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Happy Mother’s Day, Jenny Ignaszewski

posted Sunday May 13th, 2012

I cannot say I know her well — we’ve met in person a handful of times, at the most, and Facebook really doesn’t count, right? But I’ve long admired Jenny Ignaszewki vis a vis her paintings: large, primitive cityscapes and birds (long before Portlandia), marked by bright colors and oversized heads, an in-your-face celebration of life. She was making art before there was (much of an) arts community here in Phoenix.

She’s definitely one of the godmothers of the scene.

And so it was fitting, I suppose, that I felt compelled to buy my mom (a longtime fan) a piece of Jenny’s work for Mother’s Day this year. I emailed to make an appointment for a studio visit, having no idea Jenny was putting all her work up for sale — way too cheap — to raise money to drive cross country to get her daughter at Cornell, then down to Florida to be with her own mom.

Fitting, huh? All these maternal connections.

I dragged my mom down to Jenny’s gallery, pretending it was a “work appointment,” and watched her greedily gather up pieces to buy herself (damn, that was not the plan). When I admired a piece, she asked if I wanted it for Mother’s Day. Oh no, I told her, don’t be silly. This isn’t a buying visit — I’m here for work. I hustled her out of there; luckily she left behind a painting of a polka-dotted, sad-eyed bird she liked (I hope) and that will be her present. And I might have bought my own favorite (a nude against stripes) as a Mother’s Day gift to myself. (Hey, it’s important to support the arts, right?)

I returned the next day to pick up my purchases, stayed to chat with Jenny, and on the way out, noticed another piece. On the side of the canvas, she’d collaged the line: so close that your hand on my chest is my hand

I had to stop to catch my breath.

“That’s just what my daughter does,” I told Jenny. When Sophie’s falling asleep, she pulls my hand onto her chest, across the bump left where her bones were sawed apart — twice — so doctors could fix her heart.

“Pablo Neruda,” Jenny said, smiling. And later, she sent me a copy of the poem, called “XVII (I do not love you…)”

This poem is specific — it’s about dark, hidden love. Not the love of mother and child — not my kind of maternal love, anyway. But it widens in the last two stanzas, which I think are just right for Mother’s Day.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Thank you for that, Jenny, and for making Phoenix a more beautiful place to live. Happy Mother’s Day. And safe travels. Hope to see you again soon.

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Tags: Filed under: arts and crafts by Amysilverman

3 Responses to “Happy Mother’s Day, Jenny Ignaszewski”

  1. Jenny’s work is magic. Such a gift.

  2. It’s good to encounter other souls who bring their illumination into our lives. It’s satisfying to know you experienced this, and an honor for you to share it.

  3. That is one of my absolute favorite poems, and because of those last two stanzas. I’ve used in it all kinds of pieces. Jenny sounds incredible. So does her work.

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