Joan Krawczyk says that she is a “search for the sublime” kind of painter. It doesn’t surprise me after hearing her tales of travel and transition in the art world. A path she has followed from Windsor Ontario, Detroit, New Jersey and Manhattan where a less predictable turn in her life led her to Pictou County and eventually to an empty and she suspects a slightly haunted Anglican Church in Trenton. Joan’s life is like the colour wheel of an artists palette where different experiences are blended like little dabs of crimson, aquamarine and yellow ochre. She has a gregarious laugh and today wears two loose braids that give her a youthful appeal even though she moves with the care that a person takes when their bones speak to them.
Two elegantly large antique sofas with an equally scaled coffee table that followed her from New York sit in the centre of the church, which is now her studio, an artists drop-in and her home. There is art everywhere. Every inch of space and every surface holds a painting or fragment of her life. There is lots of evidence that the church once filled with attentive parishioners is now a sanctuary for different social pursuits. She walks me through her space where there is little divide between her professional and personal life and points to the different aspects of her collection. She pulls out several canvases of completed portraits and one of a local personality that is still in progress. With only a few strokes of colour I can recognize the face. She says that she would like to leave that painting at this point but knows that most people want more detail. She shows me another of a journalist that she met several years ago while in New York and asked her to sit for her. Her hair a tousle of rainbow and I want to ask her to paint me that way.
“One can recognize a person by the way they walk, by their outline. Detail isn’t necessary. It can confuse or litter the content. I want the essence of the subject matter,” she explains.
Joan says that she finds subject matter everywhere. She has hundreds of photos and sketches that she finds inspirational. Recently she has turned her attention to painting crows. She celebrates their social nature and laughs that she thinks that she has a lot in common with the crows that often visit her church steeple. “They like shiny things and are very social,” she says again with a laugh that also reveals her own sense of humour.
Crows, often associated with the macabre are more a source of amusement than superstition for Joan who believes that they are a bird that is often misunderstood.
“They are definitely messengers but I am not superstitious. I like to feel the energy in nature and our surroundings. For me I want to show or reveal how I feel. It is the vibrations of everything.”
The paintings of individual crows that Joan pulls from her walls to give me for a short loan each have their own personality, which is interesting in itself as they are a bird with little variation in their genus Corvus. Each crow was painted over a layer of silver and gold leaf giving them a mystical feel that speaks of her love for the sublime. Black brush strokes look like they easily made contact with the canvas. Again dispelling the need for detail as she captures the bird’s intent.
“I love to paint. I love the act of painting. I love putting paint on a surface. It is magic to me.”