Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thread: Gathering My Thoughts ... fiber art installation

(Above: My fiber art installation, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts, at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

First and foremost, THANK YOU to all those who answered my call for old, neglected threads and sent them for me to unravel and use in this installation.  Second, THANK YOU to Wade Seller's and his company Coal Powered Filmworks for creating an amazing, three minute video about my work and me!  Finally, (drum roll, please!) ... It's up!  It took all weekend and most of Monday.  This blog post shares the experience!

IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ ... please just scroll down through the photos!  Threads are truly lovely!

(Above:  The baskets and thread.)

On Saturday morning my husband Steve and I hauled all the baskets (over 130 of them) and three, large, black leaf bags of unraveled thread to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  This is where my studio is located.  Part of my rental agreement is the right to use the gallery space for two weeks each year.  I knew I wanted to create this installation but also knew I didn't want to have a solo show.  I wanted to partner with other organizations and artists.

Please notice the start of Michael Krajewski's stream-of-consciousness pencil graffiti based on the opera La Boheme.  It is directly on the gallery walls ... an 18' x 18' atrium with four skylights overhead.  Our work is part of a larger art event that I'm hosting ... called Operatic Threads.  From my idea for this organic fiber installation, several partnerships grew! 

(Above:  Atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios with the 130+ baskets suspended.)

The reception is tomorrow evening, September 18th from 5 - 9 PM.  I partnered with  Jasper Magazine, a free area arts print publication.  They are launching their Sept/Oct. issue at the reception.  Jasper is featuring an article on Palmetto Opera and their upcoming performance of La Boheme.  So ... I partnered with Palmetto Opera and their talented vice-president Tish Lowe.  There will be singers in the main gallery ... surrounded by Tish's classical, realistic oil paintings.

(Above:  The atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios after several hours on the 12' ladder suspending the 130+ baskets.)

The event is also partnered with the city's One Columbia arts and history agency for the launch of their "Cultural Passport" project.  Plus, the reception is part of the Columbia Vista Guild's "Vista Nights" initiative, a "third Thursday" art and restaurant crawl in our part of town.  In order to bring a touch of "opera" into my fiber art installation, I asked local graffiti artist Michael Krajewski to draw directly on the atrium walls ... stream-of-consciousness pencil marks that might go through the head of an opera fan watching La Boheme.  So ... there's a wall for all four acts following Rodolfo and Mimi and the bohemian lives of Paris in 1830 ... in graffiti!  It is unbelievably COOL and I will blog about it after my installation comes down ... when I can photograph it before painting over it with Kilz.  

(Above:  The contents of three, large leaf bags ... unraveled threads!)

It took most of Saturday to suspend the baskets and dump all the threads onto the floor.

The baskets looked awesome, especially from the top of the ladder.

I did, however, start filling them with thread ... at first sparsely.

I left Gallery 80808/Vista Studios with half the baskets ... half filled.

It looked promising ...

... but it certainly looked better once I finished on Monday afternoon!

There is a pathway down the center.  People can walk through the maze of tangles and dangling thread.  I hope my concept is clear but that really doesn't matter as long as people enjoy it.  My exhibition signage reads:

Threads:  Gathering My Thoughts
 A site-specific installation by Susan Lenz

For this installation, Susan Lenz turned her attention to the most basic fiber art material: the thread. She unraveled miles scavenged from yard sales and donated by friends across North America. A giant pile of thread accumulated on Lenz’s living room floor.  It resembled the former abundance in Southern textile mills and a physical manifestation of millions of thoughts running through anyone’s brain.  The laborious process gave way to hours of contemplation on the many uses and multiple meanings of this common material.   This work explores an ongoing engagement - and entanglement - with fibers.  The massive accumulation of thread both informs and confounds, acting as a labyrinth of the human mind, logically connected to everyday definitions and irrationally linked to the failures of memory, aging, and a world interwoven with threads.  The installation seeks to both occupy and obstruct space using brightly colored fibers in new ways.  Susan’s work also challenges the way text functions as a visual symbol.  Instead of using the written word to lend meaning, she uses the physical object to broaden the response to narrow, literary definitions.

