scholarship holder of AMFPA since: 1995
Painting Method: Mouth painter
Jolanta Borek-Unikowska was born in 1948 in Nowogard, in Pomerania. She has muscular dystrophy, a progressive wasting of the muscles. Her favourite themes are beautiful girls and still life, painted in oils. She works for the community. She is the vice chairperson for Fundacji Pomocy Chorym na Zanik Mięśni (The Muscular Dystrophy Aid Foundation). She lives with her son in Szczecin. She has been cooperating with the ‘Amun’ Publishing House since 1995. My work is first and foremost about joy, about cheerfulness, the beauty of the world, the beauty of people. I don’t depict sad, damaged things. That I’m a disabled person is nothing. The world is beautiful. I paint slim, long-legged girls. I believe there are enough ugly, sad, grey things in life and I don’t want to paint that. It’s necessary to bring some joy to people. However, I must admit that my early paintings were dominated by a black background. I used to use a lot of black paint. But it was only a few pictures. Then they became progressively brighter. I stopped being afraid of colours. I’d always dreamed of painting. I haven’t been painting long, but it was an explosion which changed my life. It saved me from despair and nihility. With a progressive disease, there do come such moments, when it seems that you’ve plunged to the very depths and have no idea what next. The saying goes that it’s necessary to have courage in order to stop living. I think it’s necessary to have courage in order to go on living. There was once a person who said, “If you simply want to, then that’s the most important thing…”. That person gave me back my faith in myself. It was the Poznań artist, Andrzej Grzelachowski, aka ‘AG’, a great friend to disabled people. He once invited me to an open-air project in Wągrowiec. It was then that it turned out that I can, and am able, to paint. Fear of people’s compassion-and-pity-filled looks kept me shut up for 12 years. A progressive disease and I didn’t want to sit in a wheelchair. It was actually painting which helped me to accept myself as I am. I came to understand that the world is just as beautiful whether you see it when you’re walking or from a wheelchair. Whether or not we take delight in it depends entirely on us. Sometimes people conduct very sad and tragic interviews with me. I’m not like that and I don’t want someone reading an interview with me to take pity on me, because there’s really nothing to pity. Feelings of pity are the worst, as far as I’m concerned. Despite what you see, I’m a person who’s happy. For me, the joy of creating is the best medicine in life. It gives me the strength to bear cheerfully what I can’t change and rejoice in what each day has to offer me. Here and now, I have two worlds, the real one and the world of dreams. The borders between the two blur, because they’re both cheerful. Once, my greatest dream was to go to Africa. Now, it’s that I’ll always be able to paint.