focus on something else

I'm reading many things these days. Political rants, financial analyses, artistic journeys, poetry, the Quran, the New York Times, Smithsonian magazine, Harpers and science fiction by Phillip K Dick. A friend suggested My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. I may read that after I finish The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I'm looking for a simple, devil-take-the-hindmost novel to immerse myself in too. Perhaps a friendly slice-of-life novel would be a good escape?

Escape, one in the Silent Witnesses series of Stones Who Might Talk, Paula Kovarik

No wonder my art flutters from one point of view to the next. Cool and composed to frantic and obsessive. This is a good thing. And this is not a good thing.

Testing stitching on backing fabric. A mindless task that feels soothing.

Testing stitching on backing fabric. A mindless task that feels soothing.

Fractured focus breeds anxiety, allows for mood changes, builds new vocabularies and urges me on. The pile of trials on the table are companions on this silent journey I take each day.

Second in the Chaos series. I'm a little tense sometimes.

Anyone have a book they'd like to recommend?

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

letting the unknown in

This piece has been lingering on my boards for about 4 months. Every morning the sun streaks across it to spotlight the fact that it hasn't been resolved yet.

Recently someone asked me "what compels you to do this art?" and I answered in a very vague manner:

I want to let the unknown in.

Yesterday I was reading a great blog called brain pickings and they had an article about Alan Lightman and his book Sense of the Mysterious. His explanation about the mysterious state of creative inspiration compared it to planing while sailing. He says it this way:

"…every once in a while the hull lifts out of the water, and the drag goes instantly to near zero. It feels like a great hand has suddenly grabbed hold and flung you across the surface like a skimming stone."

I compare the feeling to what it must feel like to take flight, or launch into space, a sensation that takes you away from here and now consciousness.

Gathering, huddling, blind witnesses

Is that what I am after? An addictive search for otherness?

For me, answers to mysteries only come after exhaustive exploration. And still they can be mysteries. Awe paddles me forward so I tinker around the edges until I am ready to jump in. Showing up, head down with full focus, moves a piece forward. My theory is you just have to show up with intention day after day until you are free enough to feel the wave. Letting go of preconceptions rather than allowing a piece to breathe its own air is one of my many challenges.


Silent witness - obstruction.

Silent witness - obstruction.

I am non-verbal

I show up. Every day. for hours. and hours. It's a nest. This week has been particularly intense due to my goal of finishing a number of lingerers — those pieces that linger on the draft board without a finished edge, without a way to hang themselves, without a final yes in my final work-in-progress voting booth.

Here, Silent Witnesses is on the trimming board.

So I finished a few, hand-sewing facings and hanging sleeves. Fixing that little divot of stitching that bugged me. Adding just a bit more detail. Trimming excess.

I focused in on the details of craft.

My favorite thimble, a metal tipped silicone model, is a must have when finalizing the details of facings and hanging sleeves. This piece was done on canvas, so pushing the needle through the facing and fabric back proved difficult. I was tempted to just glue them down. But using an embroidery needle and pushing it through with that metal tip worked.

Refuge needed more marks and texture.

Finishing makes me edgy and still at the same time. I count stitches, measure space and drift into repetition. My brain goes into non-verbal mode. I look at the endless edge that needs turning and call upon my inner, resolute put-my-head-down-and-do-it mood that stops everything else. At the end my shoulders ache and I am eager to clear away the boards.

Scattered showers needed some rain.

Don't get me wrong, I can be distracted. Answering emails, looking for lunch companions, organizing one last shelf of collected debris provide respite. But finishing is its own reward. It stops a thought and allows it to move on. It shows the weaknesses of a piece and gives me an avenue to pursue the strengths.

The boards are cleared. Space allows new thoughts. Ready or not, here I come.