Over more than fifty years, Jack Zajac has created a diverse body of sculptural work. His subjects have ranged from animal skulls to flowing water--disparate images united by a desire to capture natural forms and forces and to grapple with themes of purification, sacrifice, and rebirth.
Zajac began painting at an early age. Shortly after his family moved from Ohio to Southern California, he began taking art classes at Scripps College in Claremont, California. He also worked at a steel mill, as a fisherman, bingo parlor caller, and café fiddler. Over the next decade, Zajac received increased recognition for his painting which balanced representational elements like birds and the sea with abstraction.
In 1954, Zajac received the Rome Prize, allowing him to spend an extended period in Rome. While exposed to that city's wealth of classical sculpture, he began sculpting. Many of Europe's most prominent sculptors also spent time in Rome during the post-war period including Marino Marini, Alberto Giacometti, and Giacomo Manzù. Among Zajac's earliest exhibited sculpture was a series of sacrificial animals--goats and lambs sprawled over a stake or bound on their backsides. He would return to this theme over the next several decades.
During the 1960s, Zajac produced a series of monumental bronzes depicting ram's skulls, but also created more serene images. In polished stone and bronze, he represented falling water, breaking waves, and a swan form. These subjects would continue to preoccupy him for several decades. In 1974, Zajac began teaching at University of California, Santa Cruz. Now retired, Zajac continues to live and produce sculpture in Santa Cruz.