Monday, May 30, 2016

A Book About Life and two pieces ready to melt


(Above:  Two, new Large In Box Series pieces ... constructed, stitched, and ready to melt.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Lest anyone reading my blog in recent weeks thinks I've given up stitching, rest assured I haven't!  I've been stitching on a new, large grave rubbing art quilt every evening while streaming AMC's award winning series Mad Men.  (I'd heard of the show but never seen a single episode ... and until coming to Minnesota, I'd never used my laptop to stream anything except classical music via Pandora.)  More than that, I'm using some of my studio time to create new work for galleries and ... drum roll, please ... THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART CRAFT SHOW!

Three years ago I got into this outstanding annual event (generally regarded as one of the two best fine craft shows in the entire United States ... one where only 195 artists are selected from a field of over 1000 applications).  That show still ranks as my very best one.  Two years ago I got wait-listed ... which pretty much means that someone would have to die for a spot to open up.  Last year I got rejected.  This year my husband Steve and I talked about my application ... excessively.  We knew I could apply in two different categories:  Decorative Arts (my In Box and Stained Glass series) and in Baskets (my fiber vessels).  Two applications would undoubtedly increase my odds but each carried a hefty $50, non-refundable fee.  In the end, I did apply in both categories.  Well ... I got in!  Unbelievably, I got in on both applications.  I didn't even think this was possible.  The application information clearly states that if one applies in two categories and is accepted in one, the work from the other category cannot be shown.  It doesn't say anything about getting accepted into two categories.  Am I supposed to have two booths? A bigger booth? Get listed in two categories in the gorgeous print material?  I'm not sure what to think or what to do ... and it is Memorial Day.  There's no one to call or ask today.  I'll just enjoy the acceptances and think about it!

One way or the other, I'm going to need a lot more work. I'm also supposed to have a solo show at City Art in Columbia ... during the annual arts kick-off to the holiday season, an event called Vista Lights.  It's a big deal.  (No contract ... just a verbal agreement with a lady I've known for thirty years!)  That show is the same month as the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  So ... I'm seriously going to need A LOT MORE WORK ... starting now!  The final melting steps will be done back in Columbia.  I'm now constructing and stitching new pieces.  Two, large In Box pieces are already done!  More to come! 

(Above:  Exodus, rusted vintage garments on a dress form.)

I'm also very pleased to announce that Exodus received an honorable mention at the Fine Arts Show in Decatur, Georgia.

(Above:  A Book About Life, cover.  Altered Victorian photo album.  Shut:  10 1/4" x 8 1/2" x 2".  Filled with my images from the ancient cemeteries in Edinburgh, Scotland.)

My art residency is naturally progressing very nicely.  Today I finished the third (and final) altered Victorian photo album filled with photos from my 2012 trip to see the ancient cemeteries in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Lots of people have asked why I concentrate on "death".  I reply nicely, "I don't.  I'm interested in life ... how to best spent what time is left.  None of us are promised tomorrow.  I focus on leaving a lasting mark ... the words, live, and art that remain."  So, it is fitting that this volume is titled A Book About Life.


(Above:  A Book About Life, title page.)

I used a lot of elaborate, decorative letters cut from 19th century books, the sort of letter that began a chapter by emulating the highly ornate first letters found in Medieval prayer books.  They are often difficult to read.  Yet, many gravestone are difficult to read too.  It takes a minute to figure out the letters.  Below are all the pages.  Enjoy ... that's life (with a good thesaurus)!

(Above:  A Book About Life. First page reading A Book About Life.)

(Above:  A Book About Life, Memory, Death, Destiny, Fate ...

... Forever, Grief, Eternity, Sorrow ...

...Misery, Comfort, Forgotten, Gone ...

... the Past, the Present, and the Eternal Future ...

... Sleep, Rest, Anguish, Hope ...

... Gloom, Despair, Distress, Heartbreak ...

... Mourning, Melancholy, Lamentation, Salvation ...

... Woe, Regret, Suffering, Release ...

... Tears, Weeping, Darkness, Mortality ...

... Despondency, Transition, Suffering, Agony ...

... Longing, Bliss, Never-Ending, Deceased ...

... Downcast, Lachrymose, Shattered, Crestfallen ...

