Review -- Janet Kozachek's "Small Works" at the Orangeburg Arts Center - by Lee Malerich

I first met Janet Kozachek years ago at the old House of Pizza in Orangeburg, one of the only places to have lunch in that small town back in the day.  I was immediately touched.  She looked exactly like a character in one of my childhood story books.  It was about the Golden Goose, and how the townspeople (in a long sticky line) exhibited their greediness for gold by being unable to unhook from the chain of folks who had tried to pinch a golden feather.  It is an old Russian tale. 

 

 

Janet looked like the girl who was directly attached to the goose in my book.  It was stunning.  Russian in extraction, her almond eyes and her Chagall-like wisps of hair connected me immediately with this old memory. 

Janet came to us with amazing recommendations:  she was the first non-Chinese person to earn a Certificate of Graduate Study from the Bejing Central Art Academy (1985), and a graduate degree from Parsons School of Design (1991).  She studied ceramics in Holland in 1986, and later with the granddaughter of Maria Martinez.  In 1999 she was the founding president of the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA).  Her work is just as broad as this mosaic of an education. 

 

All of this background is represented in her exhibition of Small Works currently at the Orangeburg Arts Center.  In most of the works, one can detect the influence of multiple academic experiences, but clearly created by western hands.  Local art viewers remembering the Impressionist exhibition at the Columbia Museum last year could find common ground between Janet's paintings and the work of Chiam Soutine, then exhibited. 

 

 

The series of little painted vessels (there are seventeen), done in acrylic, stand boldly and aggressively on their trimmed ground, allowing examination of their surface creatures.  One can find small worlds pictorially within these vessel walls.  The grounds on which these vessels sit seem likewise worldly-influenced, and all nervously vibrates.  Janet creates these little wonders by paint removal and scratching as much as by application with a brush.  She calls them "painting/monoprints".  The center Chinese stamp on the wall of this teapot means "the person inside". 

 

Tango dancers done in quick calligraphic-like lines exhibit Janet's Chinese self, tapping into the gene-mixing of her history and coming up with a hybrid.  To some Janet has added cartouches saying (in translation) "Chinese tango". 

 

 

 

The most unsettling and evocative works are a series of paintings of troll dolls (yes, the ones from the sixties), the doll shapes again dominating the clipped ground.  The surfaces of these examples are brilliant and shiny, done in oil paint created by Janet using Renaissance techniques.  Some of the paintings in the exhibition feature likewise Renaissance ground preparation.  This extra work on the part of the painter makes the surfaces seem magic. 

 

The detail and description in these paintings is masterly, and examples include both the fronts and the backs of these dolls.  But why troll dolls?

 

 

In a way, the brilliant colors used in the dolls seem to be pure light and heat that needs to attach to something.  Simple, geometric, vibrating Amish quilts come to mind as similar in color "heat" if not in visual language.  The trolls can be spooky, but their description is not.  Here's why they exist:  Janet was very ill when they were created.

 

Janet has suffered through an undiagnosed illness for some years.  During the time the troll paintings were created, she was at a low point, could barely leave the bed, and could lean up to paint just sometimes.  These dolls were collected by her, at hand, and she could lift them.  Therefore, she painted them. That simple. 

 

Could one make an allusion to the boomer experience with these paintings?  Maybe, who else would know about these strange beings? Further, in the example above, we see a black troll.  There were no black trolls.  Perhaps in this one she asserts a sense of place. 

 

In general, this exhibition is a tribute to the healing nature of art.  All of these small works being done (over 90 in all) during the course of her illness, it is proof that the time she has had to be quiet has not been lost. 

