One-on-One with Justyna Dabrowski

Justyna Dabrowski
“Stanislaw” by Justyna Dabrowski

Intimate, nostalgic, and warm. Those are the words that immediately come to mind when viewing Justyna’s Dabrowski’s latest collection “Remembered” on display at 100 Pearl Street Gallery in Hartford. Justyna draws inspiration from family photo albums to celebrate her Polish heritage. Perhaps one day, she might want to use a site like Genealogy Bank and see if anything else comes up that she could take inspiration from. But, for now, her Polish heritage serves as more than enough inspiration. Using curtains and cloth, she constructs a tactile backdrop to the paintings, adding an element of warmth to the people portrayed in the pieces. This show is the first part of our Remembering & Repurposing exhibition series, which explores the preservation and recreation of memories and discarded materials into works of art from oil paintings to mixed media.

Experience the exhibit for yourself at the opening reception on Thursday, December 3, from 5-7p.m. at 100 Pearl Street Gallery (map), where you can meet Justyna, hear live folk music by Winthrop Stevens that echos the art, and share your own memories for our interactive arts piece over wine and light hors d’oeuvres. The show is on display through January 8. Read on for our q&a with Justyna and get a behind-the-scenes scoop of “Remembered.”

1. Your artist statement says you draw inspiration from photo albums and narratives. What memory most inspired you in your current exhibit?

There is not one specific memory that inspired this current exhibit, but more so a combination of many memories. I wanted to take these photos and create work that showed a story. Most of the photos I have of my family are of people I’ve never met, or remember meeting. By painting these people it helped me connect and form a relationship with them. I also find myself painting my mother and father quite often, who are in almost every piece in this exhibit. The kitchen is a place that strikes the most memories for me. Meal times are spent talking, sharing, and connecting. This is also very prominent in my work.


2. What’s your favorite piece in the exhibition and why?

It is hard to pick a favorite piece, especially when I feel like I am finally creating work that I enjoy. I would say the piece “mama” is really important to me. I spent a lot of time with it and really thought about the text and images. The book is for my mama. I wanted to show her strength and beauty through this book.
3. What (or who) are your creative influences, and where do you seek inspiration?
I seek inspiration from photos of my family. Photos are a paused moment in time and I constantly find myself asking many questions about my past and my family. I also love looking at Alice Neel’s portraits and Mamma Andersson’s paintings of interior spaces. I am fascinated and inspired by their use of color and space.


4. What in particular from your Polish heritage is depicted in your exhibit?

The most specific element depicted from my heritage would have to be the influence of Polish pottery (Boles?awiec). My mother has a growing pottery collection and the idea of collecting is and has always been important to me. It is not directly represented through the pieces in this exhibit, but the patterns and designs on the pottery relate to patterns found on fabric – which also come from my Polish heritage.


5. What do you hope viewers will take away from your show?
My hope is for the viewers to visualize their own memories through my work and relate to it.