Enough time to just think. And stitch.

I spent the past week sewing like a madwoman, hours and hours in joy and contemplation. Thinking about influences. And inspirations. The Stitched festival at Crosstown Concourse that I organized and facilitated is over. So now I have time to think.

The work started with these three pieces that did not resolve well. So I cut them up into 5” equilateral triangles.

Though I am jazzed about the work and feel that I really have no choice in the matter—I have to do it— I still have that consistent question hanging over the work at all times: I make art—so what? Some people see it—so what? So what now?

I experimented with a lot of different configurations of these triangles with the underlying thought of what the hive mind can do to ideas. Here they became a beast.

It’s not a self doubting thing. On the contrary I believe the artist mind is critical to society. Its more like I am conscious of other things that seem so much more important. There are people shooting people down in the streets in this country. Lots of them. The government is relaxing standards for environmental stewardship and doubling down on fossil fuels. Our newspapers are failing and fake news is everywhere. Racism, bigotry, nationalism, terrorism, etc. etc. etc. The chaos of all these threats brings a foreboding reality.

Since the precut quilt pieces already have stitching on them the challenge I faced was how to connect the diverse patterns. I was thinking that ideas and communications can be like viruses, floating through space. But also how we suture together a narrative based on our own biases. Standing alone in the midst of forces that are hard to define.

I channel these worries into the art but feel like a micro blip when it comes to reaching an audience. Is it just therapy for my unsettled mind? Do I obsess over stitch to treat the anxiety I feel with regards to the future?  How do you process these thoughts? Do you have them?

Hive mind, Paula Kovarik, 40” x 43.5”, 2019

My act of making art is cerebral, logical and also intuitive. The sense of play is important to me. Seeking meaning through pattern and stitch allows for connections that are not always apparent at first glance. Letting the medium tell me what to do feels spiritual and mysterious. But am I acting in a vacuum? Does art become important only after it is released to the public? Or does the act itself activate an individual wholeness that the artist seeks and therefore adds to the cosmic underlayment of society?

many moons

I was not in a colorful mood. So this piece will linger on the boards for a while before I get back to it.

I came back from a number of trips last month with a swarm of images floating through my thoughts but no map to figure out how they go together. It was frustrating to feel so aimless. I looked around at the work that I had done prior to my trips and felt totally disconnected from them.

My friend Jeanne Seagle, a very talented artist here in Memphis said the following in an interview: “Make a lot of work. Put the good stuff in shows. Recognize the bad stuff, and put it in the closet. After a while maybe you can fix it. If not, you can still learn from it what not to do. Just don’t show it.“

After a few days and a number of puzzled thoughts I decided to be radical. I took out all of my older pieces lurking under the studio tables and made some judgements. Some still spoke to me about their intent and focus. Others did not. Some showed a learning curve in the stitching that no longer represents my work. Others were pieces that didn’t get done.

This piece never got done. It was an experiment with geometry and connections.

I chose a few and laid them out on the cutting board for some fun with rotary cutter.

Fun with my rotary cutter. No piece is sacred.

This piece, called Keeping up with the Dow Jones, was done in 2009. I’m over it.

Just that act of cutting up several pieces into 2.5” squares was a release from the aimlessness. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it but I knew it was the right step. Catharsis. Resolve…and a little panic.

After some mix and matching, twisting and turning I finally came up with a composition that seemed to hold together. I stitched the squares onto a canvas backing. All 420 of them.

And now the fun begins. My goal as an artist is to channel what is invisible into the visible. The work I do is intuitive and exploratory. I’m never quite sure what will result with a piece like this. I just know that I am channeling lots of different emotions and thoughts. Beauty, complexity, doubt, anger, worry, whimsy, calm and depth. They are all in there. The layering of stitch and fabric brings out the best (and worst) of me.

I’m going to call it Many Moons. Because that’s how long it will take to finish it and because its taken me many moons to get to this stage in my work.

