Edgewood resident and artist Michael Janouris says the message of his art is hope.
And it's that message he wants people to get through his art, particularly next month when his first solo exhibition, "Spirituality and Man's Conflict," opens July 2 at the Artshowcase Gallery at 336 Charles St. in Baltimore. The show runs through July 11.
"I want to tell people that there is hope in the world. If they can find it in my art, then they can find it in themselves," says Janouris, who paints with his hands, not with a brush.
The pieces to be exhibited, considered by Janouris to be his most significant works, include seven paintings and two sculptures. All of the works are centered on the Christ figure as a transcendent source of strength.
Janouris says that the religious tones in his art "came naturally" and began appearing frequently in his creations.
However, he traces evidence of spiritual influence back to the first time he picked up a palette knife. While suffering from a
lower-back injury six years ago, he purchased a small canvas and four primary color paints. He painted thick lines onto the canvas and scratched them into a design with a palette knife, and soon he had completed his first work of art.
Feeling that his ability to create was a gift from a transcendent source, Janouris now is convinced there is "a superior being."
The husband and father has watched his talent change and improve since completing his first painting.
He has taken no formal professional art instruction, but has experimented with several styles of art.
He classifies his current work as "modern expressionism with abstract overtones."
"When I first started, I produced more abstractionism and less message. Now, my works are more message," Janouris says.
In the "Spirituality and Man's Conflict" collection, Janouris hopes the message is triumph over the darkness in life.
Janouris' favorite painting, "Raining Jesus," is a stormy background of black and gray splashes and finger marking complemented by a foreground of small, white clay crucifixes set in a pattern that represents falling rain.
The message he hopes viewers get, Janouris says, is that the nurturing spirit of Jesus can rain hope upon man's conflicts and pain.
"Prayers for Hope, Hopelessness," a dual-canvas work portraying the two sides of life, is another work scheduled for the show.
The canvas is ornamented with white crucifixes made of clay beside a solid black canvas. Janouris says the piece represents the negative and positive in life's cycles.
While anxious about the outcome of the first solo exhibition of his career, Janouris believes his collection will have an effect on those who attend.
"I want the people to see the art, feel that art, and react to the art. If I can communicate with the people through my works, then they will want to see more."
James E. Dockery, curator of the Artshowcase Gallery and a carrier of Janouris' work for two years, describes the collection as "bold and original with a clear message about us all."
"Michael's work uses religious iconography and environmental settings to show concern for the inner person and the inner reality. He shows that we've got souls," says Dockery.
Employed by the Bureau of Environmental Affairs for Harford County, Janouris also is concerned with environmental and social problems and plans to portray his feelings about AIDS, pollution, and crime in future art.
He believes art that shows an awareness of current social issues can unite people.
"Together, we will either rise above or sink below life's tragedies," says Janouris.
Janouris sees himself as a fledgling artist with growth ahead.
He thinks he has expressed a fraction of his inner soul and craves further artistic endeavors. He hopes to soon be exhibited by a gallery in the Soho area of New York City that has expressed an interest in his work.
Ultimately he would like to see his art hanging on the walls of a museum.
But for now Janouris hopes that people will come see his art.
( "My work is my message."