The Evolution of Michaela Japec

By F. Lennox Campello

For the fifth year, the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, still somewhat reeling from the city’s takeover of all operations at the building, selected four emerging artists to participate in the Factory’s Post-Grad Residency Program: J Houston, Michaela Japec, Nava Levenson, and Kim Sandara.

The jurors were Nicole Dowd, program director at Halcyon Arts Lab, and Leslie Holt, artist and co-director of D.C.’s Red Dirt Studio.

This competitive juried program “provides three months of exclusive access to a studio in the Art Center. Therein, artists can create and sell work, interact with the public, and connect with other arts professionals. The residency is unique for addressing the critical post-graduation juncture in an emerging artist’s career, offering an opportunity for professional development, networking, and a chance to define their practice outside of the academic context.”

As usual, the applications were open to recently graduated students who earned a bachelor’s or master’s art degree from an accredited university. Submissions were accepted from across the nation, provided artists “submit proof of their permanent residence in the area and/or commitment to contributing to the future of the region’s arts scene.”

“This program is about hosting and supporting rising artists within our creative community,” said Brett Johnson, director of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. “The residency has many opportunities for innovation and collaboration, between artists and visitors alike. We hope this studio continues to be a place where people exchange perspectives, techniques, and ideas.”

The program culminates in a group exhibition in Target Gallery, the Torpedo Factory’s contemporary exhibition space, November 8 – December 8, 2019.

I looked at the selected artists websites and have already selected my favorite of the four in the very talented Michaela Japec.

In the process of picking a favorite from a field of four, I’ve already taught these young artists a lesson as they enter the arena of the art scene: it can be sometimes tough if you’re not the “one.”

However, in this case all four of these selectees are quite talented, and each have an impressive array of work on display in cyberspace, and I’m anxiously awaiting to see their culminating exhibition at the end of 2019.

About Michaela Japec’s work…

Japec courageously notes in her statement that she “struggles, as many other people do, with body image.”

That struggle drives some of her exceptional work, but make no mistake – she’s also armed with a formidable set of technical skills, which help her deliver visual impact of what she’s trying to narrate in her work. She notes that in recent years she “has begun to use her insecurities as fuel for her artistic work. She now explores her own perceived physical flaws in her creative process, revealing and highlighting these “flaws” in her work.”

Her work is exceptional because, in just looking at one page of her work over time, I can tell that this young artist has a good work ethic – a key to artistic success.  The only way to become a good painter is to paint. I am not a big fan of her palette paintings from the Spring of 2017 – they are predictable and pedestrian – but understand why she probably did them, and in contrast with her Fall 2017 series of works, one can see spectacular progress – both in ideas and skill – in the later work.

Another key to being a good painter is to know how to draw well.

In “Chaos Inside,” a 2017 graphite drawing, Japec flexes her drawing muscles and makes a powerful statement of both artistic value as well as a delivery vehicle for her inner demons.

She notes that she “finds that exposing her anxieties, which have haunted her since a young age, is healing for both herself and the viewer.  Creating art featuring her physical imperfections allows others to see their own flaws in a more accepting, tangible, and beautiful way.”

I wonder if Japec knows that “Chaos Inside” represents the ideal beauty to most of the planet’s culture and has stood for the ideal beauty for most of mankind’s existence? I hope that she knows that it is a beautiful drawing of a beautiful human.

This young painter is worth keeping an eye on.

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