Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Remarks at Art in Embassies Opening Reception


Art in Embassies Opening Reception

July 12, 2022

Welcome to the house of the American people for the opening of the Art in Embassies exhibition.  We have invited you here to discuss the beautiful pieces that are on display in this home, but first, I have a surprise for you.

We are joined by a very special guest this evening: Former Secretary of State and current Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. He leads President Biden’s efforts to combat global climate change and he truly has dedicated his entire life to public service.

Secretary Kerry has made immense sacrifices to fight for what matters, be it to protect our planet or to protect our great country while serving in Vietnam.  He earned a Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and Three Purple Hearts for his decisions that saved his crewmates’ lives.

And he has brought that same strength and leadership to his new role on the front lines of our battle against climate change.

Secretary Kerry would you like to say a few words?  

(Secretary Kerry speaks)

Secretary Kerry, thank you again for taking the time to visit Poland and for joining us here as we kick off the exhibition.  I have really been looking forward to this.

For close to 60 years the Department of State program Art in Embassies has allowed U.S. ambassadors’ residences around the globe to share a universal language through visual art.

The theme for this exhibition, which features over 30 pieces, is the art of dance.  The idea was inspired by my teenage daughter Aurora.  She’s a dancer and attends classes here in Warsaw.  My daughter uses dance to communicate, it allows her to share how she’s thinking and feeling without saying a word.

And what Aurora does is an art form, each twirl, each spin, is like when a painter adds another brush stroke on canvas.

I can see the connection because art has really been a part of my life since I was born.  My mother, Emilie, is an artist.  Her monumental wood sculptures, constructed with chainsaws and axes, exude a feeling of movement too.  It’s like they are dancing.

I wanted to bring that feeling into this home and share it with you this evening, because dance is freeing.  It bridges divides, it speaks to all of us.  Dance is expressive and carries cultural meaning.  It also shows how much our cultures are intertwined. 

Thanks to the hard work of the Arts in Embassies team and the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, we’ve curated quite a collection.  It includes three Polish photographers who have graciously agreed to share their pieces with us.

These visionary artists are here tonight – Anna Orłowska, Weronika Gęsicka, and Paweł Bownik – what an honor is to display your thought-provoking work.  Your artistry binds our people together. Thank you for lending your artwork to this exhibition, and thank you as well to Gunia Nowik Gallery and Jednostka Gallery.

Bardzo dziękuję Państwu za ten wyjątkowy wkład.

In the dining room you’ll see Orłowska’s photographs of Isadora Duncan’s dress.  Duncan was an American dancer in the early 1900’s who broke all the rules.  Instead of a piece in motion, you get to view the artifacts that helped her define modern dance and let your imagination take you away.

Gesicka’s work, which you’ll find in the entryway by the piano, tells a different story from America’s past.  Her digitally modified photographs from the 1950’s and 60’s give everyday life a new meaning, creating a world suspended between truth and fiction.

And Bownik has documented dance costumes showing another side of the Polish Roma people.  He has turned clothes inside out to expose hidden details, provoking questions about cultural narratives and identity.

These unique and beautiful pieces tie in marvelously with the art that has crossed the Atlantic from American and Polish-American artists.

As you walk around and view these works for yourself you will also see a collection filled with diversity.  There are African American pieces that feature roller disco, and breakdancing.  There is also vibrant art on display of Native American tribes dancing in traditional clothing.

Diverse cultures and ethnicities make up the rich fabric of the United States of America and these pieces absolutely represent that.

You can learn more about the entire collection by scanning the QR code on the postcards we have handed out.  The code will link you to the digital catalog of the exhibit.  Secretary Kerry might appreciate –and I hope you will too – that we have spared a tree and refrained from printing paper catalogs!  

Cały czas pamiętamy, żeby dbać o środowisko naturalne!

Finally, while the art in this exhibition implies motion, we are going a step further this evening.  I’d like to welcome Step Afrika to the stage. They are the first professional dance company in the United States devoted to stepping.  Step Afrika, stomp away!