About Ron Kovatch

Before I could intellectualize the concept, I wanted to be an artist.  My grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe; my parents were Midwestern, working-class Catholics.  On my mother’s side were Polish grandparents who owned a bakery – which was a strong visual and cultural force within our family.  My paternal grandparents were Hungarian – grandfather was a toolmaker at Studebaker and grandmother also worked in a factory.  My dad was a fireman and my mom worked in the bakery.  This typical 1950s – 60s setting was formidable in my growth and upbringing.  One vivid recollection was observing my Polish grandfather practicing writing his name in fancy calligraphy on a newspaper.  My Hungarian grandmother collected precious cups and saucers that she displayed – but never used. The architecture and rituals of the Church — which I now reject — offered up a sense of fear and awe, and these experiences followed me through art school and into maturity. After graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute with a BFA in ceramics, I established a pottery studio in southern Indiana. The pottery lasted 8 years until I got the urge to return to school. Graduate school was my introduction to Dan Anderson and Paul Dresang, as well as other talented and inspiring faculty and students, at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE).  The time I spent at SIUE worked as a catalyst that would guide my studio production and teaching to the present time.  At SIUE, I was given the freedom and space to experiment outside the parameters of functional pottery, as well as outside the discipline of ceramics, and that freedom was exhilarating.  Teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 1989 has served as laboratory for my restlessness and curiosity as an artist.  About 10 years ago, during a sabbatical leave from teaching, I decided to leave ceramics, primarily because I felt my contribution to the medium was complete…it’s possible that I was simply burnt out and wanted a new focus.  Work on paper ideally fits my short attention span and the broad interests.

Ron Kovatch Artist’s Statement

The human face frozen in a representation, even if poorly resolved, abstract, or out of focus, allows us to witness the beauty, ugliness, the pores, the details, colors, and textures of the road map of the human drama.  Portraits work like a magnet luring the viewer into an experience that is fertile with issues and questions of identity, psyche, and our relationships with others.  I believe that connection and or confrontation with the human face is the strongest experience that may reveal our deep, subconscious, intellectual, and emotional nature.

The process and material become equally important with concepts because there is a fluxing point…a specific and small window of opportunity for paper, pigment, glue, razors, and hands to work.  It is like attempting to prevent imminent disaster while being distracted by more important things.  Yet what could be more important?




Ron Kovatch Sample Works