For nearly four years, Lee Piechocki has been living and working in a modest one-bedroom apartment in Midtown Kansas City. Such arrangements can distort the transitions between normative life and formal practice. In Piechocki’s case, distinguishing between such modes is made more difficult by the fact that there is no obvious transition between what is allowed into his life and his studio (and the resultant work)—at all.
The living and dining area of his apartment is overwhelmed by art. Not just paintings, but odd, stylized arrangements of paintings giving way to constructed surfaces and full-blown three-dimensional objects (some found) that call back to the paintings with a distinct visual grammar. A white and pink Rollerblade, belonging to the right foot of an unknown preteen (now likely a woman) rests inches from a few paintings—each hung like windows on a computer screen. A loosely wound roll of green bubble wrap near a chair that is clearly not for show confirms that nothing here is certain. After all, this is where Piechocki eats his dinner and pets his cats. The apartment is a bizarre, funny tableau. But it’s no act.
Were it not for the insistent and disruptive texture of each painting, one might wonder if Piechocki didn’t possess some kind of secret ability to simply lift the various plaid patterns and brickwork motifs of his paintings with a digital magic wand, duplicating and re-sizing on the fly.
“I don’t think of myself in any of these paintings,” Piechocki says, correcting my assertion that these various objects that surround (and populate) his paintings are somehow important or autobiographical in nature, “I think of myself as separate.” He is adamant that his repeated patterns, paint cans, black cats, shards of slag glass, jack-o-lanterns and extension cords are incorporated into his paintings simply for their aesthetic appeal.
“Everything is individually interesting, but there is no deeper meaning in their selection,” he explains.
But it may be slightly more complicated than that. Piechocki’s life, as a visual presentation—from studio to living room to palette to wardrobe choices—shares an odd and unsettling dialect. Once combined, it’s all from his planet. Even if the Rollerblade is chosen only for visual appeal, it’s the Rollerblade that Piechocki selected from the outer world and brought home to live with him. It’s as much a part of him as anything he calls his own. But the question of whether or not Piechocki’s innocent take on his strange constellation of equal parts is by design is impossible to know.
“I’m always trying to find the balance between lightheartedness and sinister,” Piechocki reflects, searching without satisfaction for the right analog to describe his inspiration. “I like nervous laughter!” he injects with a wild-eyed smile and, after a beat, nervous laughter.