Beastie Boy and His Pals

Sometimes pieces emerge out of my subconscious without warning. My task is to allow that to happen. That is what happened with Beastie Boy and His Pals

I am appalled by the way our government is being run. The creatures that inhabit the power centers have changed the way I think about threats. As a citizen I vote in and pay attention to local, regional and federal issues. I read articles that discuss both sides of issues. I listen to the news from other countries. I try to sift out the skewed, embellished and outright outrageous to come to an understanding. And I feel helpless.

Solace comes in the work. 

Beastie Boy and His Pals started with this scrappy composition. I have learned that scraps can talk. 

The composition had two sides. A cool side and a warm side with static in between. Similar to the dialog being broadcast to us each day without rest. Like the two parties playing their he said he said game. 

As mammals we are predisposed to see faces in inanimate objects. The instinct is a way to protect ourselves from potential threats. So as I added sections to the composition I started seeing beasts -- beasts with eyes, beasts with tails, beasts with goggles. I liked how the three beastie figures outlined in the pic at the right started to create a nest of a composition. 

But then I turned it upside down and liked it even more. Beastie Boy appeared to hunch into the room and his pals were all there. 

beastieboy_final1_PaulaKovarik.jpg

The dialog continued on a detail level. 

It's process not product.

Repeat after me. It's process not product. It's process not product. It's process not product. Each day that mantra challenges me to let go and dive in without expectations, without end goals, without success or failure.

So this past week has been all about play. I have been slicing, dicing, scribbling and tossing things around without much success but with a whole mountain of possibilities.

It started with the rotary cutter.

Pieces of past projects.

After sorting through all of my finished and unfinished work last month in preparation for a couple of exhibitions in 2018 I realized that not only do I hoard work but I also experiment a lot. Which means I would have to make another trip to the local Depot store for yet another plastic bin to stack up under the (already overloaded) table. Which brought me to the realization that I do not really need new materials. I already have a excess of fabric and stitches to start new pieces. So, I have a new law: nothing is sacred. Well maybe I should qualify that: some things are sacred, but not all, no matter how many hours I had put into it.

It's process not product, it's process not product...

So I cut things up. Sometimes it was random (2" squares) and other times it was fussy cutting (I really like that little spiral of thread on that piece so maybe I can combine it with another little spiral I have over here.)

I combined a lot of the pieces into a scrap explosion.

Blech! I hate this. I really hate this. Where is my rotary cutter?

More cutting

After cutting up the cut up pieces I started with new fabric to create a composition that would included the textured pieces.

Maybe sideways is better?

Then I got this wonderful piece of striped fabric from a second hand store and couldn't resist taking the composition one step farther. Same color palette, new texture...what could go wrong?  Ok, maybe 2 or 20 steps further. I am removing fabric pieces in the original composition  to let the stripes bleed through.

Ship of fools, work in progress

It's been a full week of deconstructing and reconstructing. I had a few little AHA! moments, but mostly it was about play and process and risk. A satisfying journey that gave me these little pieces:

Scraps that talk

It's process not product. It's process not product. It's process not product....

deconstruct/reconstruct

I use this mighty tool to deconstruct pieces that don't speak to me anymore. I look for those quiet ones that seem unbalanced, pretentious or unsuccessful. They hide in piles beneath my work table — murmuring. Some are sharing false narratives. Some seem to be trying too hard. Others just plain bore me. So I get out the rotary cutter and start cutting.

rotarycutter.jpg

I'll often end up with a pile that stretches to fill my entire work table. I try not to think about how many hours were spent creating the pieces in the first place. It's about the process not the product right?

I Need a Third Eye, work in progress, Paula Kovarik

The varying stitch, cloth and colors create an animated surface.

I Need a Third Eye, work in progress detail, Paula Kovarik

Then I start stitching again, connecting the diverse pieces to each other by adding another layer of meaning to the story.

I Need a Third Eye, work in progress detail, Paula Kovarik

And then I add some more. Until it seems to be enough.

I Need a Third Eye, final crop, Paula Kovarik