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Art Exhibit-Magical World of Roman Golla-The Center at Donaldson

Date: 05-Dec-2019


Opening Reception: Thursday, December 5th, 5-7pm with a lecture on the artist from curator Robert Nowalk beginning at 6pm.

Exhibit runs from December 5th through January 20th, 2020.

Roman Golla is a Naïve artist within the Outsider Artist genre. As such, Roman sits outside the standard path to artistic practice by being self-taught and full of imagined and remembered visions. Akin to most Outsider Artists, Roman experienced an artistic awakening late in life.

Born in Poland in 1917, Roman grew up in the southern mountains of Poland near Zakopane. During WWII, Roman was swept up by the Nazi war machine and, in the early 1940’s, was sent to a Nazi Slave Labor camp in Alsace, France, to make airplane parts. In 1951, back in Poland, Roman decided to emigrate to America. He landed in Chicago, found a job working as a Securities Courier for a bank, and joined a local Chess League; playing so well, he earned a position in the US Open Chess Tournaments in 1954, 1961, 1963 and 1968. Given all he had experienced in Europe, you might think this would be enough, but for some unknown reason, in 1964, when he was 47 years old, Roman decided to adopt the persona of an artist.

Roman painted expressively in a child-like manner and was eventually given a one person exhibition at Humanitas Gallery in December of 1978. He received a good review from Harold Haydon of the Chicago Sun Times who described him as belonging “in that small band of imaginative artists who are called Naïve, lack academic training yet find the way to pictorial expression with complete conviction and success.” Unfortunately, Roman is not known to have ever shown in a gallery again.

From art curator, Robert Nowalk:

Perhaps he did not understand the gallery process or the percentage he would receive for each work, but other than a few fairs and area events, he just kept painting and playing chess. Though ranked regionally as a chess player until a few years before he died, his output as a painter diminished in the 1990’s. He died in 2001, a pauper, without direct heirs. His work was given to a distant relative who sold it to person who initially planned to open a gallery. The new owner put the work into storage and 13 years later, with his plans for a gallery changed, listed his collection on Craig’s list, which is where I first saw Roman’s paintings. I fell in love with his paintings when I saw them and, to make a long story short, managed to raise the funds to buy Roman’s paintings. I did this because I have a passion for art and the person of the artist, and believe Roman’s work to be a story worth telling.

Since 2014, I have been researching Roman’s background, cleaned and framed some of his works, and have done a few exhibitions to raise awareness of the importance of Outsider Artists. The show at Moontree, “The Magical World of Roman Golla” will contain a wide selection of imaginative and memory pieces.