Southwestern Cellphone Dancers
Acrylic on Masonite, 10" x 16"
I call my painting “Sophisticated Primitive.” It is “sophisticated” because of its subject matter and message and “primitive” because my technique usually involves a raw and direct approach, using bold lines and primary color palettes. I am a self-taught, figurative and expressionist artist, working primarily in acrylic. For subject matter, I draw from the imagination, dreams, jokes, family history, current or ancient events, famous people and paintings. Titles and narratives play a large part in my work – as do the use of humor, parody, and allusion.
My earliest influence was my father who was a florist by trade and an avid fisherman and storyteller. He shared with me his deep appreciation of artists, writers, and Native American history. My first introduction to art was in the Catholic church where, as a child, I was awe-stricken with its iconography and rituals. In elementary and high school, I saved myself from bullies with my sense of humor via stories and drawings, usually mocking unsuspecting teachers. A creative writing teacher in high school encouraged me to pursue my writing and art in more serious settings. At the local junior college, I majored in English and took the only formal art class I have had.
The music of Bob Dylan and John Lennon inspired me to think, relate, wonder, and feel, as have many of the master artists: Chagall, Kahlo, Modigliani, Picasso, Rosseau, Van Gogh, and Warhol, to name a few. I have also admired the work of New Mexico artist, David Bradley, and the anonymous painters of the Yugoslavian Primitive School. As many artists have done throughout time, I learned to paint by doing it and by emulating the masters but in my own style with twists and variations to express myself.
I often refer to my Polish ancestry in my artwork. One of my longest running series, “Selling My Own Grandmother,” features one of my Polish grandmothers, Anna Andryc. She serves as an archetype, the Baba Yaga in world cultures, a symbol of the strength, inherent power, and imagination of the Immigrant–American experience. I was fortunate to have a solo exhibition by that title at the American Center for Polish Culture in Washington, DC, in 1997. Her adventures – and misadventures – continue to touch upon the best and worst in the human condition. I am hopeful that her antics will bring joy and healing to a world seemingly gone awry.