It has been an honor to know Laverne Zabielski for many years. As a fiber artist, writer and no-nonsense wise woman she inspires me and her community forward into empowerment.
Art that Speaks
Guest Post by Laverne Zabielski
Living a layered life happens when every thing I do has the potential to be connected. When I can’t tell where one piece ends and another begins. When the colors of my shibori dyed silk drying in the sun blend with the flowers in my garden. The lines of separation are blurred. Every art form informs and draws from another. This is what I love about Kathleen O’Brien’s life and art. I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends.
I first noticed this when I met her at a Kentucky Crafted Market in 2004. Her booth and her art complimented each others. The colors on the walls were the same colors in her collages. Many years later when I visited her farm it was the same experience. The soft greens that flourished in the natural world flowed into her art on the walls picking up subtle pastels from the trees, sky and sunset. Even the chairs on her porch were part of her palette.
More recently I was able to experience Kathleen’s layering after I purchased three of her Talismans during her last show at MS Rezny Gallery in Lexington, KY. When the show came down I picked them up, wrapped in pale green tissue paper, sealed with her logo sticker and carried them carefully home. That evening I open them slowly. Appreciating the art of wrapping as much as what’s inside, I gently removed the sticker and unfolded the perfectly creased paper. Again, the paleness of the green blurred the edges revealing the Talisman for Peace of Mind. A simple necklace of moonstone, Peridot, glass beads and deer leather. It was accompanied by a signed card describing each stone and bead and where it was located on the necklace.
The second piece, a cuff, Talisman for Honey Bees, was also carefully wrapped framing the pastels of the soft beaded fabric. And its signed card revealed the amount of energy included in creating the piece: Carnelian, rose quartz, Peridot, jade animal fetish, vintage Italian glass, antique gentian beads, Dutch donut glass 1700 AD, Venetian white heart 1890 AD, Swarovski crystal, and Peking glass 1800 AD on chiffon fabric with a silk lining and Mother of pearl buttons.
The third piece I purchased, Talisman for Beachcombers, was after the show came down and has become a signifier on the necessity of listening when art speaks. During the opening reception, she caught my eye; blue macramé and beads, shells and stones hanging from a brass bridle decoration.
Many years ago when I first started writing poetry most of it was narrative with strong, clear messages. Periodically I would stray from that mode and venture into softer, more abstract writing. One of those poems was titled Beachcombing for Poems. My husband loved it. I never took it very serious at the time. What’s interesting to me now, is that I had never consciously heard the word beachcombing before it showed up in my poem, and here it was 25 years later and I see the word again in Kathleen’s Talisman. I had already made my selection of the other two, nonetheless, Talisman for Beachcombers, continued to speak to me through the poetry of her name.
On the day I went to the gallery to pick up my purchases all of Kathleen’s art was no longer on exhibit. When I opened her art drawer, however, there it was, Talisman for Beachcombers tucked away, speaking to me, as if to say, “Take me to your home. Out of this drawer. Layer me in the light on your blue wall.” So I did. The decision was instant. She was not wrapped as carefully by Kathleen’s hand using the pale green tissue. I surrounded her with wrinkle white. During the unwrapping, later that evening, I gave each stone, shell, and bead mentioned on the signed card equal attention, reminding me, when art speaks, listen!
Beachcombing For Poems
on the beach looking for sand dollars
while combing the silver that works it
way up between her toes was wearing
pearls and a bikini.
reciting poetry, facing the sun. Every
once in a while she would twist her
pelvis to catch the wave’s spray and
rinse dotted sand from her legs.
The coca cola
bottle was broken and the faded beach
towel was useless. Sand penetrated her
crevices and crinkled inside when she
moved up and down.
was full of combs she used in her hair.
The color of fish and coral, each comb
brought out a smile from the other side
of the beach where her friends stood
and whistling for her to join them. She
ignored them, made angels in the sand,
licked salt from her lips and pulled
back her hair. . .
Beachcombing For Poems
The second poem
she recited streamed rhythmically
down her cheek. She remembered
fried potatoes her mother never made,
roses in the yard her mother never left.
The poem stuck
between her teeth when she saw her
daddy drive the big white van onto
the beach – -the van he packed full of
furniture when they drove across
fifty five miles per hour listening to
top forty radio stations fading in and
out turned up loud.
under her panties was sliding down
between her knees bending her at the
waist to see blood dripping for the first
time but not the last.
was covered with dark matted hair.
As soon as she put him to her breast
her hands slipped down his slippery
back and the shaking finally stopped.
Beachcombing For Poems
The last poem
was running on empty and a panic
set in as she tried to mouth the word.
The salt dried on her tongue and the
beach was overflowing. She stepped
Over coca cola
bodies nestling up to hers. The wind
blew yellow ribbons around her neck
twisting them tighter with each word
’til the last word was never spoken, just
Stood at attention
waiting for instructions. She
stepped over bottles looking for the
cheap Parker pen her mother gave
her when bachelor buttons bloomed
wrote long words on the window sill
repeating the last letter over and over
’til her father developed the pictures
in black and white.
That’s where she
saw the first poem tucked inside her
bikini. She pasted photos in her photo
album, and copied the words from the
I love collaborating with Kathleen. The colors of her palette and the textures she embraces in her art compliment my visions.