The Overlook with Matt Peiken

Two Artists, Two Journeys | Heather Hietala and Nava Lubelski

May 08, 2024 Matt Peiken Episode 157
Two Artists, Two Journeys | Heather Hietala and Nava Lubelski
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
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The Overlook with Matt Peiken
Two Artists, Two Journeys | Heather Hietala and Nava Lubelski
May 08, 2024 Episode 157
Matt Peiken

Asheville artists Heather Hietala and Nava Lubelski have already tasted success commercial success. Now, their new work in separate exhibitions marks new ground in their personal and artistic evolutions.

In the first half, I talk with Hietala, whose response to her mother's death takes shape in the two- and three-dimensional canoes and boats that are metaphors for personal journeys. After the break, we meet Lubelski, who was an emerging success in New York City’s gallery scene before she to Asheville. Her newest works are abstracted, chaotic collages of stitching, painting, scraps of fabric and other found material.

A reception for Hietala's new exhibition at Momentum Gallery is May 9. Lubelski's solo show is on view through June 8 at Tracey Morgan Gallery.

SPONSOR: Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance returns for one weekend only with the premiere of "Before the Scream." Performances are July 25-27 at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Show Notes Transcript

Asheville artists Heather Hietala and Nava Lubelski have already tasted success commercial success. Now, their new work in separate exhibitions marks new ground in their personal and artistic evolutions.

In the first half, I talk with Hietala, whose response to her mother's death takes shape in the two- and three-dimensional canoes and boats that are metaphors for personal journeys. After the break, we meet Lubelski, who was an emerging success in New York City’s gallery scene before she to Asheville. Her newest works are abstracted, chaotic collages of stitching, painting, scraps of fabric and other found material.

A reception for Hietala's new exhibition at Momentum Gallery is May 9. Lubelski's solo show is on view through June 8 at Tracey Morgan Gallery.

SPONSOR: Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance returns for one weekend only with the premiere of "Before the Scream." Performances are July 25-27 at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Matt Peiken: How has changing your last name to your grandmother's punctuated your creative life?

Heather Hietala: It's been interesting because, and I didn't, I often just change my name on the whim, never thinking about continuity with my work. about all that. I also, after the fire, I went from very colorful textiles and surface design, architectural imagery. I was well known for that. And then the color went away and I now work a lot with wood fired ceramics.

Specifically, I'm an idea person rather than a media driven person. The media serves the idea. I needed to find a way to process this fire, this house fire, and I needed to find a way to have words survive a fire. We lost all the words, the recipes, the histories, the letters, all that. So I got into wood firing specifically to write words in clay and have them go through a fire and survive.

Matt Peiken: Wow. When was this fire? What year was this? It was right when I moved here, Goodness. Talk about a metaphor for change and Clean sweep and sweeping out the past or burning out the past and building on top of fresh ash.

Heather Hietala: i'm slow to evolve. I work in things for many years. I was in architectural imagery for 10, 15 years.

And I didn't know how to express this feeling I had. I moved into less color, black and white. I tried this devoray burnout process. It didn't really feed me. And after the fire, my older sister and I, we went through the ashes searching for this solid steel nutcracker, trying to find something.

And when you have a house that's gone, there's no sense of where any rooms are. Your whole sense of. actuality or anything is gone. And so we sifted, we spent three days, we found it. But the things also that I found were like bedspring. You found things only steel. And even a lot of the pottery actually was low fire or not, did not survive.

It can't really take a house fire or that intense heat, who knows? It did switch but it didn't happen overnight. It was probably another six, seven years, eight years before I moved into the clay. I wanted something tactile. And I still was working with these words, I got into salt fire first with a local artist, Leah Leetson, and that was for the tears of loss.

And so that was like, you put all this salt cause you can cry so much that your cheeks can be covered in a white ash and a salt. And so I got in a salt fire for that sense of loss. 

Matt Peiken: It's interesting to me that you come from a vantage point of ideas, first and foremost, or maybe first and only, that it's idea driven, conceptually driven, and that the medium comes later.

