Like many South Florida residents Urszula Dudek has developed a love affair with the beautiful bromeliad. However, Dudek has taken her passion one step farther by marrying her fascination with her artistic ability to capture the beauty of the tropical plant on canvas.
Recently, one of her bromeliad renderings was judged so precise and colorful that it won the hearts and minds of the judges at the recent state bromeliad conference in Orlando and they awarded her painting a first-place ribbon.
For the record, Dudek is a member of the board of directors of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida
Dudek, 53, originally from Poland, said she has been painting for “just about all of my life.” She came to United States in 1994 and initially settled in Chicago, where she lived for nine years before moving to Miami in 2003.
“I remember when I first started thinking about doing this [painting] a little more seriously was when I was 14 and there was time to choose your life and career,” she said. “I was torn between being a herpetologist and being an artist. My art teacher pushed me into art and art school — which was not easy in Poland — and I was chosen, so I was very lucky.”
Today, Dudek lives with her significant other in The Falls area where the backyard garden of their home is covered with a variety of bromeliads. She has a 25-year-old son, who recently graduated from Florida International University. Her home also is her studio and her bromeliad paintings in various sizes adorn the walls.
“Most people describe my work as photo reality, but I disagree,” Dudek said. “In photo reality, you are trying to hide the brush strokes. In my paintings, you can see the brush strokes. Sometimes you have to look closely, but they are visible. So, I really don’t know what to call my art — realism? Certainly, but not photo realism.”
And while her subject matter today is the colorful plants of nature, it was not always that way.
“This has changed with my aging,” she said. “Years ago I was more into painting people, but I was never a fan of architecture or landscape painting; I liked painting people. But now I am more into nature with my work.
“And how can I not be into nature when I live in Florida?” she asks rhetorically.“This is really what impressed me when I moved here, the plants and the beauty of nature; I was really in awe. And especially now, when I am really into bromeliads, as you can see.” Dudek also is a very active member of the Pinecrest Garden Club.
“It was via the Pinecrest Garden Club that I was lured to the Bromeliad Society of South Florida and I started coming to the shows,” she said. “And I just fell in love with those plants.”
She became so enamored that she became a member of the board of directors of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida. “If you see my garden, you will understand why I love plants,” she said. “I love gardening and I do a lot of work in the garden. As a result, this is what I want to paint.”
Dudek is active and in many other village activities. She even painted one of the dogs for Mayor Cindy Lerner’s recent “SmARTy Dogs” program that raised money for village schools. The dog that she painted ultimately found a very special home.
“My dog was bought — you cannot believe my surprise — by my significant other,” she said. “He bought my dog at the auction and the dog is now standing in our garden!”
Dudek will exhibit her artwork in February at the Wirtz Gallery in the First National Bank of South Miami, 5750 Sunset Dr. Her paintings will be on display along with the artwork of three other talented local artists — Pauline Goldsmith, Jacqueline Hannon and Barbara Hesse Baron. The exhibit opens Feb. 1 and continues through Feb. 28.