Profile: Jacob Staskowski uses art to depict Type I diabetes

By Shelby Otto
A&E Editor

Jacob Staskowski is a senior fine arts major with a focus in painting and a minor in art education. He uses his artwork to raise awareness about Type I diabetes. 

Staskowski’s current body of work hangs on the ground floor of Rohrbach Library and draws the eye with a narrow use of color and a strong application of contrast. Each painting depicts a person struck with Type I diabetes or the materials and tools associated and necessary for a Type I diabetic. 

Staskowski was diagnosed with Type I after his first semester here at KU. 

“It really rocked my world,” he said when explaining that he eventually began going to therapy to work through his personal issues and how his therapist encouraged him to explore the disease through his artwork. 

“At first, it became very personal,” Staskowski stated. “Like, stuff I didn’t want to show anyone.” 

Eventually, he met people through social media who further encouraged him to make more artwork surrounding the struggles of Type I diabetics. Other Type I’s reached out and shared their stories. One connection led him to paint and sell a portrait to be shipped to California, where it is possibly going to be hung in the Children’s Hospital of L.A. The subject of the painting received care there for Type I as a child. 

“Connecting in that community really inspires me to kind of branch my artwork out more,” said Staskowski.

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Staskowski’s Exhibit, Rohrbach Library – Photo by Brittany Baldwin, The Keystone

Standing in front of the paintings that hang in Rohrbach Library, the viewer might notice a muddy wash of colors over a collection of similarly sized canvases. Staskowski mainly incorporates the colors blue and orange in order to more easily manipulate the work and further focus on the form and composition. To relay the invisibility of this particular disease, he uses historical art symbols from religious works that date back to the Renaissance era. 

Staskowski stated, “While I was making a lot of this work, I was taking Art History B which focuses on work all throughout the Renaissance all over Europe, and then after that semester, I took Italian Renaissance with Dr. Kulpa.” 

Throughout art history, figures depicted wearing a halo were signified as being touched by God. For Staskowski, he uses the halo for a different reason.

“I always admired how the artists applied these halos and what the halo signified. I use the halo as a symbol of someone being touched by Type I diabetes,” he explained. 

Staskowski’s upcoming work will incorporate similar ideas concerning Type I; however, he looks to work bigger, with a more limited color palette, and on a larger scale. 

Overall, Staskowski looks to employ his work to raise awareness. “What I really want my viewers to know is that if they’re a Type I, they’re not alone and that there’s a community here waiting for you,” and for people who are not Type I’s, “I just want them to know it’s a thing and it’s an actual problem in this country.”