Nata Piaskowski

(1912-2004)

 

Nata Piaskowski was born in Lodz, Poland in 1912. Following her education, Piaskowski became a schoolteacher in Lodz in 1935. Escaping German persecution, she and her husband lived in Switzerland before emigrating to the United States in 1942 at the height of German U-boat activity. Her husband committed suicide shortly after their arrival. She was thirty years old. Both of Piaskowski's parents died in the Warsaw Ghetto at the hands of the Nazis.
Piaskowski settled in Carmel, California, and became friends with Edward Weston, Johan Hagemeyer and the European-trained American painter, Martin Baer, with whom she formed a lifelong partnership. They both moved to San Francisco where Piaskowski studied with Minor White CSFA from 1948 to 1950. She came to consider White her major influence, and remained his lifelong friend. Her correspondence is an essential part of the Minor White archives. In 1949, the CSFA awarded Piaskowski an honorary scholarship.


From 1954 to 1975, Piaskowski worked as historian and photo archivist for the Bechtel Corporation, returning to her old position on a part-time basis in 1979. She continued working with a large camera until 1967 when she acquired a 35mm Leicaflex and moved to color.  Along with Donald Ross and Dody Weston (Thompson), Piaskowski organized the 1954 Perceptions exhibition of Northern California photographers, mostly of the Bay Area, held at the San Francisco Museum of Art.
From 1968 to 1976 she did a series of shop windows in color inspired by the psychedelic movement that had spread from the Haight-Ashbury to Polk Street, where she and Martin Baer lived. These were exhibited at the Focus Gallery in 1977. She then turned to a series based upon abstractions created by the curved windows of her apartment, a project that she worked on for the next several years.


In 1982, Piaskowski received an Artist-in-Residence grant from the Briarcombe Foundation in Bolinas, California, where she spent a month photographing "the changing, ever new landscape at low tide."
In 1992, Piaskowski and Ruth Bernhard exhibited together at Skyline College in San Bruno. Her last major show, a retrospective from 1948 to 1992, was at the Schneider Museum of Art in Ashland, Oregon. A memorial exhibition, also in Ashland, was held at the Davis & Cline Gallery.


Her work is in the San Francisco Museum of Modem Art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.


Piaskowski died in the Jewish Home for the Aged in San Francisco on the 19th of August 2004. She was 92 years old.