Just a few minutes ago I had the pleasure to speak with Constance Denchy on the phone about her upcoming exhibit Amber + C.O.A.L. children of anthracite legacies. Denchy is a well known artist in our area and has often works with the themes of family, Eastern European roots and our well known local legacy--anthracite coal mining.
For those who aren't familiar with Northeastern Pennsylvania history, I can tell you that here was the birthplace of unions, here coal was king and many a family received that dreaded knock on the door--their loved one wasn't coming back, another life taken by the cruel mines. It is the past, but it is not ancient history and while today the mines are silent and gaping holes are reclaimed and covered over, there remains a solid foundation, a work ethic and a pull yourself up by your bootstraps feeling here in this area.
Andzia: Constance, Hi how are you doing today? I am so happy to talk to you about your latest works "Amber +C.O.A.L." Where did you get the ideas for these works?
Constance: C.O.A.L. is my way of saying children of anthracite legacies--which really does include most of us with roots in NE Pennsylvania. Our grandfathers and some cases fathers worked in the coal mines. Amber, of course, comes from my Lithuanian heritage, so the new body of works are personal, intimate responses to my foundation of amber and anthracite coal drilling down, creating secrets and secret shafts of family and history expanding out further and further reaching my ancestral roots.
Andzia: That is really amazing, you are reaching as far back as family trees and roots to find that intrinsic trace of amber that still exists in Northern European peoples today -- in many ways whether they realize it or not. The image of family trees and Lithuanian heritage really strikes me, particularly the connection with amber and trees.
Constance: oh, yes and there is always more than that. Amber and coal, amber and blood, the imagery of Christianity and the wooden cross from a tree. I found myself really drawn to symbols of faith in these works, inspirations from my years in Japan also played a part. So I have a Shinto shrine and other iconic images that appear along with the ideas that spring from anthracite. In juxtaposition to the warm amber the hard coal speaks of the difficult journey my family had when they first came to America. and, yet, somehow the two became blended and this became a true home to the newcomers. My grandmother held on tight to her precious amber that she brought with her from Lithuania. She often told me that amber was a part of me...from the golden amber flecks in my eyes.
Andzia: Indeed, my family also came from both Poland and Lithuania originally. In my later life, those roots became a catalyst for my passion with the amber. For you, I see heritage has played an immense role in your artistic and teaching life as well. We're very lucky to have you.
Andzia: For your new works, what type of media have you been using?
Constance: Lots!! Acrylic paints, photo transfer techniques, graffiti techniques, my drawing and painting styles....I love mixed media and especially using very controlled stylized approaches and blended free form approaches all together.