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 Some showed a learning curve in the stitching that no longer represents my work.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.

I've been thinking about the pink brush

Three days of remembering. The image of a pink brush from my childhood has recurred every morning upon waking and while exercising and while preparing dinner and while unstitching a number of wrongly-stitched pieces and while gardening and now. The persistence of memory intrigues me.

This is not our pink brush.

This is not our pink brush.

When I was about 13 our family had a favorite pink brush. We brought it with us on camping trips, it was stowed in my mom's purse on shopping trips, we argued over it in the morning. It had bristles that were soft but strong, a handle that fit perfectly in everyone's hand and a full-throated tickling when you passed it through your hair. It generated static electricity that delighted my brothers.

And then we lost it. It might be at the bottom of a cold lake in the upper reaches of Ontario, or, buried in a sand dune on Lake Michigan. It might have been left at a road stop in Minnesota, a neighbors house in Illinois or a picnic table in Wisconsin. It's gone. That I know. To this day I miss that pink brush. I have looked for one like it for years.

Why does such an insignificant object hold so much real estate in my mind? It represents my mother who died 5 years ago this month. My father, who died 13 years ago. It brings up thoughts of family vacations that smelled like fish and cold water. I can remember the feeling of it through my hair and the sound of it when mom stashed it into her purse. And the way the purse clicked when she shut the little metal clasp.

Memory box, Paula Kovarik

When I stitch I try to channel these unsolicited memories into something that makes sense to me. I can't remember people's names but I do remember their faces and the way they make me feel. I don't remember algebraic formulas but I do remember the street maps of places in which I have lived. I don't remember movie plots but I do remember the tastes of my grandmother's strudel.

Pink brushes, cold water, mom and dad, strudel...these are a few of my favorite things.

I'm not 30 anymore

I have a landmark birthday this week. And it's not 30. I can't help but take stock of where I am, where I want to go and what the point of it all is. I guess I do that on a daily basis anyway but this landmark makes it a little more deep-seated. I notice things more. I wonder why I notice certain things more than others. I store up images that speak to me. And they show up in my work unsolicited.


I thought I might post some of these stored images today just to remind myself that this world is spinning and I am a part of it. Life is shorter this week. And inspirations abound.

rushing toward stimuli

Preparing chicken soup today I was chopping onions with the inevitable result of teary eyes. I mentioned this to my grandsons and they both rushed over, one with the scientific explanation of why that was happening and the other eager to chop onions so that he could cry too. We all ended up with wet cheeks and sniffling noses.


Rushing toward stimuli.

It's a trait that is tempered with age. Caution sets in. Doubt and preconceived ideas define our comfort map. We stop, look and listen. We teach our kids about the incautious moments of our lives so that they won't have to sustain the shock, hurt or disappointments that we did. We put up fences, set up passwords and require more IDs. We box in the acceptable and fence out the challenging.

I'm glad that kids often dismiss what adults say, preferring to experience the thrill of discovery themselves. I once read that to stay young you must remain curious. You must let the onions make you cry.

I will learn from these boys. Oh yes, I will. Pass me some tissue.