The Paper People are leaving the gallery today, making way for an invitational group show, BLACK.WHITE.REaD: Journey Through the Maze, guest curated by Cecilia Rossey. But I couldn’t let all of Rosemary Markowski’s remarkable papier-mâché sculptures get away, so At the Table 2 - Tea with Kali is now installed on top of my filing cabinet, where I can see it out of the corner of my eye as I sit at my desk.
At a mere 12.5h x 12.5w x 5d, the piece occupies a psychic space that is much larger than its objective dimensions. A very proper-looking woman with cropped, brown hair and a sad yet quizzical expression on her face sits on a rickety chair, holding a red tea cup. At the other end of the table sits another woman, this one with blue skin, long unkempt hair, and four arms. Between them, the table, spread with a patterned cloth, holds a teapot, another cup, a plate of cookies, and a somewhat bewildered-looking male head. Kali’s tongue, which sticks out of her mouth nearly to her chin, is the same bright red as the tea cups, her eyes glare fiercely beneath glowering brows, and her necklace of skulls glitters against her bare, blue skin. One of her hands rests lightly on the head, two others brandish a sword, a spear, and the fourth makes a gesture which might be a fist but might also be a sign of blessing.
The fearsome Kali is a Hindu deity that is sometimes referred to as the Dark Mother. As she sits across the table from her bemused companion, she seems to me to be the embodiment of that part of myself that sometimes gets out of control with anger. It is said that Kali was trying to kill the forces of evil, but got so carried away that she almost didn’t notice that she was destroying everything around her. When her consort Shiva threw himself under her feet, she was so astonished that she stuck out her tongue and stopped her rampage.
I don’t really know Rosemary Markowski, having only met her once when she came to the gallery to give and artist’s talk, so I can’t really say if this sculpture is autobiographical. What I can say is that she knows a lot about human nature, and about the need we all have to make peace with the unpredictable wildness that dwells within even the most mild-mannered exterior. As I look at this small sculpture, it reminds me to welcome the passion that fuels my life, even though it sometimes feels dangerous. To have Tea with Kali is to welcome her to my table, to recognize that Kali’s upraised hand is not a threat, but rather a gesture that says, “Do not be afraid.”