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Months into creating her latest work, sculptor Nina Kawar found she was marking her own journey

Nina Kawar at the opening reception for "Journey Home"
Ben Vallee
Nina Kawar at the opening reception for "Journey Home"

In the months before her latest solo exhibition, Nina Kawar recalls being consumed in her Marshall clay and ceramics studio with bringing life to a shape in her mind’s eye. It started with a large circle.

“And I just kept building layers upon layers upon layers, which ended up having more detail in the center. A sacred geometry pattern was coming through, as well,” she said. “I didn’t really know what was coming to a fruition at that point.”

Only after a couple of layers did Kawar realize she was beginning to build a tree, using stonewear ceramics, metal, moss, wax and guache paint.

“Three layers would take me a whole day to create,” she said. “The sculpture took me four months and two months without working on any other sculptures and, for me, that’s a big deal. It was requiring me to slow down, to be in the moment.

The 7-foot-tall tree is the centerpiece of a solo exhibition filling up Continuum Art in Hendersonville.

Kawar is an avid student of mushrooms who initially thought her show would focus on nature. Instead, once she threaded older sculpture in with the tree and other newer pieces, she pivoted to see the exhibition as marking her own journey.

“A lot of the work is alluding to my personal practices in this body and how I’m showing up in this world,” she said. “And, hopefully, not only being more present, but expressing love and light in relationships and for the planet.”

Kawar’s sculptures have evolved from exploring skin and flesh, to twisted abstractions resembling bone, to interpretations of mushrooms and symbology. Her new work is another detour. In one piece, she cast her feet in resin and set them atop ceramic roots. In another, white leaves dangle in suspended animation from the ceiling.

“Each piece has its own story or speaking to the viewer individually versus as a series,” she said.

Kawar felt compelled to sing at the opening reception for this exhibition. In the weeks before it, she rehearsed an a capella version of Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain.”

“I still haven’t listened to it. I don’t necessarily need to,” she said of a recording from the reception. “Singing was my first love. It was sharing my voice in choirs or ensembles. Even now, when I sing by myself, I feel a deep connection to myself, but also the divine.”

“Journey Home” is on view through Oct. 9, with a closing reception the night before.

Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.
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