Artists: Paula Kovarik and Sophia Mason
Curated by Jenna Gilley
In our current state of global quarantine, interiors are on our mind. Stay at Home orders have made us increasingly aware of domestic spaces as we strive to protect the interior of our bodies. As the days and weeks pass, we become more familiar with the everyday objects surrounding us. Cleaners like detergent and washing machines have become our saviors. We find comfort snuggled between pillows and blankets. But fear and anxiety still lurk and increase with time. Home is our sanctuary, but also a cage.
The domestic sphere has long been associated with women. The activities people now have picked up to pass the time—sewing, cooking, cleaning—are stereotypically performed by women. These activities can be comforting in their repetition and effect, while often born out of an anxious need for control. To many being confined to the home is new and daunting, but it has long been a part of the feminine reality. This exhibition shows the connection between the historic “quarantine” of women to the home and the COVID-19 pandemic through domestic themes and mediums.
Although women have more opportunity than ever, female craft remains underappreciated. This exhibition solely contains work by female Memphis textile artists, who have reinterpreted traditional practices like quilt making into art that is bold, political, and introspective. As you view this collection, consider how each object comments on the global health crisis, as well as reflects the personal worries and struggles of the women who created them.
Paula Kovarik is a textile artist in Memphis, TN. She received her Bachelor of Arts in graphic design from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. As the creative director and owner of Shades of Gray, Inc., a graphic design studio, she specialized in communications. Now, Paula’s work serves as a balm to worry. Her textile art has been recognized by several national venues. She has been profiled in American Craft, Fiber ArtNow and Art Quilting Studio magazines.
Sophia Mason is a textile artist in Memphis, TN, raised in Wisconsin. She received her BA in Art from Rhodes College. Her sculptures, installations, and performances have been shown in exhibitions internationally and in the United States, including The Dixon Gallery and Gardens and Crosstown Arts in Memphis, Tennessee, and at the Fundacion in Comillas, Spain. Her work has hung at the Memphis International Airport. She is the recipient of the Sally Becker Grinspan Award for Artistic Achievement.
COVID-19 has redefined our society, affecting us on a global scale. This work reflects both how the pandemic has infiltrated our daily lives while simultaneously connected us to others. The quilted medium suggests comfort, while the design shows what we most fear: the virus penetrating our cells. However, there is soleus. We are all in this together, suggested by the multitude of anthropomorphic shapes forming the globe-like sphere.
Focus on Something Else
What can we do when life seems out of our control? Focus on something else. In this blue-print like abstract piece, Kovarik invites us to reflect on the things or people we turn to in times of stress. “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.”
See details here: http://www.paulakovarik.com/journal/?month=april-2017&view=calendar
In times of constant sanitation, cleansing has taken on a new form of ritual. Sophia Mason’s All Merciful expands the conversation between the domestic sphere, gender, and the pandemic by rendering our “saving grace” in a traditionally feminine art form. Additionally, Mason’s work calls religion’s ability to “wash our laundry” into question. Women are often considered to turn to religion for help more than men, making them more susceptible to this pain and shame when their belief fails.
Along the same lines as All Merciful, our washer is a heavenly invention during a pandemic. But it is another historically feminine object, an icon of domesticity. The spelling of the piece is related to the Hindu and Buddhist notion of dharma, or acting out the role you were born into. Mason asks us to question the role of a woman, and if it is truly cosmic law that determines their place.
Watch the full performance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSQb-HMZJpk&t=1s
This piece reflects the nightly whirring of worries and dreams that fill our minds as we try to go to sleep. The artist states, “It was my way to react to the anxiety we all felt due to that economic disaster of 2008.” Now facing a new economic crisis, many of us can relate as we move forward, finding new jobs and a new normal.
Much of this exhibition has dealt with objects inside the home, but we are also very much aware of our own interiors. Visible Woman is a current project being completed for a collection of poems. This particular poem is about a science museum display. The female body can be arousing, but it is also a network of flesh, blood and bone that work together to maintain health. The medium is supposed to mimic quiet books, which were usually made by women for children to have a quiet activity in church or in the home.
Pop Goes the Weasel
Kovarik has been busy making a different kind of mask in quarantine (although she’s been making the normal ones too). We are reminded to not touch our face by the emphasized eyes, noses and mouths, as the virus is thought to enter through the respiratory system. These mask “puppets” were made in response to the leadership during the pandemic (or lack there of).
Mason was inspired to create a modern version of a Medieval relic, or small remnant of a holy person. The “relic” is brought down to the domestic level by being a fabric Band-Aid, like “something I'd see left in the shower”, placed in Tupperware embellished with gold sharpie. Like the Band-Aid, soon the pandemic will be a relic of our time, an amazing but removed event to future generations.
Oh Say Can You See
With our leaders in disarray, unsure how to face the current health crisis, it is easy to look at our country with annoyance and concern. Yet as this piece reminds us, America is made up of more than one person. Made from scraps of fabric littering her studio floor, Kovarik’s American Flag is formed amidst a myriad of chaotic stitch lines and disparate fabric pieces. We must work together to end the pandemic, which includes domestic quarantine. Alone Together, an “Imperfect Union”.