  1. a long, thin strand of fiber used in sewing or weaving
  2. a thing resembling a thread in length or thinness, like a river in the distance
  3. a group of linked messages on an Internet forum
  4. a helical ridge on the outside of a screw or bolt or on the inside of a coordinating hole
  5. a slangy way to refer to articles of clothing
  6. a tenuous or feeble support, like a spider’s web or as in “hanging by a thread”
  7. a continuing element, as in a melancholy style of writing or a reoccurring symbol in a movie
  1. to pass a thread through the eye of a needle
  2. to pass something long and thin into place, like a rope into a pulley or film into a camera
  3. to move carefully around obstacles, like a waitress in a crowded diner
  4. to interweave an object with others, like a hair threaded with gray
  5. to put small objects together, like a string of beads or cubes of meat on a skewer

This installation was possible by the support, encouragement, services, and attention of many groups and individuals.  It is with sincere thanks that the following are gratefully acknowledged:  Cynthia Boiter and Bob Jolly and Jasper Magazine; Sarah Luadzers Lewis and the Congaree Vista Guild; Tom and Linda Starland and Carolina Arts; Wade Sellers and Coal Powered Filmworks; Charlotte Lindsey and Studio Cellar; Steve Dingman; and those who contributed their old thread and baskets including: BJ Adams; Sandra Baker; Wilma Black; Margaret Blank; Vernon and Anita Bowen; Antoinette Brown; Clay Burnette; Nancy Cook; Susan V. Day; Bert Easter and Ed Madden; Focus on Fibers Retreat; Martha Ginn; Noel Gilliam; Mart Gooch; Goose Track Quilts; Lindsay Hager; Jill Hoddick; Ellen Kochansky; Anne Larson; Gay Lasher; Sylvia Lewis and the quilters from Sanpete, Utah; Sallie Maral;  Paul Moore; Bonnie Ouelette; Norbet Ozark; Nicholl Ranson and friends; Myrtle Robinson; Elaine Tanner; Suzanne Taetzsch; Marilyn Wall; and Nanette Zeller.

I am really looking forward to the opening tomorrow, especially because I'm partnered with so many other artists and organizations.  We've learned so much from one another, especially the many connections that tie us together ... like ... La Boheme's lead female, Mimi, was an embroiderer.  Her famous aria includes the fact that she stitched roses and lilies.  We also are amazed at the opening scene in the four bohemian's Parisian garret.  The musician returns with plenty of food, drink and cigars ... a windfall from a gig playing his violin to a rich, eccentric Englishman's dying parrot.  Dead birds have been painted in classical oils for ages ... including a very favorite of mine by Albert Pinkham Ryder.  It's is owned by the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

(Above:  Albert Pinkham Ryder's Dead Bird ... in a fabulous gilded, antique frame.)

So ... my mentor, Stephen Chesley, painted Dead Parrot to hang by the entryway to the exhibit!  I've also hung a Victorian birdcage nearby ... and let a large handful of unraveled thread drape from its open door.  (Plus, I included a small sign as to WHY we have a dead parrot painting ... and why it is also in the graffiti!)

Now ... the rest of this blog post is just a collection of photos from the installation.  I plan on posting an upcoming blog entry to include images of people walking through the maze at the reception.  Enjoy the photos ... uploaded in no particular order!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

VIDEO! Threads: Gathering My Thoughts!

Wade Sellers and his firm Coal Powered Filmworks created this wonderful video of my installation, work, and me as a fiber and installation artist!  THANK YOU WADE!


I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday's", a site for sharing fiber arts.
The photo above is of some of the miles and miles and miles of threads that will be in the installation!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trip to Columbus, fine friends, and new work!

(Above:  Steve and me with the Brutus the Buckeye bronze in the Ohio Union on The Ohio State University campus.  Click on any image in post to enlarge.)

Last week Steve and I went to the monthly "First Thursday" in our hometown, Columbia, South Carolina.  We had dinner at a new restaurant on Main Street, watched art lovers walking by, and checked messages on our phones ... including a Facebook post by Teresa Rill, a friend in Columbus, Ohio.  Teresa's husband Ron was the best man at our wedding ... thirty-three years ago this September.  Her post announced that Ron's job as a Giant Eagle produce manager was shifting from one store to another ... to be big, super modern, place opening the next day.  Within minutes, we corresponded with Teresa.  Ron would be on the floor all weekend.  Teresa would keep our visit a surprise.  Off we drove to Columbus for a whirlwind weekend.

 (Above:  The inside of the new Ohio Union.)

I hadn't been in Columbus in sixteen years.  Steve came once since then ... about ten years ago.  Lots has changed on The Ohio State University campus ... including a new Ohio Union ...


... that includes plenty of alumni artwork!  This was my favorite,  Station 88 - Ohio License Plate Sculpture by Jeff Hersey and Bob Swanson.  We had a wonderful time reminiscing about our college days ...

