Serena Kovalosky Contemporary Organic Sculpture

Sculpture

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(To view the Bowls & Vessels gallery, visit the VESSELS page)
"Spiny Pod" by Serena Kovalosky

"Spiny Pod" by Serena Kovalosky

Spiny Pod
Handbuilt clay, copper leaf, bitumen stain, natural clay glaze, dried lychee seeds
3”(h) x 5½”(w) x 7½”(l)

Much of my work honors the special purpose of pods found in the natural world….to carry the seeds of the next generation. I had once found a rather prickly pod in the woods – one that had a tough outer shell with plenty of pointed spikes to protect the treasure that was inside, causing me to reflect on the type of seeds it might be carrying forth: Carrying the Seeds for the Next Generation. This “Spiny Pod” was hand-built from clay, glazed with a natural clay slip I had collected from the shores of Lake George, NY, and gilded with copper leaf.

 

 

"Forest Pod" by Serena Kovalosky

"Forest Pod" by Serena Kovalosky

Forest Pod
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, woodburned designs
5″(h) x 9″(d)

A primitive camping trip to the Adirondack Mountains brought me as close to nature as I’ve ever been (see “Adirondack Wild“), and I returned from that trip with “Forest Pod” in my creative psyche. Delicate woodburning on the exterior of this gourd was inspired by the organic designs of northern woodlands. The gourd was carved to represent a pod that had relased its seeds to the world, and although it seems to no longer have a useful purpose, its gilded interior proves that it still must be honored.

 

 

"Woodland Temple" by Serena Kovalosky

"Woodland Temple" by Serena Kovalosky

Woodland Temple
Gourds, carved wood, gold alloy leaf, woodburned designs
14″(h) x 9″(d)

Woodland Temple” was the first of a new series of gourd sculptures, incorporating 3 separate gourds and carved wood, as well as my signature woodburned exterior and gold alloy gilding. It was a departure from my usual bowls and vessels and a step towards my goal of bringing the traditional craft of gourdwork to fine art galleries and museums. And it paid off…..this piece was selected by the Deputy Director for Art at the Brooklyn Museum for a prestigious regional exhibition of living contemporary artists at the Hyde Museum in Glens Falls, New York. See “The Rewards of Perseverance

 

 

"Black Walnut" by Serena Kovalosky

"Black Walnut" by Serena Kovalosky

Black Walnut
Handbuilt clay, gold alloy leaf, bitumen stain, natural clay glaze
3”(h) x 5”(w) x 6”(l)

I am always fascinated by the black walnuts I find with holes chiseled by squirrels so they can get to the juicy nutmeats. I had tried to incorporate these walnuts into my work until I realized just how hard their shells really are, which taught me great respect for the sharpness of those tiny squirrel teeth and the strength of their jaws! To honor the strength of such a small creature, I hand-built a chewed-out black walnut shell out of clay, revealing the fascinating interior structure once the nutmeats were gone. The outside of this ceramic piece is glazed with a natural clay slip I had collected from the shores of Lake George, NY. The inside is gilded with gold alloy leaf.

 

 

"Mother Earth" by Serena Kovalosky

"Mother Earth" by Serena Kovalosky

Mother Earth
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, woodburned designs
9½”(h) x 17½”(d)

This oversized gourd is over two feet wide. Rather than cutting all the way in to open it up, I decided to leave it intact so the dried seeds would rattle around inside when the piece is moved. “Mother Earth” carries the energy of the world as the woodburned designs convey. The gold alloy gilding at the top is reminiscent of a volcano erupting from its golden core.

 

 

"Stories by the Sacred Fire" by Serena Kovalosky

"Stories by the Sacred Fire" by Serena Kovalosky

Stories by the Sacred Fire
Gourd, acrylic paint, gold & silver alloy leaf, woodburned designs, bamboo, waxed linen, animal hair
33″(h) x 26″(l) x 19″ (w)

In 2010, I had the honor of accompanying an Abenaki firekeeper for a 36-hour vigil of keeping the sacred fire for a Native American pow wow. I wrote about this powerful experience in my Keeper of the Fire series. During our all-night vigil, three visitors came by the fire to share stories and Fire Medicine, as visually portrayed on the right side of this piece which I named, “Stories by the Sacred Fire”.

