The Judith Bear Isroff Gallery
September 16, 2023 - February 4, 2024
Barbara Stanczak’s sculptures are born from an essential combination: the artist’s creative vision and the natural qualities of her materials. This two-sided collaboration remains in effect throughout Stanczak’s entire process of conceiving and creating an artwork. A piece of wood or stone presents initial possibilities that help to set a direction, but invariably the course will change—the substance may be so hard as to resist carving, or it may contain internal structures that must be accommodated. But the artist does not surrender her own interests, as she has found that a successful work must become the physical embodiment of a rich and valuable idea. In her own words, “I can only hold onto my idea of the whole by letting go of ‘mine’ and focusing on ‘our.’ The material becomes a partner who needs my patience, respect, thoughtfulness, cooperation, skill, and persistence.”
Stanczak committed to working with wood and stone only after a long process of discovery. Born in Germany in 1941, she moved to the United States in 1960 to assist her grandfather in painting church frescoes, and later worked in handmade paper, metal, and a variety of other media. She also worked alongside her husband, Julian Stanczak, whose paintings and prints were celebrated at the Akron Art Museum with a one-artist show in 2013. As her own career evolved throughout her thirty-seven-year tenure as a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Barbara carved her first wooden sculpture in 1992. “I was tired of searching,” she recalls. “It was time to arrive!”
Stanczak continues to find wood and stone compelling because, as she puts it, they are constantly “teasing, tempting, and provoking me to see more, to see beyond, to see the micro and the macro of the universe.” She finds these universal qualities not in immediately recognizable forms like leaves and flowers, but rather in dense rings and layers, subtle features formed over decades or even thousands of years. As Stanczak exercises her own intuition, she aligns it with these natural processes. As the artist and the materials harmonize, it is as if two forms of intelligence are working together—as if spirit and matter are not so separate as one might expect.