James Mroczkowski, the eldest of five children, was born in 1950 in Windsor, Ontario as James Albert Mroczkowski. He is the father of three children.
He was raised in Windsor. In 1970, he moved to Toronto, Ontario, where he attended the Foundations program of the Ontario College of Art (now the Ontario College of Art and Design) from 1970 to 1971. In 1971, he returned to Windsor, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Windsor from 1971 to 1974. He worked as a graduate teaching assistant in life drawing while he earned a Masters of Fine Art (MFA) in painting at York University from 1974 to 1976, studying with teachers Kenneth Lochead, Doug Morton, and Vera Frankel. His MFA was the first MFA from an Ontario university. He was also the first recipient of the Samuel Sarick Award as the Outstanding MFA graduate at York. In 1976, he moved to Windsor, where he was an itinerant art instructor at Essex County RCSSB in Essex, Ontario from 1976 to 1980. At the University of Windsor, he earned a Bachelors of Education from 1976 to 1977, followed by a Masters of Education, from 1982 to 1984; both degrees specialized in art education.
He moved to North Bay, Ontario in 1980. At Nipissing University, he was assistant professor of art and art education from 1980 to 2002, associate dean of education from 1990 to 1992, and associate professor of art and art education as well as division chair from 2002 to 2006. At Canadore College, which is adjacent to Nipissing University, he taught life drawing in the Artsperience program from 2003 to 2006. He took a sabbatical from 1986 to 1987 at the University of British Columbia, where he did post-graduate research studies in art education. He also took sabbatical in 1999 and 2005 to prepare works for solo exhibitions. He was a member of the planning commission for the White Mountain Academy of the Arts in Elliot Lake, Ontario. In the summer of 2006, he retired from teaching full-time and moved to Windsor, where he was appointed the same summer to a two-year term on the Public Art Advisory Committee for the municipality of Windsor. He currently works as a practicum supervisor in education for Nipissing University in the Windsor, Chatham and Sarnia areas. In fall 2006, he is teaching courses in General Education Methodology: Visual Arts Education for the University of Windsor as a sessional lecturer.
He served on the board of directors of White Water Gallery in North Bay from 1983 to 1986 and 1999 to 2003 and the North Bay Arts Centre (now the Capitol Centre) from 1992 to 1997.
Solo exhibitions of his work include: Spoke Club Gallery (2006, Toronto, Ontario), New Works on Paper (2004, Joan Ferneyhough Gallery, North Bay, Ontario), Jim Mroczkowski: A Survey (2001, W. K. P. Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, Ontario), Jim Mroczkowski: Recent Work (2000, Joan Ferneyhough Gallery), Jim Mroczkowski: New Works (2000, Gallery 100 Scotia Bank Plaza, Toronto), Jim Mroczkowski: New 2D Works (1999), Jim Mroczkowski: 2D Works (1998, Joan Ferneyhough Gallery), White Water Gallery (1989, 1985, 1981), Leddy Gallery, Jim Mroczkowski: Paintings (1977, Windsor), and MFA Thesis Exhibition (1976, Samuel J. Sacks Gallery, Toronto).
He has received the following grants: Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Grant (2004, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997). In 2002, he received an Ontario Arts Council Senior Artists Grant and in 1999, he received an Ontario Arts Council Mid Career Artists Grant.
James' works are in private, public and corporate collections, including: C. John D'Agostino & Associates, Barristers and Solicitors; Corporation of the City of North Bay; FDM4 Enterprises/Cutsey Business Systems; Grant & Thorton Accounting, Management Consulting; J. S. Redpath Group; Ontario Northland Commission; Ontario Realty Corporation; Physicians Health/Ontario Medical Association (Toronto); Province of Ontario; REM Capitol Corporation; Rooney Architectural Design (Burlington, Vermont); University of Windsor; Vernasse Construction (North Bay); W. K. P. Kennedy Gallery; and York University (Toronto).
James was represented by Joan Ferneyhough Gallery in North Bay from 1996 to 2006.
