While poking around the FM Gallery and their studios, we found the lovely sculpted souls of Joe Kowalczyk (Ko-väl-chick). He is a local artist who also co-founded FM Gallery in Oakland. Besides his beautiful ceramic sculpts, Joe has a sweet series of organic flowing tree drawings on his site.
Like tokens or deities Joe’s sculptures have a sacred feel, full of symbolism and meditations on the past or future. Some stand as guardians – fierce and protective; while others are more whimsical with a modern character. It is rare that we find so many good thoughts in the form of text or written word on an artist’s website and Joe had a few things to say which really resonated with us. We’ve shared some here, in between the images.
“Almost every Balinese house has standing outside it a fierce, toothy, aggressive, hostile figure carved in stone. This being doesn’t plan to do good. I visited a mask maker, and noticed his nine-or ten-year old son sitting outside the house, making with his chisel a hostile, angry figure. The person does not aim to act out the aggressive energies as we do in football or the Spanish in bullfighting, but each person aims to bring them upward into art: that is the ideal. The Balinese can be violent and brutal in war, but in daily life they seem much less violent than we are. What can this mean? Southerners in the United States put figures of helpful little black men on the lawn, cast in iron, and we in the North do the same with serene deer. We ask for roses in the wallpaper, Renoir above the sofa, and John Denver on the stereo. Then the aggression escapes from the bag and attacks everyone.” - Robert Bly
Pasted on the wall in Joe’s studio were these insights on fear -
“When I was a child around the age of 6 or so, I remember one day my father began repainting the interior rooms of the house we lived in. Upon starting my room, he jokingly painted a smiley face on my wall, directly over my bed, using his paint roller. I distinctly remember that the smiley face, and it terrified me! I’m not sure why it scared me so much. The smiley face had no personality, no portrayal of maliciousness; it was just two paint roller rectangles above a simple smile. After seeing how I felt, my father immediately painted over it with a fresh layer of paint, but STILL I was scared. I knew that although the face was covered up, it was still there, hiding underneath this new layer of paint with that giant smile.
25 years later I still remember the event vividly, but I find it fascinating. The fear obviously wasn’t based on any legitimate threat. The fear was completely inside my head. I can’t help but to consider the fears I hold today and how they might influence my decisions. It brings me to question, which fears are legitimate, and which ones are just smiley faces. And furthermore, how did they get there?”