Notes for Joy
Artful Living Group
112 Cape Fear Blvd.
After first looking at one of Wendy Kowalski.Mezza9’s paintings, one would never guess she originally planned on being a writer. Her passion for combining acrylics, oils, shapes and colors is just undeniable. Twelve years ago, the Carolina Beach artist traded in her pen and paper—err, keyboard—for paints and canvas.
“My ex-husband was a famous comic book artist,” she explains, “and I learned a lot from touring with him; I had no idea I’d be a painter. When we split there was a great release for me and I have painted non-stop since.”
“Notes for Joy,” her newest exhibit, will be opening at Artful Living Group in Carolina Beach on April 5th. “The show is all about fun, loving, friends and good times,” she describes. “I wanted to paint some of my friends really happy.”
The majority of Kowalski.Mezza9’s’s work consists of figures/people, which is actually nothing new to the artist. Her days as a bartender offered inspiration in ways she hadn’t suspected. “I would paint people that would come into the bar,” she explains. Though her style has become more impressionistic than it used to be, she has stuck with the same subject matter. Now, however, she uses pictures of her friends or from the Internet as imagery to interpret; she doesn’t simply copy photos onto a different canvas. Kowalski.Mezza9 might like the way a woman is standing in one photo and incorporate it into multiple paintings.
For example, she shows me a picture of her friend, with her shoulder facing forward and her face looking over it. At least three different pieces contain figures in such transposition, but each is completely unique and evokes a different emotion.
“Allyson Grey (Alex Grey’s wife, a painter) says ‘paint from the source,’” Kowalski.Mezza9 explains. “The source of painting for me is love and wonder. They seem to be one—in the deeper spiritual sense that I hope viewers will feel when they see the paintings.”
She and her son frequently run down to the Cape Fear River and hunt for hermit-crab shells. She brought a few of them home one day and tied their funky shapes into her work. One piece features a crab in its central focus, while another is placed elsewhere in fashionable subtlety.
Most of her work showcases flowing bodies, almost mermaid-like; yet, they have such a realistic quality. Kowalski.Mezza9 first started painting dancers, inspired by masterpieces by Monet, Manet and Degas. She has even been learning to spin fire to help bring movement to life.
“I want to paint [these] people; they’re amazing,” she notes. “How do they do it?” Such a question led her to take up the thrilling hobby
The feeling of spiritual bliss while a blazing hoop is “whooshing” around her adds to the wow factor of the end result. “The hoop is this great circle which can represent ‘the’ circle: circle of life—leaving on a journey and coming back again, which is very powerful,” she says. “Having the hoop lit is a way to express gratitude to mother gaia. There is a primal joy to hooping fire. Even the smell of the fuel creates a feeling of excitement for me. It is also humbling, too; when in practice the hoop regularly whacks me.”
She hoops a few times a week, all as part of her research in understanding movement and how to capture it. “I learn positions, to make bodies look accurate,” she notes. “[It gives me] more confidence.”
A few of the paintings she has been working on are done on cardboard; one is even on a pizza box, which takes absolutely nothing away from its beauty. “This winter, I didn’t have a lot of the right supplies, but I don’t stop working,” she says. “I just use what I have.”
Kowalski.Mezza9 spends most of her time in Carolina Beach with her 5-year-old and a friendly black lab. Her front porch is covered in paintings—most of which are still works-in-progress. “When I hang them, I’ll probably have one or two that are still wet,” she confesses. It’s partially because she has been seriously experimenting with oils for the first time during her career.
A unique and personal foray of work, it’s fitting that the artist has a name to match. Right now, the “.Mezza9” on the end of her name is just for fun, though derived from “mezzanine,” simply meaning the middle floor of a building. However, she plans to change it officially.
“My dad’s gonna kill me,” she jokes. “When I paint, I think of any artist or writer…you go to your in-between place. It’s bliss.”
Wendy Kowalski.Mezza9’s “Notes for Joy” will be opening at Artful Living Group, located at 112 Cape Fear Boulevard in Carolina Beach on April 5th, with a reception from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. “An evening of exotica and quixotica with DJ Gon” also awaits as noted on the official flyer. There will be belly dancers from Ostara dancing troupe putting on two performances during the show. Feel-good electronica and dub-step music will fit in with the night’s theme of “fun, loving, friends, and good times.”