Joe Kowalczyk


(Ko-väl-chick), is an award winning sculptor, painter, and draftsman that has been contributing to the arts community in the California Bay Area since he received a BFA in ceramics from California College of the Arts in 2006.  Along with his own studio practice, Joe works as a ceramics instructor at Creative Growth Art Center.  He manages his own kiln repair business, restoring kilns and assisting artists throughout the Northern California bay area (www.kilnspecialist.com).  Joe is also a co-founder/co-director of FM, a fine art gallery and community of artist studios within the Oakland Art Murmur district; the forefront of Oakland’s astonishing growth and creative revitalization (www.FMoakland.com). 


“Much of my sculpture explores aspects of the human shadow; those which we deem improper, primitive and ultimately “unfit” for modern society.”

My ceramic sculptures are often the celebration of the irrational; a celebration of ideas, impulses, and desires that spring from the darker side of the subconscious.  So instead of pushing away a thought and wondering, “Why did I think something so strange?”  I celebrate it and turn it into a drawing or translate it into a sculpture.

In general much of my sculpture explores aspects of the human shadow; those which we deem improper, primitive and ultimately “unfit” for modern society. These are aspects of ourselves we’ve learned to repress in our youth, and continue to intentionally repress as adults. Various cultures repress different aspects of human life in order to create a more “ideal” person.  Such as how many adults have learned to repress their inner child.

Although we intend to repress these aspects for the better, the ironic thing is that without these aspects the individual is not whole.  As a result, people later in life may feel the need to get in touch with the repressed, but perhaps don’t know how.  My work attempts to highlight these aspects and put them into the physical world; to give them a face and a set of eyes, so we can confront and better understand them.  As a result I better understand myself.
— Joe Kowalczyk

“Beside the Mask I Make”
The “Beside the Mask I Make” Series

“Almost every Balinese house has standing outside it a fierce, toothy, aggressive, hostile figure carved in stone.  This being doesn’t plan to do good.  I visited a mask maker, and noticed his nine-year-old son sitting outside the house, making with his chisel a hostile, angry figure.  The person does not aim to act out

the aggressive energies as we see in movies, as we do in football, or the Spanish in bull-fighting, but each person aims to bring them upward into art: that is the ideal.  The Balinese can be violent and brutal in war, but in daily life they seem much less violent then Americans.  What does this mean?  Southerners in the United States put figures of helpful little black men on the lawn, cast in iron, and we in the North do the same with serene deer or pink flamingos.  We want gnomes on our lawn, we ask for roses in the wallpaper, Renoir matching above the sofa, and John Denver on the stereo.  Then the aggression escapes from the bag and attacks everyone.”

— Robert Bly