I spent the year 1994-1995 in Poland. It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. In fact, I look back on the days I spent there, mostly in Krakow, as ones of incredible pleasure, tremendous learning, and unmitigated complexity. While I was there, I did a lot of drawing and painting, most of which I brought back to the States and which now resides with me in Canada. This is an odd thing for a former painter. You spend an enormous amount of time collecting the tools of production to make works that you often feel don’t work or only partly work or resemble something you don’t want to remember and then, for the rest of your life, you’re burdened with these monsters that sit around you and your dark memories, sending you frightening messages of lost possibility, threatening you with anonymity and welcoming you with inordinate despair. You look at these old paintings, work that was literally the sweat of one’s brow, and they only resemble memories, like poor facsimilies of old thoughts. It’s very hard to capture exactly what was in my brain at the time, but I get gleanings and I can kind of limn my way to understanding. Sometimes, there is peace. Most often, these paintings sit in mocking repose. And yet, like old friends, I love them.
I left a few drawings and paintings in Poland with friends I lovingly made there. I’m in touch with some of these folks, including Ewa, who has recently used a drawing of mine for the publication of a new book by the well-known Polish poet Marcin Świetlicki, entitled Dwanaście, meaning 12. (Dwa – pronounced “di-vah” – is a really sweet number in Polish. Well, any language, no?) I wish I could actually read 12, as, from his online bio, he seems right up my alley and his poems are grand.