Serena Kovalosky takes the humble gourd and elevates it to the level of fine art, inviting the viewer into a world where nature is sacred – a world of Dancing Vines, Laughing Gourds and Stories by the Sacred Fire. Kovalosky’s work also reveals the realities of the physical world. Gourds are carved with ragged edges to reflect the natural disintegration of trees in the woods or holes burrowed by animals. Darkened interiors and antiqued exteriors symbolize a natural aging process, resulting in Ancient Wisdom.
Other sculptures glow from their gilded interiors drawing in the viewer to consider “what’s inside” despite outward appearances. That, too, will eventually age over time as metal alloys are purposely used for their propensity to tarnish over time.
“In the beginning of my exploration into gourdwork, I grew all my own gourds, allowing them to dry naturally over the winter until their shells became as hard as wood by spring. This process brought me back to my childhood when I would spend days with my mom in her vegetable garden. I could grow anything from seed and even harvested my own seeds in the fall to begin the cycle all over again in the spring. It gave me an appreciation of the natural cycle of the seasons which can be powerful life lessons.”
“As my artist vision evolved, I eventually began ordering dried gourds from heirloom gourd growers in Arizona and southern California that could provide gourds ranging is size from several inches to three feet in height. They also grew gourds with exceptionally thick shells that provided a more durable working material.”
“My creative process is organic – I rarely have a clear idea of the finished piece before I begin. I’ll select a gourd from the “stash” in my studio and sit with it a while to get a feel for how it needs to be worked. Some are left whole, with the seeds still inside, while others will be carved into simple bowls or taken apart and re-imagined into complex sculptural forms.”
“Carving into a gourd alters its ‘perfect’ integrity. The destruction of that integrity can be particularly challenging. I have to ‘unthink’ the original form and it sometimes takes days or weeks for a carved gourd to ‘settle’ into its new form.”
“The tools I use are simple: an old 1950’s jigsaw from my dad’s workshop, a set of X-Acto knives, and a $19 woodburning tool. The only “contemporary” equipment I use is a dremel with a sanding bit to hone rough edges. The simplicity of my equipment mirrors the energy of my work. It is purposely raw and organic.”
“The design work woodburned on the exterior of my work is inspired by the woodlands of New York’s Adirondacks and Vermont’s Green Mountains. My studio is filled with seeds, branches, bark, nuts and pods from my walks in the woods, but I never copy directly from nature. Instead, I prefer to allow the forms and textures to enter my psyche where they will naturally influence my work.”
“Many of my pieces are gilded with gold and silver alloy and/or copper leaf. Some are antiqued with a bitumen stain. These metals will age over time, which is intentional. In life, everything evolves according to the cycles of nature. While the structure of a dried gourd is solid and will withstand the test of time, gilded patinas will eventually enhance the ‘wabi-sabi’ aspect of each piece.”
“All work is protected with either a varnish or paste wax finish. For best conservation and maintenance, gourd artwork should be cleaned with a dry, lint-free cloth and should be kept in a place that is free from extremes of humidity or temperature. Work with a wax finish should be waxed every 5 years or so with a paste wax (Butcher’s wax) to retain its shine and protection.”