Off Course

Off Course

Golf is an amazing game that ties together so many people from so many walks of life. It intertwines with everything we do: from where and what we eat and drink, to where we live, vacation, and the lifetime friendships we choose to have. One such example of this came from a series of coincidences at places tied to golf: the Lahaina Grill, our offices, photographer Jose R. Morales II’s studio, and brunch at the Maui Prince with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The eventual outcome is a our ProFile on a local personality who has many ties to our game, but whose best club is probably something none of us who play would ever use on the golf course. Introducing Jan Kasprzycki.

Seeing the line from another point of view.

A legendary artist on Maui, Jan Kasprzycki’s work has dazzled residents and visitors alike for decades. I first came to know of him though my association with the excellent and highly respected chef/owner of the Lahaina Grill, Jurg Munch. It was during one of our first visits to Jurg’s famed bistro that I was introduced to the brilliant colors that were emanating from Jan’s floral tapestries—works that made the Lahaina Grill shine. It was, by far, the most imaginative and brilliant work for a Maui artist I had seen; something others who visit the famed Lahaina bistro echo when they dine there. Jurg expands: “Jan Kasprzycki’s artwork creates a vibrant environment at Lahaina Grill that night after night our guests comment on. It is a pleasure to be around his strong, colorful works that seem to glow in the room,” Jurg said. He had choice words for Jan’s work, calling it: “Dynamic, electrifying, vivacious, rich, and distinctive.”

“He really takes you to another place when you are surrounded by his incredible work,” the Lahaina Grill chef/owner told me. “Another place” is right. Trying to find Jan is not easy, but those who persist are rewarded in countless ways. Jan, whose Olinda (above Makawao) studio is secluded and private, is cloistered away from the hustle and bustle of the world. Yet through osmosis, or more likely by coconut wireless, those in search of the great painter typically find him by asking Lahaina Grill staffers during dinner, or at some other place around Maui where Jan’s work can be found. A little effort goes a long way here on the Valley Isle.

Ironically, Marie and I lived about a driver-wedge away from Jan’s studio. We knew of him, but until Jurg’s introduction, knew little. We used to walk up the hill right by his and wife Kathy’s studio everyday on our little routine, wondering in awe who this man was. Over the two years we passed by his home, we never met him. Although we always wondered what he was like, this man who painted lights out on Maui.

It was only recently that we discovered ourselves being introduced to him by our studio-mate, Jose R. Morales. Jose is a top local photographer and we share space with him at his Kahului studio, where he also owns the only sheet film processing lab in the state. I guess Jan has known Jose for years, and our chance meeting was a by-product of this relationship.

Well, Jan was extremely nice, and so down-to-earth that both Marie and I were immediately charmed. Such a pleasure to meet someone of renown who was devoid of the oft-found menacing ego. As refreshing as his art, Jan is a personality to warm up to, quickly, and without barriers.

A painter since age three, Jan comes from family that is entirely about art. Born to a savvy couple of Italian and Polish descent, Jan’s Italian side included a grandfather who invented the first prosthetic ankle joint. His Polish ancestry was steeped in the art of shaping metals—silversmiths, sculptors, and the likes. Jan’s brother, Paul, is a theoretical physicist and a sculptor, whose thesis is a work illustrated in bronze. Jan’s immediate family, here on Maui, includes his wife, Kathy, whose art direction and post production skills have transformed Jan’s work as a painter into that of a walking master franchise. Lisa, his daughter, is a stellar painter/artist in her own right, and his nephew, Atom, is a top architectural designer on the West side, along with his wife, yet another artist, named Jennifer.

But this story is about the man who we met in Jose’s studio, Jan, who after meeting us only a few days earlier, secured for us a meeting and exclusive interview with, none other than Robert Trent Jones, Jr., who was here working on the Makena redesign and refreshing. We never asked him to do this for us, but the introduction broke the ice for us, and we learned from Mr. Jones even more about Jan.

“We’ve known each othe for over 30 years or so,” Robert Trent Jones Jr. told me of Jan. He’s done a lot of work of portraiture of our children growing up, and he has his own sense of color, which is vivid, bright, cheerful, and technical in an old movie sense but for me vibrant and alive,” the renowned course architect explains. “Obviously, I think Jan’s work is great portraiture of nature and all its forms with a very colorful palette. He is a mature artist whose symbolical art is rich and deep and will reach the viewer with a few simple brush strokes in a visual and emotional way. We have collaborated—as he has his professional life and I have mine, the golf course—on the pure art form of mixing poetry, music, and his art in a conceptual way. It is a true collaboration, in an abstract sense, of our American holidays: I hope your readers enjoy his work as well as I do working with him,” Mr. Jones added.

True to his following, Jan has avoided the usual trappings of mass-marketing his works, safeguarding the trust his clients have had in him for so many decades. He is at the top-end of the art world, where commissions are confidential and patrons pay hefty sums for his work. Yet, despite all of his fame, Jan is a machine. He works tirelessly every day out of his Olinda studio.

At the forefront of the imaging age, when digitizing files and morphing them in Photoshop was hardly known to most, Jan and Kathy had a vision: to create a means of expressing Jan’s art in a boundless way. With the sprightly and ingenious help of Kathy, the two have collaborated in design using Kasprzycki’s ‘well of imagery from his life’s work’ by finding a way to take a snippet of DNA from a Jan Kasprzycki piece of art and manifesting it into yet another Kasprzycki work, wholly original and separate from that first oil-on-canvas. For that, they sought another medium for expressing Kasprzycki art in the style and quality befitting of his good name. It took them 11 years and several trips around the world to find it, and they did: extremely high-end, hand-knotted, silk and wool rugs—much like those priceless 200-year-old specimens from Persia—only made today, with the modern artistry of a Kasprzycki.

In this day and age where intellectual property is marketed in so many ways, the Kasprzycki’s have found a medium for sharing Jan’s work that has limitless dimensions. A small amount of Kasprzycki DNA goes a long way, and Kasprzycki estimates that he has motifs existing that could keep a high end custom carpet manufactuer creating new designs for years to come.

It is one thing to have the moxie to be a truely brilliant artist: a genius of one medium alone; it is another to have taken that talent and found a whole new means of expressing artistic brilliance in a way that is unique, and that enhances beauty. With their rug collections debuting in the great estates around the world—their new baby—the fine wools and exotic silks and the plethora of abundant colors that only Jan Kasprzycki knows how to create, the two have accomplished a study of artistry and invention that is entirely based upon a realm of original thought and creativity unseen anywhere, let alone Maui.

Bravo Jan!

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