 

 

 

A former instructor of art at Columbia College, Coker College and OC Tech, three time SC Arts Commission Fellowship recipient, and winner of a Regional National Endowment for the Arts award, Lee Malerich shares her home in Neeses with artist Glenn Saborosch.  Her most well-known work consists of personally expressive narrative embroideries; the most topical ones are about her battles with colon cancer. In a new life, and producing new work, Lee is making sculptural work from waste and found objects from flea markets, a long time interest not served by the embroidered work.  What is common about all her efforts, including creating an art village from ten acres, is that creativity heals.  She also blogs at: leemalerich.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Malerich and Glenn Saborosch -- Artist Profiles

A barn turned workshop and toy box, a collection of gliders from the 1940s, a shower mosaic based on Matisse’s The Dance, a seventeen-year-old cat named Mouse. This is the home of South Carolina artists, Lee Malerich and Glenn Saborosch. The two have been together for four years, both of them having grown up in the Midwest before ending up in the Palmetto State. Malerich and Saborosch have an interesting back story since they both went to the same high school, dated temporarily in college, and then went on to live separate lives, marry other people, and have successful art careers before meeting again years later. They found each other through their art; Saborosch, widowed, found an online profile for Malerich, then divorced, and they began a letter correspondence. Months later, they met in person in an art show in Iowa. Both recount with amazement how – even later in life – a second chance at romance turned them into twenty-somethings in love. They got married in Rome in 2009, “and not Rome, Georgia,” Malerich clarifies, laughing. They now live in Neeses, with Saborosch’s son Garrett, their cat Mouse, and a collection of art as dynamic as the couple who created it. Though they share a love for the arts and sweet green tea, their styles, the mediums they use, and the stories behind their art are unique.  

For most of Malerich’s artistic career, she has been in textiles. She learned sewing out of necessity when she was young, but loved the process. When she discovered that she could use the beauty in fabrics and thread for more than just clothes – for art – Malerich was hooked. The Midwestern grown artist received two studio art degrees from Northern Illinois University before moving to South Carolina to teach. In NIU she met Renie Breskin Adams, who Malerich says inspired many of her views regarding textiles. Adams, a professor teaching in NIU, had graduated from Indiana University with a group Malerich describes as treating a “stitch as a brushstroke.” Their cloth and thread was their art, not merely their craft, a frustrating limitation often applied to textiles. Malerich also recalls that Adam’s work was “overwhelmingly personal,” a characteristic inherent in Malerich’s textiles as well.

 

Holding one of her older pieces, Malerich points to one image – a person with cancer scars curled up in a circle – created by the stitching over a background of fabric, saying, “Well, it’s me.” The majority of the images in her textile works are beautiful, intricate representations of herself. However, Malerich says she is moving away from this vulnerability in her art. In fact, she is moving away from her previous style in many ways. Her newer work is not only less vulnerable; it is also fabric-less. Malerich has branched into three-dimensional art alongside Saborosch; her medium, window frames.

 

Becoming Decorative by Lee Malerich

 

Caryatids by Lee Malerich

 

Shelz by Lee Malerich

 

 

Her first ventures into windows are tile mosaics in simple wooden frames, with an amount of detail similar to her textiles. She explains that her prior motto had been to “build in as much detail as possible” before the piece “falls apart,” but now she is more interested in “thinly orchestrated” and simple patterns. Her most recent window frames have empty spaces, pieces of the glass panes leftover without obstructing the view of what’s through the window. The frames are often stacked on top of each other, giving a surprising depth to the thin wooden beams. Attached objects range from metal coils to seashells to painted faces, all materials that incorporate her love of the flea market into her art. Beyond living frugally, her chosen materials help convey meaning in her work; Malerich believes her art should always hold meaning or express an emotion. Ceramic figurines of red cardinals, the Illinois state bird, rest on a window frame piece she is working on now, a tribute to the place where both Malerich and Saborosch were raised.

 

Like Malerich, Saborosch also discovered his medium at a young age, learning to weld in a high school sculpture class and loving it. He studied for two years at Lindenwood University in St. Charles Missouri, though he says he struggled in school while he excelled in art. After receiving a critique in a show that he focus on one genre, he decided to dedicate his time to sculpture, specifically metal work. Saborosch ended up taking a twenty-year hiatus from sculpting due to family and his work; Saborosch was a truck driver. However, he would not be kept away forever, and had started entering shows again before he and Malerich reunited.

