Jennifer Szczyrbak, sculptor, painter, photographer and scribbler, as she describes herself, resides there with her husband and children. Just inside the back door is the entryway that leads to her studio/gallery and to the right up the stairs is the family kitchen. The entryway is a conglomeration of bench, baskets filled with hats and gloves, an array of shoes, gym bags, school bags, an occasional fishing rod or two, and hooks for jackets that don’t always get hung. Upon entering, one realizes this is a home first, an art studio second.
Over the last 21 years, Jennifer and her husband Kevin have cared for many children including their own four, two of which are now grown and attending college. Jennifer, having a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UWSuperior, intended on using her degree to be a freelance artist. Once she and her husband began having children, she put her art career on the back-burner and started a home daycare and then branched out further turning their home into a licensed foster home. She and Kevin parented just under 30 teen boys in 12 years and found the job of opening their home and sharing their family to be both heart-warming and heart-breaking at times.
Even though Jennifer was a busy mom, she took advantage of every moment she could to create, even if she had to stay up after everyone else in the house went to bed. Over the years, she managed to complete many works. Her emphasis in college was painting and her studio walls are filled with brightly colored and highly textured paintings that reflect the world around her. She is a gardener and her paintings reveal her love of it. Even though Jennifer loves to paint, her first love is making sculptures.
Driftwood overflows out of plastic tubs that line the walls of her studio. Driftwood is scattered on the floor and on tables. Driftwood has taken over the once clean and organized look her studio had when it first opened.
Driftwood was an accidental discovery several years ago. Kevin and Jennifer hired a sitter for the kids and took a get-away date walking the shores of Lake Superior. It was there that Jennifer found a large piece of water-logged driftwood that she insisted would look “just perfect” in her flower garden. Her husband kindly carried it all the way back to the car for her. Waiting quite some time for his return, Jennifer began toying with small pieces of driftwood, marveling at the different shapes. One resembled a moose snout, another antlers, and she challenged herself to make a moose before he returned. Upon seeing it, Kevin encouraged her to bring it home and show it in an upcoming art studio tour. The driftwood moose was a hit! She decided to continue playing with washed up sticks and has made many large and small creations since.
Jennifer participated in the art studio tour for five years. The exposure gained her recognition from the local newspaper, The Star Gazette. Word spread and Fox 21 News out of Duluth came to see her studio, Cabin Life featured her art in their magazine and then the PBS show, The Playlist, came by to do a more extensive story on Jennifer’s art. As the children grow up, and the house on Lakeshore Drive grows less active, Jennifer is seeking to broaden her range by exploring opportunities where she can show her work.