17.06.2017 Visual Arts


work in progress

It all began with abstract landscapes. Only after quite some time Joanna Sztencel realized that under an outer layer of her abstractions there were some familiar motifs – not at all abstract. Then came the revelation. The familiar elements were always, one way or another, a reference to some distant images indelibly imprinted on her memory: those of Polish landscapes.

For Joanna Sztencel it was an impulse to take a series of scenery pictures during her next visit to Poland. Upon returning to New York she started showing her works, mainly among Polish Americans. The reaction of their fellow countrymen convinced her that her artistic quest has a lot in common with what arouses their emotions, too: longing for native landscapes.
Thus the project “You can’t carry your landscape with you” was born. While talking with her compatriots in New York, about their life abroad, places left in Poland etc., Sztencel painted oil portraits of them. But she left the paintings unfinished…

Then she set off for a journey to Poland, where she spent a month visiting places her models were talking about during their portrait sessions. She made sketches and took pictures of the landscapes – only to paint them later, after returning to New York, in the background of the previously made portraits. For Sztencel it wasn’t the journey “in search of a lost landscape” nor did she intend to present her fellow countrymen with an ersatz homeland in the form of oil landscapes. She wanted to explore how those who – like herself – live the life of expatriates are dealing with their experiences of being torn between two separate worlds and to show how distant but closely familiar places define your identity, while being only remembered and longed for.

The Polish Cultural Institute New York is happy to support this project, and we look forward to the exhibit.


More about Joanna Sztencel

Scheduled Visual Arts