A Conversation with Irena Siwek

A few weeks ago, I met with Irena Siwek, pen and paper artist, to talk about her work. She recently had a show at Iwona Biedermann’s gallery off of Western and North Avenue. I asked her how she became a self taught artist. How did she make that decision and why?

She explained: At eighteen, “I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t one of those lucky people who knew... I was born with an artistic talent. I always wanted to do something with art but wasn’t sure where my path should go. My mom, a very practical woman, pushed me towards something different.

“So I actually graduated with a math major, which was my other passion. Math was always very interesting to me. Sort of easy. If i couldn’t choose art, math was my next option. That’s where I went. I thought I’d maybe teach at a school. But my philosophy of education was a little different from what I experienced here in the US. I figured I couldn’t really do this. This is one of the professions that you had to have in your heart. I didn’t. I wasn’t meant to be a teacher.

“So that’s why I decided to pursue the artistic career. So I did a lot of different things. I did murals, graphic design... I took some classes at community college for graphic design. It sort of evolved. I did a lot of drawings. There is a lot of mathematical aspects incorporated in my art. There's the precision of it... There is something that connects both parts of my brain. I like to be very organized in what I do. I think that medium, the ink and paper, just gives me the outlet. It also gives me the freedom to do it anywhere. Because I can take my paper and pens anywhere. I love that flexibility. I don’t like to have any constraints. I feel so lucky to find this outlet for myself. I know that I will continue doing this for the rest of my life no matter what.”

I asked about her Marionette series. “This is a series that I thought that I’ll create a few drawings and I’d be done. But I’m so intrigued by it. I’m still continually creating more marionettes. There are a few aspects of why I want to create them. I can compose really nice pictures of them. I can manipulate them. The technical side is the exactly the same as the meaning of it because that’s how the marionettes are. We can do whatever we want with them. We can control them. That’s the deeper meaning behind them. We live in a world where something is controlling us, either its television, politics, religion… The question: what is freedom? It is that control in the way of freedom or is it not? If somebody is on an island by themselves, are they free? I’m looking for an answer... To what extent, can we be controlled? It’s not just one type of control. It’s many things. As a woman, I feel that I have a lot of different personalities. I’m an artist. I’m also a mother. I’m also a wife. I take on different roles. In a way, it’s a metaphor for the theatrical aspect of life that we take on different roles. I want to show that in the series of Marionettes as well. I just love doing them too. They are a great subject. I’m definitely going to continue on...In the Marionette series, I've done about 20.”

That’s all for now!

Check out Irena Siwek’s website here: http://www.irenasiwek.com