Stanisław Szukalski in Kraków 1936.
December 13, 1893|
|Died||May 19, 1987
Burbank, California, U.S.
Stanisław Szukalski (13 December 1893 – 19 May 1987) was a Polish-born painter and sculptor who became a part of the Chicago Renaissance. He also developed the pseudoscientific-historical theory of Zermatism, positing that all human culture was derived from post-deluge Easter Island and that mankind was locked in an eternal struggle with the Sons of Yeti ("Yetinsyny"), the offspring of Yeti and humans. He illustrated this theory in his works.
Szukalski immigrated to the United States in his teens, where he joined the arts scene in Chicago and became a vital part of the "Chicago Renaissance". Ben Hecht, who knew Szukalski in the 1920s, described him in his 1954 autobiography A Child of the Century as starving, muscular, aristocratic and disdainful of lesser beings than himself—traits Szukalski retained for the rest of his life. In 1929 he was a founder of an artistic movement called Tribe of the Horned Heart (Szczep Rogate Serce) - centered on Polish artists who sought inspiration in the pagan or pre-Christian history of Poland.
Mickiewicz Monument in Vilnius
The first design proposed for a monument of Adam Mickiewicz for Vilnius was promoted by Zbigniew Pronaszko of Vilnius University (then, Stefan Batory University in the Second Polish Republic). However, in May 1925, a contest was declared for the proposed monument. The period for submitting designs was extended a number of times thanks to the deep interest in the project by the artistic scene, with 67 designs ultimately submitted. The jury consisted of Vilnius's Municipal authorities and representatives of the arts scene, with General Lucjan Żeligowski at the helm.
First prize went to Avant-Garde artist Stanisław Szukalski, Second Prize to Rafał Jachimowicz, with the third prize awarded to Mieczysław Lubelski. According to Szukalski's design Mickiewicz was naked, lying upon a sacrificial altar. The artist had the sculpture situated on a large pedestal in the shape of an Aztec pyramid. A White Eagle- Poland's national symbol was perched at the figure's side where it symbolically drank blood from the poet's wound.
Szukalski's design was highly divisive, with strong emotions coming to the surface that were for and against the design, among Poland's intelligentsia, leadership, art ciritics as well as ordinary individuals. The polarized atmosphere led the monument committee to arrange for a new contest, this time consisting of only concepts by artists that were invited. The winner was Henryk Kuna, whose proposal was chosen. However due to a number of problems involving financing as well as a suitable location, the monument's construction dragged on. With the outbreak of World War II and the incorporation of Vilnius into Lithuania, the project was abandoned.
Return to Poland and Move to California
Szukalski returned to Poland in 1934, when the government proclaimed him their "Greatest Living Artist" and built the Szukalski National Museum to house his works. In 1939, the Nazi Siege of Warsaw resulted in the destruction of the museum and his life's work. Szukalski moved to Southern California, where he languished in obscurity, supporting himself by drawing maps for an aerospace company.
In 1971, Glenn Bray, a publisher who had previously specialized in the work of Mad Magazine artist Basil Wolverton, befriended him and later published one book of Szukalski's art, Inner Portraits (1980), and another of his art and philosophy, A Trough Full of Pearls / Behold! The Protong (1982). Bray and his wife Lena Zwalve maintain Szukalski's estate and the great bulk of his existing art under the name "Archives Szukalski."
Zermatism, Szukalski's concept of world history, postulated that all human culture derived from post-deluge Easter Island and that in all human languages one can find traces of the original, ancient mother-tongue of mankind. In his view, humanity was locked in an eternal struggle with the Sons of Yeti ("Yetinsyny"), the offspring of Yeti and humans, who had enslaved humanity from time immemorial. He claimed that the figures of the god Pan on Greek vases depict creatures that actually existed, the product of Yeti apes raping human women. Szukalski used his considerable artistic talents to illustrate his theories, which, despite their lack of scientific merit, have gained a cult following largely on their aesthetic value. The irony of this would have likely infuriated the hyper-curmudgeonly Szukalski.
Among Szukalski's admirers are Leonardo DiCaprio, who sponsored a retrospective exhibition entitled "Struggle" at the Laguna Art Museum in 2000, the Church of the SubGenius, which incorporates the Yetinsyny elements of Zermatism, and the band Tool, who recommended "any collection of works you can find by this man is well worth the effort".
Szukalski's works are on permanent display at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago. None of his work in Warsaw survived the desolation of the second world war. In addition to the Laguna retrospective, notable exhibitions of his work include "The Self-Born" at Varnish Fine Art, San Francisco, in 2005 and "Mantong and Protong," where Szukalski is paired with another unorthodox theorist of earth history, Richard Sharpe Shaver, at Pasadena City College in 2009.
- Lameński, Lechosław (2007). Stach z Warty Szukalski i Szczep Rogate Serce. Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL. p. 53. ISBN 978-83-7363-554-8.
- Lameński, Lechosław (2007). Stach z Warty Szukalski i Szczep Rogate Serce. Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL. p. 54. ISBN 978-83-7363-554-8.
- Lameński, Lechosław (2007). Stach z Warty Szukalski i Szczep Rogate Serce. Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL. p. 55. ISBN 978-83-7363-554-8.
- Lameński, Lechosław (2007). Stach z Warty Szukalski i Szczep Rogate Serce. Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL. pp. 56–66. ISBN 978-83-7363-554-8.
- Szukalski: God King of the Kook Nation - excerpt written by Rev. Ivan Stang from The Happy Mutant Handbook
- Szukalski.com – official website (English)
- Szukalski.pl – official website (Polish)
- Zermatism entry at Paranormality.com
For info on Szukalski, Rabindranath Tagore and artist Mukul Dey visit: