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Visiting artist captures essences of NY Mills residents

When he was only 5 years old, Josh Wilichowski, a visiting artist to New York Mills, was fine tuning his artistic talents while working for his father's auctioneering service.

Every item he saw seemed to have a story inside it. He began to imagine stories behind the items and soon began drawing G.I. Joe figurines, cars, tractors and the unique environment in which they reside, he said.

"Most people just focus on a particular item," he said.

He still helps his father year-round except for the winter months.

After completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Wilichowski began to realize "it's the whole environment and the things that surround people that create individual stories," he said.

In NY Mills, he interviewed people in their native environments, to "absorb the environment and the person, to gain a true understanding of who they are," he said.

He interviewed people in their homes, where they worked, or in one case, a citizen's garden.

"It's a cycling of images based on peoples' conversations," he said. "It's the essence of the person and environment through an interpretation."

The artist was charmed by the city.

"I think that New York Mills is a quiet, unassuming town that is unadulteratingly welcoming," he said. "People were completely open to who I am and what I'm doing."

Wilichowski's creative process for two-dimensional work is second nature, he said.

He has a machine that makes "Diazo prints" or "blueline." He creates his drawings on vellum, and then exposes paper and the original drawing to ultraviolet light.

The print is then exposed to ammonia gasses, which turns his pencil work into blue lines.

"I'm Glad You

Are Okay"

Wilichowski's thesis show was a motorcycle that had been disassembled into its smallest individual pieces and placed on rods.

The goal of his project was "to integrate sensibilities and the deconstruction of an item, and the parts standing on their own to lead to the understanding of the whole," he said.

"Essentially, a live three-dimensional exploded blueprint," he said.

One of his creations was inspired by his father's failing health at the time.

The title of his work was "I Was So Scared," but the letter designations for each disassembled part read on the blueprints, "I'm Glad You Are Okay."

For both pieces of work, Wilichowski said that every rod holding its respective pieces had its own story, which made sense to group them together in that fashion.

"It's the act of understanding and taking things apart. These deep felt emotions coming through the mechanical assemblies," he said.

"I'm not satisfied doing 3-D work," he said. "Images have a malleable, non-linear movement."

He had been involved with creating sculptures of wood and metal, particularly steel, during his graduate career.

"You have a tangible 3-D idea and ability to communicate it," he said. "At this point it's so natural."

Work and relaxation

"This is such a unique place. The cultural center brings artists here to the community," he said. "It's, hands-down, the most progressive thing I've seen.

For more information, or to view his artwork, visit