silent witness dialogs

In a crowd I wonder about the people who surround me. Is that laughing couple making fun of someone or have they just heard a good joke? Do those children belong to someone in the crowd or are they lost and looking for a home? Does that woman look angry because of a sagging mouth or is she is disgusted by what she sees? What is their inner dialog? What would it sound like?

Thousands of stories, one little street in Rome

There are strangers among us, Paula Kovarik

In high school a friend and I used to go to O'hare airport (when it was legal to go to the departure gates without a ticket). We would sit and watch the travelers and make up stories about their lives and destinations. This one was a spy going to Poland, that one was a starlet on her way to Hollywood, those two just learned that their uncle had left them a fortune. We always added a sense of drama to the mundane.

People dressed up to get on planes in those days. No one had wheels on their luggage so there was a lot of lugging going on. Grim determination was mixed with anticipatory grins for the adventure before them. It wasn't difficult to imagine legends behind their gait.

These rocks are watching.

Last year I spent a week at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It was an opportunity to refocus my inner dialog. I collected rocks, hiked every day, watched the sun set into water and imagined the stories behind the people on the beaches. The rocks I collected had holes in them. They reminded me of faces. I thought of them as silent witnesses to the human drama that surrounded them.

Now I am assembling my own crowd using these inanimate objects to build an animation. Each square has its own story. Thirty-five of them — because the whole is almost my height and I can reach both sides to hold the edges.

Silent witnesses, work-in-progress, canvas, thread and batting. Paula Kovarik

preparation and separation anxiety

This piece and 14 of its brethren are traveling to Chicago for a solo show. It has taken me two full weeks of details to get them all prepped, packaged and shipped. And now it is done. The only thing left to do is worry about them being away from the studio on their own.

Incoming by Paula Kovarik, 31H x 41W, 2016

For those of my readers who are near Winnetka, Illinois: please take a break from basking in the sun, sipping lemonade and playing summer games to take in the show at ZIA Gallery. I would love to meet you on opening night.

ZIA | Gallery
548 Chestnut, Winnetka, IL
June 25 - July 30, 2016

Opening Reception
Saturday, June 25th, 5-7pm

details details

Every piece I make usually has a spot of blood on it — a record of the poking, prodding and pinning that happens while stitching. I used to clean each mistaken drop, but now I leave the evidence. It hurt when it happened. It reminded me that I am alive and not just subsumed by the warp and weft of the cloth before me. It's a symbol of existence — a forensic artifact that ties me to the art.

Catalysts has a forest of bamboo below the images, each horizontal stitch was an opportunity to poke through my finger.

Sinking into details is part of my process. Each stitch added not only embellishes but also brings focus to what I am feeling. Stitching also renders me mute, so when I poke that needle into my skin the little yelp that escapes my brain reminds me that I am present.

What would this eye be without the spec of gold in the pupil?

What would these lines mean without the distressed cloth beneath?

What would this tangle of threads mean without the swirl of activity within?

going with it

Texture, detail, flow and mystery. Those are my muses. I work in fabric because of it. Joining pieces of cloth with stitch mimics the way my thoughts labor toward understanding. Each bit brings me a little closer to a dialog, each stitch animates the landscape.

I started this piece a week ago. There was no plan. I chose instead to let the scraps tell me who their neighbors should be.

Steeples and antennas fascinate me. They reach toward space with great force, probing the mysteries.

There was some wonkiness in my piecing, a little wave of impatience showing in the edges.

Adding a horizontal grid of black on black stitching created a subtle atmosphere behind the structures and stabilized the wonkiness.

Stitched details add life to the passive two dimensional surface.

Pieces like this make me smile, they seem to need a soundtrack.

I haven't named it yet. It needs to stay on the board for a little longer.

the buzz

Friday will be a noisy day. I am part of a six woman show at Crosstown Arts called Six Points. It is our first show. We have spent a year together talking about our work and goals. 

Most of the time I seek the quiet. Ever since our vacation last month my ears have been whistling. It's a quiet high pitched whisper that I hear only when I am silent.

Hearing only when it is silent. Like seeing only when I have my eyes closed or tasting without smell. Awareness comes in small doses.

Do we broadcast our thoughts without being aware of it? Do we hear messages without listening? Broadcasting, Paula Kovarik

The buzz isn't exactly annoying. I interpret it as an electrical charge that persists, a twitter of nerves, a reminder of the hear and now. It doesn't promote calm or clear the air waves of those nasty little snatches of tunes that catch me in their whorl. (Lately it's Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, O Fortuna, but last week it was Purple Rain). And it comes when I am not ready—not focused on other things—so it always surprises me when it starts up again.

There's a certain depth to quiet that I seek out each day. It's a space that allows for awareness.

When I am deep within the buzz of awareness I can't speak it out loud. Silent Witnesses panel, Paula Kovarik

Like the day when I was driving and thinking about a good friend and how I needed to call her. It was silent in the car. Later that day she called me.

Or the morning in yoga class when I looked up at the ceiling and thought about how far the galaxy goes and later that day my son posted a shot of the milky way on his facebook feed.

Tapping into the mysterious requires a silent awe, an awareness of the underlying buzz. I am whistling in the dark, reaching for the tactile.

And I do that best in the quiet.

Background noise disturbs the pattern. Silent Witnesses panel, Paula Kovarik