audience incognito

While working away on the first of many ideas for the Silent Witnesses project it occurred to me that we are all voyeurs these days. Checking into social media sites to see the latest meme or birthday event, following people we like (or don't like anymore), zeroing in on the salient details of excruciating terrorist events. — The blood, the body parts, the damaged child.

Don't get me wrong, I get a lot of ideas from those folks for easy meals after hard days. Simple ways to slice a watermelon. I even enjoy the occasional splash page from Spotify to tune me into new music. The blogs and postings by This is Colossal and the American Craft Council give me sustenance and joy.  Being plugged in results in a synapse symphony which probably takes my brain a bit longer to sort, study and dispose of each night in sleep.

So I admit it, I am a silent witness. Now actively so.

Silent Witnesses started with a pile of rocks with holes that I collected on a Lake Michigan beach.

I don't often speak up when political idiots test my patience. I don't rant about peace and war, women's rights, gun legislation or poverty (except to a few trusted friends over coffee). But I do process it. I do take it all in and parse it out and add it to my anxiety level. Those ripples of details fuel the ideas for my art, focus my energy toward understanding, fragment my feelings of hopeless angst. They distract, inform and poke at me each day in the silence of my studio.

We are all witnesses to horror today. The horror of hate and anger and terror. How do we change the flow to the positive? When will slicing a watermelon outweigh children carried on the backs of their frightened parents?

Silent Witnesses, Paula Kovarik, 2015

silent witnesses

Just back from an energizing Common Thread Symposium at North Carolina State University where I met some inspiring artists and fiber art teachers: Susan Kay-Williams from the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court; Katherine Diuguid, an incredible hostess and talented fiber artist;  Susan Brandeis, Ilze Aviks, Andrea Donnelly, and Jeana Eve Klein to name a few.

A greek chorus in the fiber studio -- whispering to me.

A greek chorus in the fiber studio -- whispering to me.

This greek chorus in the fiber studio stood silently witnessing my attempt to show others how I do my work. I couldn't help but identify with their headlessness. When speaking in front of a crowd I feel a little weightless, as if floating and wandering through a third person narrative. I have to trust that my remarks make sense. The students were engaged and interested, and despite some hitches in equipment failures we had a good time learning from each other. I am hoping that they will pursue some of the drawing exercises we played with in their own work.

These silent witness birds gaze out to the lake as if hearing voices.

These silent witness birds gaze out to the lake as if hearing voices.

When I got home this two yard print from Spoonflower was on my desk, spurring me on to work on my Silent Witness project. The photographs from my residency at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore have inspired this project based on all those animate and inanimate objects that are witnessing our actions on earth. It started with this photo but then moved on to photos of rocks with faces.

Rocks with faces, stitched on canvas. Those shadows give me some ideas of how the next stage in stitching may proceed.

A lot of the artists I talked with over the weekend spoke about the meditative quality of this work. Hours alone focusing on stitch helps me to clear out confusion, simplify meaning and intensify my message. So when I am burying threads and watching the sun pass over the cloth I think about the passage of time, the care in detail, the silent witnesses to understanding.

Burying threads is an exercise in patience. When I work on something that requires it I think about the finite quality of it. What might feel like an endless chore actually does end, with patience.

seeing differently

Ten days from now I will be making a presentation at The Common Thread Symposium hosted by the North Carolina State University College of Design’s Department of Art+Design (find out more here). Preparing a lecture about my artwork is always a challenge. My thoughts evolve. I see pieces in new ways, I discard others. More and more I see the collection as a series of experiments with highlights in insight.

Many people work in series. I work like a taste tester. The horizon contains a spectrum of possibilities. Those little flickering lights of ideas challenge me to focus the lens.

This may be a handicap. I'm not sure. I do know that it follows my trajectory as a designer.

Inspiration can be rocky -- a bone rattling bedevilment. Or, it can rocket me onward to new planets. It's a heady mix. Each project has a list of ingredients, insights and goals. Each requires weeding out the extraneous, simplifying the knotty and, sometimes, adding depth where no bottom can be seen.

Now, let me clean my glasses and get on with it.

exuberant distractions

How can I resist these colors? Why am I sitting in front of computer instead of grazing idly through the parkscapes gathering up the color? Fall beckons. Make haste to the outdoors.

Hardy Ageratum and Henry's Garnet Sweetspire.

Hardy Ageratum and Henry's Garnet Sweetspire.

I will continue the hand stitching on this piece (The grass was greener) outside, in the lingering spectacle.

The grass was greener, detail, Paula Kovarik, 2015

A potential stitch pattern? Hyacinth Bean vine takes over the back deck.