Chestnut Hill artist Cathy Hozack’s works are on display this month at Campbell’s Place, 8337 Germantown Ave. (Photo by Louise E. Wright)

by Louise E. Wright

Should Cathy Hozack ever tire of painting, she might turn her talents to architecture or even urban planning. The 32-year-old artist, whose works are on display this month at Campbell’s Place, creates abstract watercolors in which she strives to reconcile the civilized world with the natural one.

Bridges, aqueducts and windmills figure prominently in her landscapes, and she counts the city skyline among her favorite subjects. Hozack, however, can’t resist improving on what she sees. “We have a lovely city,” she acknowledges, “but there are certain things that can be blended or included in a way that I choose.” She offers skyscrapers like the Comcast Center as an example. In her paintings, Hozack prefers to integrate them with their environment rather than permit them to tower over it. “I can make those buildings cooperate with the surrounding land and weather patterns,” she explains.

Appreciative of the city, Hozack prefers to gaze at it from a distance. Places like the roof top of the Drake Apartments or the Schuylkill River Path allow her to enjoy the urban scene, comfortably distanced from its noise and commotion. “I have to avoid those kinds of things if I’m going to produce art work,” explains Hozack, who is epileptic. “Distractions for me are what people deal with everyday.”

In her Chestnut Hill studio, Hozack experiences the excitement of creating without distractions, “except maybe a kitty,” she concedes, alluding to the five felines who share a home with her and her mother, Ann, who grew up in Germantown.

Yet, if a stress-free environment allows Hozack to create, the very act of creation has a soothing effect. Feeling angry or stressed, she retreats to her studio where, absorbed in her work, she forgets her problems. “In that case, having a short-term memory loss is a good thing,” she jokes, referring to one of the effects of both epilepsy and the brain surgery she underwent five years ago to reduce her seizures.

Similarly, while taking classes at the Woodmere Art Museum and studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), Hozack remained seizure-free. In 2006 she graduated from the Academy with a certificate in painting, having spent a semester abroad at the Burren College of Art in Ireland.

Hozack, who has lived in Chestnut Hill since she was 9, began her studies in middle school, doing a little bit of everything, but it wasn’t until two years after graduation from Delaware Valley Friends High School that she decided to pursue art as a career. Encouraged by her teachers at Woodmere, whom she describes as “very patient,” she applied to PAFA.

Her portfolio consisted of portraits, watercolor landscapes and drawings but no oils. At PAFA, however, she received classical training, which meant working with oils. “When I got to choose my medium,” she declares, I went straight back to watercolor.”

Hozack describes watercolor as “a fun thing” and has a natural gift for it. Although initially lacking formal training in the medium, “I understood instinctively how to go about the process.” Learning the accepted techniques later on “helped me understand which were important to me. That was when I began defining my own style.”

At present, Hozack directs her energies toward creating large abstract works on canvas using liquid acrylic, something she thinks of as “watercolor in a larger bottle.” She’s a regular customer at Kilian’s Hardware, where she buys disposable 3 1/2″ brushes, the kind used to paint houses.

Hozack characterizes her pictures as “multiple layers of transparent colors that move back and forth.” Blues and greens dominate her palette, although recent canvases have “more red, more warm colors, strong colors.”

Occasionally, Hozack reverts to her formal training. One day, she recalls, after working on a large abstract piece, “I decided to sit and draw a grapefruit in the sun.” Exercises such as this not only relax her but also allow her to “check back” on her abilities.

One of Hozack’s cityscapes recently graced the cover of the journal “Epilepsy & Behavior.” Through Jim Chambliss, the driving force behind Sparks of Creativity, an organization devoted to studying the influence of epilepsy and migraines on the arts, Hozack contacted the editor. In doing so, she hoped to garner attention, not only for herself but for epileptics in general.

Hozack talks openly about epilepsy, regretting the general public’s ignorance of the condition. References to seizures in the news cause some listeners to “cringe,” she points out, while some epileptics “are still ashamed.” Her goal is to generate publicity for epilepsy “in a positive way, in a way that makes people want to listen more.”

What epilepsy needs, she concludes, “is a young spokeswoman like me that people will recognize and connect with.” Indeed. Who better than Cathy Hozack?

Hozack’s watercolors are on view at Campbell’s Place from Feb. 6 through March 3; the Pierre S. duPont Arts Center Gallery in Wilmington will host a solo exhibition of her work in November. For more information, visit www.cathyhozack.com