A Chat with Costello
On the day I strolled into the THE Fine Art Gallery, Dagmara Costello was gallery-sitting, as members of the cooperative on floor two of the Marshall Building are often called upon to do. On earlier visits I was drawn to her large brushy portrait of a nude, and to her simpler images of lone building standing in gorgeous landscapes.
How long have you been in the U.S., and what was it like being an artist in Poland, in the 70s? Was it repressive in the sense that perhaps you were limited by the Communist regime, or was that earlier?
I came to the U.S.A. in 1978 just before the birth of the Solidarity movement, and yes indeed, it was repressive under Communist regime. There was no freedom of expression in any form, including art. There were severe shortages of everything, including art supplies. Archival quality papers were unheard of and basic art supplies such as paints, pencils and paper were rationed. This did not stop our passion to create art and we learned great skills from fantastic professors and made do with what was available.
In our gallery conversation, you mentioned that you hang some of your various paintings outside in your Greendale garden area. Is your home filled with your work?
Yes, I did create a garden gallery! I love to spend my time outside, and really enjoy gardening. Several years ago I had a problem growing bright flowers in one of the shady places, so I decided to fill it with a bright painting. After experimenting with different materials and paints, I created paintings that would survive outdoor conditions. I have them hanging on the fence, on the outside walls of my house, hanging on the trees or just standing on the easel that I specially designed for them. At night I illuminate them with spot lights and really enjoy them 365 days a year. I love to stare at them from the comfort of my home, especially in winter time when it is snowing.
My home is filled with art, not only mine, but also with collections of other artists. I was very happy a couple years ago to rescue a deceased Wisconsin artist’s work, and with the help of a friend I restored several of his beautiful paintings.
I’m intrigued by your description of a little boathouse you converted on some land you purchased on the shores of Muskego Lake, and at your website I found charming images of the abode and paintings inspired by being at that specific place. Let’s hear more about why you decided not to build on the land, but rather to leave it natural, and instead convert the boathouse to a warm weather place where you could stay overnight!
Oh! Our little piece of paradise “On the Golden Pond.” My husband and I fell in love with this place and purchased it several years ago with the intention to build a house there. Years went by and we grew to love it the way it was: untouched, serene, peaceful, and only 30 minutes away from our home.
Our little boathouse gives us a shelter and views we could only dream of. Beautiful swans nest right by our pier, and at sunset they dance in the golden sunlight reflecting in the lake. It is the place where I love to paint, sculpt and garden. I planted so many flowers there, made paths in the woods, hung my pictures there… in a way, I think I am trying to make our place to feel like Mary Nohl’s place that I was always so fascinated by.
Next to your painting of a nude, is your take on a landscape. Does this represent the landscapes in Poland, where you spent so many years?
Yes, this painting represents one of many great memories of Polish landscapes. Every year in the summer, we would move from my hometown in Krakow to the countryside. We would rent charming little places and stay there enjoying country life and unforgettably beautiful views. Those were the days of my childhood and my youth when I was totally relaxed, and sometimes, totally bored to death. Those were the days I miss so much today!
Over the years we traveled back to Poland with our children and they have seen the landscapes I paint. Our daughter just bought a house and this particular painting will be hanging above her fireplace as a little reminder of her roots and travels to Poland.