 

Malerich calls Saborosch’s style “describing masses out of lines.” Steel strips and wire form animals, people, scenes frozen in time. In one sculpture, a ballerina bends her head back, leg lifted, hands crossed in front of her. Saborosch notes how expressive hands are in a sculpture that lacks a face. Another sculpture, a leaping runner, is harder to identify at first glance, but the motion created by a few simple lines of metal is easily apparent.

Saborosch disney(above by Glenn Saborosch -- currently on display at Tokyo Disney)

 

Recently, though, Saborosch has also found his style changing. His newer pieces are abstract, and his materials now include spare agricultural tools. Rather than plan ahead what shape the pieces will take, as he did with his representative work, Saborosch says he “plays” with the newer pieces, letting them take on a form of their own. He stops “if it starts to look like an animal,” he asserts. He wants the pieces to be abstract. Unlike Malerich, Glen doesn’t set out with a message or emotion in mind. He creates art for the aesthetic of the shape, whether in a steel representation of a leaping horse or an abstract sculpture made from tractor parts.

untitled by Glenn Saborosch

 

untitled by Glenn Saborosch

 

Both Malerich and Saborosch are quick to add that the materials chosen his more recent works do not have any bearing on the interpretation of the pieces. The repurposed tractor parts aren’t meant to be recognized as repurposed tractor parts; the positive and negative spaces they create are what speak for the piece. His use of thrown out agricultural equipment is perhaps just another way that Malerich’s love of reusing waste has rubbed off on him.

 

The couple agrees that both their work changed after they got married. Through the changes in their styles, mediums, and personal views on art, Malerich says living together is a of “moving toward the middle.” They celebrate the different art styles and skills each brings to the table. Malerich proudly calls Glen “the real deal” when it comes to artistic talent, while she is the one with more experience and formal training. They help each other through these strengths; Malerich writes Saborosch’s bios and Saborosch helps Malerich if one of her newer projects requires a special tool or heavy lifting. While Malerich does exclaim, “It’s not fair!” regarding needing Saborosch’s help with her own pieces, both artists appreciate living with another artistic mind. Saborosch says it’s nice having someone there to critique one’s work and provide ideas.

 

When asked if they ever collaborate on projects, there is some minor discussion and laughter. In short, no, they work separately. Saborosch says, “We’re in our own little worlds together,” Malerich adding that their work is like “parallel play.” They feed off of each other – inspiring, advising, learning – without crossing the line into the other’s art pieces. Both of them, however, seem happiest when discussing their significant other’s work. They are quick to praise, describe, and enthuse over the other’s art. Malerich encourages Saborosch to talk about his Cinderella sculpture, a success he takes much pride in. This piece was commissioned by Disney and is currently on display in Disney World in Tokyo, part of a series of “story beats” telling the Cinderella story though different art genres.

 

However, both artists are finding it difficult to show and sell their newer work. They sell from their home rather than any one established place, and have had some of their newer pieces rejected from art shows. Saborosch says that he may return to figure work to see if that sells better, but both Malerich and Saborosch are not worried about the situation. The couple is retired and don’t need to work to live comfortably. Malerich says coming to a place where you no longer need money is an interesting experience, leading her to question her motives for her art. She wants to continue to create art that makes her happy, regardless of how it is accepted.

 

Malerich is a part of the group, Cats on a Leash, artists who have been together for over thirty years and show periodically. Beyond that, Malerich and Saborosch will be selling and doing commissions from their Neeses home. She discusses and displays both of their artworks, as well as her love of living “on the cheap,” in her blog “Waste as a Way of Life.”

 

Malerich may also be showing this fall, though nothing is set in stone yet, in the Pickens County Museum exhibit “Fiber Art: Connecting Concept and Medium,” which will run from September 7 through November 14.

 -- Joanna Savold, Jasper intern