For The Mathematician, Julia Cybularz catalogs the life of her cousin Slaweck Kosmala, a developmentally delayed man of 40 years who has dealt with schizophrenia for 16 years. Slaweck is a Polish emigrant, but within his mother’s house in northeast Philadelphia, he has carved out a world all his own. Cybularz, immersing herself in her cousin’s obsessive mathematical calculations, presents Slawek’s inner landscape, one he has agreed to share with her.
The intimate portraits are colored with a kind of loneliness; Slaweck cleaves to a fallen tree, or he stands over the body of a sleeping girl in a pose that resembles one of mourning, waiting for his companion to wake. The natural world, a field or a pool littered with leaves, gape back at him, the vast empty space filling with his private thoughts. In Cybularz’s images, fragments of the self are revealed: a delicate chain necklace, an American flag t-shirt, a religious image hung slightly off center, a painting that was never removed from its cardboard packaging. Through Slaweck’s eyes, we are invited to recognize the value of those tiny, banal moments which we take for granted, to seek genuine intimacy and human connection in the details.