Susquehanna Quilt show debuts in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

I am pleased to be a part of Quilts 20/20 Traditional Works/Contemporary Art at the Susquehanna Art Museum.  The museum is in Harrisburg, Pa. The show will run through August 31. If you are in the area, please stop by to see a great comparison of traditional historic works from the collection of LancasterHistory.org and the Pilgrim Roy collection and contemporary artists.

Pat Pauly has curated an extraordinary show.

My piece, Do the Doodle hangs in front of and is compared to an African American Crazy Patch quilt from the Pilgrim/Roy collection. That beautiful piece to the left on the yellow wall is by Kathleen Loomis, Crazed 8: Incarceration.

building fences

Continued reading and research about refugee populations reveals a consistent discussion about building fences. To keep people out. To keep people in. Made of barbed wire, chain link, bricks and mortar or fabricated steel these fences are inhumane and daunting for those who seek safety, or food, or family. Whether it is between Mexico and the US or Hungary and Serbia the fences foster enmity, strife and violence. Guards with automatic weapons treat children as criminals. Countries stop talking about solutions and focus on defense. As these refugees encounter the barriers their lives are lost trying to find protection from thugs, food for their families, jobs for themselves.

As part of a study on this topic I am creating a piece that begins with a stitched tablecloth (see more about that here). I want to add a fence to the piece without obscuring the stitching beneath. I experimented with various materials including an actual section of chain link laid on top of the tablecloth (hmm...how to trim the edges?). I hand knotted a web of thread using a fisherman's guidance for fishing nets, in three different weights.

I built a jig that would allow me to string thread through a grid to create a fence of thread (which I thought I could hit with a solution of white glue to stiffen the gridded thread) and finally, I thought maybe I could just draw it on. None of these solutions worked. So the piece has lingered in my peripheral vision.

Until yesterday when I saw a collage by an artist who was layering textural elements over each other. The result looked like peeling paint. Not my goal. But the layering did spur an idea of how I could accomplish my goal of adding a fence to the piece.

Fences are solid, immutable objects that define space. But there are other types of fences that we erect that affect our lives. Those of fear, racism, anxiety and nationalism to name a few. Governments use laws and decrees to exclude or include. People sort their lives by choosing and defining groups that are acceptable and unacceptable to them. Voting districts are defined by those in power.

Fences can be solid or diaphanous, made of steel or made of prejudice.

I decided I would create a layer for this piece in progress. I printed out my drawing of the structure and taped it to a foam board. Layering the drawing with tulle that is stabilized on the back of the board I am weaving a silver thread through the tulle to create a subtle fence that can be cast over the stitched base.

We'll see if this works.

zooming in on inner sections

inner-sections, a work in progress. 2015, Paula Kovarik

inner-sections, a work in progress. 2015, Paula Kovarik

One of the best parts of any quilt is the fact that the closer you get the more you see. It's important to my art that people see a strong composition that reads from afar. But I also want to draw the viewer in to see details and depth.

This piece exemplifies that focus. The first layer is the piecing. The color scraps of fabric came together gradually to form this composition. It was done randomly, I knew only that I wanted a dark side and a light. (see more information about this process here)

Second, I focused on the intersections of the fabrics and stitched tangent lines at each seam in black and white across the piece. So, whenever two fabrics touched each other I separated them by stitching a line across the surface of the piece --black stitching on the white ground, white stitching on the black. My theory was that the overall composition would create hotspots of intersections where the seams would reveal invisible connections that a casual glance would not reveal. My theory seemed proven when I noticed nests of black lines between the two figures on the white ground.

Third, I decided to highlight the areas that formed triangles with green thread. This creates another level of dimension in the piece. Sort of like a floating superstructure.

zooming in reveals nests of stitching that are formed by the tangent lines and the floating green triangles that seem to hover over the piece.

Zooming in even closer reveals textural detail of the black on black stitching in the upper portion of the composition. This texture might be hard to see in this shot, very difficult to photograph. Adding this level of texture seems to complete the picture for me. I think I am close to binding this piece and trying another version.

slowing down again

Hand stitching slows down life. It is a finishing stage of my work. The added texture, detail and color creates a nuanced meaning to the work. It requires a higher level of concentration. There are two pieces in my studio that require this level concentration now. 

Hive

For over a year this piece has developed into a study in consciousness, serendipity and connections. It is an assemblage of cast offs and stitching that weaves across the surface in chaos. For the last month it has stared down at me with a level of confusion that stopped the work. It was too chaotic, too disjointed. And, because I decided a while back that it needed to be a two-sided piece the complication of that made me a little dizzy. If I added an element on one side it affected the other. So it stopped. 

Then, just as I was leaving for a bike trip with friends, I had an AHA! moment. I realized I needed something that would tie it all together, knitting the elements into one organism, back and front. 

Thus was born a hive pattern. Hand-stitched over the chaos, through both front and back. 

The 50m orange-red top-stitching thread glows on the dark side of this piece. 

The same orange-red thread on the light side of the piece is more graphic. The color stands out in some areas but disappears in others. Two inch hexagons create mini frames of details in the piece. 

Immigration

The flag quilt is getting its layer of hand stitching in a different way. The gnarled, intertwined texture of the stitches is defining patterns of growth, migration and connections. I think of mending when I work on this piece. Mending the edges of communities, mending the rawness of connections. 

Slowing down time allows calm and supports meaning. I recommend it. 

More about Quilt National 2015

Spending time with other artists is the best. Spending time with over 60 artists is beyond words. My head is still spinning. I didn't really have a good camera while there so these snapshots are a bit blurry and dark. The weekend was filled with so much talk that when I returned I was silent for days. Processing.