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Art & Fire

A R T &  F I R E

A    P E R S O N A L    R E C O L L E C T I O N   B Y   Z U Z A N N A  K O Z L O W S K A

Art burned


The story of Zuz is much like any story of highs and lows, ebb and flow, death and rebirth. It’s about a person no more and no less extraordinary than any of you, who one day came home to ashes of a fire instead of the comfort of home and the lifetime of artwork she had been creating. I know how she felt, and the way her life changed because I am Zuz, and this is my story.

Creating art is an illusion before it ever becomes a reality. It’s a conversation within yourself before it ever becomes a dialogue between two or more people. And admittedly, it’s this personal catharsis that had me drawn to making art because I relished in sweeping through the corners of my mind, dissecting feelings, concepts and dreams. It is the artist’s mind that creates the art and it’s, really, the artist’s mind that true art is exposing.


Living in New York City, I found nothing short of thoughts and emotions to fuel my work. I fell in love fast, sought adventure, accepted challenge, bathed in sensation, capturing it in on paper if only to prolong its significance and longevity. My work was often intense, but positive and energetic as I saw it. I worked compulsively with the energy of the city and I made work that I loved, over and over again.


Years flew by and my work grew in quantity and quality. My home and studio was no more than an average dueling New Yorker’s call ‘homes’ but I made it work. And as I explored the city and my own development, I found myself shifting mediums from paper, to canvas to innovating with silk sculpture and garment art. Growing up as a child in Poland, my parents operated a fashion house with my Mother as the designer and my Father on the business end, which meant that I was always around fabrics and creators. Adding that to my tactile and emotional sensitivity it’s no wonder that I fell in love with silk and never looked back. Silk is soft and strong, it’s delicate yet durable, it’s pure magic in luminance but it is also temperamental and unforgiving. I recall vividly, the first time I painted on it because it was electric.


To fund my dreams I took on roles in advertising, and developed a successful career in creative direction. Waking up at the crack of dawn to draw, I was often overly stretched but I was also happy. And when I saw my work come to life across a 8400 sq foot gallery space, I realized how far I had come. To my own surprise, I filled the entire floor with art wishing for more space. The show titled ‘Energy Reveled’ (2017) demonstrated most clearly, how much energy I had put into my work and I was proud if it. And then one day, one lit candle gone wrong, it disappeared.


A couple of months after the show ‘Energy Reveled’ had closed I arrived at Art Basel Miami, invited by the infamous SLS hotel as well as exhibiting at one of the satellite art fairs in Downtown Miami. What’s significant about this trip was that the few pieces I took to Miami for Art Basel were gratefully unharmed. But the way my life changed has nothing to do with what I lost or saved and everything to do with what I created from then on. I was left with no home, no bed, no clothes, no towels, no forks, no art. I questioned if even was an artist anymore if I didn’t have any art to show, or sell. All the work I had created was either burned or severely smoke and water damaged and taken as hostage for analysis under lock and key. In shock, I admit I stayed in the burned home for too long for my health, sleeping under jackets I had stashed in zip-lock bags as I had no bedding after the fire recovery team took 95% of my home content. I knew leaving meant letting go and I couldn’t. I didn’t want to leave again, feeling guilty for putting my home, my life, my community in the harm of a candle flame that I didn’t even start. I regretted staying away from my home for so long and I was hesitant to face who I was, now that I had nothing and nothing to show for. Packing up what was left, I went where I could find shelter and brought only what I needed, unsure of the impact of the disaster on my finances and my future. Luckily my role as lead director on the disaster recovery of my life kept me busy, and far from crying. Only 7 months later, I began to feel the sadness rather than distract myself with the glitz of silver linings which I was promising to myself.

Coming home to Australia, my parents, my sister, my room, welcomed me with open arms. They had always supported my artistic spirit because they were artists themselves and they loved and knew me well. And in the calmness of the Melbourne outback and the family I love, I began to create the flow of stillness that I had never felt before. Even though the collection I was bringing to life had been brewing in my mind for some time now, I still felt nervous. This time I had no energy for energy; I wanted peace, calm blue water, a gentle breeze, a strong solid earth, and the cathartic exploration of recreating the art of a fire. This time I wanted to sooth, not excite, myself.


As I made my art, my family and I decided to accompany my art by put together a clothing line of elegant silk garments, designed by my mother, Olga Kozlowska. Painting on her dresses created something very unique, but almost unnecessary as her gowns had always been outstanding on her own. Before the fire, I had accepted an invitation to exhibit with Paul Calendrillo Gallery at a solo art show in Chelsea’s Art Capital over New York Fashion Week, and we decided to show the clothing alongside the art. And each day since I have been working towards it. As I write this, I am two weeks away from opening and ready. Despite the hard work, I felt lighter starting from scratch. Perhaps because I lost the fear of loosing. Come September 6th, 2018, Paul Calendrillo Gallery will be hosting an opening reception for my solo show ‘Burn - Fear - Flow’ and the art work that I’ve been creating will be on display. Come the following week I will hots a at a private gallery space in the building to preview the Spring Summer 2019 collection of my new brand of garment art labeled ZUZ; fresh, new, fluid, elegant garments with a touch of fire.  Until then I hope to burn any remaining fear left in me that stops me from surrendering to lightness. I’m reminding myself, to let go of possessions, and be who I want without materials that demonstrate who I am, which as an artist maybe my life’s greatest work. Coming to understanding that possessions require both energy and protection, and treating both commodities as investment, I let go. And I share with you, dear reader, the perseverance to go through destruction, to arrive in creation, to embrace the end beforethe beginning. To not fear loss, because there is no loss; only light.