Montoursville's Chris Lisowski is returning to the local art scene after a 10-year hiatus. After unfortunate personal hardships, including the gradual decline and ultimate loss of her mother, Lisowski is focusing her attention back on her work.
"It's been a journey," she said, "it really has."
She'll begin by showing a selection of colored pencil drawings and acrylic paintings at Williamsport's Barrel 135, 135 W. Third St., for May's First Friday.
Lisowski's work seems almost textile in its construction, even reminiscent at times of stained glass. Layers of colored pencil or acrylic paint are applied with geometric precision in symmetrical patterns. In an artist's statement from a 2005 show; she worded it thusly:
"I apply layers ... to textured drawing paper, allowing the texture of the paper to become an integral part of the design," she said.
Design is an apt description of the work seeing as Lisowski's sure-handedness and mathematical division of the paper are not unlike the skills of pre-computer graphic designers and page layout artists. Fitting, since Lisowski studied advertising art at the former Williamsport Area Community College, now Pennsylvania College of Technology, in the late 1980s.
Also akin to graphic design is Lisowski's affinity for hand-lettering; she is a skilled calligrapher and has handcrafted seating charts, invitations and designs for weddings. The calligraphy work was steady enough in 1989 that she opened Chameleon Art Studio at 1340 Church Alley in Montoursville. The past decade has kept her out of her studio, but at the time of this writing, Lisowski is in the process of cleaning and reorganizing the space for her next projects.
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise from someone who was willing to put her passion on hold for nearly a decade to care for a loved one, but the humble and soft-spoken Lisowski was quicker to beam about her two Jack Russell terriers than tote up her own accomplishments. Of her influences, it quickly became obvious that one educator in particular played a significant role in shaping her future. She credits now-retired professor Patrick Murphy with pointing her down the path she took by becoming an artist.
"He was really tough on his students and would demand a lot out of you; but I think because of that I decided that [art] was what I wanted to do no matter how demanding it was," she remembered, adding, "He was an amazing person."
Lisowski knew firsthand by that point just what's involved in becoming an effective educator; prior to attending the Williamsport Area Community College, she graduated magna cum laude from Mansfield University with a degree in education. She originally set out to become an elementary school teacher, but knew that it wasn't the right fit. It wasn't until Murphy's influence that she found her real calling.
Fashion, though perhaps not immediately apparent in Lisowski's work, has also had a significant influence on her creative process. She draws inspiration from everything from Russian artist Erte - a fashion illustrator for Harper's Bazaar magazine in the 1930s - to the textures and patterns she saw while working with the mannequins at Macy's department store.
It's also not impossible to be reminded of other multi-talented 20th century artists (beside Erte) like Judy Chicago or Georgia O'Keefe. The bi-symmetrical designs, similarities to textiles and feminine sensibility of the work put Lisowski in line with a long-established legacy.
Barrel 135 will display a selection of Chris Lisowski's work on Friday. The artist will be on site from approximately 6 p.m. onward and the show will hang through May and into early June. The pieces are available for sale. Barrel 135 can be found online at www.barrel135.net or reached at 322-7131.