A little day trip

I attended the 59th Annual Delta Exhibition in Little Rock, Arkansas yesterday. This exhibition showcases contemporary artists from Arkansas and bordering states.

And now for the drum roll....

I was chosen for one of the Delta Awards by juror Betsy Bradley, director of the Mississippi Museum of Art.

I was chosen for one of the Delta Awards by juror Betsy Bradley, director of the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Bradley spoke of the sense of place in the Delta and the natural power of the Delta landscapes as well as the tension that artists portray in their work between what is familiar and what is new. Here's part of her juror's statement: "As much as I found some artists savoring the details of their worlds, I was truly struck by others whose works evidenced a great unease, eerie expressions of a world slipping into an abyss, emanating tones of fear, anger, and anxiety."

Prior to announcing the award winners she showed a curious collection of historical paintings depicting women creating art using fiber and clay. The fact that she chose (blindly) three women artists who are working in fiber, porcelain and metal was particularly exciting for those of us who work on the edges of paintings.

Delta Exhibition crowd

It was standing room only at the opening celebrations. Music blaring, the catfish, hushpuppies, wines and pies tempted us. What I could see of the artwork over and through the heads of the crowd was spectacular. I'll have to find a way to get back to the museum to see the works in a more concentrated way. In particular I loved the work of David Bailin. His piece, Halloween, took my breath away. I wish I had taken a picture of it but there were always crowds obstructing my view. Here's a link to his website: Halloween. He uses, charcoal, pastels and coffee to create haunting works about his father.

My piece was toward the back under a spotlight with a deep gray wall behind it. Very dramatic.

My favorite part of any show is watching people studying my piece. Some shared their thoughts about the work and even saw things in it that were unintentional on my part. I love that part of art. It has its own life. It walks its own path. I am a conduit for other's visions.

That tiny blip of understanding

We may not be immortal. Life is fast, challenging and unpredictable.

My husband is undergoing treatment for a (curable) cancer.

Stop.

You know that feeling of your mind going blank? White out. Black out. Everything fuzzy gray? Can't remember your name? I'm there -- blank, buzzing, and slow-witted. The blank is that blip. blip. blip. of realizing that we may not be immortal. The buzz from anxiety. Slow-witted because changing our daily focus to include radiation is a gruesome choice. One we did not want to make.

My husband is undergoing treatment for a (curable) cancer.

Stop.

Think.

Re-focus.

Curable.

It's about the inside coming out

Ladders, clouds, arrows and eyes. Especially eyes. These are common motifs that show up in my work regardless of the subject. The thread is trying to tell me something.

Reach for higher meaning.
Float above it.
Find a new direction.
Look within.

While preparing for a couple of studio visits by local curators I looked for a consistent, underlying message in the work. Something that tells me that I have a point of view -- a recognizable voice that makes sense to me. And it came down to these: ladders, clouds, arrows and eyes. Pathways to understanding, swirling confusion, angular edginess, underlying monsters provoked by overwhelming current events and an inner dialog.  Its' the inside coming out. They are about the edges as defined by line. The layered, ripped, cut, and sandwiched together. Some are more successful than others, but all share a common bond: The work reaches for mystery...an elusive target.

edginess

I've been thinking about edges today — how they define differences and beginnings and decisions and boundaries. How the term edgy feels comfortable in my skin. How edginess often helps me to push on but at the same time reels me in with fear.

Standing above this pool of wetland gives me the feeling that I could dive into a separate reality. The edges here are about perception versus reality.

I'm one of those people who, when confronted with the edge of a cliff, cling to the nearest tree. I am not one to join others at the edge peering into the unknown. No, not me. Edges are too scary. I know that I will be tumbled into the abyss by the slightest breeze. 

But art is all about the edges. And sometimes I am, in fact, tumbling.

The edges of this hole in a sycamore tree beckon curious creatures. There is darkness within.

It's not so much that I don't want to navigate that journey. I think it has something to do with trusting myself to navigate well. Inner dialog is easily obscured by outer pretense. Bare naked exposure can make my skin crawl and my thoughts scrambled. Am I really showing my truth? Or is this an exercise in mending?

Edges of thoughts can be raw, jagged and tongue-tied. Beast (detail) Paula Kovarik.

Sitting down with needle ready can make the silence roar. The edge is near. Sometimes I have to tie it down in neat and syncopated rhythm. It's a mending or bringing together that makes sense to my sense of order and calm.

Suture stitches mimic mending, holding together differing sides.

Other times I let the static in and the edges can feel like the needles. Hairs on end.

focus on something else

One of the goals I set for myself this year is to invite curators and other artists to my studio to show my work. I've spent about two months recording, measuring and carefully storing the quilts that I have done in the past 10 years. I'm running out of closets and storage materials. So the question I ask myself lately is "what's the point?"

What's the point of spending hours on 2 square inches of a three by four foot square of fabric pieces stitching in little stitches, little stitches, little stitches. What's the point of going back to an unfinished piece to see if the answer to the problem is there on the 50th time I look at it? What's the point of taxing my body with every stitch, every ironing chore, every patch? Wouldn't I be more useful at a soup kitchen? or children's reading group? or making more protest signs and organizing the resistance?

Am I being selfish by spending time within rather than spending time reaching out?

And I don't have the answer. So I focus on something else.

Focus on Something Else, 2017, 32" x 32"

Making art keeps me healthy. Making art releases demons. Making art makes sense of confusion and brings confusion to sense.

I am compelled to do it -- without regard to results. Without regard for where it takes me. And sometimes it takes me to dead ends. Where my brain is blinkered and stupefied.

deadend, paula kovarik

That's when I look for another way to make little stitches, little stitches, little stitches.

Then I can think about something else. Something quiet and consuming. Something that closes away the worries, the news, the predictions, the warnings and the opinions that litter my consciousness. Red stitch, black stitch, green stitch, blue.

So maybe the question shouldn't be "what's the point?" so much as "where to go from here?"