inquired about the two small paintings and asked about the artist; were they all done by the same artist? I was given Kateryna Yermakova’s name. She and I met recently and she told me her story.

Kateryna Yermakova – Fishing Boat

Kateryna Yermakova – Fishing Boat

Six years ago, Kateryna, a student of finance at Volodymyr Dahl East Ukrainian National University in Luhansk, made her first trip to the United States, and worked for the summer on a student visa at the Menemsha Fish Market. She had grown up in the Luhansk area of Ukraine and says, “Now you can read about it in the New York Times. It is one of the areas where they have the conflicts.” About her family, who have lived in the Luhansk region for three generations, she tells me about the days now without Internet or phone and “no one can be reached in the region, which is terrifying. My family is really happy that I am here.” Kateryna is their only child. She reads the New York Times daily to keep up on the conflict, fighting, and deaths.

For three summers Katya returned to work at the Menemsha Fish Market and got to know Robert and Sarah Nixon, who own the Beach Plum Inn, the Menemsha Inn, and the Home Port. They sponsored a work visa for her and she went to work at the Menemsha Inn, busing tables and then working at the front desk, and now does the bookkeeping. She is also the manager on duty.

This year, she spent her first winter on-Island, with her Russian boyfriend, Oleg, a match made at Menemsha Fish Market. She adds, “We are like Romeo and Juliet; we don’t talk politics.” Over the winter, Kateryna continued bookkeeping at the inn, worked at Fella’s part-time, and “finally got to do something [I have] dreamt about for a long, long time.” She began painting. “I remember loving painting since I was six years old,” she tells me.

Kateryna and Oleg

Kateryna and Oleg

Kateryna prefers to paint outdoors. She begins by drawing first and then adding an underlay of colors. One inn visitor this summer, Gary Chesky of Charleston, R.I., mailed Kateryna a book on painting techniques after he got home from his Menemsha vacation. She looks forward to studying the book this fall. Painting is “about the colors I see,” Kateryna says. “If it’s close to sunset, it’s going to be the sky colors, or the water reflection of the sky.” Although Kateryna does not live in Menemsha, it has been the focus of her work. When I ask if that will continue this off-season, she replies, “I think so; that is why I started to come out. What I really, really love is Menemsha.”

We head inside the Menemsha Fish Market and Katya shows me her favorite painting of a lighthouse. Originally she started using acrylic on wood and did six or seven paintings before switching to oil on canvas. She brought her first group of paintings to Stan’s fish market before the winter holidays and, “they were gone [sold] right away; I don’t even have pictures of them,” Kateryna adds.

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