Art as a weapon against domestic violence

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
Local artist Ewa Grochowska has a goal.
To eliminate domestic violence.
And she is using the power of art to achieve this end.
Grochowska’s artwork will be part of the 57th Annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival and the SoNo Arts Celebration in Norwalk in August.
The former Bristol and Plainville resident is the driving force behind Freedom4Ewa Pottery, an organization that helps victims, through the creation of art, to overcome the emotional aftermath of being abused.
It’s a cause near and dear to Grochowska’s heart because she also is a survivor of domestic violence. And the power of art helped her overcome the after-effects of her ordeal.
Grochowska, who attended the Middle School of Plainville in sixth and seventh grade before moving on to Bristol’s Northeast Middle School and then Bristol Eastern High School, said art has been a love of hers since elementary school, an affection that continued throughout high school.
”I fell in love with pottery in high school where I was first introduced to it,” said the 2003 BEHS graduate. But, she said, “I never went to college for ceramics; I am a self-taught ceramic sculptor, aside from the basic wheel-thrown skills I learned back in high school.”
Grochowska started Freedom4Ewa Pottery in December 2013. She explained in a Facebook message, Freedom4Ewa is “helping survivors of domestic violence live in love by providing support and art supplies to process their experience through art.”
Grochowska said Freedom4Ewa reaches out to organizations—such as the Prudence Crandall Center in New Britain, Safe Futures in New London, and Eastern Connecticut State University—  and individuals.
“I reached out to a sister of a victim of domestic violence in Bristol, because I wanted to help the four children that lost their mom. I asked if I could make a special piece of ceramic sculpture for each child in remembrance of their mom,” said Grochowska.  “I want to, and will help everyone in any way that I can because each life matters.”
Grochowska’s own story as a victim of domestic violence, an experience that lasted for 3 1/2 years, drove her to create the organization.
Via email, she shared her own story. Her accounts include emotional and physical violence, even rape, at the hands of her abuser
For example, Grochowska said, “My abuser threatened to flick his cigarette at my face outside of his mother’s house. He said that I had an attitude and that I was (making him angry).”
Grochowska also said, “My abuser pulled into his mother’s driveway at about 2 in the morning so that I can get the garage opener to our place from his car. When I got back into the car he asked me why I slammed the door of the car. Before I could even answer, he punched me on the side of my head.”
On another occasion, Grochowska said, “I was getting ready to go to my mom’s house for her birthday party… my abuser was angry and released his rage by yelling at me, kicking me in the stomach with his steel toed boots, and choked me to the point where I was gasping for air. When he let go of my neck he said that he loved the red marks he left on my neck.”
Grochowska also said, “We were driving around and he was yelling at me because he was angry and told me to record my voice on his cell phone stating that if I ever (anger) him again that I give him permission to inject me with drugs until I overdose and die. He told me that if I didn’t record this than he would kill me, so I did it.”
Her step father had cancer, said Ewa, “I planned on going to see my stepdad after work one day to watch a movie with him… My abuser called me at work and told me that I couldn’t go see my step-dad and that if I did that he would go kill my step-dad. He said that he was going to destroy and kill me when I got home. I went home, because I’d rather him kill me than my dying step-dad.”
When she finally escaped after years of this kind of abuse, art came to the rescue for Grochowska.
“Art helps to heal—we all listen to music and for many of us, the music we listen to is life-saving. For me, visual art has the same affect,” said Grochowska.
Photographs of her ceramic work depict delicate subjects such as flowers, but they are crafted in the hard medium of fired clay that will endure. It’s a perfect metaphor for someone who is a survivor.
“My sculptures come from a place within me that is much deeper and intimate than I can explain in words. The ideas are pulled from my personal life experiences and deal with love, hurt, my heart, mind, body and soul. It is a way for me to take all of the pain that I have experienced in life and bring beautiful artwork with deep meaning to the world.”
“The pieces that I produce signify strength and beauty,” explained Grochowska. “The strength my pieces convey is something I have personally regained after surviving years of abuse.”
“My art has evolved into a symbol of love, with a strong, positive message of survival and determination. Each individual piece of art represents a part of the survival process that I myself have conjoined with the love of art—specifically ceramic sculpture. Each piece evokes a stage in the healing process of surviving domestic violence,” said Grochowska.
“I am using my artistic abilities to introduce ceramic art into the lives of children that are survivors of domestic violence. The process of producing my art is very layered and emotional, as is every aspect of my life. I take a simple wheel-thrown bowl, and turn it into a sign of strength by sculpting withered flower pedals that breathe life from within,” said Grochowska.
When asked why the art helps the children overcome the effects of domestic violence, Grochowska explained, “Practicing art helps children deal with their experience, because it allows them the opportunity to express their emotions in a positive way. Creating art gives them control of something in their life, and it gives them something to be proud of.”
Helping the children also helps Grochowska.
She explained, “It brings me comfort to help these children work through the pain they’ve suffered in their young lives. To see their smiling faces when they walk through the door brings me to tears, because I know how much they look forward to our projects and conversations. I am honored to be a strong female role model to these children; and be an example of a person that has dedicated their life to helping others live in love through art and support.”
As for the feedback for her efforts, Grochowska said, “The responses I receive for my efforts are immensely positive and life saving to both myself and the individuals that I have come in contact with.
“When I speak about the abuse I have endured whether it is to an individual or a group of college students, I know that I am reaching them due to my raw honesty. I can see the emotion on their face and hear it in their voice. What I do is about healing myself and helping others in the aftermath of domestic violence or preventing individuals from ever being exposed to these types of relationships,” said Grochowska.
As noted, Grochowska is participating in a pair of art festivals next month.
“I am using these art festivals to spread awareness about domestic violence by distributing domestic violence shelter pamphlets for Prudence Crandall and Safe Futures along with informational note cards on where to get help.
“I am also discussing my mission with any individual who is willing to listen,” said Grochowska.
“I am also using a portion of the proceeds I make towards my movement whether it is to buy art supplies for the domestic shelter, or materials and tools that I need in order to keep being an artist and activist,” said Grochowska
As for the long term goal of Freedom4Ewa, Grochowska went straight to the point. “To bring domestic violence to extinction.”
Grochowska will be at the 57th Annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival on Saturday, Aug. 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. She will also be at the SoNo Arts Celebration in Norwalk on Saturday, Aug. 16 and 17.
If you want to reach out to Grochowska, she can reached by email at freedom4ewa@gmail.com or via www.facebook.com/freedom4ewapottery.

‘Love Lives and Hate Dies’ by artist Ewa Grochowska.

‘Love Lives and Hate Dies’ by artist Ewa Grochowska.

Ewa Grochowska of Freedom4Ewa.

Ewa Grochowska of Freedom4Ewa.