Versatile artist has garnered faithful collectors 0
Yvette Peterson photo The work of local artist, Franz Josef Koci is on display now at the Crowsnest Pass Public Art Gallery. The exhibit shows work from the earliest pieces to the most recent, and in some instances depicts the evolution of a piece by showing the same piece of work in various stages of completion.
While we may agree to disagree more often than not about what is great art than on any other subject, most will agree that without a variety of art a town's landscape becomes as bland as toast without butter.
How fortunate the Crowsnest Pass has been to have a local artist contribute to the town, forever giving visitors and residents
something to discuss as they drive through Blairmore. we've all seen them, the crows keeping watch as we rush around.
Those crows are amongst a few sculptures created by the fascinating Franz Josef Koci, who has been working and living as an artist in the Pass since 1951 and whose body of work is currently on display at the Gallery in Frank.
Koci has been an artist on the Canadian art scene for half a century and his repertoire takes in a broad spectrum that includes oil
painting, graphic art, sculpture and murals.
"The beauty of being versatile is, when you get tired of doing one (medium), you just do the next. It never gets monotone," says Koci.
"Sometimes you don't know what it's going to be. I get up in the morning, I have my coffee and then I can't get in the studio fast
enough. Art drives me, I just have to do it," he says.
Koci's work includes landscapes, portraits, still life, wildlife and even fantasy. His most well known piece of work for this area is
likely the image he painted of the Frank Slide, selected in 1978 to be presented to dignitaries at the official opening of the centre. To date, that image remains the most widely produced of his work at 125
prints. That same year, the Alberta Art Foundation also selected a Koci painting for its Heritage Collection.
But there's no wonder about the saying, 'starving artist', for many this is not the easiest career to choose, and in a small town making a success of it did not come easy either.
"It's tough, especially in the beginning," says Koci. "At that time, the employment office here, they knew I was an artist, and they would call me and say they have a job for me for the day or for a week and
I'd take it." Koci took on many hats (from newspaper entrepreneur and the first owner of the Promoter, to making all kinds of signs). In between, he started his studio and created a variety of art for sale to tourists. From paintings to carvings, slowly Koci started to build a following.
"I would sell these carvings of Crowsnest Mountain for $3 - and that was a lot of money to me then! And then it was a pleasant surprise, some of the people became collectors."
Some of these same collectors still follow Koci in his career and the support has been invaluable. In return, Koci has taken suggestions for some of the topics he choose to create from his collectors, including a portrait of Louis Riel and a private portrait of one of his collector's father.
"I make art for people to enjoy, and it makes me happy when people are
happy," he says.
Koci's work can be viewed at the Gallery for the remainder of April, or at his studio on11341 20 Ave. in Blairmore.