The Art of the Ancients
by Serena Kovalosky
"Woodland Temple" by Serena Kovalosky, exhibiting at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY. (Photo by Jim McLaughlin)
Serena Kovalosky is known for pushing the boundaries of traditional “gourdcraft” to create fine art sculptures that celebrate the organic form. Kovalosky experimented with numerous sculptural mediums in the beginning of her career, but it was a friend's collection of lacquered gourd art from Olinala, Mexico that forever changed the focus of her work.
"Holding one of the gourds in my hands, I immediately felt a connection that traveled up my arms and exploded in my heart,” said Kovalosky. “I had no clue what a gourd was nor how to work with it, but I was completely and inexplicably smitten." Her artistic explorations took off in a bold, new direction.
Kovalosky’s creative process is a lengthy one. Dried gourds are shipped to the artist’s East Coast studio from farms in California and Arizona which produce large, thick-walled varieties. Cleaning the gourds, inside and out, is a tedious but necessary task to produce workable surfaces.
Cutting into the gourd alters its “perfect” integrity. “The destruction of that perfection to create a new shape is particularly challenging,” said Kovalosky. “I have to ‘unthink’ the original form.”
Surface designs often include detailed woodburning, as in La Femme, which can take weeks to accomplish. They are intuitively inspired by micro and macro views of Earth, from major continents to water ripples to tiny dots of desert sand.
Traditional gilding techniques using gold and silver alloys lend a sophistication to the finished pieces and have become a hallmark of Kovalosky’s work. Keeper of the Fire features an intense gilding process to achieve the brilliance of fire. The piece was created after the artist accompanied a Native American firekeeper on a 36-hour sleepless sacred fire vigil during an Abenaki powwow.
The artist’s fascination with seeds and pods is apparent in Ancient Wisdom and Orgànica. Gilded exteriors are sanded and antiqued to achieve a patina she refers to as “aged wisdom.”
Kovalosky considers the relevancy of her medium to be an important factor in her artistic philosophy. “The gourd is a simple, humble product of the earth,” says Kovalosky. “It has served a functional role in cultures around the world for centuries. To honor it as a work of fine art is to celebrate that natural simplicity that gets overshadowed in modern life.”
In addition to her work as a sculptor, Serena Kovalosky is also a cultural project developer, film producer and founder of Artful Vagabond Productions whose mission is to celebrate the creativity and inspiration that artists bring to this world and to promote the value of art in an “artful” lifestyle.