Visual Art

Wrapped up in the Process

Gorski takes home Best In Show at ArtsWest 39

Marie Anthony, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

WANTED: THREAD OR ALIVE. Local artist Paula Gorski and her piece “Primordial Memory Form 5,” which won Best In Show in the 39th annual ArtsWest exhibition.
WANTED: THREAD OR ALIVE. Local artist Paula Gorski and her piece “Primordial Memory Form 5,” which won Best In Show in the 39th annual ArtsWest exhibition.

Shopping carts and rag rugs didn’t mean much to Paula Gorski as a young girl. It wasn’t until years later when she was alone in her studio that she realized just how much the seemingly inconsequential pieces of her youth now speak through her art.

Gorski says that her thoughts are often octopus-like. They come all at once and go in several directions. “I guess I’m what they call a process artist,” she said. “All of these thoughts come to me, and I have to figure out how to manifest them in a tangible way.”

“Art is like breathing. I have to do it.” – Paula Gorski

Gorski’s piece, “Primordial Memory Form 5” recently won Best In Show in the 39th annual statewide ArtsWest competition at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire. The piece, a yoga ball adorned with handmade fabric ropes, beads, pearls, and small toy ducks, is an homage to her grandmothers and the traditions they carried. She finds inspiration in the vibrant fabrics she uses. She said they remind her of her time spent in Bolivia where she taught grade school for 10 years.

While she’s traveled beyond our country’s borders, the memories most poignantly etched on her heart are those of her home in Milwaukee. Gorski grew up in a Polish neighborhood and spent many days helping her grandmother. She remembers walking to the grocery store every Tuesday, pushing their own grocery cart, and watching fondly as her grandma stopped to point out old landmarks and chat with all of the neighbors along the way. It’s this small recollection that inspired her “shopping cart art.”

“I walked outside one day and found a shopping cart sitting in my front yard. I knew I had to do something with it, so I just started wrapping the cart with rope and other found-objects,” Paula explains. “That’s when it came to me that my grandmothers have inspired me in many ways and speak through my art.” Paula’s other grandmother sewed and wove rugs. She remembers watching her grandmothers work meticulously – through her work she continues that process and tradition.

“Beyond the meandering lines, texture, color, and size; the idea of ‘process’ and tradition are the foundations of my work,” Gorski said. It’s why the core activity in each of Paula’s pieces involves wrapping. Paula often receives the fabrics she uses as gifts. They come from Africa, Indonesia, India, and Asia. Once she has the fabric, Paula begins cutting it and ripping it into strips. She weaves and wraps each piece into balls. Most she then uses to fashion into rope.

Paula does pull inspiration from other sculptors, her favorite being a post-minimalist artist of the 1960s, Eva Hesse. While she admires the work of other artists, she strives not to take her art too seriously and lets her intuition speak loudest. “Much of my work is born out of the doodles I make as I work with my rope on the floor of my studio,” Paula said.

In each of her pieces, you’ll also find influences of joy and whimsy. “I don’t consider myself to be a very serious person,” she giggled. “As with all art, this piece has multidimensional life. I hope my art fills people with a sense of joy and sparks a memory.”

With the completion of her winning piece, “Primordial Memory Form 5,” Paula has begun work on sculptures made from bicycle tires. She also teaches young artists at Da Vinci’s Workshop in her Banbury Place studio. Whether she’s wrapping, ripping, or teaching, art will always be a part of Paula Gorski’s life. Art exists, for her, not only to carry on the memories and traditions of her grandmothers but because – in her eloquent honesty – she says, “Art is like breathing. I have to do it.”

First place in ArtsWest 39 went to Mary Diman of Madison for “The Knave of Hearts.” Rob Price of Menomonie took second for “Anonymous Construction–Lake Superior Shoreline,” while Bob Gehrke, Cornell, won third for “Walkers.”  Honorable mentions went to Mark Anderson, Sandra Cress, and Meredith Mortimer of Eau Claire, Matthew Anderson of Maiden Rock, and Don Olson of Chetek. ArtsWest 39 is only display at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library gallery through April 6.