Linda Jurkiewicz was raised by a mother whose mantra was "Idle hands are the devil's work." Her daily work included sewing for practical matters and embroidery for pleasure. As a child she learned to sew and over the past 20 years she has been developing her visual art skills through classes and self-exploration. She began making quilts as art about five years ago, and we’re so pleased to have one of her quilts on display at Miri Gallery’s exhibit, “Welcome to My World: Mental Health Awareness Through Art.” Linda has given us some beautiful insights into her artwork and how it helps her view the world:
•• How is your personality reflected in your work?
I am a serious and introspective person who has a tendency to look at the problems I’m having instead of the possible solutions. Sometimes it’s hard to shake off the weight of those issues. I tend to take those worries and somehow visualize them in my work. This sort of happened by accident on my second fiber art piece. Miraculously, I discovered that after spending several months, or more, on a particular issue, the pain/sadness seemed to ease. Like a workout for my emotions.
It also tended to change my viewpoint of the people who influenced my piece. I was no longer so angry with them. I had more empathy. I realized that they probably only dished out what was given to them.
Most importantly, I feel my doing this type of work takes me one step closer toward healing. By exploring these themes in fiber, I am able to think about breaking the pattern that was, unknowingly, handed down to me.
•• Please tell us a bit about your piece that is being exhibited at Miri Gallery. How do it fall into the theme of mental health awareness?
My piece, “Life Is Good: Anne’s Prayer, My Hope,” is based on a saying I heard many a time from my mother, yet I don’t think my mother really believed life was good. Her life was too hard, growing up with Eastern European parents who struggled with the English language. She lived through the depression and was not allowed to go to high school, because she “Was only going to change diapers anyway.”
Then she moved on to a life with seven children. She was smart and artistic, but the times were against her, women were chained to their past and their low-standing position, and the culture wasn’t allowing a break-through.
As a young woman I was always disappointed that my mother’s intellect and abilities could not make her brave enough to break out of women’s roles at that time. But now that I’m older, after raising children, and after making several pieces about her, I have more empathy for her. I understand the challenges she was up against and the amazing self-confidence and care-less-about-what-others-think she would have had to have to be able to move beyond her spot in life.
This piece is the culmination of that. Maybe she didn’t weaken – but she just couldn’t overcome all of the struggles she was faced with. Why it is some people can handle the last straw so the camel’s back doesn’t break? I wonder if I will ever know.
As far as how this piece speaks to mental health awareness, it challenges me to remember that life is multi-faceted. It is good and oh so beautiful, but there are struggles, and they are real. Acknowledging the problems requires strength and belief in spirit. And remembering the good stuff requires the same.
•• What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
My favorite piece is “No Chance for Parole”, 13 feet wide by 30” tall, made of old pieces of a quilt created by my mother along with some of her hand-embroidered tea towels featuring women doing their daily chores. (You know those!) The piece is surrounded by monthly calendars, and each day is checked off. Each woman is placed in a cage.
I loved working with her handiwork; it made me feel very close to her. And although I know that she made choices about how she spent her time, I also know that the culture mandated so much of what was expected of women.
Somehow amongst all of her lists of do’s and don’ts and lists of chores I heard a tiny message that told me life could be different for women, if they so choose it. I want to live that message fully for myself and I want to shout that message loud and clear to the women I meet today!!!!
•• What are you trying to communicate with your art?
In my work I am hoping that the viewer can develop some empathy for themselves. They can see that life is not easy. Sometimes there are more things going against them than for them. But hopefully by seeing my work they see that other people struggle with the same issue. I’m hoping that when they see that they are not alone, they find life easier to bear.
Hopefully they can find the grace in that. Instead of checking out, they can check in. They can make a connection with themselves, with their spirit, and with the possibilities in life.
You can see Linda's beautiful piece, "Life Is Good: Anne’s Prayer, My Hope,” at Miri Gallery on September 16 during the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll.