March 18, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s Odum Library Hosts Exhibit of Knotwork Designs

VALDOSTA — Elantu Baiat Veovode’s knotwork designs have received international acclaim. Several of her creations are on display for public viewing in the Hub Gallery Area on the second floor of Valdosta State University’s Odum Library.

The 62-year-old wife, mother, and artist noted that her work “incorporates the traditional rules of Celtic knotwork design combined with elements of my own Slavic heritage and my love of animals,” as well as her love of nature. The pieces are colorful, drawn on paper initially with a blue pencil and then layered with pen and ink, watercolors, colored pencils, crayon, wax, 24-karat gold leaf, and bleach. She noted that she prefers to use a 19th century dip pen to apply the ink to the paper.  

All of Veovode’s knotwork designs follow the over-under rule of threading. They all feature a background of patterned drawings and animal, nature, or human forms in the design. Within the artwork hanging in the library, the viewer will notice leaves, birds, dragonflies, owls, horses, ravens, the phoenix, and green men. The green man is from a story the artist heard as a young girl; he walks through the forest and tells the flowers when to bloom.

“All the cords are braided,” she said. “It’s all balanced. Nothing dominates.”

Born with a visual impairment commonly known as tunnel vision, Veovode sees the world as a small circle. This is evident in her knotwork designs. From time to time, her brain tricks her into seeing things that are not really there, giving her a unique view of the world around her. A perceptual condition known as synesthesia makes it possible for her to “see” sound in the form of vivid colors. She makes it a priority to admire everything around her, to see the beauty in everything.

“It’s all perfectly marvelous,” she said, “life and its beauty.”

Veovode suffers from an inherited nervous system disorder, as well as reckless behavior, although she prefers to think of it as living a life without fear. She enjoys motorcycle riding, hang gliding, spelunking, hockey and has broken nearly every bone in her body — if not actually every bone in her body. She died once for over a minute after sustaining a head injury in an automobile accident and was told by her doctors that she would never walk again due to the damage to her brain; she proved them wrong with time and persistence. Dying does not scare her; failing to learn and grow and experience all that life has to offer does.

Veovode began creating knotwork designs after breaking her left arm for a fifth time at the age of 27 or 28. A “lefty” from birth until that moment, she said that she had to teach herself how to use her right hand, which required her to think about what she was doing and resulted in her art becoming more precise and mathematical. Physics and calculus formulas began to inspire her. When she looked at them, she no longer saw a series of numbers and symbols; she saw an image.     

As a child, Veovode spent hours drawing and studying drawings in books. She had a preference for drawing nature and then animals and people, particularly nudes. She noted that she spent a lot of time in the trees, viewing the world and all that it had to offer her. She sold her first piece at the age of 17 in Denver, Colo., where she lived in the mountains with her infant son. Married at the age of 16, her first husband died a few days before she discovered she was pregnant. She provided for herself and her child by hunting for elk and other wildlife and then selling her art to afford the basic necessities. She wrote and published a book, The Contented Poacher, and was asked to talk about it on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” She has the ability to catch pheasant with a twig, some barley, an empty toilet paper tube, and a haystack (tarp). She does not require a gun to hunt; she said that she has studied the animals, understands how they try to escape when they sense danger, and uses that against them.

Veovode remarried when her son was 12. She and her husband, Dr. Harold E. Thiele, relocated to the Valdosta area somewhat recently when he joined the Valdosta State University Master of Library and Information Science Program faculty. At the urging of Thiele, she attended one of his faculty socials — even though she prefers to avoid time spent in large groups and strange places due to her medical issues — and met Deborah S. Davis, certified archivist, director of VSU Archives and Special Collections, and chairwoman of the Library Art Committee.

“Everyone I’ve talked to has been fascinated by the pictures,” said Davis. “We wanted to be able to tell the story of those intricate visions. She and I were talking last year and she was working on a draft of an art book with the pictures and illustrative poems.  Most of the display includes those same pictures and poems with some new, different styles included. I think the text adds so much and serves as a way into the pictures. It identifies the animals in some of them and tells us their symbolism.  I really like the exhibit because there’s so much to discover in it.”

Contact Deborah S. Davis at (229) 259-7756 or to learn more.

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