I was born in September 1952 in Radomysl by the San River. At that time my parents lived in Zbydniow, a village in the Zaleszany parish. The house where we lived was bought by my grandfather, my mother's father. My grandfather was a policeman. He was murdered by the Soviets in Miednoje in 1940. He was survived by my grandmother with two children and she never remarried. She was looking for her husband through the Red Cross.
She died in 1972, before the Katyn massacre was revealed.
My father had numerous siblings. I do not remember my grandparents, because we left Zbydniow, when I was three years old. My father was a meliorator, so we moved around twice. He loved the forest, open space and motorcycles. I remember from my childhood a huge, heavy "Junak" motorcycle that he used to drive.
I have younger siblings - a brother and two sisters. I am married and I have one son, who is a student at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow.
After we left Zbydniow, we lived in Radlow, a village near Tarnow.
This is where I grew up, among the fields, meadows, forests and historic monuments.
There is a brick church in the village, dating back to XIV-th century, there is a market square surrounded by buildings and a mid XIX-th century classicistic manor in a vast park with a scenic lake. There was also a gristmill and a timber mill.
The surroundings had an effect on my perception of the world, although back then I was not aware of that. It was then and there - as an eight-year old, looking at the historic interior of the church, that I dreamt of working in a church, though I already knew I would not have wanted to be a nun.
Then we moved to Tarnow, a town full of historic monuments. I graduated from a fine arts high school - my mother's secret dream. My best memories come from this period. My house was full of books, my parents and grandma read a lot, we used to go to the theater, because Tarnow had a theatre, too.
The high school adopted a XVI-century manor in Jezow with a unique landscape polychromy in its interior. We used to go there in a small group called "Garland", named after a decorative motif of the frieze in one of the rooms of the manor.
The group's leader was the arts history teacher, a painter and poet Wieslaw Röhrenschef. He had a tremendous impact on us: he kindled our imagination and deepened our interest in art, monuments and poetry.
After I graduated I applied to colleges offering programs in art history and architecture, but I was unsuccessful. Back then I did not think of the Academy of Fine Arts. I took a job as a tapestry weaver at a Tarnow branch of Stanislaw Wyspianski Folk and Artistic Handicraft Center in Cracow. We used to do tapestry and kilims according to the designs by artists from Cracow. There I met painter Marta Lopuszynska-Pietuch and she encouraged me to apply to the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, not to their painting program, but the Fine Arts Conservation.
It is an established and well renowned program with a long tradition, sometimes referred to as "the Cracow school of conservation". It offers top-notch academic experience thanks to its exceptional faculty, many of whom are practicing art conservators, who bring in a combination of knowledge and practice, as well as the ability to teach the art to the new generations of students. In the course of study, future conservators receive very comprehensive education. They attend lectures on art history, chemistry, physics and microbiology, alongside workshops dedicated to the various painting and sculpture techniques; they create copies of art pieces using the technique and technology of a particular period, they also have sketch, painting, or sculpture classes. The courses are designed as an opportunity to improve on their skills, develop talents and, indeed, many of the students go on to become professional artists.
I did my thesis on restoration of mural painting under the direction of Professor Władysław Zalewski and after graduation I mainly focused on conservation of mural polychromies.
After receiving my master's degree from the Academy, I began working at the state-owned enterprise Monument Conservation Studios, Cracow Branch. This was the beginning of fulfilling my childhood dreams.
My first project involved conservation of a mural polychromy in a wooden church in Osiek near Oswiecim, then I participated in restoring wooden roof structure at a "black house" in Tallin, the capital of Estonia, baroque polychromies at the cloistral church in Jasow, Slovakia and easel painting.
I worked for the Studios for four years, then I became a self-employed conservator, comprehensively restoring the side chapels of St. Mary's Basilica in Cracow. I spent 16 years of my professional life in that church, working at other sites as well, both sacral and secular.
My conservator's portfolio includes numerous sites in Cracow, like the baroque polychromy on the ceiling of the Italian Chapel at the Franciscan Monastery, polychromy on the ceilings of the staircases at the J. Slowacki Theatre, polychromies at the Decius Villa, the Session Chamber and the president's hall at the Cracow City Hall building, painted decorations on the ceilings of halls at the UJ Collegium Novum, polychromy at the Old Synagogue in Cracow's Kazimierz, at the Bishop Erazm Ciolek Palace by the Kanoniczna street, home chapel at the count Pudlowskis palace, as well as polychromies in the city's residential buildings. Outside of Cracow, I restored the altar at St. Michael's Church in Chrzanow, polychromy at Jesuit Collegiate Church in Jaroslaw and a ceiling polychromy at a former orphanage for Jewish children in Berlin-Pankow.
