Ewa Zebrowski in Montreal

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My mother’s desire to retrieve the vestiges of invisible human history is tinged with a certain melancholy. She manages, with only her small digital camera – and no PhotoShop distortions – to make the invisible visible. Water threatens to swallow the city of Venice in arrival (seen after the jump), the cityscape smeared with the sweat and blur of aqueous peril.

My mother left the film industry in 1997 to return to school and become a photographer. Thus, since I was 11 years old, my mother has undertaken her journey to become an artist. Ever since, I have witnessed her work, and, have even been a part of her creative process in shaping projects. With her latest show, of time, lost, at Art Mûr gallery, my mother, I think, has really put forward her best work, presenting a thoughtfully reflective, almost elegiac, collection of photographs.

Ewa Monika Zebrowski. sotto, acqua, 2010. Image courtesy of Art Mûr.

Ewa Monika Zebrowski. arrival, 2010. Image courtesy of Art Mûr.

of time, lost digs deep into themes of memory and the passage of time, themes which my mother has been mining throughout her career. Perhaps because she has been devoted to the subject matter (and has been seduced by the experience of Venice) for so long, her photos have come to embody her ideas. Beyond pictures of crumbling architecture, her photographs themselves begin to crumble and blur.

I have sometimes tried to get an intellectual reasoning from my mother about her artistic work. The more I tried, the more I failed [although I did succeed in encouraging her to start a blog]. This isn’t to say that my mother cannot reflect intelligently about her work; she just has a different approach. She is much more instinctual about her artistic process. It’s as if she knows it when she sees it. To put words to her images and her thinking would ruin the poetry, would shatter the delicacy of the artistic process. What she tries to find is so fragile, invisible and undefined, the only way to define the resultant imagery is through meditation and time.

Ewa Monika Zebrowski. past, present, 2010. Image courtesy of Art Mûr.

Maybe my mother is trying to piece together her own journey and that of her family. Her first art projects involved personal reflections on being a child of immigrants, and incorporated family photographs to help piece together her parent’s stories (as well as her own). Her father fought in WWII (which is a story in and of itself – he published a book). Her mother was a nurse, and spent some time in Italy. Together my maternal grandparents spent time in Italy, went to London (where my mother was born) and then emigrated to Canada. My mother spent much of her life in Vancouver, but then, after her parents divorced, moved away to school in Seattle and then Los Angeles, before moving out to Montreal. Early on in her film career, she completed a project with the Canadian Embassy in Rome.

Italy has always been a draw. It always seems like she might discover something about her mother by returning to a place she once was. Of Venice, my mother has had 3 shows, created 3 artist books. She has returned to the city 5 times…

Ewa Monika Zebrowski. remembering and forgetting, 2010. Image courtesy of Art Mûr.
Ewa Monika Zebrowski. forgetting and remembering, 2010. Image courtesy of Art Mûr.

In my mother’s last project, Unravelling: The Dress of Jadwiga, she created a massive full length scan of her grandmother’s dress, transported from Poland to Vancouver and then (via my mother) to Montreal. She then had a dress-maker create a double, exploring the life of the garment and giving it a phantom twin. My mother’s art seems fed by a constant fixation on looking back, and considering the journey through the family lineage, across the globe. A certain nostalgia to recuperate the past remains. That space between the present and the past always expanding, rich with discovery and dimension.

Alongside Ewa Zebrowski, Art Mûr also presents the work of two other women artists: painter Renée Duval, and sculptor/artist Sarah Garzoni, on display until February 26.

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art mur, ewa zebrowski

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