Saturday, March 25, 2017
That's "Good Day" in Italian! Steve and I are in the midst of a week in Florence. Why? Well ... it's all Sims Patton's fault. She wanted to spend her spring break from Clemson University in Italy. Her mother, Dolly, is our best friend ... the wonderful person who watches our cat Max when we travel. Dolly asked Steve to keep a look-out for affordable airline tickets. Early on Thanksgiving week, Steve found them and couldn't help himself. He booked Dolly and Sims early in the week to Rome; he booked us mid-week to Florence. Truly, the price was amazing, impossible to resist! Dolly and Sims spent half their week in Rome and then traveled for a couple days to Florence ... where we met them on our first day for an extravagant lunch near the Bargello Museum.
Since that lunch, Steve and I have been going full force. Of course we are! This is Florence1 To do Florence properly, one needs more than a week. I know! For me, this is a pilgrimage. The last time I visited was during the summer of 1980. I had just graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies (concentrating on early Italian Renaissance art). I turned twenty-one years old en route to Florence (in Padua ... at Giotto's Arena Chapel ... truly a profound, spiritual, and ever so memorable experience.) I still have my 1963 art history guide book and the very detailed journal I kept during the trip. Steve, however, had never been to Florence. Sure ... we once went "to Italy" in 2003 but I insisted that we NOT drive into Florence for a mere afternoon. Florence can't be done in a day ... or even the week we now have ... but I'm giving it my best effort. We are up and at ticket counters (using our Firenze passes) before the typical 8:15 tourist opening hours. We are going hard until everything closes.
Thus far, we've visited The Palazzo Vecchio, including the tower, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, San Lorenzo, San Miniato at Monte and the historic cemetery, Piazzale Michelangelo, Santa Maria Novella, Santissima Annuniziata, Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) ... including the cupola tour, the archeological remains of the prior structure, the museum, the Baptistry, Giotto's campanile (bell tower) ... and the church itself (all separate tickets!!!), The Chappelle Medicee, the Galleria Dell'Accadmia, the Museo di San Marco, the Ognissanti Church, and walked through too many gorgeous public squares to list.
Please don't get me wrong! Although I'm dragging Steve to all my most beloved haunts from thirty-seven years ago, we are having FUN! Steve posed for me ...
... and I posed for him beside the bronze wild boar. Why? Well, on the Chinese astrological chart, I'm a boar. Don't we look alike? LOL! Steve and I have a full agenda for tomorrow which is before our three-day Firenze card expires. We have other locations to visit on Monday and Tuesday before heading home.
Because it is already late here in Florence, I had to select just a few of the over 800 images I've already shot for this blog post. Thus, below are some of the images from the past three days with brief captions. We'll be up early tomorrow for the Uffizi, Santa Croce, and to see Bill Viola's installation/video exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi ... before Orsanmichele and the Pitti Palace on Monday. When I return, I'll blog more images ... as I'm obsessed with graffiti, doorways, and unusual details. Enjoy the rest of this post!
Much has changed since the eight or nine days I spent in Florence in 1980. The Duomo Museum is unbelievable! Totally new and an architectural masterpiece to rival the Duomo itself! It was wonderful to see Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise in a protective, conserved state ... up close ... personal and with school groups studying them while guides explained the Biblical stories and Renaissance achievements!
(Above: Patina on a bronze angel at the cemetery near San Miniato.)
On our first day in Florence, we walked up the steep hill to see the city from Piazzala Michelangelo. We also went to vespers at the nearby San Miniato del Monte which is beside a gorgeous cemetery. Yes ... we will return here on Tuesday as I didn't have enough time in this fabulous final resting place.
I am also inspired by the many craft media traditionally associated with the city. From marbleized paper to fine leather goods, artisans are at work everywhere. One turn down a less traveled street brought us into a furniture restoration workshop ...
... with people working late into the evening ... like professional artists everywhere. Like me, these hard working creatives are struggling to make a living ... and living to work their magic!
