The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz will join with a peer museum in California to present an online symposium celebrating the life and work of contemporary artist Jan Sawka.
“Dreams & Memories: Jan Sawka, Coast to Coast” will take place on Saturday, May 2, at 1 p.m. EST (10 a.m. PST; 7 p.m. CEST) as a unique virtual museum collaboration between The Dorsky Museum and The Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art (RAFFMA) at Cal State San Bernardino.
In the time of COVID-19, when our world is practicing social distancing, itself a form of displacement, the work of Jan Sawka is especially prescient and moving. Sawka’s works dealing with the longing for freedom, coupled with the deep empathy and sense of loss that only exile can bring, express an expansive sense of the beauty that hope, art and nature make available to human beings.
The symposium will showcase two concurrent exhibitions at university art museums on opposite ends of the continent.
The Dorsky opened “Jan Sawka: The Place of Memory (The Memory of Place)” in early February as a thematic documentation of Sawka’s meditations on memory and location.
Also in early February, The Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art opened “Golden West? Jan Sawka’s California Dream,” focusing on works dealing with the artist’s vision of the west.
Both exhibitions opened to critical and public enthusiasm, and full programs of events were planned for each before the pandemic forced the museums to close to visitors in March. The Dorsky and RAFFMA worked quickly in response to this disruption to plan a virtual symposium on Sawka’s profoundly touching and, ultimately, humane work.
“Dreams & Memories: Jan Sawka, Coast to Coast” reopens these two exhibitions to online viewers from around the world. It will feature a panel of scholars helping to illuminate aspects of Jan Sawka’s practice, his biography, and the social and historic context of his art, yielding a composite portrait of this protean and visionary artist.
Speakers will include:
- Ksenia Nouril, Jensen Bryan Curator at The Print Center in Philadephia, Pennsylvania
- Peter Frank, renowned art critic, Huffington Post contributor and former senior curator at the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, California
- Peter Schwenger, resident fellow at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario
- Hanna Sawka, Jan’s widow
- Hanna Maria Sawka, filmmaker, educator, Jan’s daughter and co-curator of The Dorsky exhibition
- Frank Boyer, adjunct professor of art education at SUNY New Paltz and co-curator of The Dorsky exhibition
- Sławomir Magala, scholar of cross-cultural competence and communication and retired professor at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, Netherlands
- Tom Wolf, professor of art history at Bard College
- Beth Wilson, lecturer in art history at SUNY New Paltz
After each presentation, viewers will be able to engage with the speakers over live Q&A chats.
This event is sponsored by the Dorsky Museum and RAFFMA in partnership with the Consulates General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles and New York, the Polish Cultural Institute New York and the Kosciusko Foundation.
The Dorsky Museum will publish instructions for accessing the online symposium as it approaches.
About the artist
Jan Sawka was a visual artist, painter, printmaker, graphic artist, set designer, and architect. Already known internationally as a member of the Polish School of the Poster, he was exiled from Poland in 1976 and settled in New York City with his family in 1977, where he illustrated commentary for the Op-Ed page of the New York Times and designed graphics and sets for Off-Broadway theaters, as well as launching a successful gallery career as a painter.
In 1989, he designed a monumental art-installation for the Grateful Dead’s 25th Anniversary tour. He won major awards including the Oscar de la Peinture and Special Prize of the President of France at the International Festival of Painting in Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1975, the Japanese Cultural Agency Award in 1994, a Gold Medal in Multimedia at the 2003 Florence Biennial of Contemporary Art, and the Excellence in Architecture Award from the American Institute of Architects in 2010.
Learn more at jansawka.com.
About The Dorsky Museum
Through its collections, exhibitions and public programs, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art supports and enriches the academic programs at the College and serves as a center for Hudson Valley arts and culture. With more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space distributed over six galleries, The Dorsky Museum is one of the largest museums in the SUNY system. Since its official dedication in 2001, The Dorsky has presented more than 100 exhibitions, including commissions, collection-based projects, and in-depth studies of contemporary artists including Robert Morris, Alice Neel, Judy Pfaff, Carolee Schneemann and Ushio Shinohara.
Visit the Dorsky Museum online for more information.
The Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art, nationally accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, houses a collection that includes Egyptian antiquities, ceramics and contemporary art, and hosts ca. 10-12 temporary exhibitions a year. Located at Cal State San Bernardino, RAFFMA presents the largest public display of ancient Egyptian art in Southern California. The exhibition, Journey to the Beyond: Ancient Egyptian in the Pursuit of Eternity, will be on display through April 2021.
Visit the RAFFMA website for more information.