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Ocean Waters by Jowita Wyszomirska
Ocean Waters by Jowita Wyszomirska

Making direct environmental connections, the artist submerges light-sensitive paper in ocean waters as part of her mixed-media, climate-directed art.

The Light That Got Lost 2 by Jowita Wyszomirska
The Light That Got Lost 2 by Jowita Wyszomirska

In "The Light that Got Lost 2," intense blues shatter.

Ocean Narratives by Jowita Wyszomirska
Ocean Narratives by Jowita Wyszomirska

The power of nature surfaces in Wyszomirska’s "Ocean Narratives."

Jowita Wyszomirska
Jowita Wyszomirska

Wyszomirska poses among the soaring panels of her "Water Memory" installation, designed to convey a physical sense of the grandeur and force of melting glaciers.

Nature in Flux

Baltimore artist Jowita Wyszomirska celebrates the power of sea and sky in works of crystalline beauty

Nature in Flux - Standing on the beach in Montauk, New York, Jowita Wyszomirska was contemplating the weather.

A strong wind had whipped up the waves. Clouds moved over the sun. Reaching into a folder, the artist removed a sheet of heavy paper she had pre-coated to make it sensitive to light. How long should she expose it to UV rays before washing the paper off? What imprints of blue would remain? Minutes later, she dragged remnants of plants found hanging from a nearby ridge across the paper, threw on some sand and plunged it into the waves.

The artist welcomed the roll of chance. “I’m always amazed by the drips and runs and how this happens, really without me,” Wyszomirska says modestly. “I have some control, but there’s always another set of agents at work.”

In the cyanotype process—an early alternative to photography, also used for blueprints—the paper is covered with a solution of two light-sensitive chemicals. Wherever water hits, the reaction to sunlight stops. If the paper is not thoroughly submerged, the emulsion continues to react. Depending on the length of exposure to light, blues of different intensities remain as the paper changes. “I’ll see it and think, ‘Wow, yes! I want this!’” the artist exclaims. “I’m always trying to make that magic happen again.”

Wyszomirska’s sojourn by the water’s edge is just the first step. Back in her studio in an old industrial mill in Baltimore, she adds her own handwork to the exposed paper using acrylic paints, ink and sometimes sodium bicarbonate for a whitening effect. As part of her unfolding process, Wyszomirska researches weather data from regions where she has been working. After pinning one of her cyanotypes to a studio wall, she projects NOAA satellite maps over it, tracing wind patterns with graphite or colored pencils as the imagery moves across the page. She also selects shapes from these digital files to be laser-cut and later used as hanging elements in her large installations; the remaining pieces become stencils for drawing or painting on the cyanotypes as layers build. “It’s like a dance or balancing act, letting things happen on the paper,” she says.

The series that began in Montauk on a residency at the Andy Warhol Preserve and continued in Cape Henlopen, Delaware, was shown recently at Washington’s Gallery Neptune & Brown. These mid-size works on paper typically measure 30 inches wide by 22 inches high, with larger pieces up to 55 inches tall. All share an exalted beauty and a fresh, if disturbing, immediacy. Explosive powers reign. In some, random lines and bursts of gold surge like lightning flashes against velvety blues. Dark hues shatter with torrential force, overflowing onto a base of white paper veiled with liquid drips and atmospheric daubs. This breeching of boundaries between dark above and light below suggests a horizon line where distinctions between sky and ocean are dissolving.

“I think about climate change all the time,” the artist says, referring to her driving theme. “I’m responding to nature that I see and love, and the beauty of it.” However, while working, she adds, “I don’t think about those ideas. It’s very intuitive. Everything you have and everything you know—the good, the bad—all goes into that work.”

Growing up, Wyszomirska remembers mainly drawing and reading. When her family arrived in Chicago from a small town in Poland in 1993, she was 13 and didn’t speak English. “The art teachers in school encouraged me at a time when communication was challenging,” she recalls.Wyszomirska majored in painting at Illinois State University. Not sure what should come next, she took a job building exhibits at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, then moved on to the aquarium, where she fabricated large-scale models and exhibits. “It gave me the skill of working in three dimensions and using sculptural objects in my work,” she notes.

Wyszomirska moved with her partner, now husband, to Baltimore in 2010. Exploring the city by bike, she found a studio and started working full-time on her art. During an early show when she was doing tiny drawings, someone asked if she’d consider going bigger. Trying it, she explains, “I discovered how much I liked the physicality of working large.” Recent installations—abstract views of pounding waves drawn and painted on suspended panels up to 10 feet tall—encourage viewers to walk through, with the intent, she says, “to give a physical sense of the power of ongoing changes between the land and sea, and feel how in flux that constantly is.”

Since receiving a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Maryland in 2016, Wyszomirska has taught drawing there. Then, four years ago while experimenting with different materials, she happened upon /////////////////////////////////////////////////Nature in Flux - cyanotype. “It opens up the process so much for me. It compels me to respond to chance,” she affirms.

As Wyszomirska balances slow, intimate studio work with freer, large installations, she relies on direct connections with nature—whether hiking an Alaskan glacier on an artist residency in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park or discovering a stream near her studio in Druid Hill Park. Her aim “is to capture the incredible moment that’s happening in nature. It’s all about that constant search,” she observes, adding cheeringly,

Nature in Flux - “That’s also the fun of it.”

Jowita Wyszomirska’s art is available through Gallery Neptune & Brown; galleryneptunebrown.com. For more information, visit jowitawyszomirska.work

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