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Issue Date: January 2010

Most Interesting People 2010 - Julian Stanczak

by Jennifer Bowen, Katie Dragga, Emily Garvey, Lauren Hennen, Christina Ipavec, Brittany Moffat, Kim Schneider, Colleen Smitek, Beth Stallings, Carly Toyzan, Erick Trickey & Jim Vickers; edited by Colleen Smitek
Julian Stanczak
Artist | 81

Why he’s interesting … Born in Poland, Stanczak was sent to a labor camp in Russia in 1940. After escaping, he spent time in Africa and England before eventually settling in the United States. Since his arrival in Cleveland, Stanczak has been a fixture in the Cleveland art scene, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland is currently running an exhibit of his most recent works.

Starting over … While in the labor camp, Stanczak lost the use of his right arm. During his time in Africa, he taught himself to paint using his left hand. “It took an effort. The most important instrument you have is your hand. It’s devastation, mentally, but you teach yourself, convince yourself, that you are not missing it. I’m not helpless whatsoever.”

Why Cleveland? … Poland had been ravaged by World War II, and Stanczak’s family looked west. They eventually settled in Cleveland, and Stanczak now lives in Seven Hills. “I tell everybody I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, at age 21.”

It’s in the family … Stanczak’s wife, Barbara, is also an artist. She sculpts and serves as a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art (Stanczak taught there from 1964 to 1995).

No visual tricks here … People may associate his work with the optical art movement, but Stanczak has never been wild about the term. It makes people think of visual tricks, he says, and that’s not what his work is about. Still, he’s made his peace with the designation. “It’s too late to object. I accept the term.”

What makes good art … “It’s a puzzlement to explain it. It’s religious to you. It’s very private, isn’t it? How can you share that feeling? Good art is beyond life as we know it.”

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