And I think that's unusual for artists who are, especially who go through formal schooling, who are taught within a certain bounds of how to work within certain mediums. Maybe contemporary arts education has evolved to where They are preparing artists to work in any medium and try to surface ideas first, but I don't think that was happening for artists in our generation.

Have you always been, you're nodding yes, you've always been from that vantage point. 

Heather Hietala: Oh, I have been a problem. Back when I was going to school in the early 80s, I was a problem. I did not fit the mold. I did not fit, even back then I worked in printmaking, painting. I went to San Diego to study plastics to try and put the color inside the material rather than putting it as a paint on top of it. 

Matt Peiken: So Were you worried at a certain point that you weren't going to find your career footing as an artist? 

Heather Hietala: No, I have always, I spent a lot of time listening to this, I'd say my creative intuition.

I've always believed in it. I'd never questioned 

Matt Peiken: it. Did you have validation pretty early in your creative life that, You're from gallery owners or museum directors or curators, people who are in a position to discover and elevate young artists. Did you get that validation pretty early in your career?

Heather Hietala: I would say I didn't fit, going through school, I took eight years going undergrad. That allowed me to fight the system and do it my way. In grad school, they wanted me to only major in one. I wanted to major in two. But you had to focus. Now multidisciplinary is a big word.

Back then it wasn't. So I picked textiles. And then, on a whim, I'll never forget this. I was in Tennessee, dead broke, and I had applied for a couple resident, or grants or something. This was before computers.

I actually don't remember how we did them. And I decided that I was going to move to Asheville, I had no money, and I was just going to do it. And there was a job at the Appalachian Center for Craft that I could have probably gotten. And I decided I didn't want to continue teaching there. I wanted to trust in what I sensed and move to Asheville, but I didn't have any money and I let go of that job.

I did not apply for that job. Wow. I withdrew my application. I can't remember. About a month later, I got a NEA regional grant and I got a Tennessee Arts Commission grant. I haven't gotten another grant like that since then, but that was validation, early on validation that, and it coincided when Andrew Glasgow invited me to be a part of Blue Spiral.

This was 96, 95, 96. So early on, that financial bit allowed me to do the move and just swim, but I've also been someone who I live within my means. 

Matt Peiken: How fortuitous though, shortly after you arrive here to have Blue Spiral and you've had, dozens of exhibitions there and elsewhere regionally and beyond.

And have your ideas, since you're coming from a vantage point of ideas, do you see connecting threads in the ideas you've cultivated in your art from the mid 90s, late 90s through to today? I would say two 

Heather Hietala: things. I realize I love texture and I love the textile sensibility. It's in my clay, it's in everything.

Wire is like a thread, so there's a textile sensibility that is that. And then the other thing is my work has It's been one thread. It's about a journey. You went up and down stairs, you paused for reflection on a landing, then the steps went down to, there was a couple that went down to the water's edge and it was right around the time I was losing some significant people in my life.

So all of a sudden the journey was like the rug had pulled, been pulled out from under me and so your sense of gravity, everything was different and so you got on a boat. And so then the journey became from boat. But to me, it's just, the book Harold in the Purple Crayon. He just draws his reality. So he needs the ocean. He draws the ocean, then he draws a boat and he gets in the boat so he can cross the ocean. So I feel like, not exactly, but my work has just been one continual thread. It's always been about the journey. And I tend to look to my life from metaphors that reach wider audiences.

Matt Peiken: Your works are very interpretive, open ended for a viewer to insert their own journey or their own impulses into what a work is. What are some specific Markers in your life that you see as being the fuel or the informational foundation for your artwork. 

Heather Hietala: Okay, so like the first series of architecture, I grew up in a really old house in New Hampshire, just with lift latches, no doorknobs, quirky staircases down to the root cellar that you had to go down backwards.

And so I was drawn visually to those. So often Now I work more directly in my materials, but back then I would do sketches. Then I do, they'd come up in my journals. Then I'd do sketches from memory. The architecture in all my pieces comes from my life and my emotional response to what that little space evoked.

When I was about switching into the vessels, I grew up with, I love being on the water. Looking at the water is one thing, but I grew up in a three canoe family. We had sailboats up and down the coast of Maine, and then I got in a sea kayak and as an adult. And so I love being on the water.

