Kalamazoo artist Linda Rzoska (pronounced ZOO-skuh) was already a tree hugger and climber as a little girl, growing up in Bangor. As she developed an interest in art, it was only natural that her favorite topic would be trees.
As a child, she lived on a dead end street. Where the street ended there was a fence. And on the other side of that fence was a ravine and another world, filled with trees. She hugged them; she sat with her back leaning against their trunks; she climbed into their canopies and let her feet dangle below her, at one with the craggy branches.
"I spent most of my time in that ravine to get away from my little brother." Rzoska laughs. "He kept punching me. My sisters called me 'Nature Girl.'"
Back then, Rzoska stood by the fence, fingers curled through the wire, and gazed at the great old trees. "I could hear them whisper, ‘Come on, Linda, come closer.'" Rzoska shrugs and smiles. "I've been following that voice ever since."
As an art student at Western Michigan University, Rzoska told her art professor, "I want to paint trees." She was fascinated by nature, folklore, mythology and comparative religion. “But trees, they are my community. I feel like I am welcomed in that community."
In later years, Rzoska continued her graduate studies in art management and began her own home-based business, Design and Illustration Associates. Today, Rzoska is the owner of Ninth Wave Studio on Walnut Street in Kalamazoo, where art lovers can see her work and that by many other area artists.
Linda Rzoska has taught art at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University. She is a founding member of KVCC's Center for New Media.
Her artwork can also be found at J. Petter Galleries in Saugatuck, Michigan.
Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.