Szukalski

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski

I watched a film on Netflix, produced by Leonardo de Caprio, about the Polish American sculptor Stanislaw Szukalski.

Wow. First, I had never heard of him. Now that is not a terribly new thing, but in general I’m pretty good at remembering a little something about significant artists. Okay, he was very popular in Poland during the 1930s, this is not a period or place that I have researched.

He was also a part of the Chicago Movement, something that I was fairly familiar with. The film grabbed me and I watched entranced.

It is now three weeks later and I am left remembering four facts.

1. He was talented. Compared to Michelangelo, Rodin… he was up there. Powerful forms, intense imagery. Shocked that I had never heard of him.

2. Completely nuts. Spent 40 years and 75 volumes of writing to prove that humans have been battling the offspring of Yeti from the beginning, and that we all come from Easter Island.

3. Nearly all his early work ended up in a state sponsored studio/museum in Warsaw in 1939. It was bombed the first day of the war. He, and his wife, and two suitcases made it to the US. All of his life work was destroyed.

4. Someone asked him, “How did you learn anatomy?” He replied, “From my father…” Apparently his father died in Chicago, while Szukalski was an art student there. He went to the morgue and convinced them to release the body to him. He then took it to his studio and performed a complete dissection.

Whaat? Good grief, what a disturbing thought. I can’t get over it, and I can hardly look at his sculpture now, knowing the source of his knowledge.

Okay, he didn’t murder his father, but was he patiently waiting like a vulture? This doesn’t seem like a spontaneous thought. I dunno, I struggle with knowledge gained by weird activity.

So apparently I not only judge by what you know, but how do you know it!

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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