Well ... tomorrow the Uffizi calls. I can hardly wait. My very favorite painting ever is there. Gentile da Fabriano's Adoration of the Magi, the height of the International Gothic period (and the fabrics depicted are as fabulous as the many pieces of liturgical textiles I saw today ... for real!) I look forward to posting more photos when I return or perhaps from our last evening here in Florence!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 4:42 PM
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Last weekend was a blast. Steve and I set up booth 1408 at the ACC (American Craft Council) Atlanta show with enough time to visit the zoo. The six-month old twin giant panda bear cubs were totally adorable, and we loved looking for the snakes and frogs hidden in their glass enclosures inside the reptile building. Best of all, the craft show was great. Some of my artwork found homes! Yippee! We came back to Columbia ... and to good news!
(Above: Electrical box wrapped in an image of In Box CCLXXIII.)
A digital image of In Box CCLXXIII was used as "a wrap" for an electrical box at the busy corner of Lincoln and Gervais Street. This project is a joint venture between the Vista Guild and Vista Neighborhood Association. It was supported by a Connected Communities grant from Central Carolina Community Foundation, by an Action Grant from the City of Columbia, and with additional fund raising coming from area businesses, including Thirsty Fellow and Twisted Spur. The graphics were by Rob Barge at Hardware Graphics and the printer/sign installer was Signarama.
Early this morning Steve and I walked to Starbucks. It's a mile from our house. Across the street is the electrical box! I was thrilled to see it and ...
(Above: In Box CCLXXIII ... framed and available at Mouse House for $550.)
... thrilled to learn that it is still available for purchase at Mouse House! All I really had to do was upload a dozen or so images to a DropBox folder. I had no part in the selection process and didn't know which piece was selected until seeing the title beside my name on the finished project. It has truly been my honor to be part of this project. I was one of the first two artists selected. The Vista Guild and Vista Neighborhood Association hope to have as many as a dozen more "wraps" by the end of the summer ... but it depends on funding. One way or the other, my work will be seen every day by lots and lots of people. Excited!
I am linking this page (from Florence, Italy !!!) to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 2:35 PM
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Later today Steve and I will pack the rental cargo van for tomorrow's trip to Atlanta for the weekend American Craft Council Show at the Cobb Galleria. I'll be in booth 1408, same location as last year. Right now, most of the booth is sitting by the back door ready to be loaded. After all, we did the ACC Baltimore Show less than a month ago. It made no sense to lug the Pro Panel walls upstairs to the spare room/storage area. We'll do that next week!
Since the Baltimore show, I've been making work to replace some of the things that were sold ... especially since having an even number of certain works is important when packing the cargo van. My larger pieces fit nicely atop the booth walls only if loaded in pairs. If I have an odd number, the stack gets wobbly ... which isn't the best way to drive over bumps and uneven pavement!
The smaller works fit into several boxes with carefully cut pieces of corrugated between each one. I like the boxes to be full ... so that they don't shift back and forth during the drive.
So this post is the result of the work I made to fill the boxes and keep the stacked artwork "flat". This is likely a strange approach to making art, but it works for me!
It is probably obvious ... but the decision to make Seasonal Leaves: Winter is because I sold "winter". How could I go to Atlanta with just Spring, Summer, and Autumn? LOL!
The rest of this post is the smaller works made during the last two weeks. I'm amazed that my "In Box" series is approaching THREE HUNDRED. It seems like only yesterday when I started. At the time, I thought it impossible to reach one hundred, the goal my mentor Stephen Chesley suggested as an exercise in the exploration of color, theme, design, and artistic voice. The series still inspires me and I've been offered a solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, NC with this work. The show will run from September 9, 2017 through February 3, 2018. I will be making all new work for it ... including a new twist. I'm going to explore circles ... which will not be framed but gently tacked to the wall as if a constellation of orbs. I'm excited!
I'm also happy to report that Bucket List was accepted into All Things Considered IX: Basketry in the 21st Century, a national juried show presented by the National Basketry Organization. This show opens at the American Art Company in Tacoma, WA and runs from July 20, 2017 through March 30, 2018.
