Under the Influence

Under the Influence with Barbara Januszkiewicz

Barbara Januszkiewicz is an American painter, artist's filmmaker and a creative activist who is best known for her stylistic independence; however, has associations with conceptual art and avant-garde elements. She specializes in watercolor painting in a hybrid style that blur the line between drawing and painting. Her 21st-century works on paper to date is the truest of hybrid style by crossing two central elements of American postwar art: color field painting and Abstract expressionism. Barb is certainly under the influence of fervent artistic passion and has immersed herself in a longing for discovery and reinvention in preparation for her contribution to the new show Under the Influence at Catholic University. ArtSee was lucky enough to correspond with the artist and her interview was wonderful and illuminating. 

We first spoke about what prompted her to take a “self-inflicted” pause to reexamine her passion for art and change her extremely distinguished  style. This dramatic decision was based on a need for further fulfillment in her art that had dissipated over the years leading up to her prominence. Barb sought to kick start her creative process all over again and challenge herself to transform and learn new techniques and styles. Two key events marked her journey to rediscovery. First, she found a new source of inspiration when when she began teaching kids at a private montessori school. Painting in a narrative style had become "too easy" for Barbara but when she saw that children desired to "explore the possibilities of paintings and not be so uptight with perfectionism" her passion was reawakened. Next, she took a summer sabbatical in Paris. While neglecting her impressionist studies she became immersed in the world Parisian jazz clubs. She found the passion that locals had for both jazz and art was "contagious" and this experience prompted deep reflection once stateside. 

After discussing her creative rebirth we were ready to talk about the upcoming show, Under the Influence. We wanted to know what effect the legacy of the Washington Color School had on her pieces for the show. Barbara pointed to the artist Morris Louis and his work composed of pouring paint directly onto the canvas. While the the physical technique left Barbara unsatisfied with muddied colors it reaffirmed her pension for the  "purity of color" and "transparency"  that can be found in watercolors. 

Under the Influence is a group show composed of several artists and with all group shows we are always curious to what degree artists collaborate with one another?  Barb shared that each artist worked independently and this is true of most visual artists. In the past, she has found herself creating unique projects with musicians. Barb found that when working with musicians she was pushed to be a better artists, stemming from admiration of their ability to trust their skills so soundly and the talents of those around them, which then pushed them to be fearless in their improvisation. 

Since the beginning of her career Barb has developed discipline in her studio practice but contrastingly has transitioned from a rigid perfectionist to someone who craves "freedom and exploration". Barbara states that now "challenges intrigue me and the more complicated the more contented I am." Looking forward Barbara is going to follow her new direction with fervor and "develop her craft". 

We finished our comprehensive interview with one of ArtSee's favorite questions with a slight personal twist: 

ArtSee: An aspiring artist who is a friend of this blogger  has begun what she calls “a healthy habit” of sketching everyday along with painting a daily watercolor, do you have any other “healthy habits” or routines that you do and would recommend to emerging artists?

Barb Januszkiewicz: I think every creative needs to have some type of warming up. I call it Zen painting time. you don’t expect a ballerina to walk onstage without warming up her muscles,  so why don’t artists feel they should warm up their creative mojo?  I actually find after a day of painting the last thing I do is usually not that precious, and surprisingly the most effortless and fresh of the day.  

We thank  Barb Januszkiewicz very much for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out Under the Influence at the Catholic Univeristy opening, March 21st and closing April 12th. For more information, see Barb's website www.barbaraj.info. 

Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Mica Hartman