Matt Peiken: That says a lot about what your work is in a literal sense. Now, we're in your studio and you have perhaps hundreds of canoes, boat like vessels that are all over your tables, on your shelves, up on the walls. How long have you been using sea vessels as a metaphor?

Heather Hietala: They first came up in the textiles and then I actually, I had a career as a textile artist. Here I am going to switch, to, and I already switched my name. I'm going to switch mediums. So I actually did this thing. I started taking classes at Odyssey Center for Craft at night. I felt like I was the ever ready battery, the little bunny that get stuck. So I took a class at Odyssey. And I gave myself five years that I would work in clay on the side and I would not show anyone. And so I just, I developed a hanging mechanism.

I was in the cotton mill building. That was my first studio. And I'd hang them high up on the wall. People would ask me what they were. I said, Oh, they're just Ideas and that five years turned into seven. Then I had a show at Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

I didn't really bring them to the commercial gallery yet cause I still was working out my relationship and my ideas. You have a certain freedom to follow your ideas when you're not influenced by money. I wanted to own this series, my relationship to the form and the materials before I put it in a commercial domain. 

Matt Peiken: That's incredibly patient and deliberate to give yourself that amount of time. 

Can you look at your works that you've created in these ceramic vessels, clay vessels, and see how your work has evolved? Give me some sense of the work that you're going to be bringing to momentum for this exhibition that's maybe different than what you were creating five, 10 years ago. 

Heather Hietala: I've had two significant deaths in my family and last year, my mom passed away. I was very close to her. We had a great relationship. And also, she was my last parent. So I feel like an orphan. 

I work with lots of different clay bodies and I just work with every firing. I work with different clay bodies. So when I get to the end of the bag of clay, I have just a little bit. So I started making these little vessels. And so then I finally started making these teeny little vessels out of the end. So I could finally end the bag of clay. And now in the show at Momentum, you will see this sense of nurturing of an inner child, a child nestled in something that is all new. And that's my mom's passing.

Matt Peiken: You have scores of works around your studio. You showed me in the room next door a number of works on the wall and number of works on tables.

I'm wondering if it's hard for you sometimes to retain a vision for singular pieces when you're working so prolific and in works that are, have a similar motif to them being the canoe, the boat, the vessel. Is it hard for you to imbue each one with a, you're not shaking your head no. 

Heather Hietala: I would say they don't get all muddled. Like each of the different techniques has a journal. Each one is a family and all the pedigree, all the information, all the techniques, everything is in that journal. 

Matt Peiken: You mean each piece has its own reference point in a journal? 

Heather Hietala: I have a journal about the ceramics. I got a journal about the wire. I got a journal about the mixed media. I got a journal about the panels. I got a journal about the shadow pieces. 

So they're all like individual family strains or branches in a family tree that are all connected. And I actually, I'm thinking about a family tree a lot. That's I've never thought of it that way, but like my mom was one that held us all together, my siblings and me.

And I'm the one that holds all these different mediums together, but they all do. They all have these different journals so that like when I go and I'm going to work in this and I haven't worked in a while, I get that journal out and I just, I got their whole pedigree and everything I've done in that line or that branch of that family, and it gets me right back in touch with them. 

When you read a book and you open up to the chapter, maybe you need to go back a few pages, but you're right back in that story. These journals serve the same way. When I open that journal up, I'm right back the last time I worked in that medium. 

Matt Peiken: I know you're building up to this show for momentum. It seems like you are creating all the time. I'm just wondering, do shows demarcate specific periods in your life or is it more just, Oh, this is where I've had to put the brakes on right now. It's not any real line of demarcation. It's all a journey for me. 

Heather Hietala: A solo show is an incredible opportunity. And thank you, Jordan and Shifra, for believing in me and giving me this opportunity. Last year I had another show in Eno Gallery in Bloomfield, Ontario. That was another opportunity. That was right when my mom passed. So some of the things I thought I would get to do for that show I didn't. 

