I first stumbled upon Miranda Skoczek on Instagram, and I was immediately struck by one her colorful life-size paintings. Melding recognizable forms with abstracts shapes and muted tones with flashes of neon, Skoczek has a distinct and recognizable style as unique as her wide-ranging influences, which include everything from Silk Road textiles to North Indian bridal garb.
With a family history spanning continents and marked by the struggle to survive, she is familiar navigating the tension between beauty and pain — a tightrope walk that comes through skillfully in her art. Skoczek lives in Melbourne, Australia, and her work is held in the collection of Artbank as well as prominent institutional, corporate, and private collections.
Over a recent phone call, I had the pleasure of diving into Skoczek’s eclectic and colorful world. She told me about her fascinating family background and how she uses her art to heal and process all of the curiosities life has to offer.
– Can you tell me about your upbringing?
I’m a first generation Australian. My mother was born in Poland, and my father was born in India to Polish parents.
– Oh, wow. That’s interesting.
Indeed, it’s a pretty incredible story. My dad’s mother was captured by the Russians and basically left to die in Siberia with a number of other people. Their will to survive drove them to make their way by foot from Siberia to India, and my grandmother ended up in a refugee camp in Bombay.
My grandfather was stationed in Calcutta in the merchant navy when he heard that there were a number of Polish women in the refugee camps in Bombay. He and some Polish men traveled there, he met my grandmother, and then they moved to Calcutta where they settled. They loved India, but with the partition, things became very unstable. They migrated to Australia when my dad was very young, and my mum migrated here as an 11-year- old with her sister, mother, and father. They arrived by ship, and as a child, I loved hearing my mum’s stories of sailing down the Suez Canal from Europe to Australia. My mother and father met at a Polish summer camp when they were teenagers, and then later again in their early 20s — and the rest is history!
– What a story! How did this family history impact you and your childhood?
There was a lot of trauma on both sides — my maternal grandmother lived through WWII in Warsaw, and my dad’s mum was of course subjected to horrors through her capture and subsequent fight for survival. The intergenerational trauma is undoubtedly present with a number of my family members. And for me, I have been plagued by anxiety and depression over the years, so I’m grateful for my practice. If I had to exist doing a “regular job,” I’m certain I’d be fired every second week.
For the most part though, I grew up in a nurturing environment. My mum fostered my creativity, and I was quite free to express myself, as she has always had a voracious appetite for history, art, and culture. From the beginning, it was pressed upon my brother and I to read, explore, and be curious. Our dad was responsible for our connection to nature, and undoubtedly from him, I have an inherent pull towards immersing myself within it.
Read the rest of this story in issue 04 of Heal Magazine. Now available in our app.