(The biographical information featured here was written in consultation with the artist in 2006.)
Q: What is your earliest memory of creating art?
A: My earliest memory of creating art occurred when I was five years old. Along with my brother who was two years younger at the time, we were waiting for the arrival of our new baby sister and our Mom to come home from the hospital. We were told by our father that Mom wasn't feeling very well and that the doctor wanted her to rest and have quiet. I remember being very disappointed in not being able to talk with her. She was suffering from what is now known as post partum depression. Days passed and still my mom did not want to see me or my brother. Dr. Luborsky came to the house (they made house calls in those days!) every other day to check in on her condition. On one of his visits, the door of my mom's bedroom was ajar and I peeked inside. The curtains were drawn, the lights were off and in the faint glimmer of daylight sneaking in from the edges of the window frame, I saw her. She looked very sad. I felt bad for her. Just as the doctor left her bedside, I scurried away from the door as the doctor left her bedroom. He asked my father if I was the one who painted the picture on the wall of the bedroom. He told him that I did that painting the first week of school. The next day, the doctor came to our house and presented me with some tempera paints, brushes and paper. When he handed them to me, I noticed that he had numbers written on his forearm (he was a Holocaust survivor). He asked me to paint as many beautiful pictures as I would like and that he would show them to my mother every time I completed one. (He was trying to treat my depression as well by giving me something to occupy my time I suspect). Needless to say, I painted lots of pictures and true to his word he showed each and every one of them to her. Before too long, my mom recovered and Dr. Luborsky told me that her recovery was predicated upon my paintings and the joy they brought to my mother. To this very day, I believe in the power of art.....to portray feelings......to express ideas...... to communicate thoughts.....and most importantly......to heal the human spirit.
Q: When did you first feel like an artist?
A: I first felt like an artist when I had two works accepted into a regional juried exhibition in Southwestern Ontario thirty-seven years ago. However, I have never referred to myself as an artist. I always told people that I was a painter. Being referred to as an artist was something that another person bestowed upon you... you don't bestow the honorific on yourself. I still feel this way.
Q: In light of the fact that you've recently moved away from North Bay, how do you feel living in North Bay contributed to your practice?
A: Living in North Bay contributed very little to my artistic practice. I would have produced my work and its associated imagery regardless of where I lived I believe. I'm not a landscape painter, so the land and the area had no influence on me or my work. While I do contend that artists are shaped by the conditional and contextual narratives of their lives, my work primarily emanated from a more cerebral, intellectual discourse with my self and my inner thoughts. I've also lived in Toronto, Windsor, and Vancouver and my work was essentially similar in its intent in those places as it was in North Bay.
Q: Can you describe your creative process? -How would you say your work has changed over time?
A: Over time, my work has evolved to become more conceptual. It remains very well designed, highly decorative, visually engaging, and enigmatic. However, my ideas are more robust, idiosyncratic and personal. I have developed a visual lexicon that I enjoy using on a recurring basis. The syntactical and structural elements remain solid. My palette has become more subdued and my intentions behind the work more authentic for me personally. I still want the work to speak for itself. I have little patience for pretentious self musings by artists who feel the need to explain their work in order for it to be understood. Part of the reason why I have never succeeded in becoming more widely recognized is because I refuse to engage in such claptrap...or to take on a "personality" to set myself "apart" from other image makers. I once told a critic in Toronto that I won't suck cock to advance my career. Hence, here I am; middle-aged.....relatively unknown, unyielding to fads or fashion, obscure....and still making art that I KNOW is good.
Q: How did your interest in arts education develop?
A: My interest in arts education came out of a response to a demand made of me. My first wife said that I had to get a "real job". I went into teaching to earn a regular paycheck. I enjoyed teaching. I still do. I'm good at, or so I'm told.
(Interview with Heather Saunders, December, 2006).
James Mroczkowski, writing clears away the whiteness of the page, mixed media on paper
James Mroczkowski, featured in White Water Gallery press release
7 January 1986
James Mroczkowski, featured in White Water Gallery exhibition schedule