The Orava Gallery in Dolny Kubin
The considerably specific character of the visual arts of the Orava region conditioned the Orava Gallery to be founded. Its main characteristic feature is the merging of professional arts with the folk visual expression that can be followed from the Gothic period up to the 19th century.
The Late-Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist churches in Orava, their decoration of the interior, furnishing, paintings and sculptures are the best pieces of evidence of this pervading.
It is interesting how different kinds of arts were spread geographically as it was the religion of the inhabitants of Upper and Lower Orava that influenced it. Ornamental and figurative paintings and the decorative elements as well, were more characteristic to the region of Lower Orava where the Protestants prefered the surface decoration and the figural themes were less used. Under the influence of the antireformation movement coming from Poland, carving the wooden sculptures and cutting the stones became more typical to Upper Orava. Because of the economic decline, the old visual understanding of the saints were kept in Orava much longer than in other regions of Slovakia. Even in the 20th century the paintings, sculptures and reliefs of the saints still have a place in lives of the people of Orava, they still have their original function. It is there, where the belief of people and the Church assigned them to protect a man, his family, work and property. They were situated in chapels, on crosses and columns near crossroads, in niches on the house fasades and at cemeteries. The Orava Gallery was founded on November 3, 1965. Its task was to collect pieces of visual expression of Orava in such a way that not only the typical characteristic features of the folk artists from Orava would come to the fore but also the intensity of the expression, abundancy of artistic forms in folk but professional arts as well and the differences among artists standing on different levels of understanding of the world and its artistic reflection.
A church in Slanica, standing on an elevation surrounded by waters of the Orava Dam, was chosen as a suitable place to install the pieces of art. The church, that was a dominant of a village that was inundated, was originally built as a Baroque chapel (1766 — 1769) and it was adopted according to Classicist style in 1843. In the period of 1968-1971 it was changed into an attractive and rare exhibition hall of the Orava Gallery. In the temple space there is a collection of folk art installed and a lapidaries of stonecutting works from Orava is a part of it. During the period from May to September there is a boat of the Orava Gallery bringing visitors to the island.
The Orava Gallery in Dolný Kubín has got also a second permanent exposition and it is the life's work of the painter Mária Medvecká (1914 — 1987). Since 1979 the exposition has been installed in an Classicist mansion from the 19th century in Tvrdošín — Medvedzie. If we look at works of the Slovak visual artists inspired by Orava and connected to this region by longer stays and other contacts, we come to a conclusion that the efforts of Mária Medvecká to capture the essence of this region and its people are unique, there is nothing to compare them with. Mária Medvecká came back to Orava where she was born together with her husband the painter Ctibor Belan after her studies in Bratislava and Vienna and having their artistic and human attitutes in harmony, they dedicated themselves to their creative work and also to an important cultural and social activities. In fact it is thanks to their diligence and cooperation with a couple Ignác a Běla Kolčáks´ (painters as well) that the Orava Gallery was founded. Mária Medvecká played a pioneer role in the development of visual culture in Orava also in the area of exhibition activities. Her realistic figural compositions inspired by mothers with children and women working on the fields has become a visual document of its time and this original and peculiar region. The gallery is opened through the whole year and the visitors have a possibility to buy an original work painted or drawn by Mária Medvecká.
It is planned that the Orava Gallery will operate in retrofitted rooms of the 17th century house in Dolný Kubín starting from autumn 1994. There will be the offices, deposits, restoration workshops but first of all the exhibition halls where permanent and short-term expositions compiled from works of visual arts coming from the periods of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and a number of works representing the 19th century will be installed. Also the 20th century art will have its place here, especially paintings. It will be represented by important personalities of the Slovak painting as Gustáv Mallý, Martin Benka, Miloš Alexander Bazovský, Janko Alexy, Vincent Hložník, group of Mikuláš Galanda and the representative of surrealism in Slovakia — Karol Baron.