Art lovers throughout the world cherish the photographs and paintings of Patricia Izzo-Kulczycki, but perhaps nowhere was she more appreciated than in her own backyard.
Surrounded by family members, Izzo-Kulczycki died Feb. 12, 2021, after battling a 15-month illness. She was 72.
The owner of Patricia Izzo Fine Art Photography Studio/Gallery, she was regarded as a pillar in the Wyandotte and Downriver arts communities.
Born on Sept. 22, 1948, in Detroit, her family moved to Southgate when she was still a child. She graduated from Schafer High School and then went on to earn her bachelor of fine arts degree and masters of arts degree from Northern Michigan University in painting and photography.
Her husband, Stan Kulczycki, recalls that he met the love of his life at a party his brother threw in 1979. The couple married on Jan. 7, 1983, and moved to Wyandotte.
Outside of her career in the art world, Izzo-Kulczycki worked for 23 years at the Renaissance Club in downtown Detroit. She worked her way up to regional training service director for the Club Corporation of America, where she trained staff at clubs throughout the United States and Canada.
According to her husband, she left that job in September 2001 and concentrated on her art career.
In 2001, a huge fire in downtown Wyandotte claimed several businesses, art galleries and art studios, including Izzo-Kulczycki’s. She lost the entire contents of her studio and had to make a fresh start.
“It was a catharsis,” she said in a News-Herald interview many years later. “The only thing you can do is start again. There’s no other real choice. Most artists don’t understand the words ‘give up.’”
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, she and fellow artist Sharon Simms moved into a space above R.P. McMurphy’s tavern in downtown Wyandotte, where she remained for about three years.
From there, she found a new home at River’s Edge Gallery, where her friendship with owner Patricia Slack grew even stronger.
“Patty and I had been acquaintances because of the art connection,” Slack said. “But we became fast friends after my husband died. She mothered me after his death. My life is not the same without her. She was that kind of gal. She had vast amounts of an ability to love.”
On the River’s Edge Gallery website, Slack referred to Izzo-Kulczycki as the heart of River’s Edge Gallery. She recounted this memory of Izzo-Kulczycki’s studio on the third floor, which was always filled with beautiful works of art in all stages of the creative cycle:
“It was and is filled with photos of famous people and people she loved like her beloved mother Stella, her precious daughter Stasia, her ever steady husband Stan and plants, lots of plants,” Slack said. “Her favorite quote by Jack Kerouac is prominent which embodied her approach to life ‘The only people for me are the mad ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved ….’ And her motto from Joan of Arc ‘I am not afraid, I was born for this.’”
Of the many things he will miss about his wife, Kulczycki said at the top of the list was her vitality for life.
“She always thought young,” he said. “Always. Age was never important to her. She was so young at heart, and always had a positive outlook on life.”
Izzo-Kulczycki received numerous awards throughout her career, recognizing the high artistic quality of her work, including being awarded the Gold Medal in color photography in the prestigious 30th annual Michigan Photographic Exhibition in 1999, and a Gold Medal in 1996 for black-and-white photography in the 27th Exhibition.
Her art has been featured in American Photo Magazine, Women’s Day, and the Florida and Southern review, along with the movie Harold and Kumar III.
She was a member of the Detroit Focus, National Women’s Caucus for the Arts, and the Feminist Art Project. She served on the boards of the Downriver Council of the Arts and the Scarab Club in Detroit.
Some of her art works have found their way into the hands of private collectors in London, New York, Chicago and Belize.
Her art was shown both nationally and internationally, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, which displays “Wild Ponies,” a black-and-white image of two children, who after running under a sprinkler on a hot summer day jumped onto a Ford Mustang, screaming with delight.
That photograph was taken from her Childhood Series.
“In it, I catch children who are having so much fun that they are unaware of my camera,” she said in a statement explaining her series of photographs. “I capture the undaunted spirit of pure play.”
Her work also has been shown at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, Mira Goddard Center for Photography, Ryerson University in Toronto, and the Bibliothèque du Paris.
But local fans of her art considered themselves fortunate, since Izzo-Kulczycki was an artist residence at River’s Edge Gallery.
“There is so much in that little studio like Patty herself who was so much in that human form with her shocking black hair, truly dancing eyes and smile meant to share joy and take away the pain,” Slack said. “She was an empath. She could feel pain across the room. I had been sitting with her many times where she would go sit with a stranger and just talk, buy a meal anonymously, leave gifts for those she felt needed them. If you think she loved you, she did. Everyone who felt you were special to her, you were. Her capacity for love and caring was so vast.”
Those feelings were echoed by Paula Neuman, a longtime friend who recalled how Izzo-Kulczycki could find beauty in everyone and everything.
“She shared that gift in her art, but also in her life,” Neuman said. “She inspired you and made you better. Her annual holiday parties were the best part of the year for anyone lucky enough to attend. She believed strongly in family, in human rights and equality, and in the power of love and art. She was incredibly talented, but also incredibly kind and generous.”
In a description noted in her artist’s statement, Izzo-Kulczycki said her creative force found its natural flow in fine art photography and painting.
“My images reflect back to the viewer a moment in time, a fleeting second, forgotten memories, and a glance into their past, present or future,” she said. “My work can unlock inner doors to healing, forgiveness, passion, sensuality, love and the possibility of change.”
In a December 2017 News-Herald article, she said each image begins as “something hidden that longed to escape or be known.”
“I take risks for my art,” she said. “Whether the reaction is pleasant or unnerving, my images will hopefully move you.”
Izzo-Kulczycki said each viewer’s relationship with her work is deeply personal.
“If my images open up an intimate door and one is able to feel an emotional or intellectual response or connection, then my art — my passion — serves the viewer well,” she said.
According to Slack, Izzo-Kulczycki had been working on her biannual show with artist Martine MacDonald.
“And, as Patty would want, the show will go on,” Slack said. “The gallery will host the show in September. Patty’s studio is also open for public visits during gallery hours.”
In addition to her husband, Stan, and daughter, Stasia, she is also survived by her granddaughter, Lily. Other survivors include three younger brothers: Jamie, Tom and Michael Izzo. She is predeceased by her parents, Stella and Patsy Izzo.
Visitation will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Czopek Funeral Home, 2157 Oak St., Wyandotte.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at Christ the Good Shepherd Church, 1540 Riverbank St., Lincoln Park.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the ARC Downriver to help support continuation of Izzo-Kulczycki’s legacy with her students. Donations should be in care of the Art at the ARC program located at 1028 Oak St., Wyandotte, MI 48192. For those who wish to learn more, visit downriverarc.org.
Family members and community supporters gathered Friday evening for a candlelight vigil in memory of 13-year-old Phoebe Elliott near the inter…
Although Grosse Ile Township is at or near the top of the list of safest communities in Michigan every year, it can’t hurt to add another dedi…
The sound of inquisitive and fun-loving chatter has gone silent in Darren and Lisa Capps’ house — and they’re doing their level best to deal with it.
Melvindale police consider the death of a woman found near the back lawn of a Melvindale house suspicious.