On expectations

Recently my son unearthed my case of Barbie clothes from the attic and brought them to me. I don’t remember playing with this doll. My memories of early adolescence are og building forts and planning getaway destinations.

My Aunt Emmie provided most of the clothing for this doll with her expert knitting. I’m amazed at her skill now though I don’t remember admiring that skill then. We took it for granted. She had a thing for pink.

All the essentials of a 60s girl were there: swimsuit, cocktail dress, wedding dress and housedress. The clothes gave us a map of expectations. I can see by the rat’s nest of hair that dear Barbie went through some tough times. She ditched the three piece red knit outfit for a mini-skirt and tights. I don’t see any professional clothes or workshop gloves. There is no briefcase, no computer. Yet there are two aprons, one practical with a matching chefs hat and one frilly one to greet her husband upon his return home. I do love to cook.

Barbieclothes.jpg

It’s a box of propaganda that made sense to the executives at Mattel at the time. I’ve heard that Barbie has evolved over time with scuba gear, ski togs and business attire. But she was not evolved while I grew up.. We tried on these women’s uniforms to suit society’s norms. We told these stories to each other through dating games, house play and dress-up. We learned how to walk in heels, put on make-up and wish upon a star. There is probably a version of this narrative out there for girls under 16 to this day.

I’m glad I didn’t follow that pathway. I’m glad that I grew up during a time of questioning authority — a time when women fought for equal rights, a time when civil discourse turned to difficult subjects. The subjects are getting even more difficult now. Our planet, our rights, our nations, our health….all at risk.

So when I look at this little box of expectations I am thinking about how we’re still swimming up stream in a one piece suit, constrained by expectations, overruled by rulers. I think we might need to add some armor to the closet. We’ll need resilience and a fierce belief in each other. We’ll need to put on our big girl pants and stand up, move forward and speak out loud.

Now where did I put that rotary cutter?

On Collaboration

I went to an artist talk last night that reinforced my ideas about collaboration. He said that if you put a professional engineer and artist in the same room to solve a problem the outcome won’t be the same as having an artist with a pretty good knowledge of engineering figure it out herself.

Two heads might not be better than one.

Two heads might not be better than one.

Each time I have been involved in a team approach to a design solution I am energized by the discussions, motivated by the goal and hopeful about the outcome. Yet, there are challenges. Every step along the way brings a set of compromises and a new way of looking at those goals and outcomes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

What have I learned? I prefer doing it all myself.

baldhead.jpg

I can take the blame, find the alternatives and be responsible for the outcome. I can throw it under the table when it doesn’t work out. I can meet my own timetable. I can re-evaluate without stepping on toes. Not so easy when others are involved.

But this process of locking my doors to others is self-limiting. Pushing away my expectations while entertaining alternative ideas broadens my vision of the end product.

circledrawing_PaulaKovarik.jpg

So I will continue to find ways to play well with others. And collaborate. In events, in art, in thought. Even if it makes my nerves nervier.

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.

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?"