Karolina “Lola” Danek arrived in the United States in 1950 with her sons and husband. They had survived World War II and, at its end, had been living in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Lola and her family were Polish and, soon after their arrival, they settled in Worcester, Massachusetts in a predominantly Polish section of the city. In the early years living on Vernon Hill, she bore a son and, later, took up the challenge of trying to acquiring wealth, fame, and prosperity. She worked in the Brown Shoe factory and, unsatisfied with being just a worker there, sold jewelry from Mr. Bielawski’s jewelry store to her co-workers on the side. In addition to working, she acted on stage with a Polish group at venues like the White Eagle Club and dabbled in other artistic areas like music, pencil sketching, and writing. (She has published several books, some in Polish and some in English.) She bought the jewelry business from Mr. Bielawski’s and continued it on Millbury Street in Worcester. Years later, when her son’s rock-and-roll band piqued her interest, she opened a rock-and-roll club for teenagers. After that she converted the rock-and-roll business into that of a pool hall. None of these endeavors, however, were as satisfying or successful as the art she created next.
Nearing retirement, she took up oil painting with zeal, applying the same energy to it as she had applied to all the other things she’d ever done in her life. After a number of years of doing straight oil work, she incorporated the application of jewelry to it. Her “jeweled art” soon transformed her into a successful folk artist. In order to devote herself more completely to her art, she moved to Caribou, Maine where she bought a house, largely to be used as a living museum to her art. With her paintings hanging on all the available walls, she was content.
During the heyday the folk art (1980’s), her jeweld paintings hung in museums and art galleries. She was invited to folk art fairs in various parts of the country. Her story has been recorded in a chapter of a book about Folk Art by Dan Prince (Passing In The Outsider Lane is out-of-print but may still be available from Amazon.com). She finally achieved the fame and, to a much lesser extent, the fortune she always wanted.
Lola is no longer with us. Upon her death in 1997, her sons gathered up her belongings from Caribou, Maine and brought back the large collection of her jeweled and unjeweled paintings. There were over 120 of them.
These web pages provide a glimps into the world she created. Not all of her paintings are included in this collection. Many are hanging in the homes of private collectors and were not recorded in the final photographic inventory.
A web search through Google may bring you to other online sources of Lola’s works. America Oh Yes! has some of her hand sketches on sale. Click here to see them. Then there’s folkart.com with even more sketches.