Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Auto mechanic Alex Kozyr took a break recently from the pistons and pushrods of the car engines he works on to show a visitor one of his favorite watercolors.
It is one of many watercolors Kozyr has painted that hang on the walls of the shop at Carmanny – Used Car Sales & Service in Santa Fe.
“My favorite is Acoma Mesa,” Kozyr explained to the visitor. A self-described lover of the outdoors, the amateur artist has painted so many scenes of New Mexico that his Santa Fe apartment walls are full. Now, a half-dozen or so brighten the walls of the auto dealer’s workshop.
Kozyr, 38, is from a small village – population 700 – in the Ukraine where his father taught anything from art to physics in the local middle school and his son was one of his art students.
His father did watercolor sketches and Kozyr thought “it would be nice to do it some day.”
Twenty-five years went by as life got in the way. Immigration to the U.S. was followed by working and living in Wisconsin until he moved to Santa Fe three years ago.
His wife, a nurse, bought him a watercolor set several years ago and he started sketching.
“I really liked it,” Kozyr said. “It felt like meditation to me – to get away from all the troubles and everything … and it felt great.”
The inspiration comes “from the New Mexican landscape,” he said. “I really enjoy the New Mexican landscape and that’s the only thing I paint basically.”
Kozyr and his wife have two boys under 3, so his outdoor excursions rarely involve full-on plein air painting.
“I take photos if I go with them somewhere and then I paint when they go to sleep,” he said.
Kozyr said he tries not to be overly influenced by the works of other artists, but admires the watercolorists of yesteryear from Great Britain.
He starting working on cars in his native Ukraine.
“I always worked on my own cars,” he said. “Engines are my specialty.”
Kozyr finds a commonality in art and car mechanics at the intersection of pigments and pistons.
“You need to be patient and have attention to detail, and keep learning stuff every day. That’s how you stay sharp,” he said.
Happenstance brought the Ukrainian mechanic and Carmanny owner Manny Lucero together three years ago when Kozyr responded to Lucero’s ad for a used Jeep at the Carmanny location on Agua Fria Street.
Kozyr bought the vehicle “and he asked me if I needed help and I said ‘sure,’ ” said Lucero. After a try-out, “the rest was history,” he said.
Lucero, 68, not only likes his mechanic’s work ethic, but also is appreciative of the artworks displayed on the walls.
“I enjoy going to see his art work when I have been to his house, he’s amazing – a lot of talent and he is a very dedicated employee,” he said.
Lucero has owned the business since 1990 and specializes in Subarus. He said positive reviews posted on social media and word-of-mouth have helped his business.
The Lucero/Kozyr team has been a good match, Lucero said last week, as he sat in his office amid mountains of car keys and paperwork.
“I love Subarus and Alex is a great mechanic, so we have developed a real loyal following, and people come in and ask for Subarus.”
At some point, Kozyr said he might be tempted to try and get his art into a gallery, but adds his works are simple sketches and not complete paintings.
If he were to sell his work, his passion would cease to be a hobby, he explained.
“I want to do it for joy, not for profit,” he said. “I don’t sell them, I don’t give them away. It’s a hobby and it’s a big memory for me for each place I have been to.”