So now for Momentum, some of those ideas from a year ago, I finally am realizing here. So these little boats are more, I had one of the, or two. with Little Boats at Eno Gallery. This, I've got a lot more. These panels, knowing I wanted these panels with these sensibility that I can't say in the other work, this sort of dialogue and the space that you go on and on for.

And those I did with the browns and the blues and stuff thinking that's where I was. Now that is even more metaphorical because who knows what the color is like when you cross over, it's this sort of like on a foggy morning. And these pieces are more trying, they're monochromatic, not quite a foggy morning, not quite a snowstorm, but they're just trying to be this quiet, because I don't know when That line is crossed.

I don't know what it is, but in my mind, it's sacred. And sacred to me is quiet. 

Matt Peiken: It sounds like this work really is the manifestation of a journey for you, the before, present, and moving beyond your mother. All three of those states. 

Heather Hietala: You were asking earlier if this marks right now, I have no clue if these little boats will ever show up again. Right now, I would say this body of work or whenever I have a solo show, it often allows me to try some new ideas. 

So what I want to create in the solo show is a dialogue of the work itself. So that when you enter that space, You are surrounded by this family and this family gets to tell you what I hopefully have imbued them with.

= = = = = = = =

Matt Peiken: You were already an emerging commercial success in New York City. Why did you come to Asheville of all places? 

Nava Lubelski: Definitely there are advantages to being in New York. Major ones. The main one being that New York is really provincial and there's so many people there that those curators and those galleries don't really have to look outside of New York City to find artists because there's so many to choose from and this kind of understanding that everyone will come to them.

And I'm really familiar with this, having grown up in New York city, that sort of New Yorker cartoon where you see the rest of the world as nothing.

It is reality because there's almost like a propaganda telling you all the time, like this is the center of the universe. And For me, one thing that really made it possible to leave is the internet.

Because before that, it really wouldn't have been possible to grow an art career of the type that I was interested in having outside of New York. But I was someone who as a kid had what, now I realize it's called selective mutism, like I could not speak to strangers and I started to outgrow that as I got older and push myself.

But I would go to art openings and be paralyzed. So in that way, being here, having the time and the space and the sort of clear head without all the distractions was valuable. And when I got to Asheville, I love Asheville, but the feeling that there was nothing better to do than being in my studio was so liberating. It was great. I accomplished so much and And like I said, I was able to make connections both from being now suddenly a North Carolina artist and not one of five million New York City artists and still be able to email to make connections with curators.

Matt Peiken: Yeah, you said Before the internet, you wouldn't have been able to have the kind of art career you wanted to have. It sounds like you had an ambition around your career, not just the making of art, which I want to talk about, but let's talk about your ambition around it.

Did you foster that at a relatively young age? 

Nava Lubelski: Yeah, definitely. So, I grew up in Soho in the 1970s, and we lived in a former factory. The soles of my feet were black all the time and everyone was an artist, and my father was a painter and he wasn't a successful painter and most of my friends' parents were artists and they weren't successful artists. They were just doing it, and the messaging was always like sure you can be an artist But it's like winning the lottery to imagine you could really be self supporting. So that wasn't even part of it for me, the financial piece.

I was assumed I'd have a day job, but I think it felt important to me always to communicate with art. My sister's a musician, so she found a different route, but she had that same feeling of this is what I want to do. And when you take the financial piece out of it, what you're left with is you want to be part of the dialogue.

You want to show other people what you're doing and hear what they're doing and hear what they think and grow ideas and that always was really important to me. 

Matt Peiken: I was asking about the your career you having an ambition around it. You just said your father was a painter He wasn't at least commercially successful other relatives in your family also were not commercially successful. You were raised to not expect that, you were all about ideas and community around these ideas. Why did you start thinking you could achieve more on a commercial success level that your parents and other people in your family couldn't and didn't?

Nava Lubelski: I don't know that I necessarily thought I would. But I think I tried because I saw certainly like my father isolated and depressed ultimately. And always there was this messaging like, Oh, it doesn't matter. The work's all about the work and it's all for you.

And I felt like that's not true. It's just like having a conversation. If you're talking to yourself, it's not interesting. Like I wanted to get my work out in the world. I wanted people to see it. I wanted people to care about what I was saying. And so I felt like it was worth putting the effort to try to make that happen.

