Color Schooled: The Lyrical Flight of the Fantastical Art of Barbara Januszkiewicz

Influenced by the work of the Washington Color School giants of the 50’s and 60’s

“Acoustic Demo, Inspired by Jimi Hendrix” acrylic on watercolor paper by Barbara Januszkiewicz. (Photo by Kelly MacConomy)

By Kelly MacConomy

ALEXANDRIA, VA – A new body of work from Arlington artist Barbara Januszkiewicz is on exhibit at the Athenaeum on Prince Street in Old Town. The show, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association and the Alexandria Commission for the Arts, is a hallmark exhibit for Alexandria and a harbinger of more world-class artists being drawn to the expanding exhibition opportunities and out-of-the-box art spaces here.  Exciting public art projects in the pipeline show that great things are in store for the enthusiastically supportive arts community in Port City.

The Athenaeum is perfectly suited for the event: towering acrylic canvases hang from the high ceiling of the classic-revival architectural style space. The Athenaeum is steeped in history, having been built upon land originally owned by Lord Fairfax and surveyed by George Washington. The space is a cobblestone’s throw from historic Captain’s Row, making it one of the oldest parts of Old Town.

“This Moment On/Ribbons in the Sky”acrylic on canvas by Barbara Januszkiewicz. (Photo Kelly MacConomy)

Entering the doorway dating to 1852, one is greeted by massive waves of color and light. Influenced by the work of the Washington Color School giants of the 50’s and 60’s, Barbara’s canvasses virtually sing as if in a chorus of color accompanied by a symphonic movement of illuminated vibrancy and masterfully expressive tonality. Barbara was a friend of the late Hilda Shapiro Thorpe, a member of the original Washington Color School artists group, who mentored her over 20 years ago — slowly transitioning from narrative painting to abstraction.

Barbara’s early work in watercolor on paper was transposed into her use of use of acrylics on canvas. The effect is visible in the translucency of her work. Mastering the veil technique pioneered by Washingtonian Morris Louis, Barbara works uniquely both flat on the floor and vertically. Unlike Louis, who employed a drip method, the canvases have texture and evidence of skilled brushwork.

“Moon Shadow”, acrylic in stone vellum, by Barbara Januszkiewicz. (Photo by Kelly MacConomy)

There is intensive deliberation in the fluidity of the layering, orchestrating a chromatic scale of contrapuntal color juxtaposition. “Powerful” fails to fully convey the poetic punch of the diaphanous movement, creating an interplay between the fluid ethereal veiling and the pizzicato excitement of the composition. Like unseen winds blowing across the canvas, capturing the color of sound.

In Barbara’s reinvented color-field technique the legacy of the Washington Color School continues, not only by channeling the monumental veil painting of Morris Louis and the boundless, frame-defiant undulating canvas works reminiscent of Sam Gilliam (next to whose work Barbara has been exhibited) but in reviving The Washington Color School Group itself.

At work in the studio for the exhibit “Lyrical Flight”  (Photo Courtesy Barbara Januszkiewicz)

Barbara also describes her creative muse as predicated as much as by art: “I’ve been interested in these vibrations and patterns and have used music as a muse, to help me explore the patterns of sound vibrations into my paintings.”

The new exhibit is aptly titled “Lyrical Flight”, with most works having musical references and song titles. The exhibit is breathtaking. Works are flying out the door — one sold as it was being photographed for this article. Pieces range from “upon request” for the exhibit masterpiece “This Moment On/Ribbons in the Sky” (Inspired by Stevie Wonder) to around $6,000 for larger canvases, with smaller resin and watercolor works selling for a song — as little as $350.

“Lyrical Flight” closes at the Athenaeum June 2 with an artist’s talk at 2 p.m., sponsored by the NVAA and featuring Barbara Januszkiewicz discussing her art work and inspirations. An original dance/art collaboration piece entitled “Light Exists” choreographed to complement the exhibit will be performed at 1 p.m. before the artist’s talk. Art enthusiasts will also have an opportunity to meet Barbara in discussion with Washington Post Art critic Mark Jenkins June 15 at 1 p.m. at the Artists and Makers Studio in Rockville, Maryland.

Barbara’s paintings have recently been featured in the Washington Post, élan, Viva Tysons, Arlington, NOVA, Home and Design, East City Art, as well as DC Luxury magazines. She has exhibited at the Phillips Collection, the Hirshorn Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Gallery K, The Art Club of Washington, the Gallery at the Wharf, and The Art League. Barbara is the real art deal. Come for the art. Stay for the dance and talk June 2.

The Athenaeum is located at 201 Prince Street, Old Town, Alexandria 22314
703-746-4588
NVFAA.org