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Exuding confidence

Artist Gaines’ work on display at joeyg’s

Madison retiree still painting at age 76

By Laurel Sparks
Contributing Writer

(May 2005) – “Have confidence!” are favorite words of advice from the painter who signs herself “M. Migoet.” She believes that artists should feel “confident and free enough to do whatever type of work they like.”

Krysia Gaines Painting

Photo by Laurel Sparks

A church in Madison
and a boy are two subjects in Krysia Gaines’ paintings on the wall at joey’s in May.

M. Migoet’s real name is Krysia Gaines. A 76-year-old mother of three and grandmother of four, she has lived in Madison with her husband, Vernon, for nearly a decade. An exhibition of her art is currently on the wall at joeyg’s Restaurant and Nightclub in downtown Madison.
As a young woman, Gaines began signing her paintings “M. Migoet” on the advice of an agent in Beverly Hills, Calif. “In those days,” she explains, “art sold better if they thought you might be a man.”
Her choice of the French “Migoet” as a painting name is also unusual because Gaines grew up in Chicago’s Polish neighborhoods. But to this day, she remains “Migoet.” She has kept the name because it is how people have always recognized her as an artist.
During the early years of the 20th century, Gaines’ father was a respected member of the Polish Community in Chicago. He owned a tavern and wrote a regular column for a Polish-language newspaper. At age 14, Gaines began painting murals by creating one for her father’s business. By age 18, she was drawing cartoons to illustrate the newspaper column.
Though young Gaines earned a scholarship to study at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, financial problems forced her to drop out. The late l930s found her father writing a popular radio program, and then the family decided to form its own theater troupe to perform in Polish communities throughout the United States. In l956, Gaines accompanied her parents and older sister, Danita, to Hollywood.
Gaines says she felt “her dream had come true” when her artwork was discovered by the agent Harry Soicher. By l962, she had begun meeting a demand for colorful “primitives.” These paintings became so popular with the interior decorators of Palm Springs that she had three one-person shows at Sloans of Beverly Hills. Paintings that weren’t sold were often rented.

Drysia Gaines

Photo provided

This photo of Krysia Gaines
was taken in her early years.

One found its way onto the set of a l971 Clint Eastwood film titled, “Play Misty for Me.” Among the celebrities who purchased Gaines’ paintings were Bob Newhart, Kaye Ballard, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Greer Garson. Later, Garson donated her Gaines murals to the Children’s Hospital in Palm Springs.
On exhibit at joeyg’s are some street scenes and about 15 portraits. The street scenes are in Gaines’ “primitive” style, a method influenced by the French impressionists. There are two large paintings of scenes in Historic Madison. One depicts an antique store and surrounding shops on Madison’s Main Street. The second, titled, “Church on Mulberry Street,” has lively colors and many vertical lines emphasizing the height of the church.

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