2014-03-06 / News

Oil painter’s work on display at library

By Ken Shane

Rene Stawicki doesn’t use models for her work, but instead relies on her imagination. An exhibit of her work is currently on display at the library. Rene Stawicki doesn’t use models for her work, but instead relies on her imagination. An exhibit of her work is currently on display at the library. A new art show at the Jamestown library features the work of local artist Rene Stawicki, an oil painter who makes stuff up.

Stawicki’s interest in art began when she was very young. As a child she couldn’t stop doing things with her hands, whether it was with a stick or a piece of charcoal, she was always making marks. Her first picture was drawn on a neighbor’s doghouse with a poppy pod.

Stawicki grew up in Essex, Conn., and her father’s friends had a painting studio in their house. She saw it for the first time when she was 10 years old. The experience changed her life.

“It just knocked my socks off,” she said. “It smelled fantastic. There was all of this color.”

Stawicki went up to a painting and touched it, igniting her interest in art. Many years later she spoke to the artist whose painting she touched. The painter had always blamed her son for messing up the image – at least until Stawicki admitted it was her.

Rene Stawicki Rene Stawicki After high school it was on to Manhattan, where she trained at the School of Visual Arts. The New York City environment was the opposite of what she experienced in bucolic Connecticut, but in many ways Stawicki was at home among the community of artists.

“Everybody at the school was a little nuts,” she said. “The teachers were very interesting characters and there was a lot of latitude in the school. You were immediately encouraged to explore your own vision, which I started to do because I paint from my imagination mostly.”

While at SVA, Stawicki laid the groundwork for the way she works, which she calls “fishing in the sky.” She continues to work from her imagination, eschewing the use of models, photographs or whatever appears in front of her.

Since Stawicki had not studied any applied arts in college, she supported herself with non-art related jobs, primarily in retail. Eventually she moved to Marblehead, Mass., and got a job in Brookline working for magazine publishers. That’s where she learned graphic design – before the days of computerized typesetting.

Stawicki bounced from town to town over the next few years, but after meeting her husband, the couple settled in Concord, Mass. For the first time she got her own studio.

“That was fantastic,” she said, “to be in the company of other artists and to have a really great place to work.”

By then Stawicki had already found success as a freelance art director. When her husband was offered a job in Newport, they decided to move to Rhode Island. The artist knew she needed an outbuilding for her studio, and the couple found the perfect place in Jamestown.

That was 17 years ago.

Stawicki for three years commuted to Massachusetts to pursue her art direction. She also began renovating the garage on the couple’s new property, turning it into a comfortable studio. When renovations were complete, Stawicki decided to look for work locally. She was hired by Arnold Art in Newport and worked there for seven years.

“Once the studio was set up, it was like heaven,” Stawicki said. “I just had to leave the house and it was like 100 feet from the back door. Then my work really started to take off. I had more time to spend exploring concepts.”

Stawicki is an oil painter. She feels at home in the medium, stemming from when she first touched that painting as a child. When Stawicki comes up with an idea, she works on a drawing first and then uses the sketch as a guide. She paints on linen, stretching and priming her own canvasses.

Stawicki in 2010 had a solo show at the Newport Art Museum. The theme was Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” and her work focused on bird transformations. There were 15 paintings in the show.

The “fishing-in-the-sky” concept sets Stawicki apart from more traditional artists.

“I just make stuff up,” she said. “I will paint landscapes, but you would call them visionary landscapes or modified landscapes. I don’t replicate the place. I paint how it felt to me. I reimagine landscapes.”

Stawicki’s paintings often result from a mental journey. Images appear in her head and she tries to capture them in a drawing, followed by the painting. Meditation and yoga influence her work.

“It’s been part of my process for the last 10 or 15 years because the yoga opens up channels and you can better receive those messages from the ether,” Stawicki said. “I’m bringing these things into the field of time, as Joseph Campbell said. I’m bringing them into gravity.”

The library exhibit features eight of Stawicki’s oil paintings and a drawing. Four of the pieces are linked to the mythic theme of three red crows.

“This isn’t Beavertail at sunset,” Stawicki said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just there are other realms in the definition of art that you can explore, and to me they’re limitless. I love messing with concepts.”

Stawicki’s show will remain on display for three more weeks. All of the work is for sale.

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