Stitched Dissent

Paula Kovarik, Chaos Ensues, 2017, various fabrics, cotton thread, cotton batting, 32" x 32"
Paula Kovarik in her studio, 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist.


By Paula Kovarik


I quilt to piece, layer and stitch a narrative that represents my concern for what is doing on in our country. My art reflects American anxiety in a world of danger and distrust. It mirrors the ominous overtones of decisions disconnected from everyday life and a feeling that we are helpless in the wake of unmoored leadership. Through the medium of cloth and stitch people create quilts to tell stories, protest injustice, share concerns and document their history. Faith Ringgold shares the story of racism and segregation through her quilts. The AIDS quilt activated a country-wide dialog regarding the disease. The 70273 Project memorializes the 70,273 physically and mentally disabled who were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Using this medium, which is generally associated with comfort and warmth, to tell a story can add poignancy to a message. Cornerstone American values can emerge through the power of individual voices during the 2020 election cycle. The body of work in Stitched Dissent adds to the fundamental conversations going on in our media, our families, and our government.


I make art with thread and fabric. Stitching is an extension of my thoughts through my hands. This slow art, textural and multi-layered, reveals a product born of concentration on an idea and hours of application. As I work I am sensitive to surprises, allowing the line and images to tell me more than I think I know. The inner becomes the outer. It’s about defining rough-edged ideas through intimate attention to detail. It’s about the layered, ripped, cut, and sandwiched together pieces—producing a composition that reflects my values and my voice. There is a point in every quilt that I recognize as the moment when body, soul, and statement come together, when I can declare: I stand by this work.


The cover image of Number: 102 is a detail of Paula Kovarik’s Chaos Ensues, a piece that was featured in Stitched Dissent, a solo exhibition at the Beverly + Sam Ross Gallery on the Christian Brothers University campus in Memphis, Tennessee, in early 2020. The above statement accompanied the exhibition and is republished here with permission from the artist.


Paula Kovarik, Chaos Ensues, 2017, various fabrics, cotton thread, cotton batting, 32″ x 32″