I am exhibiting two sculptures in the Epperson Gallery National Clay Competition (November 13, 2020 – January 17, 2021) and recently found out that one of them has the honor of having been awarded third place by juror Scott A. Sheilds. Her name is “Jouska” and I thought I would take a moment to introduce her to you.
A few years ago I was listening to an interview with John Koenig about his project titled, “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” It’s a collection of invented words that are meant to express very specific emotional experiences. In the interview, Koenig talked about how his research led him to discover some of these very complex, universally human emotions are identified with language in some cultures but not others. One of the words that he mentioned as an example was, Jouska, which he states has Polish origins. In his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, it is defined as follows:
“n. a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head—a crisp analysis, a cathartic dialogue, a devastating comeback—which serves as a kind of psychological batting cage where you can connect more deeply with people than in the small ball of everyday life, which is a frustratingly cautious game of change-up pitches, sacrifice bunts, and intentional walks.”
This word and definition really spoke to me. I find myself engaging in these types of hypothetical conversation often, especially while working quietly in my studio. When I catch myself in that state I usually have a little internal talk about how silly and anti-productive the practice is. It was a relief to find out that this exercise is common enough for someone to have named it.
“Jouska” is caught in the act of her practice. She’s dressed in a sort of clownish outfit and hairstyle. Ghost-impressions of quarreling ravens encase her hands, which parrot an on-going theoretical conversation. She was previously very much engaged, but now that you’ve noticed, she masks her embarrassment with a glare.