Matt Peiken: What were you saying in your early work and how were you saying it? What were the mediums you were using? 

Nava Lubelski: Very early on I started using stitching and I had painted before that just because that seemed to be what people did and I Stumbled upon the idea of using textiles and stitching in my work and it immediately became really interesting to me. You know, my father came over as an immigrant with his parents and My grandmother and my dad's adopted father did piecework Which is like I found after my grandmother died All the sewing stuff in these Saks fifth avenue labels that they would stitch into the stuff to get paid for. 

And on my mom's side, there was the needle point, there was a lot of women's work that wasn't art, clearly wasn't art that was around sewing. And then this, kind of 20th century phenomenon of men just spattering paint, and it's quite definitely art, and very seriously art, and that's the kind of thing my father did as well, and I started to puzzle about that, like, What could I do? How could I make stitching read as serious contemporary art? And so I came to this idea of sewing drips and spatters because that seemed like those gestures were the quintessential symbols of contemporary art. And I did them as embroidery and that's what kind of started. And so I think for me, there was also this kind of feminist motivation, like, why can't this be serious?

And a feeling of how to overcome sort of marginalization in general. 

Matt Peiken: So were you trying in a sense to subvert the idea of a male dominated art field that was this sort of abstract Careless smattering of paint, I think, of Jackson Pollock. So was it by using embroidery, by using stitching, it gave it a feminist undertone to it, but you were you, Not mocking the art scene or what were you trying to say about it?

Nava Lubelski: Yeah, I think that was very well said how you talked about it. Yeah, no, I wasn't mocking it, but I was trying to puzzle out, I think for myself and for people who would pay attention, why do we read something and say that's art, that's serious art, that's valuable art, that's important, meaningful art.

And why do we look at something else and say that's a hobby, And obviously career is a piece of that, and that's part of why it was important to me. But also, there's something about intention, and something about Like how you go about it. So I thought, okay, I'm not going to stitch like a kitty cat with a yarn ball.

I'm not going to do what my maternal grandmother did of these needle points of famous copies of famous paintings. I'm sure somebody could pull all those things off and make it really fabulous And serious. But to me, yeah, I did want to speak to this way that because it's paint, because it's like carefree and gestural, that somehow it's more significant and what happens if you're meticulous in your efforts, what happens if you use a material associated with women, with mending, with caring for others, and how can you combine those things and yeah, make people take it seriously.

Matt Peiken: Did you get traction from gallery directors and curators with that early work? 

Nava Lubelski: It was tough. Yes and no. I got a lot of eye rolls. I have this memory to this day of being in a group, like open studio situation and some guy coming in there and it's I don't even know to this day, did he get that they were stitched?

Because he didn't walk close enough literally sat down in the middle of the room as if making the point, I'm not looking at this. I'm not giving this even like the effort of my time. So plenty of eye rolls, plenty of discomfort. And then the opposite too. Like I made some connections where people were like, wow, this is really cool.

And I think the first real break I got was a free studio for a year in Tribeca in the Marie Walsh Sharp foundation studios where there's I don't know, 10, 12, big, beautiful studios. And it was right, I know it was right around 9/11, because at a certain point I had to bring my lease with me to show that I was allowed to go below Canal Street.

But yeah, and that was huge that they, I think they just thought it was original and interesting. And I honestly, I think the jury was, A mixed group of people who weren't just thinking about selling, but were, like serious art professionals and yeah, they gave me a chance and that was the start. So it was a mix for sure. 

Matt Peiken: So you started with embroidery. Your work today involves a variety of media and painting is part of it. Talk about your evolutionary arc as an artist from the embroidery centered work, which is still, it's still very important and intrinsic to your work, to what you're doing now. 

Nava Lubelski: So in the early 2000s, I started doing these coiled paper pieces and it happened by accident, just playing around with some shredded paper.

And eventually I have this idea of using this sort of overwhelm of paper that we feel obliged to keep, but don't really want to keep, but don't want to throw away. Treasured letters or in my case, the original ones were my taxes. Cause I know you're supposed to keep them seven years, but I'm like, I can't be keeping this. I'm, you're supposed to shred it, right?

