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Pride of Poland celebration showcases work by artist

Jessie Markovetz | Monday, February 16, 2004

Most students have walked through the second floor of the Hesburgh Library and seen Marian Owczarski’s steel sculptures on display. Before Sunday’s exhibit opening, few understood the meaning of the sculptures for Owczarski and his native Poland.The “Pride of Poland” celebration, sponsored by the Polish Club of Notre Dame, gave students and members of the surrounding community the chance to hear the artist speak about his life and work. The exhibit features several portraits of influential Polish figures in history. Some of the subjects are well known to most students, such as Pope John Paul II and Copernicus. Others are less well known here, but still significant. Biochemist Casimir Funk, for example, was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering vitamins and raising awareness of vitamin-deficiency diseases.Owczarski’s life has had a great influence on his work. The artist was born in Lukow in 1932. Seven years later the country was sunk into the horrors of World War II. A Nazi air strike claimed the lives of his family. Owczarski himself was badly wounded and barely survived the war.After the war, Owczarski began to pursue his artistic career, working his way through several schools including the University of Art in Lodz and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.After earning his final degree in 1931, Owczarski became part of a nationwide restoration effort, working to restore churches damaged during the war. Owczarski, a man of diverse talent, worked with wood, glass, stone, plaster, marble and metals in his restoration work. He has also created sculptures using different materials, including wood and stone.Ultimately, however, his sculptures in steel are one of the best representations of his art. His first metal sculptures were made from pieces of abandoned tanks found in the Polish countryside, making them particularly potent for Poles who had lived through the war. The artist now uses stainless steel, a product essential to modern society, to create art that will speak to a modern world, describing it as “the most logical medium of the age.”Owczarski’s skill in working with a difficult material has rightfully gained him artistic renown. His sculptures have been exhibited in eleven countries and over 50 cities, including Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Moscow and New York. He has won numerous awards for his work.Owczarski is currently director of the Galeria at Saint Mary’s College and Artist-in-Residence of The Orchard Lake Schools in Michigan. He continues to be involved with Polish-American art organizations in the area.The “Pride of Poland” exhibition will be on display in the second floor lobby of the Hesburgh Library until April 25.