Get to know one of the featured artists from the SEX+STL June 29 Black and White event. Here is a SEX+STL interview with one of the most talented – and most humble – artists in St. Louis, Henryk Ptasiewicz.
Kendra Holliday: You have such a unique accent! Can you give us a little background of your origins?
Henryk Ptasiewicz: I was born in Scunthorpe, in The North of England (it really is spelt like that). It’s a favourite with Music Hall comedians, 200 miles North of London. It was a fun place to be brought up. When I was seventeen, three of us, funnily enough all first generation Polish, didn’t quite fit in, as we liked to do more than go to the Pub, so we told our parents that we were going to a rock concert. With that, we hitchhiked to Amsterdam. Looking back it was quite sweet.
I was born on July 17th 1955, the same day they opened Disneyland. I’ve been here for over 12 years, America is a wonderful place.
KH: You were one of the featured artists at our last SEX+STL B&W fundraiser. How did you like it?
HP: It was a blast, I always meet interesting people!
KH: I’m so used to your painting being so brilliant in color and light, it was interesting to see your black and white work. Can you tell me more about them? What was the theme?
HP: It was a great exercise. I went out and got everything that was black and white and just went for it. By making several works together, I can ensure that everyone is different
KH: Can you share your observations on what’s different between the two countries as far as sex, violence, social norms?
HP: The old satire, “No sex please, we’re British” is a joke. We have a much more liberal approach, with real sex education and late night TV dedicated to sex. Don’t forget at the time I lived there there were only four television channels. There is a more violent undercurrent, but only if you go looking for it.
KH: Do you think artists tend to be sexually creative people, or more liberal when it comes to human sexuality?
HP: I’ve yet to meet a prude or be shocked, having said that, I’ve only ever been single in Europe.
KH: What is it like painting nude people? What is your process?
HP: It’s a privilege, there is nothing more beautiful.
Make the model comfortable, let them bring in their own music. Don’t be frightened to have a laugh, where it’s appropriate, and especially if I’m by myself, I like to talk to the model and get to know them as a person.
KH: If someone in St Louis is interested in the art scene, where are some places you recommend they go? What galleries, events, etc?
HP: Look everywhere, start with The Artists Guild, go to Meetup, check out the West End galleries, Belas Artes, check out coffee shops, NorthWest coffee in Clayton is fabulous, and let’s not forget our own Shameless Grounds.
KH: Who buys your art – local or is your audience outside St Louis?
HP: A lot of local people buy my drawings, the majority of my paintings go outside MO and the USA. My website is here.
KH: So many people are afraid to be an artist when they grow up because they’re told they’ll never make a living. How did you make it happen?
HP: Diversify. I sell in galleries, Art Fairs, I paint in different styles, I sculpt for theme parks, do props for parties, attend Plein Air painting events throughout the Country, Teach, sell on-line.
KH: What is sexy to you?
HP: Those times an unselfconscious woman’s blouse gapes are priceless, skirts, silk. I find partial nudity so much sexier than full on nudity. It’s nice to hint at something rather than lay it all out there and leave nothing to the imagination.
KH: Who inspires you? (give local artists, models and Robert Lenkiewicz a shout out!)
HP: Cileia, Billyo, The local Meetup group, Alex Kanevsky, Klimt, Rodin, Camille Claudel, Frans Xaver Messerschmidt, and last but not least, Robert Lenkiewicz. A wonderful man who I had the privilege of meeting several times, the only regret was that I never sat for him.
After watching his work ethic, I realised that Art is hard. He showed me that Art is a tool to use to find answers. His whole shtick was to find the root causes of fascism. He grew up in a house where his parents took in survivors of the Nazi death camps. The effect it had on him was to make him an open book, when you can die at any time there is no gloss or rose tinted glasses.
He was seduced by a maid at 11 and realised that women are fascinating, not just physically, but as companions . He had over 2000 lovers. He saw Rembrandts paintings in the National gallery and realised the power of Art, he grew up in London, snook out of his room in the early hours to draw horses, there were still working horses in the fifties. He should have been the most famous Artist in Britain.
Thank you for featuring me.