Artist StatementARTIST STATEMENT (BY PROXY) JERZY KAJETANSKI: COLUMBIA & MARYLAND My father did not like to talk about his art, believing that it should speak for itself. However, people do talk about art, and why not? It’s interesting to learn how the art evolves. Artists come with a background that influences their work, and develop a process that results in what they do. Although Kajetanski did not strictly subscribe to the “Art for Art’s Sake” viewpoint, it played a major influence in his work. Composition was the most important element in a painting. He said that the same principles of design apply to Rembrandt’s “The Risen Christ at Emmaus”, to Picasso’s “Guernica”, and to Pollock’s “Blue Poles.” Shape, color, light, dark, texture: all the elements in a painting need to be as balanced as a mathematical equation. A common comment that he would make when looking at a painting was, “So where’s the composition?” Well, it’s easier said than done. You’ve been struggling with this abstract for three weeks now, and each time your daughter comes for the usual Friday afternoon errands, she gets a quizzical look on her face when she looks at the easel. Finally, one day, Kini comes over and delivers the merciful coup de grace, “Jerzee, why don’t you just paint that one over in black and start on something new.” Some things are just not worth saving. You take a day or two off, feeling guilty that you are not painting. You confess that to you daughter. She says in exasperation, “People do take vacations, you know! Relax!” You watch 1930’s movies for a while; you fool with some unfinished work, hoping that somehow you’ll get a breakthrough. Then one evening, maybe while watching Jeopardy, you remember that sketch that you did 20 years ago, and you get the urge to do it in oil. You start rifling through faded portfolios in the walk - in closet. Stuff starts falling on your head. You curse in three different languages, “Where did she put it (late wife or daughter - take your choice)?” Can’t let this moment pass. The “diamon” of creativity has broken loose again! Sooner or later the sketch is found. You pencil in a rough drawing on the canvas, and if you really have to, you use a grid as a guide. You tape the sketch to the easel for reference. NOW! Hands reach for tubes of paint without thinking. Brushes mix colors and linseed oil without thinking. You are in “The Zone”, as tennis great Arthur Ashe would call it, when mind, body and spirit are one, and everything happens automatically. The demons of fear and self-doubt are gone. You are in your stride! You cover the canvas with bold strokes, one or two for windows, three or four for the cornice, one for a face, two for the hair, a cascade of strokes for the sky, horizontal ones for the pavement. You need three or four brushes, each with different colors just to keep up with you. You work feverishly through the night. About 5 am you decide that it’s enough for a “day’s” work. Anyway, it’s taking shape, and you like it. It feels good. It will work. Not bad for an 84 year old man. Time to grab a sandwich and go to bed. A couple of days later it’s another Friday. Your daughter comes in, eyes zooming through the corridor toward the easel in the studio. The finished work is there. “Wow! When did you do that?” Eva Skrenta
1913 – 1999
Jerzy Kajetanski was an immigrant from Poland who lived in Columbia, Maryland for the last eleven years of his life. He had been a graduate student at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts when Hitler’s forces invaded the country in 1939. The school was closed and the professors were killed. From 1941 to September 12th of 1944 at which time he and his family were taken to a forced labor camp in Germany, he was active in the Armia Krajowa designing political cartoons for the underground press. He took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and after having been captured escaped from an SS firing squad. Before his departure to Germany he buried a box of sketches that he made of memories of the siege of Warsaw, Ghetto atrocities and of Nazi reprisals for the activities of the resistance movement.
Kajetanski was enamored of the work of Cezanne, Picasso, Degas, Lautrec, The German expressionists, Kandinsky, Miro (and others) and it certainly shows in his work. Some time ago when I was picking up some newly framed work the framer asked me whether my dad had ever talked to Pablo. I just said that they were in Europe at the same time.
He produced a couple thousand works ranging from delightful small sketches in all sorts of media to 4 foot by 5 foot or 6-foot abstract expressionist oils. Between the years of 1956 and 1988 he showed with the American Abstract Artists in New York City. He stopped sending them work when he learned that they voted one of the members out because he was also doing representational work. He thought that was pretty ridiculous. The Nazis could not stop my father. Was he going to be stopped by the American Abstract Artists?
A part of his representational work consists of an attempt to recreate from memory the horrors that he witnessed during the Nazi occupation of Poland. His memory proved to be excellent. A few years ago I donated 42 of his works to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
The bulk of his representational work consists of anything and everything that he saw and enjoyed from landscapes, including that of Columbia, to the antics of cats, to the interesting faces and physiques of people.
In this geographic area Kajetanski’s work has been shown by the Old Warsaw Gallery in Alexandria, VA, The Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, The Columbia Art Center and Howard Community College in Columbia, The Howard County Art Center, The Oella Gallery in Howard County and Paper Rock Scissors Gallery and the Amalie Rothschild Gallery at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore. His work has become a part of numerous collections in the United States and abroad.
Eva Kajetanski Skrenta