Xenophobia, the fear of all foreign—that horrid noun and spectre of old and hopefully fading ideals is not exclusive to any one place or people. Be it in the snowy avalanche of white noise of the Carolina’s occasional dissonance on extemporaneous matters or as far-reaching as the snow-blind northern point of the European continent, the Netherlands. This is where local artist Heather Divoky ventures to explore the cultural blizzard engulfing our hyperbolic world and alarmist sensational age and attitudes of the exigent. Divoky will be showcasing 380 pieces of mini art, if you will, expressing such notions this weekend at Leland’s Cultural Arts Center.
“The installation itself is very ‘space-conscious,’” according to Divoky. “[Viewers] start with a portrait of where it’s located, the Leland Cultural Arts Center, then move on to the 100 counties of NC, then the 50 states of the US, 196-ish—some territories are disputed—countries, the continents, hemispheres, and planets, so this number comes from an approximation of all of these locations total, each represented by a miniature piece of art!”
Over the last few years, as Divoky was traveling through the Netherlands, she noticed the great “attention thieves” that hang above bars and in restaurants, at airports or in the middle of the riddle that is Times Square, weren’t as prevalent. More so, the inane drivel that America’s media often showcases in politics wasn’t blaring through the ether.
“[TVs] are everywhere here, and when I came back they all seemed to be on news channels that were blatantly intolerant or reactionary to groups of people, including refugees, Muslims, African Americans, etc.,” Divoky says. “There was a particular clip concerning Muslims where the [media] hosts continuously grouped all Muslim countries as violent. But that’s not an uncommon opinion: that all Muslims countries are violent. They’re not—look up Oman. We tend to reduce and generalize them to that though. I wanted a light-hearted way to give the audience something else to respond to, aside from this generalization.”
Divoky began doing intensive research on various places around the world. She wanted her latest volume of work to represent ideas or fun facts or random pieces of trivia.
“For instance, the state vegetable of Oklahoma is … a watermelon?” Divoky tells. “Nicaragua loves baseball, so I painted a piece with a jungle silhouetted in baseball shapes”
For Poland Divoky painted a heart: to represent the transportation of Chopin’s heart from France to Warsaw. She embraced the academic endeavors that led her to study and investigate “the boundless stories within any one location.” She found interesting snippets of information along the way.
“Italians wear red underwear on New Years,” she explains. “Kiribati is in all four hemispheres. Ghana has a place where crocs are so docile you can pet them. China has banned any ‘time-traveling’ themed TV (including ‘Dr. Who’). They are mini representations, demonstrating a fun (sometimes spooky, sometimes unique) aspect of that location.”
When it came to representing her home state, and more specifically her city and county, she went a different route than what most expect of our coastal township. Instead of doing a piece featuring our beach or historic downtown, Divoky decided to focus on the controversial past and political imprint of race relations.
“I illustrated an interpretation of the Race Riots [of 1898],” Divoky says. “I want to start discussions on how many of these places are represented to us in only one light . . . Of course, lots of the pieces are silly in nature, but that doesn’t reduce the goal of giving the viewer a story beyond what they know.”
Although Divoky is locally known for her pen-and-ink illustrations—she also dabbles in stained glass and jewelry—this particular show is primarily in watercolors. “I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life,” she admits. “It was a thing I could turn to when life was difficult. It’s an escape from the mundane. On paper, I can bring stories alive.”