As a child of Polish immigrants, I was naturally exposed to the traditions, language, and culture of Poland. But I always sensed a disconnect between what I knew and learned about my heritage and what it was to really be Polish. I remember times when I’d ask my mom about something and she would respond, “Oh, you have to be Polish to understand.” And rightly so, because when she tried to explain it to me, I quickly realized… I didn’t get it. But fascinatingly, I took great offense to her original assumption; I couldn’t understand why, even though I was raised in a Polish household, spoke Polish, ate Polish food… I was still not Polish. I guess everyone longs for a sense of identity, to be part of something—it’s an age-old, cross-cultural dilemma. Nevertheless, this is exactly where my development as an artist really began.
Majoring in Textiles at RISD, I often found myself turning to my Polish heritage for inspiration in my work. From the destroyed building facades of Warsaw’s Old Town after the Second World War,
to the bold color in traditional Polish folk costumes and embroideries—
I discovered a source of inexhaustible inspiration for my work.
This obsession began with sentimentality and aesthetics (using a familiar Polish landscape to inspire a stripe, for example); progressed with an understanding of contemporary history (which I explored through a concentration in the Department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences at RISD); and eventually developed into a mixture of the two. Not surprisingly, the personal investment I put into my work often proved to be emotionally draining. But with each step forward, I realized I had to go back and learn basic things about Polish culture. That’s what led me to apply for the Fulbright Grant.