If you get rid of it. So I shredded it. And then I was left with this mountain of shreds, which are these cool strips of paper. And I started playing with those and then that turned into a body of work. Next, I did all my rejection letters because everyone said, you have to keep your rejection letters in case you get audited to show that you're really trying to be an artist at a mountain of those that became a piece.

And then subsequently, you don't get rejection letters on paper anymore. And then later on, after I'd moved here, I was at the McCall Center in Charlotte for a residency and I met a guy who brought me a huge box of papers that he had just saved for himself in exactly this kind of spirit I don't want it, but I don't want to get rid of it, it had to do with his coming out as gay to his family, his first relationship, there was a letter in there from his mom saying, we'll love you no matter what and he said he'd fantasized about taking it to Burning Man and burning it, but he just didn't know what to do with it all. And he brought it and gave it to me after he'd seen my other work.

And that became a major piece. And so there's other stories like that in this current show. I have a little mini coiled paper piece of this a hundred year old letter of a Navy pilot who died soon after in a plane crash. So that was a new body of work and I made a lot of those and got some interest and attention for that.

And then just in the last couple years, as a pandemic project, I started doing collage. Based on this Eastern European folk art because my father's family came from there. But it's not really My culture is something I discovered as an adult But even that question about what is my culture and what isn't was interesting and I started playing with that and then you know Once you're doing a few different things you you Want to find ways to combine them So I have a couple of pieces in this current show that have some stitching and some collage and some paint and it's all Getting jumbled up.

Matt Peiken: Yeah, and there's also dimensions to it. You are you painting on muslin and Then having fabric behind it that's also painted? It seems to me there are layers to your pieces. 

Nava Lubelski: Yeah, there is some of that and when I first started doing the embroidery, I strictly did it on canvas because I was part of the concept of it reading as looking like a painting, but it was embroidered.

A lot of the pieces in this show are on linen. It's really lightweight and lovely to work with, so I started cutting a lot of holes because as I was working on these embroidered pieces, I started to feel like there's this funny secret space in a painting behind these stretched bars and between the canvas on the wall that nobody sees because it's just like about the way paintings have been designed to be portable.

And, since I'm piercing through the canvas surface with a needle, I started to want to open up that space and have peeks into that secret hidden space and then started including layers behind. Yeah. So there's one piece in the show that has stitched linen with holes cut and then an oil painting behind, which is, I mean, I haven't touched oils since moving to Asheville, so it's at least 20 years old. But it's been, I have a lot of things in my studio with the idea that.

Matt Peiken: Yeah, you talked about your intention early on around your initial embroidery pieces around commenting in a way on what was happening with some male artists at the time and lending a kind of feminist take on that. Do you still have an intent or an equally defined intent to these current pieces?

Or is it more about just finding interesting combinations of material and color. 

Nava Lubelski: There is that, but yes, there is an intent and it's not so much about gender anymore. All of our understanding of gender has changed in the last 20 years. And there's so many people using stitching in contemporary art. It just doesn't mean what it meant back then. And I'm not trying to force it to mean that. 

One thing I've come to understand over the years about my work, about all of it across any medium, is that there's something about violence, about destruction, and then coming back from that destruction, about repairing, and there's something about resisting the idea that something is Beyond repair.

And I think some of that comes from my family history, my father being a refugee and just the sort of heavy load of that in my childhood and growing up, so I'll see whatever it is like in the thread world, like a tangled spool of thread that the dog half chewed.

And that's supposed to be garbage. And I can't bear it. And for me, it's a kind of metaphor. It met this violent end. And yet why? If that's it, if violence means it's over, look at the world now, that can't be it, right? So the puzzle for me becomes, how can I redeem this and not just save it in a closet, not hoard it, but how can I bring it front and center, show its quality, show the way the tangles and knots of this ruined thread Are no less beautiful than an intricate piece of Italian lace. Why? 

Matt Peiken: Yeah, anybody can read stories into your works in particular. And that's one of the things I love about your current work. To me, it comes from an entirely different place in my mind and what I read into it, which isn't even important, but that's what resonates with me. 

