words by Iwa Kruczkowska-Król
A bit out of spite, I use the words “Female artist” not because of rebellion against the word “artist” but to emphasise this juxtaposition’s importance. This is an exciting topic, I will write about it from the perspective of a “woman painter” because our scene is quite specific. I need only to remember when I was studying: there were 22 of us in my group, primarily women, but the teaching staff was mostly men. I was always puzzled by this mysterious pedagogical gift of the male part of our society. Apparently, everything was fine, but from the very beginning we were fed moderately elegant remarks like: “Girl, why do you need this academy? For women, even talent turns into milk.” Such texts are etched in my memory, so now, in retrospect, I look at my female artist friends and see a completely different image of “milky talent”. Among my many experiences in the academy, I remember great and mediocre characters regardless of their gender. Today, in retrospect, I see that women in art have always had to be strong to prove something, and this is true even today, more than 100 years after the first woman was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts. The same is true outside the academy, I have the impression that women artists are incredibly active and socially involved. In addition to their artistic activities, they are involved in other important issues, commenting on the realities they encounter regularly. Strong, energetic, often mothers and artists to whom motherhood has not taken away their talent. On the contrary, it has given them courage, the ability to organise their time and resourcefulness. I see many great female artists who brilliantly combine career and family.
I want it to be clear: I have nothing against men; on the contrary – I like you guys a lot! I don’t think art has a gender; the time when a woman in painting showed herself only as a naked muse in a painting is long gone. There are a lot of conscious art activities that talk about a woman’s body, about femininity seen in different aspects, sometimes very physical. Women artists are already using their visual assets differently, not to be part of a painting but to speak about things that are important to us.
Unfortunately, the phenomenon of the “pretty lady with a picture in the background”, with which, proverbially, we artists “shoot ourselves in the foot”, still persists on the Internet. Quite often, I see bizarre juxtapositions of photos, in which I don’t know whether it’s really about the painting or just about showing the author’s beauty. I happened to come across photographs and videos of half-naked girls painting, and unfortunately, it was often the nudity that was more interesting than the work itself. In such cases, I wonder whether this action is about art or eroticism. I realise that such action is a publicity stunt because the average Internet user reacts much more strongly and often to a “pretty face” than to the best image. Still, by promoting our art this way, we forever condemn ourselves to the stigma of being branded with our image. This is often seen in the comments under the photo, which usually have little to do with art. Consequently, the same photo of an artist nude while painting gets different comments depending if the artist is male or female. Interestingly, in the same non-challenging pose next to a painting, the image of a woman will gather comments most often about the appearance, and a man most often about the artwork. So, are the female body and its image still an essential part of interacting with art? I write all this not out of spite or malice but from my own experience. I am a woman artist, so femininity is my world, I feel perfectly comfortable in it, and in my art, I identify with it. I often paint women that I met somewhere far away; I steal their images and process them in my memory. I like this game; they are for me like sisters born from another mother, women like me, but from another reality. Beautiful in the place where I met them, so distant and so close, so different and yet the same. I’ve never been able to name the feeling, but it’s unity, the unity of being a woman. Europe and the Western world based on competition makes women often compete for something: which is the most beautiful, which one is right, which one has a better life and career, or whose children are more brilliant.
I have noticed that this is not the case everywhere. From the perspective of my art travels, I see that it is also often different. I have met wonderful, spontaneous women from India. Strong, warm and supportive Muslim women. I’ve been captivated by the crazy and supposedly uncontentious Asians and the amazing femininity of Africa. In each of these shades of femininity, there was unity; in every slightest collaboration, I felt confident, and it is the same now. Since the beginning of my artistic work, I have met strong and dynamic women who always wanted to grow and with whom we set new goals together. With whom unrealistic dreams turned into excellent projects. Each of these experiences was like a lesson, and I hope for more great experiences of female collaboration.
Iwa Kruczkowska-Król born in Zabrze, the southern part of Poland. She got her university diploma with first-class honours from the painting studio of Professor Jacek Waltoś, with the annexe from artistic tapestry under the supervision of Professor Lilla Kulka. She earned her speciality stage design diploma in 2004 under the supervision of Professor Krystyna Zachwatowicz-Wajda. During 2011- 2012 she did her postgraduate studies at the Faculty of interior design and design of the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice. Iwa got her PhD in 2017 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow. Since then, she has worked at the Faculty of Architecture at the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice. From 2004 to 2020, she participated as a production designer and costume designer in the production of theatre, feature films, shorts films, music videos, commercials, educational films and video art.
She has participated in many personal (over 30) and collective (over 270) exhibitions (many times also curating the exhibitions) in Poland, USA, Ireland, England Germany, France, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Italy, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Belgium, India, Switzerland, Albania, South Korea, Georgia, Jordan, Turkey. Including Mail-Art projects in Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Austria, Argentina, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Finland, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and online projects in Australia, Nepal, China, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Bolivia, Egipt, Nigeria.
Awarded many times in painting competitions and honoured with creative scholarships from the City of Cracow and the Marshal of the Silesian Voivodeship.
Her work deals with painting, scenography, unique fabric and artistic education.
Iwa works in many state-run and private collections in the country and abroad.