... Forlorn, Inconsolable ... and a series of four, smaller images without additional words.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Time-lapse trailer for "Nike's Advice", my performance art installation for Artista Vista 2016


TRAILER: Nike's Advice, by Susan Lenz. from Allen Wheeler Productions on Vimeo.

Three new works complete!


(Above:  A Family, Ten of eleven altered, antique tintypes.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

I suppose it is most fitting that I'm spending Memorial Day weekend with my collection of anonymous photos.  These forgotten faces just seem to look up toward me, begging to be remembered even if the words I select are the furthest from their truths.  Who would know if one of these ladies had a sister or was an aunt or became a grandmother?  Who would know if one of the gentlemen was an uncle?  It doesn't matter exactly.  What is important is that I'm giving them words that suggest a life they undoubtedly did live.  Generally tintypes are sold separately at auction and bring more money than I'm willing to pay ... even though no one knows the identity of these people at the time.  Fortunately, some of the boxes of old photos I've bought did include one or two tintypes.  I knew I had a few.  I didn't know I had eleven of them.  Three did not come with the original paper mounts.  I was able to fashion mounts using some of the discarded paper carriers that surrounded many of my later, though vintage, photos.  Some were rather well worn and fragile.  I glued paper from one of the scrapbooks I used earlier in the month.  Thus, everything is "old" ... even if it isn't original.  I don't know why "Favorite Uncle" didn't get in this shot.  That's the eleventh image.  I'll likely place this little collection in its own box or fabric pouch.  I haven't decided yet, but one way or the other, I'm calling this set A Family.


(Above:  Best and Dearest, an altered vintage photo album.  Shut:  5 3/4" x 8 1/4".)

Last week I purchased a couple vintage photo albums at the cooperative antique mall that is literally in the next block from my art residency studio.  This small one had never been used.  I took it apart in order to quickly collage all the pages.  Each one was then ironed (very cool setting), waxed and rubbed, and put back into the covers.  Overnight, it sat under weights.  All the pages are further below.  It was a particularly fun piece to create because it allowed me to select images that truly suggested a special day, a story, a moment captured ... not just the people inside the frame.  Some of the events just had to be grand!  Just scroll down.


(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, altered vintage photo album.  Shut:  8 3/4" x 12 3/4".)

This was one of the other old photo albums purchased last week.  Half the pages had early 1950s celebrity news clippings rubber cemented to them.  I thought about collaging over top of the existing articles but rubber cement isn't a lasting adhesive.  Some of the articles were falling off.  Some were still firmly in place.  In the end, I gutted the used pages and made replacements using new, white paper.  The numbers worked out perfectly for every other page to be either black or white.


(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, title page.)

Last Friday I received three, 1940s issues of Fortune Magazine.  I really needed more Ls and Is and a couple other letters.  One copy was taken apart and letters were cut into my trays.  I noticed that lots of the advertisements included a tomato red color.  Thus, this red covered photo album uses primarily red letters.

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Nana.)

I also decided that instead of always putting the man first, I'd put the woman first.  Why is it that in popular speech we say, "Husband and Wife" and "Grandpa and Grandma" and "Son and Daughter"?  This piece, like A Family, allowed me to think about who these people were, what roles they might have had in life. 

(Above: Anonymous Ancestors, Grandfather.)

So ... for the rest of this blog post are the pages from Anonymous Ancestors followed by Best and Dearest.  Enjoy!

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Mother.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Father.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Sister.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Brother.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Aunt.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Uncle.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Wife.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Husband.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, The In-Laws.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Daughter.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Son.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Family Reunion.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Cousins.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Grandkids.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Family Friend.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, The Boy and Girl Next Door.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Boss.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Neighbor.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Distant Relatives.)

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors, Home Sweet Home.)


(Above:  Best and Dearest, cover.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, The Girls.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, The First Car.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, The Beach.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Music.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Childhood.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, My Wedding Day.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Making Mischief.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Our First House.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, A Big Promotion.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Birthdays.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Graduation.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, First Time on a Plane.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Santa.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Vacations.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Having Twins.)

(Above:  Best and Dearest, Easter.)

(Above: Best and Dearest, Family Reunions.)