Kaz country: Painter Joe Kazimierczyk immerses himself in local landscapes
by Gwen Shrift
(click for larger)
(click for larger)
Sometimes, when he’s out riding his bike through rural Hunterdon County, something about the angle of hill and horizon, of cloud or sun, strikes Joe Kazimierczyk where he lives.
He marks the setting in his mind, then returns with his painting kit. What emerges are carefully studied, deeply felt renderings of his surroundings — a painterly worldview that reflects the artist’s involvement with the Sourland Mountains.
This unassuming, unspoiled region a few miles east of Lambertville, one of the most beautiful in New Jersey, seems tailor-made for a painter of pastoral subjects.
“There’s so much, right around here,” says Kazimierczyk. “A lot of these are extremely close to my house. Some of these, I’ve literally painted right across the street.”
Kazimierczyk exhibits widely in the region, showing accomplished works such as “Neshanic Mill,” a study of a dramatic red building by a bridge on the Neshanic Creek, the latter rendered in slashing currents of pigment.
In “Rusted Roofs,” he chose to bring the foreground high on the canvas, which makes the tops of some farm buildings a critical afterthought in emotional terms.
“Clover Hill Afternoon,” another study of farm buildings, seems almost abstract in its severe adherence to architectural forms, and almost surreal in its cool, pulsating strokes of red-blue.
These works and many others are the product of natural inclination combined with opportunity, all of it recent.
Kazimierczyk, 51, has won plaudits for his work in a host of exhibits. But prior to 2005, “I honestly didn’t know what a juried show was,” he says.
While growing up in nearby Hamilton, Kazimierczyk was interested in painting, but not as a profession. Still, he took occasional drawing classes and “I probably read every art book in the library when I was growing up,” he recalls.
He planned a career in architecture, and was accepted to a university in Kentucky. It was a pivotal career move, but not for conventional reasons. Kazimierczyk realized: “I don’t want to do this!”
He took up data processing. “I guess it was the field to get into, ’83, ’82. Computers were the hot, new thing,” he says. Kazimierczyk worked in the profession for 25 years, until getting laid off a few years ago.
He had already started exhibiting his work, entering six shows in 2005, five of them juried, and winning three awards, including a purchase award at his very first show. His other award winners also sold.
“That’s something that will build one’s confidence — to get objective opinion,” he says. But as with many artists employed in non-art fields, he seemed never to have enough time to devote to painting.
After the job upheaval, a second big realization occurred: “If I’m ever gonna do it, here’s my chance,” he recalls. He now views the layoff as “sort of a blessing in disguise.”
Kazimierczyk applied his strenuous work ethic to art, essentially teaching himself how to paint and associating with accomplished artists around the region, to whom he’s universally known as “Joe Kaz.”
He filled the walls of a room in his house floor to ceiling with landscape views and, most importantly for a self-employed artist, his work continues to sell. “I’m actually surprised how good things are going,” he says.
Kazimierczyk’s landscapes often incorporate a long look ahead or slightly to one angle, a visual escape into the painting for the viewer along a country road, or a towpath, or railroad track, or canal or stream. In “St. Michael’s Barn Window,” the escape is framed in a sun-striped barn interior.
Sometimes, the landscape is above his head, yielding works like the evocative “Night Ride Home,” with its dark field and road under a still-blue sky banded with orange sunset and ragged gray cloud. “Amwell Sky” is about highways in the clouds, one variation on a recent theme that preoccupies the painter.
“I’ve been doing more skyscapes, sunsets, cloudscapes — I’m finding a little fascination with that now,” he says.
Kazimierczyk works mostly in oils and mostly outdoors, though he has photographed scenes that he later painted in his home studio.
“The plein air work gives you such a good foundation for other types of work,” he says. “I sort of know what the photograph is not capturing.”
Other times, he invents a perspective or a detail, or a color not present in reality, to “see where my imagination takes it,” he says.
Kazimierczyk also has passed another benchmark of artistic accomplishment: the solo show.
The painter has two to his credit, one at the former Gallery Verde in Kingston, N.J., and another at the Hopewell Frame Shop. A third is planned later this year at Bell’s Tavern in Lambertville.
Artist’s website: www.joekaz.com.