 

 

"Keeper of the Fire" by Serena Kovalosky

"Keeper of the Fire" by Serena Kovalosky

Keeper of the Fire
Gourds, gold alloy leaf, bitumen stain
21″(h) x 13½”(l) x 11″ (w)

Fire Medicine prompted me to create “Keeper of the Fire” after I returned from accompanying an Abenaki firekeeper in tending a sacred fire for a Native American pow wow. See the Keeper of the Fire series. After watching the fire in all its forms throughout the 36-hour vigil, I came to understand more about this powerful and mutable element.

 

 

"Cocoon" by Serena Kovalosky

"Cocoon" by Serena Kovalosky

Cocoon
Coiled clay, copper leaf, natural clay glaze
4″(h) x 12″(l) x 5″ (w)

“Cocoon” was created in the fall, inspired by the monarch butterflies who leave their cocoons to fly south to Mexico from the northeast U.S. for the winter. Meditating on the beautiful transformation that takes place, from caterpillar to butterfly, I can only imagine the interior of the cocoon as glowing – that’s where the magic takes place. The outside of this ceramic piece is glazed with a natural clay slip I had collected from the shores of Lake George, NY. The inside is gilded with copper leaf.

 

 

"Copper Earthpod" by Serena Kovalosky

"Copper Earthpod" by Serena Kovalosky

Copper Earthpod
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, copper leaf, bitumen stain
4½”(h) x 8″(d)

“Copper Earthpod” is another tribute to seed-carrying pods that have “exploded” to release their treasures. The antiqued copper exterior contrasts beautifully with the gilded gold interior, which glows naturally when placed under a light source.

 

 

"Dancing Vine" by Serena Kovalosky

"Dancing Vine" by Serena Kovalosky

Dancing Vine
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, woodburned designs, wrought iron
17″(h) x 18″(l ) x 16″(w)

This gourd is almost as large as “Mother Earth” but there’s a little more playful energy here, as found in the organic woodburned markings, highlighted by antiqued gold alloy gilding. When I brought it to Elisa Meyer and Todd Koch of Belcher Hollow Forge for a collaboration on a wrought iron stand for this piece, they immediately saw it suspended in mid-air by a stylized vine…..a Dancing Vine. This piece helped prompt the name of the exhibition series: “Gourd Spirits Dancing”.

 

 

"Butterfly" by Serena Kovalosky

"Butterfly" by Serena Kovalosky

Butterfly
Handbuilt clay, gold & silver alloy leaf, bitumen stain, ink
2”(h) x 6¾”(w) x 12”(l)

“Butterfly” was inspired by “Cocoon”. After creating a piece that honored the transformative chamber where a caterpillar becomes a monarch butterfly, I felt it necessary to also honor the butterfly as well as the milkweed plant where the monarch spins her cocoon. This piece not only represents the organic designs found on the monarch butterfly’s wings, but it is created in the shape of a milkweed hood.

 

 

"Spirit of Black Walnut" by Serena Kovalosky

"Spirit of Black Walnut" by Serena Kovalosky

Spirit of Black Walnut
Handbuilt clay, gold alloy leaf, bitumen stain, natural clay glaze
8½”(h) x 1”(w) x 7”(l)

After creating the ceramic piece, “Black Walnut”, I had become fascinated with the interior structure of the black walnut and began work on a piece that represented a sliced cross-section of this particular kind of nut. I was surprised at the powerful energy that I found in such an organic structure and upon completion of the artwork, it reminded me of an ancient tribal mask of a sacred spirit. So I named the piece, “Spirit of Black Walnut”. The edges of this sculpture are glazed with a natural clay slip I had collected from the shores of Lake George, NY. The front and back of the piece are gilded with gold alloy leaf.

 

 

"Golden Earthpod" by Serena Kovalosky

"Golden Earthpod" by Serena Kovalosky

Golden Earthpod
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, bitumen stain
6″(h) x 10″(d)

This piece was inspired by discarded black walnuts left behind by squirrels after they managed to chew through the thick wall to get to the nutmeats inside. These walnuts then become homes for tiny creatures that live on the woodland floor. Gilded inside and out, this “Golden Earthpod” is one of these “homes”. Looking through the holes at the interior of this piece makes me almost wish I were small enough to fit inside – a place where I could relax and lean againt the wall for a catnap or for an afternoon reading a good book.

