California-born artist and nature lover Carla Slowiczek has a weakness for orchid, bird-of-paradise and butterfly motifs. These quintessential symbols of Costa Rica are what brought her here in 2004. A second-generation Mexican-American, Carla, 40, is often asked why she chose Costa Rica over Mexico.
“I love the simplicity of this country where I can walk from my house in (the western suburb of) Escazú to a coffee plantation. Distance is no problem here,” she says. “Nature is everywhere, yet I am only 15 minutes from downtown San José. Nature is important to me, but so is a good cup of cappuccino.”
Carla’s vision of Costa Rica is unique from that of other naturalist artists working in the country because the medium she specializes in is still unheard of here. She does not paint, draw, sculpt or work with stained glass. Instead, she does magic with naturally colored wooden veneers.
“What I do is called picture marquetry,” the artist explains. “This is an age-old tradition, but as far as I know no one else is doing it here.”
Using thin slats from exotic woods such as bamboo, teak, rosewood and oak, the artist cuts tiny organic shapes and then rearranges them to form wonderful images of birds and flowers. Her “canvas” is a particleboard on which stylized wooden slats are laid to form a motif. On some works, it is the grain of the wood that determines the form, while on others it is the different natural colors of the wood that give shape to an image. To give it a finishing touch, the canvas is framed by a solid wooden frame – which is where Carla’s husband John comes in.
Because John’s wood frames are integral parts of Carla’s art, the couple works in close collaboration.Mutual consultation is a natural process for them, after working together as a team for decades in the United States before settling in Costa Rica.
John, 54, was a Grammy award-nominated composer and record producer when he met Carla in California.After their marriage, Carla, a graphic artist, designed album covers for his music company for many years.
Nowadays, John plays music only for friends and private students. He prefers toying in a workshop, making wooden frames to complement his wife’s beautiful art. Upon request, John can also make wooden signs and wine racks.
Although Carla’s art reflects her love of nature, she is open to different themes. Abstract and Oriental motifs can be seen in her works. She credits a Thai friend for introducing her to Oriental aesthetics.
“My friend Pon’s dinners are works of art, not only in terms of taste but also in visual effect. I get inspired every time I come back from her house.”
Besides wall hangings, Carla creates colorful trays as well. Because each piece is handcrafted, it is unique.
“Art isn’t something you only hang on the wall,” she says. “We want to make art that can be used.”
Carla and John’s works can be seen at Biesanz Woodworks in Escazú (289-4337) (see separate story). They can also be viewed online at www.jcartworks.com. The artist can be reached at 289-5172.