Breathe it all in. Love it all out.
I thank Mary Oliver daily for those words. They remind me to take a deep breath, listen to the sounds around me, embrace the moment, and see the beauty.
I’ve contemplated a lot recently about who do I want to be as an artist? Why am I painting what I paint? Why am I teaching what I teach? Why are the arts important?
We are complicated beings and these are complicated questions.
I spent a good part of May as the Artist-in-Residence at the Glen Arbor Art Center in northern Michigan. I painted daily in a studio in a barn in a field in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I had planned on exploring through art the marks humans have left on the lakeshore. Instead I became enraptured with birds. I am indebted to the Glen Arbor Arts Center for their advice to follow my heart and let the experience guide my painting. What a gift.
Prior to my residency, I had been working on a show for the Peppermint Creek Theatre about homophobia and antisemitism. As I sat outside my studio and quietly watched birds, I thought about the women I had interviewed: Queer Jewish women who were willing to tell me their stories. In my studio in a barn in a field, I found myself painting birds representing these women's stories. In their words I heard strength, courage, love, and a fierce determination to be who they are in a world that doesn’t always want to accept them. Suddenly a swallow represented the woman whose home is her true north, an owl symbolized the wisdom of the two rabbis I interviewed, a hummingbird embodied the fighting spirit of these women, a loon found stillness in just being. The series is titled "Here I Am."
Art is about communicating, imagining, thinking, finding symbols to represent difficult subjects. It’s about honesty. It’s about growth.
I recently taught a workshop focused on the conceptual component of painting. With a lovely group of artists, over three days we asked: Why do you paint what you paint? Can you bare your soul in your art and still have it be universal? Do you have to bare your soul? Do you have to tell your secrets? And most importantly, what are you trying to communicate? Paintings were conceptualized to deal with aging, death, politics, love for children, feeling lonely, feeling blessed – the gamut of human emotions we all confront. Texture. Color. Images. Words.
Art plays a crucial role in transforming, redefining, reimagining our world whether on a personal, regional, or global level.
We are complicated humans living in complicated times. I feel blessed to have art as an avenue to express concepts and emotions. AND I feel blessed to be able to share this with others.
An art journal page from my residency: life lessons.
I'm teaching a three day workshop at the upcoming International Society of Experimental Artists Symposium in Grand Rapids, MI.
Painting for Self Expression
Sept 19-21, 2019.
The City Pulse ran such a nice article about my Here I Am series.
How One Artist Dug Deeper
I've updated my website!
Please check it out: www.jessicakovan.com
Traveling this summer but still want to create? Try out one of my online art journaliing classes! Work at your own pace. I am always just an email away to ask questions!
Inhaling life one