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Pat Grayston: Polska, Kraina Przodkow (Land of My Forefathers)

The Galt Museum & Archives is pleased to present Polska, Kraina Przodkow [Land of My Forefathers] – an exhibition of eight lithographs by Saskatoon-based artist Pat Grayston focusing on Auschwitz.

While the artist had read of the Shoah [Holocaust] in books and watched documentaries on the subject, nothing could prepare her for a 2002 visit to Auschwitz.  ”I was not emotionally prepared for the turmoil engulfing me while walking the vast block of land known as Auschwitz,” says the artist.  “I chose lithography as a medium to pay homage to people I never knew – I hope the viewer will take a few moments to consider that each person who was murdered in that camp deserved a future that was never fulfilled.” 

Grayston’s visit to Poland saw her connecting with her Polish relatives after fifty years of no communication, and allowed her a new understanding of her own ancestors.  “The brief time I recently spent with my family in Poland has opened new doors of understanding into the shaping of that country, my grandparents, my father and thus myself,” she says.  “Events beyond their control have shaped the lives of all people born in Poland.  Despite a history of invasions and occupation, the people of Poland look to their country with pride and their future with optimism. Through their eyes I have intensified my abhorrence for a man, a time, a movement and those whose thoughts and/or actions echo such depravity.”  Grayston presents the exhibit in tribute to her Polish father

Since retiring from teaching art and being the principal of a high school in Saskatchewan in 1999, Pat Grayston spent a year in Australia pursuing photography, painting and bronze casting.  In 2003 she completed a BFA with Great Distinction at the University of Saskatchewan, receiving the silver medal of excellence.  Since that time she has renovated her father’s 1956 barn into Riverview Arts – an art studio with a loft housing a custom-built intaglio printing press.  While intaglio and woodcuts are her primary focus, she also creates and teaches painting and pottery.  Pat Grayston serves on the Boards of Directors of the Canadian Artists Representation/Le front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC) and the Art Gallery of Prince Albert. 

Pat Grayston Biographical Information

“I received my teaching certificate in 1961 after one year at the Saskatoon Normal School. After teaching elementary school for 1 year, I returned to the University of Saskatchewan for 1 year to achieve my Standard Certificate. I taught for another 2 years before returning to university for 1 year, obtaining my BFA in 1966 with distinction, with a major in math and minors in chemistry and physics. (I had been taking summer and intercession classes as well. In fact the last year I took 9 six credit classes from July 1965 to August 1966.) I then moved to Nipawin to teach Chemistry and Mathematics to grades 10 to 12. In 1967 I got married and moved to Shellbrook where I again taught Chemistry and Math until I quit teaching to raise my family.

“Up until this time the only art I had ever done was exploring with a small set of oil paints I had purchased. In 1982 I started taking university pottery classes in Prince Albert. After three years of pottery classes, drama classes 3 computer science classes, and several summers of adult interest classes, with my BEd in tow, I returned to teaching in 1985 – grades 7 to 9 art and grade 9 English. In 1988 I was told I was going to be assigned the running of the Novell computer network and the teaching of computers, continuing with the grade 9 English. I became one of 13 members of the Saskatchewan Global Educators, where it was my responsibility to help other teachers show children the needs of environmental concerns and third world assistance.  I then proceeded to take classes towards a Master of Education during weekends/evenings.  In 1995 I became the Principal of my high school, 590 students. I immediately gave myself a grade 8 art assignment.

“Upon retiring, I enrolled in the University of South Australia for the year 2000. Upon return with only 6 classes to complete my BFA, one in drawing, one in alternate medium and four art history, I once again enrolled in the University of Saskatchewan, fall of 2001 where I discovered printmaking. Despite only needing one class in printmaking to convocate in 2002, I stayed in the program so I could take two more printmaking classes and more painting classes. I convocated in 2003 with Great Distinction, having the highest average in all the Fine Arts disciplines.

“In the summer of 2002, I travelled to Poland in an attempt to find some of my father’s family. All contact had been lost after the 1950s and the advent of communism. I found them all! I went to the farm where my grandfather was born and also to where my grandmother was born. My grandfather’s parents’ farm is still owned by a cousin of my father. Stone buildings 800 years old stand in the yard. Coming from a country like Canada, where I can distinctly remember the 100 year celebrations of our country in 1967, the year I got married, the magnitude of encompassing the walls that forebears several hundred years ago had built was overwhelming.

“I returned to Poland in 2005 for a wedding and also to take part in the 25 years of solidarity celebrations.

“I have been part of a Canadian fact finding mission to El Salvador the same year that the United Nations troops were first stationed there as peace keepers. I have taken high school students into the Rain Forests of Panama with a Panamanian foundation dedicated to educating youth about the value of the rainforest.

“I have been in the ‘hinterlands’ of Indonesia where the greatest goal of the teenage youth is to SOMEHOW get ANY education so they don’t have to be destitute rice farmers all their lives.

“I was part of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers conference in Toronto this August. Since that time I have been travelling to centres to establish pods of interested people to be part of this movement. I am considering a body of work based on my reaction to the plight of the grandmothers I met at the conference.”

Earlier Event: January 27
Auschwitz: The Eva Brewster Story