 

 

 

"Peach Stone" by Serena Kovalosky

"Peach Stone" by Serena Kovalosky

Peach Stone
Handbuilt clay, gold alloy leaf, bitumen stain. Serpentine marble base.
9”(h) x 4”(w) x 6”(l)

A peach stones is a natural work of art – one that always gets thrown away once the peach has been enjoyed. A collections of nuts and pods and seeds occupy the cubbyholes that line the walls of my studio. (See Serena’s Studio) They are my inspiration and there was this one peach stone that just begged to become a full-size sculpture. It was fascinating working on “Peach Stone”, discovering all the layers that seem to fold into each other and I’m pleased that I appropriately honored that little seed from a long-ago peach.

 

 

 

"Spiral" by Serena Kovalosky

"Spiral" by Serena Kovalosky

Spiral
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, wrought iron
28″(h) x 21½”(l) x 11″(w)

During an exhibition at a Farmer’s Market, I was gifted with a beautiful snake gourd that one of my clients had in her garage for years. It reminded me of the spirals found in the Maori pottery of New Zealand, so I worked with Elisa of Belcher Hollow Forge to create a wrought iron stand to enhance its ancient, tribal form.  I double-gilded this “Spiral” with gold alloy leaf to deepen its golden shine.

 

 

 

"Ancient Wisdom" by Serena Kovalosky

"Ancient Wisdom" by Serena Kovalosky

Ancient Wisdom
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, wood stain, wrought iron
32″(h) x 10½“(l) x 10½“(w)

This magnificent gourd is almost three feet high, including the wrought iron stand by Belcher Hollow Forge. The immense pod is old, very old, and has already released its seeds to the world, yet still retains its “Ancient Wisdom“, with a glimmer of gold alloy that shines through the antiquing on the pod’s exterior.

 

 

"Deep Mahogany" by Serena Kovalosky

"Deep Mahogany" by Serena Kovalosky

Deep Mahogany
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, wood stain, wrought iron
27″(h) x 11½“(l) x 11½“(w)

Deep in the woods, an ancient Mahogany reveals its secrets. “Deep Mahogany” needs to be seen up close, with its intricate “grain” woodburned onto the entire surface, muted by a mahogany stain, and its organic, detailed design on the face, highlighted by a splash of gold alloy gilding. The dried gourd seeds are still inside and rattle when the piece is moved.

 

 

"Gourd Spirit Laughing" by Serena Kovalosky

"Gourd Spirit Laughing" by Serena Kovalosky

Gourd Spirit Laughing
Gourd, gold alloy leaf, wood stain, wrought iron
60½”(h) x 17″(l) x 16″(w)

Gourd Spirit Laughing” always captures quite a bit of attention at exhibitions. Standing five feet high on its wrought iron stand by Belcher Hollow Forge, visitors can look right inside the carved and gilded interior, hearing their echo if they spoke into it. The gourd has fascinating shape, both from the inside and the outside, which is woodburned with detailed organic designs.

 

"Organica" by Serena Kovalosky

"Organica" by Serena Kovalosky

Orgánica
Gourds, pine cone petals, gold alloy leaf, woodburned designs, bitumen stain
19″ (h) x 18″ (l) x 11″ (w)

This piece still challenges and intrigues me. Unlike a blank canvas for painters, raw gourds, which I import from a supplier in southern California, arrive with their own unique energies. In altering their form, I am very aware of this inherent energy as I work to bring in new influences while keeping their integrity. Some are easier to work with than others. This one was reluctant to speak at first (“When Gourds Speak…..“). Then it only revealed its true nature in small increments (“Pine Cones to the Rescue). Until it finally became what it intended: Orgánica (“And the Ugly Duckling becomes a…..).

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Photo credits for all images except “Mother Earth”, “Golden Earthpod” and “Peach Stone”: James McLaughlin Photography

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To view the Bowls & Vessels gallery, visit the VESSELS page

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