Cover Artist ~ Harry Wozniak
Story by Paul M. Howey
An ordinary field trip turned into a life-changing event for Harry Wozniak. He was about 12 years old when he and his classmates from a Buffalo, New York, middle school were taken on a tour of an art museum. The effect was instantaneous.
“I was struck by the colors in the paintings I saw,” recalls Harry, “colors that seemed to flood into the halls where they were hung…”
Until that moment, he says, he’d only seen pictures of paintings in books, “and here were the real things. Something in that experience just grabbed me and didn’t let go.” He began buying art instruction books and set about trying to duplicate what he had seen in the museum.
Harry’s grandmother was a ceramicist. “I always enjoyed looking at her ceramic molds and glazes and brushes, and the marvelously delicate way she did her glazing and details …” he says. “My father painted in oil pastels, did some pen-and-ink drawings, and tried his hand at watercolor, too.” And his mother studied fashion design as a young woman.
All that creative energy, he says, gave him “the freedom to dream, to play, and to create. When I expressed an interest in painting, my grandfather gave me five dollars to buy some art supplies, and I felt like I was on the top of the world. I felt very nurtured in that environment to be whoever and whatever I was going to be.
My father was my greatest influence, in art and in life,” says Harry. While helping Harry paint a stair railing, he turned to his son and said: “I think everything in life is art.” Harry has adopted that as his personal motto.
Harry’s initial fascination with painting never waned. “The concept of the painter as a kind of magician, an illusionist, someone who creates a reality out of non-reality has always intrigued me.” He adds, “Once I picked up a brush and tried my hand at it and saw just how difficult it is to pull that off, I felt challenged and still do to this day.” A self-taught artist, he admits his quest for perfection sometimes drives him nuts.
He says he tried copying still life paintings by William Harnett, landscapes by George Inness, and others. “The Hudson River school of painters held particular interest for me … and I would go to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and try to figure out how they painted what they painted.” The learning process, he insists, is something that should never stop.
But being a fulltime professional artist was not something that happened right away—not by a long shot. “I mostly painted in the evenings, after a day’s worth of the ‘regular’ work-a-day world.” While he worked at drive-in movies, factories, hospitals, and nursing homes, he never once lost sight of his dream of making a living through his painting. That opportunity finally came when he turned 50.
After what seemed to Harry like a lifetime of struggling to find time to paint, his wife Karen encouraged him to take the risk, to jump into life as an artist with both feet and not look back. “After all,” he says, “whether you take a risk or not, none of us will get out of this alive, so why not fling yourself off your perch of security and headfirst into the whirlpool of chance. So far, it’s been a wild and wonderful ride and I am having the time of my life.” About his wife, he adds, “You asked about inspiration? I think being in love is the most inspirational thing that could happen to a person.”
Several years ago, Harry began experimenting with what he calls a “fragmented” approach to his paintings, something for which he has become widely known.
“I’m interested in shifting planes, tilted perspective, and dislocation. I try to inject a sense of reality into what I’m doing at the same time I’m moving things about on the canvas. (It’s) a way of playing with perceived reality.”
Harry and Karen moved to Hendersonville last year to be near her stepdaughter and her partner. “Wanting to be near loved ones brought us here, and all the fabulous things Western North Carolina has to offer is making this whole experience seem like a dream.”
To see more of Harry Wozniak’s work, visit fracturedimage.org. His paintings are at The Conn-Artist Studios & Art Gallery in Hendersonville and at Blowing Rock Frameworks & Gallery in Blowing Rock. You can reach the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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