DEXTER – Whether inspired by boredom, the beach, music or nature, John P. Horbacz lives his artistic dream creating otherworldly visions at his home in Adams Cove, Pillar Point, on the edge of Guffin Bay.
Some of these visions are on display until September 24 at the Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, 53 Main St., Canton, with the exhibition “John Horbacz: Dreams vs. Reality”.
“Tumbling acrylic colors, swirling textures and dreamlike images, both haunting and luminous, flow across the artist’s canvases,” reads a TAUNY description of the exhibit.
“I’ve always been a little into art,” said the 1977 graduate of Watertown High School.
But in 2012 he was “carried off on a board” from a factory in Watertown when he injured himself on the job. He spent three days in a hospital and had to leave the labor market.
“I’ve had back problems ever since,” Mr. Horbacz said.
Although physically hampered, he regained an artistic vision in which he tried his hand in his youth.
“I’ve always had an interest in art in one form or another,” Mr. Horbacz said. “Here at Pillar Point, in winter, we get very bored. You need to find something to occupy your mind and body here in the winter, especially when you are injured. I was an outdoor enthusiast. I used to ice fish, bass fish, walleye fish, deer hunt – whatever. After hurting your back like me, you are very limited in that aspect of your life, so I had to find something.
His youngest daughter, Autumn D. Tierney, a professional artist in Bangor, Maine, helped him find that something. Mr. Horbacz has two other children, daughter Angel and son Cody. He lives with his partner Marian and his dog Annie.
Autumn sent him blank canvases.
“I started painting,” Mr. Horbacz said. “It snowballed. When you’re hurt and can’t do what you want to do and what you’ve been doing all your life, you need something to get away from your new everyday existence. When I paint, my mind goes elsewhere. It’s like reading a book or whatever. You find peace of mind, away from reality.
His daughter Autumn, a self-taught artist who owns Three Graces Tattoo and Art Gallery in Bangor, said that growing up she saw evidence around the house of her father’s artistry – “assemblages and stuff made of different materials”.
“I still have some of his ceramics,” Ms. Tierney said. “He was always very artistic, but he didn’t think it would appeal to the public. After he got injured, I was like, ‘Just paint! Use it to stay happy and work towards something. No matter what happened with his back, he could always paint to stay busy and happy.
Ms Tierney added: “He didn’t think it would be appealing, but people love it. This is something that many people face. They don’t have faith in themselves to get out of there. He did, and he was rewarded for it. It’s great to see.
What we see on the canvases created by Mr. Horbacz does not come from photographs.
“A very high percentage of what I paint comes from dreams, or just ideas – things I’ve seen while being in the woods or fishing or whatever,” Horbacz said.
In June 2021, Mr. Horbacz’s designs were exhibited along with the works of two others at Hammond at the “Art, Inside Out!” exposure. He shared exhibition space at the Iva Smith Memorial Gallery with Richard Atkinson, of Harrisville, and fire R. Paul Saphier.
“Dreams vs. Reality” at TAUNY is co-curated by Evelyn Saphier, Founder of the Iva Smith Memorial Gallery and Mathilde (“Tilly”) Frances Lind, Program Director at TAUNY. The couple visited Mr. Horbacz’s home in Pillar Point to inspect his art and chat with the artist.
“When I got there, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Ms Lind said. “In my opinion, his art is very difficult to photograph. When you see pictures of it, you don’t realize how rich it is. It looks very busy, but the photographs tend to lack much of the depth of his work. But when I got to his house, I was just amazed.
She also noticed how productive Mr. Horbacz is. His visions seem endless.
“He had dozens and dozens and dozens of paintings in his living room,” Ms Lind said. “And there’s so much going on in these paintings. So many colors and movements. And I loved talking to him about it because he has so much depth as an artist. He thinks very deeply about these images and his process. And he’s a great storyteller.
Mr. Horbacz’s creations have been described as “abstract impressionist”.
“I’m influenced by Van Gogh, with the swirling skies,” he said. “I love it and try to incorporate it into most of my paintings.”
“THE ART OF THE MIND”
One of Mr. Horbacz’s favorite paintings is his “Art of the Mind”. In it, an elderly gentleman, an artist, rests in front of a painting containing flames. In the background, there are other creations made by the figure.
“His room is so cold and he has no heating that he painted a picture to keep warm,” Mr Horbacz said. “You can put a little madness in there. I don’t know where it comes from.
The artist is often inspired by a song – works by artists ranging from Neil Young to Metallica. His “Paint It Black” was inspired by the 1966 Rolling Stones hit.
“I kept hearing this song in my head, wondering where it came from,” Mr. Horbacz said. “It could have been an advertisement or a song on the radio. But it lasted about four days. It was starting to get annoying. I couldn’t get rid of it.
A vision gradually emerged with the song, which he painted.
“It’s a driveway with stairs going up the back of the club, with bricks and lights on the stairs,” Mr Horbacz said. “Half of the club door at the back was painted black and the other half was painted red.
Graffiti on the door reads “Paint It Black”.
“After I painted that, the song went out of my head,” Mr. Horbacz said. “It kind of woke me up to the fact that there was something telling me to paint this. I know it sounds weird. But something told me to paint this picture. It happens quite often.”
There are 32 paintings in the exhibition “John Horbacz: Dreams vs. Reality” by TAUNY. The artist still has dozens of paintings at home.
“I paint pretty fast,” Mr. Horbacz said. “I could paint a picture every day. My style is a little raw.
“He has a wild imagination, and I would say a rich inner life,” said his daughter, Ms Tierney. “I believe in reincarnation. Who knows what skills he brought into this life of a past life. I think his artistic talents are innate. They come from somewhere.
Ms. Lind said Mr. Horbacz’s works reminded her of magical realism — a storytelling strategy, mostly found in Latin America, that is characterized by the factual inclusion of fantastical or mythical elements in seemingly realistic fiction.
“The walls in between are very thin,” Ms Lind said. “His work reminds me of that. You have this dream world and you have the real world. But they are not quite separate.
– WHAT: The “John Horbacz: Dreams vs. Reality” exhibit, a collaboration between Upstate New York Traditional Arts and the Iva Smith Memorial Gallery, Hammond.
– WHERE: The upstairs gallery of TAUNY, 53 Main St., Canton. The floor is wheelchair accessible.
– WHEN: until Saturday 24 September. A closing reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on September 24.
– ORGANIZED BY: Mathilde F. Lind de TAUNY and Evelyn Saphier, founder of the Iva Smith Memorial Gallery.
– PLEASE NOTE: All works of art are for sale. Purchased artwork can be picked up or shipped after September 24.
– ON THE WEB: wdt.me/TAUNYandHorbacz