Joseph Bartnikowski was born in 1929 to a Polish immigrant woman of 16 in Brooklyn during the Depression. His father died before he was born. He started painting at three and a half on the streets of Brooklyn with broken plaster. He lived on the top floor and could see his drawings below on the street until the rain washed them away. He would then go down and draw some new ones
He earned a living in the early days playing the trumpet in a band but art remained his passion. At the age of 30, he left the band scene to work as assistant music director at the psychiatric hospital in Central Islip. This gave him a great source of people and scenes to paint, however, he was his own most convenient model and painted over 180 self-portraits. He never attended a conventional art school but his total surrender to his
love of art and talent gave him the tools to succeed.
He worked in many mediums and on many “recycled” materials such as the panels of milk cartons, old hospital forms, kraft paper bags and the pages of phone books in addition to stretched canvas and the more common grounds. His style ranges from traditional “painterly” to loose which is how he described his work.
He retired after thirty years with the hospital in Central Islip, gave up his studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and took to wandering the east coast painting where ever he was, and living with acquaintances or in his van.
He died at his home in Central Islip in 2005.
His work has been exhibited in many galleries including:
Premier Gallery, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Atrium Gallery, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Nabi Gallery, New York City and Sag Harbor, New York
E. E. Smith Gallery, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Old Warsaw Galleries, Alexandria, Virginia
Vered Gallery, East Hampton, New York
Maruschka, Westhampton Beach, New York