First published: Fall 1997
The works discussed in this article are from one of Poland's leading collections, that of. Leszek Macak They are closest to the earth, and remote from the experiences of elite culture. Growing from the subsoil of peasant culture and shaped by folk religion, they are seraphic, as in Oleksy's devotional works and devilishly rebellious, as in Mucha's powerful carvings. They represent two poles: good and evil, Heaven and Hell.
Pressure from an overwhelming religious presence was a characteristic for many who lived in rural villages, and clearly within living memory of these sculptors. The world of nature was permeated with faith. It would have been seen in the names of plants, in the cultivation of the soil, in an innumerable amount of crosses, roadside shrines, figures of saints placed in the fields, lanes, paths and roads, on rivers and lakes and near the houses. In this culture – anchored so deeply in faith – there were church prints, legends and tales about the Holy Family wandering over Poland, stories about hellish torments and terrible fire burning sinners. Creation, for these sculptors, was not so much a way of making a living as a form of prayer.