Marcin Cienski

Opening 12.01.2019

12.01. – 16.02.2019

“Victory Memorial”

“Victory Memorial”

Memorial: It signifies more than remembrance. It also honors something or someone belonging to the past: the dead, the long gone era, lost ideals. 

Victory: America claims a number of victories, some are obvious and glorious, some are questionable and have been challenged.

Victory Memorial is an actual place. It is the name of my neighborhood in North Minneapolis. There is a monument made out of stone, surrounded by American flags, and a parkway that commemorates men and women killed in the line of duty in the First World War. 

This neighborhood has become my new home, my new address. This is a place where I have time to contemplate and paint the America that I have been discovering—a land still new to me, a land in transition, going through some sort of horrifying change. There is a feeling that the American dream is lost, and in its place is a rising feeling of danger, chaos and instability. 

When I came from Europe, I arrived with my own baggage of pre-existing ideas about this country. And as a painter I came with a lot of visual expectations instilled in me through movies, pop culture, literature and visual arts. 

With this show I am paying homage to those who shaped my view of America when I was still abroad, combined with how I now perceive this vast country with blue skies and unsettling ideas. 

I came here thinking I would see the empty, quiet and somewhat generic little towns and suburbs described by John Updike. I love the melancholy and sense of passing away in his stories and poems. I titled some of the works as a reference to his writing.

I have seen more than I anticipated—urban bars, sunny empty apartments and lonely Victorian houses in smaller towns like Cleveland, Philadelphia and Detroit. These are places where tourists don’t usually go—places that look like they were painted by Hopper. I even saw those old fashioned movie theaters he loved to paint.

In the fields of Pennsylvania I saw landscapes that Andrew Wyeth used to so meticulously render in tempera. 

I have met kind and gentle people, and I have met people who are angry and somewhat disillusioned. I have seen much of this vast land made up of empty spaces and lively cities, but wherever I go I always have the feeling that the world here is made of “different particles.”

It is an overwhelming feeling that I assume many of us from Europe experience on some level. It is a realization that all your life there has been a parallel world out there in America where things were almost the same, yet different. A dreamy feeling of a competing universe that happens on the other side of the mirror. It makes you feel like you are on the set of a movie, perhaps directed by Alfred Hitchcock or David Lynch. An unsettling film where the suspense hangs in the air. 

You can tell that the buildings are made from different materials in a different manner. That clothes and furniture are made of unknown fabrics and components. Cement, bricks, cables, wood and plastic— all those familiar materials create a reality different from the one we know from our old continent. 

Of course it is just a notion, a very subjective form of cultural shock. It makes one sense things more intensely and see surroundings more sharply. All the details seem more present, real and “enhanced.” The colors, the plants, the scents, all seem new. Also people appear to be made up of different atoms. They seem somewhat more solid and sturdy—as if the distances between their molecules are closer and more dense than those in the bodies of people born in other places. 

With this show I am trying to capture these new skies, with these hues of blue that are new to me. I am trying to portray these sturdy people who seem to be quietly accepting the inevitable disasters that are happening to their world. I am trying to capture the land of the brave with the shadows of past victories. 

I feel that any day now, a quiet explosion, or maybe an implosion will—with a gentle swish—wipe away those sunny suburbs and scenic landscapes.

I feel America lost its sense of safety and lost its naiveté. We all hope for the best, knowing that the future may go either way. 

There is always hope but regardless of what happens, war or peace, one thing remains certain: the skies will reflect their phthalo blue shade.