May 10, 2022

 I will be teaching Chinese Calligraphy again in person at Common Ground on the Hill at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.  This will be the first in person meeting since the pandemic hit in 2020.  And it will be the first time for me to teach in person at Common Ground since 2011.  I had managed to teach virtually last summer.  It was my first (and maybe my last) zoom course, and, although it was awkward I got through it.  Zoom had its benefits, though, as it allowed a friend from the west coast to participate.  Follow the link to register. I will be teaching Chinese Calligraphy again in person at Common Ground on the Hill at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.  This will be the first in person meeting since the pandemic hit in 2020.  And it will be the first time for me to teach in person at Common Ground since 2011.  I had managed to teach virtually last summer.  It was my first (and maybe my last) zoom course, and, although it was awkward I got through it.  Zoom had its benefits, though, as it allowed a friend from the west coast to participate.  Follow the link to register.

February 22, 2022

 This will be the first in person lecture in about a year.  I'll be discussing how Chinese language and poetry has influenced my work.  Many thanks to the Poetry Society of South Carolina for helping to sponsor this event. 

November 7, 2021

Lost, Found, and Remade Pit Fired Ocarinas


This autumn, my ceramic work has alternated between the glossy and decorative and the austere and natural.  For some time now, I’ve been working on increasing the range of my ceramic ocarinas - which have been pit fired in the austere, zen-like mode.  The examples here were made with some leftover raku clay.  The raku clay was heavily textured with grog in order to withstand the thermal shock of sudden temperature fluctuations.  This is not really necessary for pit fired ceramics, but I had a bag of raku clay that I wanted to use up, so decided to experiment.

These large ocarinas were made in response to a little mishap, in which a box of pit fired ocarinas went missing from the last exhibition venue.  The center was absolutely certain that they weren’t there and I was absolutely exhausted turning my house and studio upside-down in search of a box that I knew was not there.  At one point, I thought that my hapless husband, who was doing a massive amount of recycling, might have accidentally tossed the box into the bin.

If the box had gone missing under ordinary circumstances, like just a recently exhibited collection of things that was being returned, then things would be disappointing but otherwise not bruising.  But contained in this missing box were two ocarinas that had been purchased, with clients eagerly looking forward to them being shipped.  I offered substitutes, but my clients really wanted the specific art that they had purchased.

A few more weeks went by, and the box of ocarinas did not appear.  So I resigned myself to creating new ones, making one as close as I could to the sold but missing one.  For the rest, experimentation on the raku clay yielded some interesting results.  Since the clay was already pitted and textured, I splattered on terra sigillata, oxides, and mica chips - giving the forms the impression that they were hewn from rocks - or perhaps were found cobblestones that you can just happen to blow into and produce songs.

Just for fun, I pressed into the wet clay forms to shape them to my grasp, making them quite comfortable to hold.  This one was painted with designs reminiscent of Pre-Columbian the burnished ceramic vessels that I had enjoyed seeing in museum collections.

A friend and I put all the bisqued ocarinas into a pit fire, added some salt and copper carbonate and stoked a fire.  The fire ended up not being quite reduced enough with the smothering, so I had to bake a second time and smother again  - the air got to it!

In the mean time, the missing box of ocarinas was found, and now I have a new collection of ceramic ocarinas of many shapes and sizes to dispense with.

October 28, 2021

A Rendering of Soliloquies - Figures Painted in Spots of Time

 Finally!  My full length poetry book is published and available.  This concludes a few decades of additions, subtractions and revisions.  Many of the people who originally posed for the paintings and drawings have grown old, some passed away, and children have grown and move up and onwards in the world.  So this picture book has in some respects taken on an elegiac quality.  I am not certain now whether to call it a well polished work or a seasoned one.  Here is the link:

There are over fifty drawings and paintings in the book.  With so many, it was difficult to choose one for the cover.  My husband encouraged me to go with something red.  So the painting "The Red Shirt" now graces the cover.

July 24, 2021

 The exhibition, Artists Drawing Artists, opens today at Stormwater Studios in Columbia, SC.  This was a really fun exhibition to prepare for.  Artists paired up and exchanged photographs of themselves.  Many of the artists knew each other so were able to creatively incorporate personal life and art themes into the final portraits.  The portrait that Jeri Burdick did of me, for instance, alludes to my monumental snake paintings.  My portrait of Jeri included a tongue-in-cheek references to the weirder photos that I had sent of myself to her.  The background in Jeri's portrait is embellished with Jeri's free style brushwork.  These portraits made the local news!

June 23, 2021

 Yesterday I was interviewed by the New York Parrot regarding my previously published books, The Book of Marvelous Cats, and My Women, My Monsters. We also discussed my upcoming full length poetry collection, A Rendering of Soliloquies, Figures Painted in Spots of Time.  Many thanks to my publisher, Finishing Line Press, for helping to arrange this.  Enjoy the talk and a view of my art-cluttered studio:

May 27, 2021

Paper and Steel: Three Versions of "Initiate" and a Poem by Tamara Miles

  On of my tiny drawings, entitled “Initiate,” was selected as part of the brochure for Paper and Steel. But try as I might, I could not locate this drawing.  As the time to hang  this exhibition drew near, I figured that the only solution to the dilemma of the lost work was to draw it over again.  The first drawing was a mere 4" x 6,” so I decided to make the copy 9" x 12,” which better suited its place among the other 9" x 12" charcoal and ink paintings.  So this was hung with the rest of the exhibitions of calligraphic dancers, and I never mentioned that this was a replacement.

