Artist Ricky Katowicz’s Marathon Portrait Project
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
The Providence-born, RISD graduate has a decade of experience with the sewing machine. By day, Katowicz works as a Soft Toy Engineer at Hasbro Avengers Toys. But he also finds time to experiment in the creative realm of his own studio. "My art is based on experiences that ask to be shared," he wrote in a statement to accompany his work. "Not just in a photograph, but maybe in a diorama, a portrait, or a line. Keeping things moving and changing, building and coming undone, using time as a guide -- these are the actions that hold my stitches together."
First portrait? First President.
Katowicz stitched his first portrait on Ash Wednesday, February 21. The lucky man? George Washington. At the time, Katowicz was working on a children’s book, looking for something that would inspire him to go to his studio daily. And once beginning, Katowicz could not stop. The obvious direction of such a project? Continue for a year until February 21, 2013.
Katowicz’s artwork “adds up to a portrait of Ricky,” said friend and bandmate Chuck Crowley. While Katowicz originally tried to keep his portrait choices objective, he could not help being drawn to certain people. Familiar faces include Fred Astaire, Michelle Pfeiffer, Audrey Hepburn, Tina Fey, Robert Frost and Allen Ginsberg. But the gallery reveals only a sampling of Katowicz’s portraits. As of today, July 3, he has created 134.
The quick stitching
There is something simple and beautiful about his portraits, works of art that take about an hour to make and could be looked at for hours. Katowicz uses a sewing machine and black thread to stitch his portraits on crinoline fabric. He then mounts the crinoline in front of paper, which is marked to create subtle coloration in the background. This color contrasts with the black thread he uses—black thread yields the most “dynamic shadows,” Katowicz said. A simple, painted frame completes the portrait.
“They’re very ornate, very beautiful,” said gallery visitor Ed Palumbo from Warwick. Palumbo, a frequent Craftland visitor, said he is drawn to unique artwork. Palumbo added that Katowicz’s work also has an educational aspect, prompting one to wonder at and explore the person in the portrait.
A self-described “builder of forts, a bookworm, and a filler of sketchbooks,” the artist is unsurprisingly—but still surprisingly—well-versed in famous individuals’ birthdays. When Palumbo brought up the date August 20, Katowicz immediately asked if he was referring to Howard Phillips Lovecraft. And when Katowicz’s own birthday came up, he noted that a portrait in the show represents this particular date—though the portrait in question is not a self-portrait. Perhaps the artist will be creating one in the future.
Katowicz's portraits are on display at Craftland and are for sale as well--prices range from $125 to $195. Craftland, 235 Westminster St, Providence, 401-272-4285.
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