Boundary is a warm and caring art space near the Beverly Art Center surrounded by berried creepers and scores of milkweed plants in full fluff. How appropriate that Ursula Sokolowska is showing there since she is in need of some nurturing. Sokolowska, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, spent a month in the hospital during COVID and has just gone through a long-overdue divorce. All the more reason to reinvent and celebrate herself through her art.
Sokolowska has been known for her intricately layered images, often featuring child mannequins in up to ten layers. The work was dark and felt dangerous and unmoored. This recent series is free and light, filled with color and optimism, and the only figure in these pieces is Sokolowska herself—she is both the muse and the model in her new work.
The series is untitled; its myriad colors and textures being identified only by numbers. The fact that they are printed on somewhat reflective metallic paper reiterates their sense of being self-portraits as if they are captured looking into a mirror. In “Self Portrait #57,” the figure itself appears to be created from a pattern of leaves, and in “Self Portrait #1,” it is the background that is textural, with the reflective surface glittering through and the figure standing straight and resolute in the foreground. A personal favorite is “Self Portrait #95,” in which a double vertical row of windows on a building punctuates the background, reaching into a perfect cloud-enhanced sky. Red, yellow, pink, and the artist’s silhouette are layered in, creating a dynamic yet soft piece that is more painterly than photographic.
The photographs are displayed with lots of airspace around them—two walls have only one photograph each, which lends power to each individual image, a strength of purpose and deliberateness that is in keeping with Sokolowska’s new personal resolve. She feels that she is less reinventing herself than finding her true self with this series.
Sokolowska, born in Krakow, Poland has always been an artist with very little sense of self-importance. Thus, she told me, it was very difficult for her to make a foray into the self-portrait arena. And yet, she has done so elegantly and simply—these images are graceful and uncharacteristically light. All signs of dark and dismal themes vanished.
“Ursula Sokolowska” is on view at Boundary, 2234 West 111th Place, Morgan Park through December 9. Artist talk December 2, 2pm.