Pat Strakowski, working over a period of approximately three decades, has produced a body of totally original work. Her sculptures – created from papier-maché adorned by found objects as varied as ancient Japanese coins, Mexican ceremonial trinkets and wasps’ nests from the local neighbourhood – have few parallels in any artistic tradition.
Strange creatures abound in the artistic world of Pat Strakowski. Warriors sprout deer horns to enhance their communication with the gods. Cats with serpent tails guard the household, lurking beneath the staircase to attack intruders. Deformed angels mourn the agonies of war. A young girl, suspended perpetually in mid-air, performs timeless skipping rituals. A birdlike creature, screaming in anguish, removes its own head – but maybe it’s not in anguish after all; perhaps it’s all about imagination pondering freedom from heavy loads.
By placing Strakowski’s work in the perspective of myth in the contemporary world, Andrew Oko has developed insights that would not be possible simply by observing the sculptures by themselves, without reference points. Drawing on the ideas of thinkers as diverse as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and Aldona Jonaitis, Oko has created a framework that greatly enhances even a casual appreciation of the art underlying the art of Pat Strakowski.
Complementing Oko’s study and analysis, the sensitive photographs taken by John W. Heintz constitute an innovative pictorial study that is a creative achievement in its own right.
Photography by John W. Heintz.
About the Author
Andrew Oko is a curator, educator, administrator, and historian of Canadian art. He holds a Bachelors degree in English Literature from the University of Calgary, and a Masters degree in the History of Art from the University of Toronto. From 1972 to 1977, Oko worked as curatorial assistant and later as assistant curator at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. He continued his professional career in central Canada, where he worked as curator of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. In 1986, he moved to Regina, where until 1996 he was director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Currently Oko lives and works in Calgary as an independent curator, and as an instructor in art history on contract at the Alberta College of Art and Design.
In addition to numerous art catalogues, Oko has written Country Pleasures: The Angling Art of Jack Cowin (Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1984) and Jan Gerrit Wyers 1888-1973 (Regina; MacKenzie Art Gallery, 1989).