– Wanda Sawicki (“Wellspring London and Region helps cancer patients cope and find courage with the tip of a pencil or paint brush,” The London Free Press, December 10, 2013)
Wanda Sawicki was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In 1960, her family moved to Southern Ontario, and then to London, Ontario a few years later. Sawicki’s mother used drawing as an aid to teach young Wanda to read and write Polish. This, along with the religious icons present in the Sawicki home, fostered her love of art.
Sawicki studied languages at Western University and received her BA in 1971. She went on to receive a diploma from the Special Arts program at H.B. Beal Secondary School in the late 1970s, and was the recipient of its Mackie Cryderman Memorial Award.
Since 1977, Sawicki’s work has appeared in numerous shows and exhibitions, including at
La Galerie d’art Drummond, Drummondville, Quebéc; L’Atelier de ÎIle, Val David, Quebéc; Del Bello Gallery, Toronto, Ontario; the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario; the Woodstock Art Gallery; and the London Regional Art Gallery (now Museum London), as well as Forest City and McIntosh Galleries in London, Ontario. Her work has also been exhibited internationally in Poland.
In 1989, Sawicki joined the London InterCommunity Health Centre. There, she developed a project entitled “Juggling Cultures,” resulting in a multi-media resource to support health and educational service providers working with multicultural, immigrant, and refugee youth in the utilization of art as a platform for emotional expression. The dissemination of the “Juggling Cultures” program, through its media as well as Sawicki’s related presentations and guest lectures, brought Sawicki’s work at the London InterCommunity Health Centre both national and international recognition.
Inspired by the “Juggling Cultures” project, Sawicki studied art therapy at Western University and with the program’s founder, pioneer art therapist and fellow Londoner Irene Dewdney. Since 1989, Sawicki has worked as an art therapist with a number of institutions in London, Ontario, as well as in private practice; in addition to her past work at the London InterCommunity Health Centre, she now works at the McCormick Home Centre for Long-Term Care and Wellspring London and Region Cancer Support Centre. Sawicki also taught in the Diploma in Art Therapy program at Western University from 1992 to 2004. Fluent in Polish, French, and Spanish, Sawicki has spoken at conferences and given guest lectures on art therapy in Ontario, the United States, and Spain.
Spirituality has a significant influence on Sawicki’s work, and she is recognized throughout Canada and the United States for her intertwining of the two threads of spirituality and art. From 2007 to 2009 Sawicki’s work was represented in a North American exhibit entitled “Sacred Steps: Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.” Sawicki was one of three Canadian artists whose work was showcased in the touring exhibit, which came to King’s University College, Western University in early 2009. The 800-kilometere pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, most of which is through Spain, ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, said to be the final resting place of St. James. Between 1996 and 2015, Sawicki walked the Camino de Santiago five times on various routes, a total of 3200 kilometres travelled on foot.
In addition to “Sacred Steps,” Sawicki has also participated in other exhibitions focusing on the Camino de Santiago. In 2013 her work was part of “Seeing the Gold: Visual and Soulful Experiences from the Camino de Santiago de Compostela,” a show at King’s University College, and also “Arts of Pilgrimage: Experiencing the Medieval Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela,” displayed at the Archives and Research Collections Centre, D.B. Weldon Library, Western University. In 2004 she took part in a group exhibition of pilgrims’ artwork and artifacts at
St. James Cathedral gallery, in Toronto, Ontario.
From 2010 to 2017, Sawicki was an associate instructor of Thanatology (the study of death and bereavement) at King’s University College, where she developed a course exploring creative responses to death and bereavement as a form of grief support.
Wanda Sawicki’s work can be found in the collections of Del Bello Gallery, Toronto, Ontario; the St.Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre, St.Thomas, Ontario; McIntosh Gallery, Western University; and the London InterCommunity Health Centre, as well as private collections.
Wanda Sawicki continues to paint and practice art therapy. She currently lives in London, Ontario.
Biography by Luvneet K. Rana
Belanger, Joe. “Wellspring London and Region helps cancer patients cope and find courage with the tip of a pencil or paint brush.” The London Free Press, December 10, 2013. Accessed November 22, 2018. http://lfpress.com/2013/12/08/wellspring-london-and-region-helps-cancer-patients-cope-and-find-courage-with-the-tip-of-a-pencil-or-paint-brush/wcm/b86321b5-2fcf-2a99-ab0c-7ae1a246f369.
Greenia, George D. Sacred Steps: An Exhibition: Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Williamsburg, Virginia: College of William and Mary, 2007. Exhibition catalogue.
Rumleski, Kathy. “London Artist’s Treks Inspire Sacred Steps.” The London Free Press, January 19, 2009.
Sawicki, Wanda. Curriculum vitae. Personal Communication, January 5, 2018.
Sawicki, Wanda. Short Biography, 2017. Personal Communication, January 5, 2018.
MacDonald, Colin. A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (Volume 8, Part 1: Safdie, Sylvia to Smith, Jori). Ottawa: Canadian Paperbacks Publishing, 1996.
Pelley, Lauren. “Art therapy for the soul: Visual art used for personal healing, treatment.” The Western Gazette, April 1, 2009. Accessed November 27, 2018. http://www.usc.uwo.ca/gazette/pdf/Gazette-2009-04-01.pdf.
Sawicki, Wanda. “Health, Art, and Culture: The Juggling Cultures Program.”
Canadian Family Physician 38 (May1992): p.1195-1202. Accessed March 25, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2145851/pdf/canfamphys00123-0195.pdf.
St. Joseph’s Health Care London. “Artwork empowers St. Joseph’s breast care patients.” Accessed November 27, 2018. https://www.sjhc.london.on.ca/our-stories/artwork-empowers-st-josephs-breast-care-patients.
My personal art work has revolved around the connection between earthly and spiritual dimensions in figurative, landscape, or abstract formats. Anthropomorphic landscapes are fascinating to me, and bodies which bear the shape of the land speak of a deep connection to earth and Nature. The body’s movement through space and time, in exile or on pilgrimage, is of special interest since such journeying opens our eyes to new ways of seeing, feeling, and understanding not only the external world, but our inner journeying. Each painting is a pilgrimage; the process evolves in often surprising ways before it offers an illuminating moment.
Artist’s Statement Courtesy of Wanda Sawicki
Biography Profile Photo: Wanda Sawicki
Courtesy of Wanda Sawicki
CV Courtesy of Wanda Sawicki
Click here for information about works by Wanda Sawicki
in McIntosh Gallery’s collection.