I also restored a few dozen easel paintings from different periods and on different support materials, like canvas, wood, metal and cardboard.
My restoration experience also includes a wooden sculptured altar, St. Stanislaw's, ascribed to Stanislaw, the son of Vit Stwosz, in the chapel over the southern porch of St. Mary's Basilica, where the comprehensive conservation project involved marble and wooden altars, epitaphs, pictures and sculptures, beside the mural and ceiling polychromies.
At that time I started working with Roman Bobicki's company, which did restoration of old and fabrication of new metal hardware. Our cooperation started with a project of gold-plating historic ornamental details, and then reproducing - following a careful conservation examination - the polychromy and gilt on XVI-th century ironwork grilles in the Sigismund's Chapel at Wawel, XVII-th century grilles in the Branickis' Chapel at St. Peter and Paul Church in Cracow and the sacristy of St. Mary's Basilica. It developed into selecting color arrangements and polychroming new decorative elements of iron railings, entryway and window gates, ordered by individual customers. It is a new artistic experience in applied arts. I do not create designs, but rather decorate ready-made, often mass-produced elements, which, once professionally color-painted, transform into unique pieces.
All this time I have been painting myself, too. To follow the thought of other artists did not suffice - I wanted to express my impressions and perception of beauty.
I first exhibited my paintings in 1993, at an individual exhibit with my friend, a painter, conservator and professor at the Fine Arts Academy Grazyna Korpal. In fact, the exhibit was her idea. We took our paintings to Königstein, near Frankfurt-on-the-Main, where my husband's brother, a prominent musician, jazz drummer and composer Janusz Stefanski, who lives in Germany, owned a gallery. Two years after the first exhibition, I showed my paintings at the "Artistic Pot" gallery in Cracow, which I have been associated with ever since.
I never thought about painting religious pictures until I received an order for two paintings for a newly erected chapel at the Adult Nursing Home in Iwonicz, run by the Bonifratres. It was initiated by Mr. Leszek Heine, who designed and made stained-glass windows for them. I agreed, albeit with some reservations. One painting depicted St. John of God, patron of the sick, whose image was based on a XIX-th century Spanish wood sculpture. The other painting portrayed Crucified Christ, modeled after a XVII-century sculpture from a church in Zebrzydowice, near Kalwaria.
I took a trip to Iwonicz with Leszek Heine, to go over the details of the project. On our way, we stopped in Jaroslaw, where Leszek was to do stained glass at the Corpus Christi Collegiate Church. It turned out, their mural polychromy needed to be restored. Parish Priest Aleksander Kustra had been thinking about restoring the mural for a while and after we talked, he decided "Let's do it!".
Not only did I do the restoration project for them, but they also commissioned two oil paintings on canvas. The first one depicted Queen Hedwig praying before a cross, based on a painting by P. Stachiewicz, the other picture was supposed to portray Father Michal Czartoryski, Patron of the town of Jaroslaw, who was killed in the Warsaw Uprising, while he was caring for the sick. I also painted a picture for the procession guard, showing Mother of God, Spouse of Holy Ghost.
Right before his retirement, Fr. A. Kustra commissioned mural polychromy of "Annunciation" and "Descent of the Holy Ghost", which were painted inside the wall alcoves above the stalls in the presbytery of the church in 2006. It was an enormous challenge and a new artistic experience.
My painting career went through several stages and this process is still ongoing. The subject matter of my pictures has broadened to include portraits and female nudes, beside the regular themes of still life and landscape. My landscape has also evolved: in the beginning it was wildlife, fascination with greenery and water, now is it mainly architecture. It is related to my travels in Europe with the Association of Art Historians. Each trip instigates a few paintings.
I constantly think that it is just the outset of the road ahead, I am surprised with the variety of themes I undertake, but it prevents me from falling into routine and giving in to fashions.
The guiding principle behind my idea of the art of painting is to express the beauty of the reality that surrounds me; I do not want to shock or astound with ugliness - it is not in my nature. I want my pictures to evoke positive emotions, bring peace, perhaps reflection; I want them to work through their color, as well as composition.
I admire painting of French impressionists and expressionists, and I adore Fauvist painting, as well as portraits of old Polish gentry, which oftentimes reveal the ugliness of the portrayed characters and technical shortcomings of artists, but are, nevertheless, fascinating.
I find beauty in folk pictures of saints, which are very decorative and colorful, just like folk hand-painted furniture.
I am delighted with paintings by Rafal Malczewski and his use of light, and especially fond of Polish colorists, including Jan Cybis, Jan Szancenbach and Juliusz Joniak, whom I admire for his light application of paint onto canvas, expression, color and serenity brought about by his still lives and landscapes. For me such painting is timeless.
I constantly discover artists, whose paintings enchant me and provide inspiration for work ahead.