For Analogue Skies, he's hand-built small, hyper-real objects like matchbooks, carnival ephemera and Polaroids out of stoneware. The work may elicit a double take from viewers who are slow to believe that a cardboard matchbook, seemingly bent and soggy from being in someone's pocket, is made of ceramic.
A white paper target from a carnival shooting gallery, re-created in porcelain, hangs from fishing line strung between two walls. The target boasts a red star at its center, and the text beneath reads, "All [Red] Star Must Be Shot From Card To Win A Prize."
Kowalczyk's target has two holes, a larger one through which the fishing line is threaded and another the size of a BB—an artifact, perhaps, from the first shot fired. What is most remarkable about Target is the way it's lit in the exhibit.
A strong spot casts a shadow of the target onto the far wall. The resulting dark rectangle contains two points of light, one larger and one smaller, a constellation twinkling against the night sky.
This makes sense, given that the show was inspired by Kowalczyk's move to the country, where he has taken up stargazing. "I now think of myself as a bizarre collector of objects who re-creates relationships between mundane things and a sky filled with stars," he says.
The relationship is carried out in a series of stoneware Polaroids, hung in an array against one wall. Some are unexposed blanks, their black squares framed by white borders, while others appear misdeveloped, streaked by the blur and drag of chemicals across their surface, resulting in multicolored explosions of celestial patterns. An outdated technology, rendered in uncannily realistic detail, captures something timeless and infinite.
Matchbooks are the subject of three of Kowalczyk's sculptures. Fading Stars is the most powerful because its matches appear to have been consumed and curled by fire, lying in a charred pile next to the empty book. It is a tactile remnant of something that can never be touched: Stars, like matches, burn brightly for a time only to burn out.
Analogue Skies feels intimate and personal because it gives us the sense that Kowalczyk is searching for something within the vastness of the sky, inviting us to search with him rather than telling us what he's already discovered.
SEE IT: Analogue Skies is at Eutectic Gallery, 1930 NE Oregon St., 503-974-6518, eutecticgallery.com. Through Oct. 29.