Uncool miniatures, sweet as pie

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Folk gems of reverse-glass paintings visiting here from Poland glow on the walls at PII Gallery, the little place on Race Street that more often carries European expressionist work, not folk art.

The little religious images of angels, saints and bible stories sparkle with color and careful craftsmanship, further enhanced by the hand-carved frames.

The exhibit includes work by Zofia Fortecka, who does the complex saints and stories, the imagery and forms inspired by medieval and renaissance church art. The work is spectacular, and self-taught.


Her daughter Magda Fortecka, who is not self-taught, is the angels expert, the little figures winning me over with their nerdy pink cheeks and delicate good cheer–totally uncool, and sweet as pie (image, one of Magda’s angels, his gown decorated with grapes).

The frames are the handiwork of Zofia’s husband, Janusz Fortecka.

I hope some of the local reverse glass painters get a look at these paintings.

In the back space at PII, a mix of old icons (my fave was a “traveling” icon, a folding repousse triptych small enough to hang around the neck) and some nice folk-inspired work by Levan Raux from the Georgian Republic fit nicely with the Fortecka work.


But what interested me most in the back were a couple of large paintings inspired by fashion, mythology, advertising and words. But the colors are gloomy; the subjects have the blank fashion-model stare that screams Elizabeth Peyton and Ralph Lauren; and the background patterns suggest primitive tattoos, scarification and ancient texts. The painter, Ella Kolanowska, was trained at the Fine Art Academy in Posnan, Poland, but now lives in the area (image, one of Kolanowska’s fashion-inspired pieces).

Also in the back room was work from area artists Asya Levshits and Lorenzo Carlucci, and some more angels. The pro-forma painted parts undercut the unusual hand-woven garments and wings. The angels are by D.C.-area fabric artist Nina Kedzierska (image, one of Kedzierska’s angels).

PII is at 242 Race Street, 215-592-1022.

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