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May 15, 2005     417 Words

Polish Artist’s Love of Mary on Display

CINCINNATI—For Polish artist Malarstwo Wiesławy Kwiatkowskiej, the Virgin Mary holds a special place in her 93-year-old heart. Mary is the special protector of the Polish people, guiding them through their daily lives and throughout the country’s tumultuous history, including World War II and over 40 years of Communism. Now, 54 of Kwiatkowskiej’s oil paintings will be exhibited in Ohio at the University of Dayton’s Marian Library May 17-September 9, 2005.

Twelve of these vibrant and spirited artworks illustrate St. Anthony Messenger’s June cover photo story entitled, “Charming Madonnas From Poland.” Managing Editor Barbara Beckwith writes of the artist’s evocative renditions of the Virgin Mary in everyday life. After May 18, the article will be found at:

To Kwiatkowskiej, Mary is more than mother of Jesus. The artist renders her in a variety of ways: as a brunette, a redhead, a blonde, a young child, a teenager, a loving mother as well as a grieving mother. Illustrating bits of Polish poetry that speak of Mary, she uses her skill and faith to create the paintings, which are on loan from the Diocesan Museum in Plock, a section of which is now named for her.

It’s little surprise that Kwiatkowskiej’s work is as enchanting as a fairy tale. She illustrated Hans Christian Anderson’s stories and The Little Prince, by Antoine Saint-Exupéry. The artist’s paintings of the Virgin Mary are equally colorful and full of life. “Her fantastic yet realistic flowers, plants and birds spill out of the canvas onto the frames, in an effort to eliminate the distance between the viewer and the work,” Beckwith writes.

And all of Kwiatkowskiej’s paintings have significant, sometimes historical meaning. She depicts Mary visiting a slain Polish soldier on Brzozowa Street during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, where 25,000 Poles died fighting the Nazis. Many of the artist’s paintings reflect Mary’s affinity with the natural world: One is of Mary and her son fleeing on the back of a deer, and another shows her walking barefoot through a wintry forest.

Though Kwiatkowskiej’s work is often visually complex, the artist’s message is simple. “The artist hopes her paintings will lead viewers to prayer,” Beckwith writes. “She offers her work as an invitation to enter a world permeated by the love of God and Mary and to rejoice in the closeness of her son.”


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