Interview with Grazyna Larson – Malinowska, a painter and a poet, a resident of Fredericksburg, Texas.
R: Let’s start with the question, how is it that you came to Texas? More specifically, to Fredericksburg?
GL: I must begin by saying that I met my current husband at an art and craft show in Chicago where I lived at the time. We were both exhibiting there. At some point he came up to me, introduced himself as an artist and showed me his portfolio.
R: And then what happened?
GL: I had been in many museums around the world and seen good art, and I had a passion for reading biographies and books about art and I could appreciate what he was doing. I really liked his paintings. After the show, he invited me to come to Texas to see a gallery opening of his work.
R: And you went to Texas?
GL: So I flew to the painting exhibition in San Antonio, Texas. Something started between us there, because we shared a passion for art. After his showing in San Antonio he showed me around and I found that indeed there is a lot of interesting art in Texas. Soon after I decided to move to Texas.
R: And so you opened a gallery in Fredericksburg?
GL: Yes. He showed me the town. Fredericksburg fascinated me. It has a unique atmosphere, very European.
R: What year was that?
GL: In 1996. We opened Grace’s Art Gallery. It was one of the first galleries in Fredericksburg. My gallery was different, because we promoted not only paintings and sculptures, but also world class glasswork, like Jablonski’s colorful crystals, ceramics, tapestries, beautiful wooden furniture, and handmade jewelry made by me. There was also a large collection of Polish amber, garden decorations and clothing for women. Our gallery promoted the art of local and foreign artists.
We had the gallery for 16 years in a historical house that was the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz.
R: I know that painting was not your first profession. Tell me about your education and previous career?
GL: You know, I had a very interesting education. I studied in a nuclear technical school–Technikum Nukleonicznym for three years, and electronics at Communications Technical for the next two years until my graduation. After graduating I decided to change directions, and direct my attention to solve my personal problems with dyslexia. I studied pedagogy and did postgraduate studies in speech therapy and dyslexia.
R: It is far away from nuclear science.
GL: It is, but it was my passion to help myself and others who suffer from dyslexia. I knew that this condition limited my ability to learn. I was a good mathematician and physicist, but I could not distinguish my right side from my left. I was having trouble learning to read and write. When my professor saw my thesis, it contained many spelling errors but was technically very good and was accepted.
R: When did your passion for art begin?
GL: This passion was probably with me forever. I remember when I had the matriculation examination in mathematics, the night before I could not sleep with stress. So I took to reading the biography of Rodin. I read most of the night and eventually fell asleep. In the morning my mother woke me up with the book in my lap. That began my interest in artist’s lives and their art. I began to understand the sensitivities of artists.
R: I’m not a critic or connoisseur of painting, but if I were to compare your work I would say that your play with colors is remarkable. I find your perspective similar to Nikifor
GL: Yes, I’ve been told that before. The whole time I’m painting, I play with colors, play with technique, and play with perspective. I have no formula. Although I admit that sometimes I’m too playful and don’t know when to stop .Sometimes I go back to the old works and change them, perfecting them. These experiences are very good for me, because the most important thing in art is not to be afraid to try something new. Any expression of art should not be over shadowed by fear. There should be full liberty when creating art. It should be an ongoing experiment.
Besides, I think sometimes it is best to experiment and trust your expression. Yesterday, I read a good book on perspective in painting. I can appreciate it, but I ask myself if I want to implement it? The answer is no because it wouldn’t come from my experience or feelings. Primitive art fascinates me, because it is based not on knowledge but on intuition and expression– and for me this art is more real. Such art is joyful.
R: What motifs do you like to paint?
GL: In my paintings there is often a family, family ranch, with various activities, because I think that the family is the foundation of existence. I like to paint these moments of happiness and joy. As a mother with children and a husband, I greatly value family life and playful time together.
R: Tell me about your previous professional work with children.
GL: In my professional career as a speech therapist I taught teachers how to work with children with dyslexia. Sometimes my patients were children with autism and their helpless parents. It was back in the days when I lived in Poland. I also worked with difficult children in an orphanage. I organized their free time through play, where the most important thing for them was to assume different roles, sometimes leadership, sometimes subordinate. Looking at their joy, I realized that play could help them compensate for the lack of love and acceptance from a family they didn’t have.
R: The quest for joy seems to be a very important part of your paintings.
GL: Yes it is. Important is the ability to change the things that you can, and to come to terms with things you have no influence to change and the ability to distinguish one from the other.
I did not believe my paintings would sell, but I sold my first painting so unexpectedly that that I didn’t even take a photo of it and it was the most expensive painting I sold.
I have since sold many paintings very rapidly.
My husband has sold many paintings while I was painting for the fun of it. The gallery was taking a lot of my time and my health began to deteriorate. I had to make a choice, and so I choose my health and closed the gallery. This allowed me the time to paint and brought me a lot of joy. When I go to my studio, I forget about the world. Most of my clients have purchased my work from Ranch Road Roasters, a local coffee shop in Fredericksburg, Texas.
R: What is the most important aspect of your painting?
GL: When I sell a painting, because I need the money, Ha, Ha,–although my husband sometimes tells me that some of my paintings are not for sale because he admires them too much.
But if I wanted to answer your question, I’d have to say it is the expression of color and texture to convey the image and feeling I have for the subject and the importance of its overall composition.
R: I have a very personal question. Where did your passion for life come from?
GL: I believe that it is a gift from God. I must add, however, that my family says that I inherited many traits from my father who was a captain in the Polish navy and died at sea in an attempt to save his ship He had such a passion for life. He loved life and was also a painter. This passion has been passed on to my daughter. My daughter has a lot of positive energy and also has artistic talent.
I’ve always been fascinated by nature and life. I learned that the most important moment is here and now and so I try to enjoy it.
I remembered the times when as a child, I could laugh at myself. Sometimes I locked myself up in the bathroom and laughed at what happened during the day. Once I lived in a boarding school, it was the same. I enjoyed everything. My friends called me an optimist. One of my colleagues who collected my poems, told me I was a big improviser, a creator.
R: Have you had any contacts with the Polish community in Texas?
GL: Yes, when I first came to Texas in1994 I joined a Polish Catholic church in San Antonio. I taught the Polish language there and used a lot of games with the children as a teaching aide.
R: Do you miss that time with the Polish community?
GL: Yes. But I have since met a close Polish friend, Ela, who lives in Boerne. She came to my gallery years ago and we have remained good friends for 15 years. I appreciate my new friends and my old friends as well—from my schools in Poland. As I’m getting older, all those relationships are very precious to me.
R: At the end, thanking you for your time, I would ask if we could post on our website one of your poems.
GL: Yes, indeed, but only in Polish, and thank you for your time as well. It has been a pleasure.
Here, poem “Rozkosz” (in Polish)