CANVAS article

From CANVAS, July print edition: Beacon Gallery Showcases Artist’s 3D Works, by Anna Lillian Moser:

Eva Drizhal is not the sort of artist to get pigeonholed into one medium. She likes to experiment, expressing herself by different means, whether it’s tapestries, pen and ink drawings, sculpture or painting. Most recently the Callicoon resident has taken to creating 3-D pictures. The collection of work will be displayed in a solo show at Catalyst Gallery in Beacon during the month of August.
Drizhal was born in Prague in 1951 under the communist regime. While the fact might conjure up images of the heavy Soviet hand squashing out artistic expression, Drizhal attests that growing up she never felt threatened, restricted or barred from pursuing her passion as an artist. “It’s fascinating for you, but for me it was normal,” Drizhal said. We were pretty educated kids. We had a lot of art, and there was no shortage of materials, so I actually liked it very much.”
Growing up in Prague, Drizhal said, she felt supported, if not by her friends and family then the city itself, the artistic majesty of which no political party could snuff out. “I was always surrounded by art because Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I was molded pretty well even under that communist regime, which was a very restrictive regime in many ways, but I chose to be an artist, to sneak through these kinds of problems.”
However, being an artistically gifted child under the Soviet regime and trying to make an actual career out of it proved to be two very different things. In 1967 Drizhal’s parents and her younger siblings managed to immigrate to the United States, but Drizhal, then 17, refused to go, thinking she would stay and be educated in Czechoslovakia. Because of her parents’ immigration Drizhal was suddenly seen as a threat, a political misfit. “I was basically marked from there, and I didn’t see them for 13 years,” Drizhal said.
Drizhal calls those 13 years her “suffering”. She wasn’t allowed to teach art or attend university. She was allowed to take some classes, but only so long as the works she produced were practical and utilitarian. This restricted her to weaving and fiber arts. “It was basically a crafts school which taught us how we could be practical workers so we could work in a factory, and we could work at home. I chose to be a freelance artist, which was not so easy in communism because you had to have a permanent job and they gave me all sorts of problems because of my political background.”
Finally, in 1979, Drizhal, pregnant with her first child, was allowed to immigrate to America. Like many area artists, Drizhal first settled in New York City before relocating to the Hudson Valley. “I don’t regret it for a second that moved her,” Drizhal said. “A lot of people told me, ‘Oh my God, you’re from the city and now you live in the country?’ and now they’ve followed me here. It definitely adds to my work.”
For the first 20 years of her career in the United States, Drizhal relied on her skills as a weaver, making a name for herself with her three-dimensional tapestries. “It was something unusual and people loved it, I must say, but I am the kind of artist who likes to experiment. I don’t want to stay with one kind of medium,” Drizhal said. “You start to feel like, this is itI’ve done as much as I could.”
After working mostly with fabrics, Drizhal started to branch out into painting and drawing. She says she particularly enjoys drawing because it requires a near obsessive attention to detail, which appeals to her. Still, though, her ideas kept coming back to the three dimensional. Drizhal loves texture; she loves to create works of art that convey meaning not just through sight, but touch and feel (she’s one of the artists who welcomes visitors to put their hands on her creations), and no medium seemed to lend itself better to this than fabric arts. The work, however, is time-consuming, intricate, and at times physically trying. Drizhal searched for a way to create her 3-D images that wouldn’t be as labor-intensive, and finally settled on working with paper and other organic materials. “I always had a tendency to do organic things in my tapestries; simple forms from nature, so I’ve continued to do that in this medium,” Drizhal said. “Nature is my major inspiration.”
The upcoming show at Catalyst is the first time Drizhal will be displaying her 3-D forms for the general public. “This is something major that I’m doing right now and it will be all 3-D, ” Drizhal said. “This is something that I want to show as a statement, and a result of all my knowledge of all these different mediums.”
Drizhal admits, though, that she could switch mediums again in the future. “I’m not sure if it’s [the] end of what I’m doing. Maybe in five years I’l change and I’ll do something different. I don’t like stagnation.”
Drizhal can be contacted through her website, www.evadrizhal.com.
Catalyst Gallery is located at 137 Main St in Beacon. The gallery can be contacted by visiting www.catalystgallery.com or by calling 845-204-3844.