Grandma Anna Andryc (1876? - 1966)
'We kids were all afraid of her. She didn't speak English; we didn't speak Polish, and she wielded her cane all over the place. Sometimes, she got both canes going . . .'
Left: Michael Andryc (circa 1958 at age 10) with Godmother Maggie Pasternak (left) and Grandma Anna Andryc, his paternal grandmother (far right), in the only photograph he has of her.
Right: Andryc's Grandmother - From the series Snapshots from the Netherworld. In this rendering, his grandmother enjoys a view of the Anthony Mill in Coventry, RI, outside the window. The Anthony Mill appears in many of his paintings, as four grandparents, both parents, and he all worked there. Today, it is remodeled and is a condominium complex.
"Riding with Brando (My Grandmother and The Wild One)"
Many artists assume alter-egos. For Marcel Duchamp, it was Rose Selavy (translated in English to “Eros, that is life”), and for German surrealist Max Ernst it was a bird named “Loplop.” For Michael Andryc, it’s his Polish grandmother, Anna. Michael, a self-proclaimed “sophisticated primitive post-modern artist” (yes, he acknowledges the inherent irony of such a title) admits that as a child he was “deathly afraid” of his Babka Anna Andryc, in part because she spoke a foreign language in a time when “no one wanted to talk about their origins before coming to America,” and because she was a woman more tenacious than the era allowed . . .
'She was such a strong woman—married three times—something which was unheard of in those days. One husband even mysteriously disappeared.' Now Michael enjoys hiding behind her in his paintings, traveling with her on outlandish adventures.
- Oli Robbins, Arts Editor, Bernalillo Signpost, 2016
Selling My Own Grandmother . . . on the Abbey Road Expedition called 'Life'
My Grandmother Anna Andryc has appeared as a motif and symbol in my work for more than 40 years. My series Selling My Own Grandmother debuted at the American Center for Polish Culture in Washington, DC, in 1997, and continues to this day. She serves as an archetype, the Baba Yaga in world cultures, a symbol of the strength and imagination of Immigrant-American Experience. As such an important figure, Grandma Anna is a guardian angel and super action figure saving me and the world. Alternately, she is a harbinger of the darker side of human nature that is also within each of us. Grandma Anna is my own personal, persevering alter-ego as I experience my own life. My mission is to share my Babka Anna's unique vision of existence - to help us navigate and find joy in this complex world of dualities.
The Abbey Road Expedition
(My Grandmother Leading Others in Search of a Little Help from the Beatles . . .
in These Hard Times)
Grandma Anna leads a modern-day think-tank to rediscover the world of peace and love embraced by the Beatles. They are: Sacajawea (with her papoose), Elvis, Frida Kahlo, and Einstein representing history and indigenous peoples, music, art, and STEM, respectively.
Dinner with Andy at the Nighthawk Café (After Edward Hopper)
Hopper's famous painting, "Nighthawks," is considered a statement about alienation and loneliness. But in this backdrop, Grandma Anna and Andy Warhol share a basic meal. What my grandmother is discussing with the King of Pop Art is a mystery (even to me). The frog, from another series of my paintings, does his work and holds his tongue.
The Two Babkas
(After Frida Kahlo)
Good vs. Evil. The timeless conflict in human nature continues to be omnipresent as shown in my Polish grandmother (babka). As a further study in dualities, this painting was inspired by both Grandma Anna and the very talented Mexican surrealistic artist, Frida Kahlo.
(Angel Babka Restoring Life to My Friend and Companion, Precious, the Boston Terrier)
More frog than dog, one eye out and half blind in the other, old, skinny-legged and rickety, with a bark like the bleat of a lamb and a snore like a human . . . what was there (not) to love about Precious, the Boston terrier who adopted me? It was precisely for these reasons that I did love her - and for how she followed me from room to room, trotted briskly along on a walk, never giving out, and for how she camped out under the easel and helped me with my paintings. I watched, heartbroken, as she gave up the ghost – probably against her will. I am grateful that through the miracle of art and with the help of the “Angel Babka,” she’s been returned, and will now live forever, happily under the easel (once again).
Angel Babka Silencing the Scream
(After Edvard Munch)
I painted this piece on the occasion of a family member's lengthy transition from life with Alzheimer's to the afterlife.
(After James McNeill Whistler)
Whistler's famous painting entitled "Arrangement in Black and Gray" was challenging to parody what with more than 30 shades of black incorporated into the work. I also infused the imagery of Pacific NW wood carvings and totem poles as a reminder of our basic native, tribal origins.
The 90-Year Itch
(My Grandmother in Hollywood)
Neither of my Polish-immigrant grandmothers were versed in English; nor did they drive. They led traditional family lives in their new homes in Rhode Island. Since they didn't get out too much, I have enjoyed taking them on a series of imaginary adventures in their adopted homeland. Here, Grandma Anna flirts with stardom and promiscuity in modern-day America.
Stirring It Up
(My Grandmother and Bob Marley)
Who wouldn't enjoy "Stirring It Up" at a remote island luau with the late great Rastaman himself?
My Grandmother Walking on Water
In this piece, I depict Grandma Anna's more straight-laced and powerful side. In addition to raising a family, she worked in the Anthony Mill which appears in many of my paintings as a symbol of both opportunity and confinement.
My Grandmother Having Walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
In this detail clip of the entire piece, Grandma looks fearlessly and rather eagerly to the future after her lengthy journey. Her youthful and alluring attire is puzzling and suggests that perhaps she is in the process of re-birth, a shedding of skin so-to-speak, having walked through the valley of the shadow of death. . .
The Sleeping Babka
(After Henri Rousseau)
Grandma Anna at rest. This is my version of Rousseau's "The Sleeping Gypsy."
"The 90-Year Itch
(My Grandmother in Hollywood)