Last Frontier300-Bozena on Fire

By Jim Harris

Several years ago when I first met and spoke with Lea County artist Bozena Kaczan in Hobbs, I came away after only a few minutes thinking, “Here is a woman who is really animated and energized by ideas and objects of beauty.”

            She is an artist who works in several media, from watercolors to pastels, and in the years since our first meeting, each time I have visited with her the initial impression of her ebullience and zealousness about art has been reinforced again and again.

            Bozena is fired-up about art and history, especially of her native Poland.

            Whether she was showing a new pastel she had just finished or a small necklace she made several years ago and has worn many times, Bozena is bubbling with excitement and energy and seems anxious to get to work on new art.

            She’s not only fired-up about art, she’s also wired for the ideas about what makes something beautiful and about objects we think of as expressions of beauty.

            When it comes to the art she loves, I have begun to think that Bozena’s  Polish given name should translate alliteratively as buoyant, ebullient, bouncy, and even brassy. 

            To tell you the truth, after I first met her and she told me she was born and grew up in Poland, I also thought about the many stereotypes of Polish people in Texas where I was raised.  The Polish jokes I heard had characters who were kin to the humorous protagonists among the Irish, the Italians, the Scandinavians, and the Aggies from Texas A&M University.

            In addition, I grew up thinking that all Polish people probably play the accordion and love to dance the polka, as so many of the rural people of Central Texas do at German beer halls on weekends.  Maybe those roadhouses around Fredericksburg and Austin were just as much Polish as they were German.

            Since my days in college, I have been a student of folklore, and after meeting Bozena, I recalled a few legends and myths of Poland, which had to do with supernatural creatures, dragons, giants, and monsters from the deep and from ancient times.

            In addition, and this has more to do with the history of Poland, talking with Bozena made me remember the suffering the Polish people endured before, during, and following the World War II when they were under the oppression of the Germans and then the Russian-Soviets. The armies of those two countries were like heavy hammers on many European countries.

            At times I’ve wondered if I would see any reflection of those dark times in Poland’s history in Bozena’s art.

            However, over the years of visiting with her, Bozena has never appeared to me to be a character in any Polish story, and after meeting her husband Leszek, neither of them fit any kinds of stereotypes from Polish folklore or history.  They both are an incredibly talented and happy couple.

            Leszek’s expertise is in agriculture, and he works for a West Texas/Southeastern New Mexico farmer who operates many thousands of acres of land in our area.  At the Lea County Museum recently, I had the wife of one New Mexico rancher-farmer tell me that Leszek knows more about farming cotton, corn, peanuts, and chilies than anyone she had ever met.

            Leszek told me that he cares for and harvests the fragrant field of rosemary that lies just west of my home on the north side of Hobbs. It’s a beautiful and sweet-smelling green field, especially following a rain or a gentle breeze from the west.

            Bozena and Leszek seem to be one very balanced and compatible couple, she richly talented in art, he in earth sciences.  And Bozena thinks of Leszek like I think of my wife Mary. She’s mighty lucky to have him.             

            Bozena and Leszek were born in Poland where they lived until they moved to the United State in 1988.  They have lived in Hobbs for 30 years.

            She says she loves America, a country where she has the freedom to say what she wants and to create what she wants in her art. She says Poland did not give her that freedom, even in the post-German era following World War II, a conflict that crippled the economies of most European countries, but was especially hard on Poland, a nextdoor neighbor to the Nazi’s.

            Bozena is not shy about exercising her right of freedom of speech.  She could give graduate-level lectures on Polish literature, contemporary life, politics, history, and historical architecture.

            In fact, her one-woman art show at the LCM Art Gallery in Lovington will contain several poster-size contemporary photographs of historic buildings and public sculptures, photos she took earlier this year on a visit back to her birth land. 

             That is another impressive quality she projects.  As it relates to life in general, and art in particular, Bozena’s interests are broad.  Although she especially loves watercolor, she is not wedded or limited to one kind of art. She doesn’t work only in oil, or in one genre.  She is a talented potter, jeweler, and dress designer.

            Her show at the LCM Art Gallery reflects her interests and expertise in a wide variety of subjects and styles.

            Bozena tells me that she has been excited about art since she was a young girl in Poland and one of her teachers told her she has a talent for creating utilitarian and artistic objects.  

            She received her master degree in 1975 from College of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland, and she has won awards for her work.  For many years she worked as a costume designer in the Horzyca theater in Torun, Poland.

            When she moved to Hobbs, she began receiving honors and praise from residents and other artists.  She has been active in the Llano Estacado Art Association, serving on the board and volunteering to help facilitate programs and shows. She also is a member of the YCAA in Plains, the OAA in Odessa, and the BAA in Brownfield, Texas.

            For several years, she also worked at the Western Heritage Museum.

            She sure does not look or act like she has reached a stage in her life in which she might want to slow down.

            Indeed, she is still on fire for art and for her life in America.

            She may have been born in Poland, but to me Bozena is as American as apple pie, or as the polka that is played and danced in the Hill Country of Texas.

            Her one-woman show at the Lea County Museum’s Art Gallery will open Thursday, Nov. 7 from 4 to 7 p.m.

            She will be there to visit and to answer questions about Poland and about her art.

            Polish refreshments will be served at the opening.

            The show will remain at the Art Gallery through February.

            The Art Gallery is located on Central Street across from the Lea County Courthouse.

            For more information, call the Lea County Museum at 575-396-4805.