Plus, Our Baby Beloved was accepted into the biennial Sacred Threads, July 7 - 23, 2017 in Herndon, Virginia.
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:14 PM
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
I'm very proud to be a member of Through Our Hands, an international group of contemporary artists working primarily in layered textiles. The group's Portfolio is amazing. (It has eighty-four, full colored illustrations showcasing work from the twenty-seven Affiliate Artists and several well written articles ... and it is available for a very low purchase price.) This book came out about the time of the last group exhibition. The next group exhibit is scheduled for The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England ... at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) ... this coming August. This is a fabulous show, attended by thousands. I'm excited. Yet, for the first time, Through Our Hands has a theme: Portraits.
Initially, I wasn't excited about "portraits". Despite having stitched 108 pieces in my own Decision Portrait Series, I don't really consider this approach part of my personal repertoire. I certainly didn't want to make something similar to my past work ... but I also didn't have anything else in mind. Steve and I talked about it.
He asked me, "What sort of portrait would you like to stitch?" My answer, "Something that goes way over the top ... like the twenty-four portraits in my Blues Chapel ... but those weren't in fabric. There weren't any stitches at all."
"Can't you stitch some sort of 'over the top' portrait?," he asked.
My mind started churning. Hadn't I added sequins, beads, costume jewelry, millinery lace, and all sort of things to those early, female Blues singers? Hadn't I added gilded halos? Made them appear as if "sainted"? As if icons? Wasn't the concept to pay homage to these singers who lived in a male dominated world, a segregated country, and worked in an industry that took advantage of them ... depicting them as "saints"? YES! They changed the world for today's young, African American vocalists. They sang with PASSION. They were icons!
Would I like to stitch "an icon"? YES!
But what icon? Who would be my saint?
Who did I know living a life meant to make a difference? Who was filled with passion? Who possessed the qualities of a saint spreading love? I really didn't have to think for long.
Anastasia had posed for me before ... for the Decision Portrait Series.
CLICK HERE to read Anastasia's profound decision. But even more than saying "I Love You" in place of "good-bye", last spring Anastasia was changing people by facing cancer with an amazing dignity, grace, and ethereal spirit. She fought to the very end. Last week would have been her fiftieth birthday.
While Steve and I were talking about a new icon and my potential portrait for the upcoming exhibit, we were in Washington, DC. It was Easter and we went to the National Basilica for high mass. We've been to this gorgeous house of worship many times. It is very near the Kirov Academy of Ballet where our elder son went to school. So, we knew how to avoid the parking lot ... finding a street space near the other end of the large structure. As we were walking up, I saw a side door ajar. We went inside ... at the lower, crypt level. The very first, ornate side chapel (totally done in glittering mosaic) was for Saint Anastasia. That sealed it. Anastasia was contacted soon thereafter ... already battling cancer, already having undergone chemo and lost her long golden locks of hair, already in pain but happy to pose.
Not only did Anastasia pose but she was happy to talk about my other plans for the piece. After all, I want to convey the reason I think she's perfect as a "saint", an icon, a role model for life. I knew I wanted to put the finished portrait into a triptych. I already had the antique mirror frame, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted in the two side panels. Anastasia knew. She suggested two phrases: Live to Love and Love to Live. Perfect.
(Above: The antique triptych frame for Saint Anastasia.)
I spent hours working with layers in Photoshop ... changing the orientation, abstracting Anastasia's face to better coordinate with the graphic icon image, developing ideas for the halo, and leaving a space for her name at the bottom. Finally, the results were uploaded to Spoonflower and ordered. The printed fabric came but I was too busy when it arrived.
I didn't start stitching until my recent art residency to PLAYA in the remote Oregon Outback. Serendipitously, I left Columbia while family and friends gathered at Anastasia's bedside ... staying until the day she died ... the day I did the free motion stitching. I started seed stitching the golden background with a metallic thread on the day her life was celebrated with a party at The Art Bar. The timing for this blog post is also important. I started taking pictures last Thursday, the Anastasia would have turned fifty years old.