(Above:  Steve in front of Ohio Stadium)

... about meeting at the OSU vs. Oklahoma football game in 1977 ... while sitting in the 1500+ student cheering section called Block O.  We looked at people already tailgating for the game later that night.  We saw the ticket scalpers buying extras already over face value ... and decided we were NOT going to the game!  (This ended up being a good call.  Our beloved Buckeyes lost their first home season opener since I led Block O in 1978!  It also ended past midnight!)

 (Above:  Steve and Ron.)

We totally surprised Ron!  It was great ... and so is the new Giant Eagle!  We had lunch in the pub
 ... watching other football games on the wide screen HD television!  Who needs a sports bar when your grocery store provides all this and ...

... live entertainment during the grand opening weekend!  There were also people making balloon animals for the kids and a lady doing face paintings.  It was so much fun!  We also went to "First Saturday" in Columbus' Short North arts district.  This area of town was a total ghetto when we lived in Columbus.  Now it is a chic, fashionable section with pricy condos being built between Victorian buildings and plenty of upscale restaurants. 

(Above:  The William Tecumseh Sherman House in Lancaster, Ohio.)

On the trip home we stopped in Lancaster, Ohio to tour the William Tecumseh Sherman House.  It was very interesting to listen to the guide describe the building, the times, and Sherman as "the hero" since I'm currently working on artwork for an invitational exhibition commemorating his burning of Columbia!  This place was terrific.  We really enjoyed it.

(Above:  Time Signatures and a pile of wrapped, wooden spools in one of two showcases at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.  Photo by Margaret Neville.)

So ... this entire trip evolved due to a Facebook message! I love the Internet!  On the way home, I checked my messages and saw a piece of my work at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.  A friend, Margaret Neville posted it on her way to a ceramic conference in Phoenix.  I'd totally forgotten to blog about this opportunity!

(Above:  The two showcases at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.)

I installed work in the two showcases on Friday, August 29th.  The installation went very well ... but my photos were terrible!  Margaret's must have been taken in the evening!

(Above:  The Nature of Memory and another pile of wrapped, wooden spools with signage.)

Why were they terrible?  Well, in the afternoon the sun hits the glass doors.  The reflection (from any angle) is dreadful!

Although, the reflection in the photo above does include travelers pulling their luggage!

And, the reflections do produce a few interesting lines! LOL!  I am grateful that Margaret took a far better photo and reminded me about to post about this work.

(Above:  Package from Margaret Blank in Alberta, Canada.)

I am also grateful for other Internet friends ... like Margaret Blank ... who sent this incredible gift of delicately embellished fabric snippets ... all the way from Alberta, Canada!  Thank you Margaret!

(Above:  Sandra Baker ... sitting in one of two chairs for Stitching Together.)

I am grateful for local friends who read my blog ... like art quilter Sandra Baker who came by at the perfect time to sit in one of the two completed chairs made for my Stitching Together sculptural art quilt.

(Above:  Chair made from an old quilting frame from Kathleen Loomis.)

I finally decided that I didn't want anything in the "back" area of the two chairs.  The focus of this piece has got to be the "table", not the chairs.  Still, a seat was needed and grave rubbings from the same two cemeteries would be best.  Yesterday, I took another vintage, damask tablecloth to Elmwood and Randolph Cemeteries and then completed the upholstery.

(Above:  Seat cushion for Stitching Together. 19" x 19".)

The brown crayon grave rubbing was made in the Confederate Soldiers section of Elmwood Cemetery.  The black dove and archway came from two markers in the historic Randolph African-American cemetery next to Elmwood.  Both seats cushions were made using the same stones.  The padding was a donation from another friend, Mary Langston, who gave me an great, thick mattress pad cover.  I'll be taking photos of the entire, large sculptural piece this weekend.  Why wait?  Well, this weekend the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios will be empty ... waiting for my other installation, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts.  Before suspending the eighty+ baskets, I'll set up Stitching Together and snap the photos.

 (Above:  My mentor Stephen Chesley looking at three of my Strata Series pieces ... in floater frames.)

Finally, yesterday evening was the opening of a solo show for James C. McMillan at Gallery West.  My Strata Series pieces were also making their debut ... hung perfectly together in one, upper level room.  I promised photos of the three in floater frames because I forgot to snap pictures of them in this presentation.  These works are available framed or unframed. 

  (Above:  A nice lady looking at some of the other, unframed pieces in the Strata Series.)

I went early enough to take a few pictures.  It got crowded later.  It's a nice show and will be hanging through October 19th.  Thank you, Sara Cogswell for including my work in your lovely gallery!