In 1989, before completing the thesis for her Master of Fine Arts in her native Wrocław, Poland, Maja Godlewska flew to the U.S., bought a Greyhound bus pass, and spent 12 weeks seeing America. She visited 24 states, encountering the landscape and the people. “It was such a positive experience,” she says, “the beauty, the sublime experience of the national parks.” Her thesis paintings of actual and imaginary landscapes reflected that adventure and expressed themes that continue even now to influence her work: travel, the relationship of people to nature, and the artistic manifestation of the sublime.
A professor of painting in the Department of Art & Art History since 2004, Godlewska has shown work in more than 100 group and solo exhibitions in United States, Poland, Greenland, Italy, Ukraine, France, Germany, South Korea, Czech Republic, Ireland, and Chile, and her work is held in numerous collections, including Charlotte’s Mint Museum of Art. Through December 8, Rockhurst University’s Greenlease Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri, is hosting recent work in the solo show, On the Basis of Encounters.
In the past few years, Godlewska has focused on the spectacle of tourism, and especially tourists in nature. In 2014 and 2017, she had summer residencies in Mauritius and Key West (Florida), respectively, where she watched the behavior of tourists as they “consumed” nature. She is particularly fascinated, she says, by “the necessity to photograph and upload it on a device and share it with everybody else.” Over the past summer, she retraced her 1989 tour through the U.S. national parks, experiencing again the majesty of the American landscape as research for a new body of work.
On the Basis of Encounters features large-scale paintings on wall panels and expansive rolls of paper that weave across the gallery to create an immersive installation of brilliantly colored environments.
“Look closely at many of these images and you’ll see a tiny female figure poised on the edge of the dense thickets and brambles,” writes a reviewer in the online arts journal, KC Sudio. “She is both traveler and tourist, consuming and consumed by landscapes.”