While in Oregon, I had time to think about how this icon would come together. I decided that the wings needed to be more three-dimensional. I ordered images of just this area from Spoonflower, stitched them, cut them, and covered each with gel medium to prevent the edges from fraying and to add an appropriate stiffness. To dry them, they were pinned to a piece of foam-centered board.
(Above: Detail of the feathers ... with gel medium.)
Gel medium dries clear. The wings were then applied to the portrait.
Since these photos were taken, I've continued stitching. I've also ordered the fabric for the two side panels and am working out ideas for the "name" at the bottom of the portrait. I will continue to post as this work progresses. Until then ... this is how my living room looks ... lots of beads and a beloved angel on the floor looking up.
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:15 PM
Monday, March 06, 2017
Several months ago my talented and super organized friend, Susanne Miller Jones, was putting together a call-for-entry. The title of the upcoming show is HERstory: A Celebration of Strong Women. Art quilters were asked to select one of the many ground-breaking women who have accomplished significant forward movement since 1920, the year women were finally allowed to vote. I really didn't think I would enter. Even though my Decision Portrait Series is obviously a collection of 108 portraits, I don't really see portraiture as part of my repertoire. Lots of other ladies were signing up though. Facebook was a flurry of interest. Then, Susanne posted some of the unclaimed names. Among them ... Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis) and Madonna.
What? I would have thought these two would have been snatched up very quickly. I could see black millinery netting, a pink suit, and strings of faux-pearls. I could see a racy corset with tasseled bra cups and a pose so provocative that the jurors would blush. I signed up ... first for Madonna. Then, when Jackie was still looking for a stitcher, I agree to her art quilt as well.
While these art quilts didn't have to conform to the format of a realistic portrait (or even include a portrait ... they could be abstracted or depict items/words/symbols associated with each woman), I always envisioned a face. I culled through hundreds of images in public domain and then severely altered each one.
(Above: Jackie, detail.)
For Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis), I went with iconic images and ideas. I vaguely remember the day when her husband was shot. I was three-and-a-half years old. My mother ran into the street. So did every other housewife on the block. They huddled crying. I cried too ... out of fear. This was unknown territory. That horrible day marks the beginning of my American history lessons. I learned our country had a name, that we had a president, and that he was shot dead. Likely, this is the first time I truly understood what "dead" meant and why we fear it.
When thinking of Jackie, I think of the pink suit she wore that day. I think of the strings of pearl she often wore. I think of the black chiffon veil through which she viewed the streets of Washington, DC on the way to Arlington cemetery. To convey these things, the photo was altered for pinks and the pearls were multiplied for effect. Instead of black chiffon, I used millinery netting. It was very popular then, a fashion statement from 1950s Easter bonnets to Sunday school accessories (despite the fact that I couldn't find a single image in which Jackie wore any of it! LOL!)
Another fashion accessory from this era were white gloves. Jackie wore gloves often but there was no easy way to use a pair on the front, near her face. Thus, I used a pair donated by my cousin Monika on the back ... as my required label. Monika gave me three pairs. One pair is even more elaborate. It has tiny beads all over the surface making free-motion embroidery impossible. I'm still looking for a perfect place to use that pair.
As much as I would have preferred some spread-eagle pose and/or a sexy corset, I knew better than to stitch such a work for this sort of opportunity. I played it straight but probably shouldn't have. Why? Well, signing up for this opportunity was not a guarantee of inclusion in the exhibition or in the forthcoming Schiffer publication. The works were to be juried. Jackie made the cut. Madonna didn't. Perhaps this is because when I flipped the original public domain image, I forgot to move her oddly attractive mole from one side back to the other ... but I doubt it!
(Above: Madonna, detail.)
I have no plans for this piece and no plans to make the one I had in mind. It was simply fun to be part of an on-line group working toward a common goal. I don't mind Madonna's rejection. Rejection happens all the time. The only think I didn't like was the ban on blogging and/or sharing to social media until very recently. These two pieces were done quite a while ago. The arrangement with the publisher forced everyone to "keep a secret" (as if lack of publicity is a bad thing and will result in fewer book sales! LOL!) Thankfully, the ban has been lifted.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:38 PM