Then news came of a small painting that I had made from the sketch, also 4" x 6.”  This color version was sold at the Artists for Africa exhibition.  My donation made me feel a little less useless as an artist and someone in Africa will get needed food, shelter and clothing - perhaps even a dance scholarship.

The night of the Ekphrastic Poetry Reading at Paper and Steel came next.  The poet Tamara Miles selected the drawing of Initiate to write for.  Ah! I thought.  Good thing that I replaced this drawing.  The new drawing, was a bit more lively than the original drawing but not quite as fancy as the painting.  Dr. Miles gave an outstanding performance of her moving poem, which she is graciously sharing for this blog post and other social media.  The poem will be attached to the wall near the painting so it can be appreciated in person.  Paper and Steel will be on exhibit at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center until June 30.  


-Tamara Miles, after a drawing by Janet Kozachek

To begin, I raise my arms

In perfect praise

to be introduced,

a spark flown

from the initiator’s hand --

and if I learn the way of peace,

an operatic sway,

what promises are made to me?

Just one: You’ll never be the same,

as wild ones once are tamed,

and wild no more.

This ceremony seals,

a holy spirit steals

our names.

An oogenesis occurs --

where we were, 

someone newborn.

Whatever oath was asked,

we’ve sworn.

May 25, 2021

Paper and Steel: An Ekphrastic Poetry Reading by Mind Gravy Poetry

 The ekphrastic poetry reading by Mind Gravy Poetry was a moving tribute to the art work in the exhibition Paper and Steel, at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center.  Mind Gravy always does a great job with this.  In my previous blog, I wrote a short review of Derek Berry's recent publication, Glitter Husk.  At the poetry reading a week ago, Derek chose my drawing, Conspiracy Theories, to write and perform for.  It was a tiny 5" x 7" charcoal drawing, but it caught his attention.  Mr. Berry has graciously allowed me to share his composition for the art work: 

conspiracy theories, after janet kozachek

what must god have felt

when the floodwaters crammed

the lungs of non-believers?

what must have noah’s sons

thought when their friends drowned,

mud and blood and screaming

in the rush of water, the image

of god a turned back,

a night sky? did they whisper

to one another of cruelty?

empathy? or did they cluck

their tongues at those

who had named the dark clouds a conspiracy?

there must be some moment

when children look at their fathers

and understand they are also sons,

when they understand their parents

cannot answer for god.

on facebook, the mother of my childhood best friend

implores her friends to abandon ship.

they will no longer put up with the fake news,

the stolen election, the wicked vaccines,

the homosexual agenda, the millennial generation,

the microchips, the freudian slips,

the children in cages or the children in basements,

the children learning about evolution in schools,

the children who will grow up to one day hate them

for all they do not believe to be true.

i too have huddled with friends

in smoky rooms and asked the questions

about the cia, the man, the medical establishment,

the history not taught in schools, the slaughters forgotten,

the unions busted, the god written and rewritten

into thousands of books, then painted white

and hung on a plastic cross hanging from the neck

of the mother of my childhood best friend,

who believes i’m the enemy.

i do not how to trust anymore.

i do not know how to point to the truth

& say, “this is the truth,” without flinching

at everything i do not know.

i do not know how to ask god, “why?”

without wondering when my children will ask me the same question.

but i know i touch my lover’s

face with the same hands

once cradled in the palms

of that woman, who once fed me,

who once when i was a toddler,

kept me alive for three days

while my brother was born premature in the hospital.

a woman who loved me, in a way,

until i grew up to become one of the drowned.

May 24, 2021

Glitter Husk by Derek Berry Review


Everyone knows the old canard, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”  But it was the exquisite cover design, embellished with a lavender cicada emerging from its case, and the glittery lettering, that drew my attention to Derek Berry’s poetry chapbook, Glitter Husk. The cover, featuring the art work of Roberto Jones and the graphic design of Anniebelle Quattlebaum, captures that ineffable spark of wonder that insinuates itself throughout the book - even into the darkest corners.

Glitter Husk, with its unconventional structures ( Who would have thought to write a redacted elegy that looks like a page from the Mueller Report?), and raw confrontations, is a self-effacing lamentation on living in uncomfortably challenging spaces for body and mind:

 “Owning a body becomes unmiracled,” - from “hangover.”

Throughout the book, the reader is engaged in a search between the lines for that which shines.  What exactly is this luster that is sprinkled among the text?  Dressed in drag becomes a glitter sacrament.  A glitter husk is the fleeting joy of a firefly.  It is memory made translucent like an overly handled photograph.  We find it in drink, and in the epiphany that guilt is gilt.  Perhaps the glowing is hidden in bits and pieces among Goya’s black house and in his painting of Saturn Devouring his Son.  Maybe it can be teased out of the words and phrases that escape from blackened elegiac redactions, or in the stars one sees from the top of a Ferris wheel on the night of a county fair.  The glow, the glitter, is something that shines out as aliveness against all odds. 

May 10, 2021

Illustration Course and Chinese Calligraphy Course at Common Ground on the Hill

 I will be teaching the following online courses this summer:

Registration is open!    Chinese calligraphy in particular informs the manner in which I have been composing my figurative drawings and gong bi painting has been especially helpful in my book illustration designs.  So there is plenty to learn about eastern aesthetics, but  there are practical applications as well.