What did your family think about your success, and what did they think about your work, the members of your family, specifically, who didn't have commercial success? What's been their feedback? 

Nava Lubelski: That's a tough one and I'll just hope that they don't hear this. I feel like with my dad, who's troubled person there's competitiveness for sure. There's some appreciation and admiration.

Yes, but there's also, he's just got such a different attitude. So at some point, this is still quite a long time ago. He said you really accomplished something with being one of the first to really Bring this kind of stitching front and center, but okay, you did that. What's next? What are you doing now?

And I was like, I don't think about it that way. I'm not trying to be like, how can I conquer next? It's about me doing and making what I want to do and make what seems important in the moment. So it's a very complicated relationship.

I spoke a little bit about his history and there's just no smooth sailing with that kind of start to life, I think. And one thing I did want to say for him, he lived for five years in a refugee camp and he was what's called a displaced person and he lost his family and his culture and he starved and our relationship has always been difficult.

I grew up with a lot of raised voices and conflict. But now, my father's still living now. It's. It's okay, but it's a challenge. And I do think my feeling about looking at this generation of male artists, he was for sure a part of that.

And there was always this energy around make the biggest paintings you can and the most intense and moody and dramatic. And so I think, yeah, there's a kind of subverting of that in my work for sure. And, when I think about growing up in Soho and all my school friends with their artist parents, it was the dads that were the artists.

There were, for sure, there have always been women artists. We all know that. And there were then too. But that was the feeling. It was like the moms had day jobs and the dads were the artists and I didn't want any part of that. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. You've been here 18 years. How do you think living in Asheville has affected the art you make? 

Nava Lubelski: I think it's been like a positive and a negative, if I can put that on it. The number one thing is that I have had time to do my work. And there's no value to being in the middle of New York City if you can't make your work.

And I think that is a real issue for a lot of people. On the other hand, I had a child in 2012. So that has affected my time dramatically. So my career has not been, a straight line by any means, but there's been a feeling here of both being really appreciated because when I first got here, there was a lot of people responding to my work with a lot of excitement, that they'd never seen anything like it. But there was also this reaction of just not understanding it. This is a place with a strong craft tradition and the appreciation of art here is really about an appreciation of craftsmanship and skill and reverence for materials, all things that I don't mess with.

Matt Peiken: Yeah. You're using materials, but not with reverence.

Nava Lubelski: And I think I have my skills, but it's definitely not something I put front and center. And in fact, if I feel myself getting too tidy and pretty about what I'm doing I mess with myself. So there's new chaos introduced.

And I did find early on the local art museum brought a piece of mine to their Collectors' circle, and the curator said, Oh, it's just a formality, they always, take everything we bring. And I don't know who the person was, but I was told there was a woman screaming about how ugly my artwork was, and people were trying to explain to her that's the point, and She's like, I don't care.

You know, I think she was an embroidery lover. I'm probably completely altering the story cause I wasn't there, but what I've heard, I think she had a real love for the tradition of needlework and found my thing offensive, offensive, challenging, not in a good way, so it was some of both.

So I think I felt some of that pressure to be pleasing, to be a little prettier, more decorative, and then I'd feel contrary and go the other way. I mean, It's been a little bit of a mixed bag.

Matt Peiken: You have a fantastic opportunity coming up with a residency at the center for craft, where you're going to get free studio space for June and July. Do you think getting out of your space and into this space will open up a whole new channel for you?

Nava Lubelski: Absolutely. I'm so excited. I wish my husband was here to be interviewed about what it's been like to deal with me making work for a show Because I'm a hoarder and I'm so chaotic and I have a lot of work That's I'm storing and a lot of materials and I have a bedroom that's my studio and I can barely set foot in it, It's so full of stuff. 

But basically I did all my work in the living room and dining room And when it was finished I'd stick it behind the couch and our house has been so full of this stuff They're all so relieved it's out and at the Tracey Morgan gallery and Me Taking a bunch more of that stuff and more of those materials and whatever else is still lurking into a studio space that's out of our house is going to be, I think, really great. I'm very excited.

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