Greenpoint, October, 2015

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ark Angel

Noah's Ark
This holiday card is actually a painting by the Polish artist Nikifor (1895-1968) who was born and died in the small spa town of Krynica in southern Poland. Nikifor was actually a Lemko, an ethnic minority deported along with ethnic Ukrainians by the Polish government after WWII. He made it back to his hometown and survived, in poverty, by selling his little paintings on the street. He was "discovered" several times, only to be forgotten again. In 1960, he met the painter Marian Włosinśki, who would devote much of his own time to promoting Nikifor's work.

Jesus and John-the-Baptist
Like Karol Kozlowski, the Brooklyn folk painter I blogged about recently, Nikifor was illiterate. Their paintings share a number of similarities, especially the fondness for architectural detail and the use of block letter titles with no spaces between words--Kozlowski at the top of the canvas and Nikifor at the bottom. Nikifor was decidedly more influenced by Christian iconography than Kozlowski. I especially love Nikifor's Noah's Ark above--only such a genius would do it without the animals!

His story is told beautifully in the Polish film Mój Nikifor (dir. Krzysztof Krauze), alas not available in the States. However, you can see some of his pieces in this short excerpt from the film. By the way, that is the great Polish actress(!) Krystyna Feldman playing Nikifor.

As the sign at George's Ukrainian Bar on East 7th St. used to say, "Have a Happy!" Happy what? That's up to you.

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