My Brilliant Career
Serigraph, 20th Century.
Edition No. 178/275.
Image: 34 x 27
Paper: 41 x 32
Inventory Number: JZ1003
Pencil signed by artist.
Woman with boy and dog.
Price: Call 201-871-3577
Joanna Zjawinska was born in Poland, when the country was still firmly locked behind the Iron Curtain.
She grew up under the shadow of a repressive regime- remembering times when a knock on the door
induced stark terror, the time her father was taken away by the security forces, and the caution one
needed to take before speaking or acting.
Joanna remembers that drawing and painting were play activities of her childhood, since toys and
television sets were not around. Her parents regarded her artistic talents as incidental, and not to be taken seriously. The notion of pursuing a career as an artist was not the one considered for her, and to please them, Joanna decided to study architecture. She earned a B.A. in 1972 from the School of
Architecture in Warsaw. But after that, she decided to follow her own path, set down over the years in
pencil, charcoal, and paint. She enrolled in the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, where she perfected her
unique style of oil and watercolor painting. In 1978, she received her Master of Fine Arts degree with
Honor from the Academy.
In 1975, Zjawinska visited the United States. While staying in New York, she met her husband, who
moved back to Poland with her so she could finish her studies. After three years there, they returned to the United States, venturing west to San Francisco. There, they and their baby daughter lived hand to mouth in Haight Ashbury, getting by on food stamps as they struggled to prevail. Zjawinska recalls the day when their luck turned: “We were living in Haight Ashbury, close to Castro -it was a place full of hippies and beautiful old buildings. I had my portfolio and took it to Miller Gallery on Fisherman’s Wharf. I showed the portfolio to the director, who told me to bring the paintings in. I brought some in- and they all sold that night! It was wonderful. We went out and bought food, a chair, and a television set.”
Zjawinska’s unique personal vision and distinctive style quickly struck a chord among American
connoisseurs and collectors. Although she’d been making money as an artist since graduating from the
academy in Warsaw, her experience at Miller Gallery marked the advent of serious critical commercial
Zjawinska and her husband bought a Victorian house in Haight Ashbury, where they set up both living
and working quarters. Each has a studio on the premises–hers for painting, his for sculpture, which he both creates and teaches. Their daughter is attending Berkeley College, studying mass communications.
Every day, Zjawinska paints. Part of her is thrilled with the American experience, and part of her misses Poland. “I did not want to leave. My mother and my sister are there, and I am very close to them,” she continues, “They’re my best friends. I visit several times a year. And things are very different.”
“People, I think, don’t remember what is was like in Poland. Now there is freedom, and better times. I
remember the first time I came to the United States, to New York. There was so much of everything! I
went to King’s Plaza, in Brooklyn–not to buy, just to look and to touch it. It was marvelous! Over time, I think, I have become very American. But I love going to Poland, to see many friends, and my family. It pulls you.”
Zjawinska’s paintings are housed in many prestigious private and public collections, including: The National Museum in Torun, Poland; The Polish Institute of New York; Guerlain Perfumes, Paris; Elizabeth Arden, San Francisco; Nordstrom Inc, Seattle; Warner/Vanderbilt, New York; MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas; Michael Caine; Jackie Collins; Brooke Shields; Sidney Poitier.