Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Fool for Art and Pat Parise's reception

Yesterday I went to Charleston, delivering artwork and restocking pictures at Terrace Oaks Antique Mall. I made it home in time to "dress" for an artistic evening. First, we went to Pat Parise's opening reception right outside my studio door. Some of these pictures were taken there. Then, Alex and I (only had two tickets, one of which actually belonged to Stephen Chesley) went on to the McKissick Museum fund-raiser, "A Fool For Art".

One of my "goddesses" of embroidery, Lee Malerich was there selling her latest found art object creations, fanciful goblets for only $20 each. Alex and I selected six. The evening was fun, visually dazzling, and rewarding too. Two of my three pieces, including an "In Box" sold. By the way, though not a good picture, Alex is wearing the second pair of pants he sewed! He is pictured with artists Marcelo Novo and Mike Story. In another image, Steve is shaking Pat Parise's hand in the atrium outside my studio. Another image is of "goddess" Lee Malerich standing beside a table with several of her goblets. Steve and I are in one photo; I'm wearing my favorite stockings, the Emilio Pucci pair I bought at Stockman's in Helsinki.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Earth Moods

For months I haven't known how videos end up on Blogger. If successful, when I hit the button "PUBLISH", I will have figured it out. If successful, the video Alex created for my recently finished altered book Earth Moods is uploaded for viewing.

The statement got sort of "lost" is size and color. Here it is:

Earth Moods

Does the Earth feel angry when man drills for oil? Are rainbow the way our planet smiles? Does the Earth have moods?

I was drawn to this 1925 poetry book by Hervey Allen entitled Earth Moods. I wondered about tornados and tsunamis, tidal waves and droughts. I wondered, “Is these the manifestations of the Earth’s moods?” By altering the volume, I explored the idea that our celestial sphere is a living, ever-changing organism, alive even as it is inert, fragile but fully capable to erupt in earthquakes and blow off steam through geysers. The pages combine the original poetry text with images, facts, and elementary school questions. Data include statistics on the Earth’s size, shape, geological formations, weather phenomena, erosion projections, information on plate tectonics, and measurements of the highest mountains and the longest rivers as well as other interesting numbers. My wish is that viewers contemplate human emotions when facing ecological issues.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Alex had been telling me about this amazing ruin of beautiful graffiti. On Monday in the late afternoon he and I took the camera and tripod. Sure, I know that much of the work is gang related but I was blown away by the dazzling color, the blend of urban art with nature's greenery, the quietness, the scattered litter, the texture....the feeling of something scared, like a chapel for society's lost and forgotten. Like the Big Trees of Calaveras County and every square foot of Yosemite, this was a location with a worthwhile image from every angle. I clicked off over 150 images within a half hour, trimmed the number to 90. I'm still too close to the experience to narrow it further. These are just a few of the more overall shots and a single detail. I might go back just to stare at the intensity of the Jackson Pollack-worthy action style of painting and the palette of a de Kooning.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sleeping Beauty: Fantasty Fabric for Fairies

I've finished the first two fiber pieces for the dance related exhibit coming up in May at Fish or Cut Bait Gallery on Edisto Island. I already did eight digital transfers on pages from a vintage ballet book. I want to get at least eight embroideries done too. My idea is this: Image the fairies from Sleeping Beauty, the fairy tale not just the ballet. What would they wear? Wouldn't it be diaphanous, ephemeral, lacy but also covered in sparkling gems? At least it would in my mind! So, using water soluble fabric, I'm creating "fantasy fabric fit for fairies".

To create this lace, I've stitched interesting yarns and ribbon to the water soluble fabric attached to a stretcher bar. Mostly, I'm couching them in place. Then, I remove the piece from the stretcher bar and free-motion machine through their lines but also between them, in interlocking or netting patterns. I use a hoop to keep the piece taunt. Next, I put the piece back on the stretcher bars and hand bead it. This takes more time than anything else and I use lots of "petite" beads; the smaller, the better! Finally, I remove the piece from the stretcher bars and pin it to a piece of foam-centered board. I run it under warm water until all the fabric has dissolved. I allow it to dry while still tacked to the foam-centered board. Generally, I've found the piece is still a little too stiff and run it under warm water again. After it is dry the second time, it still has some stiffness but has relaxed enough for my satisfaction.

I am currently working on a piece for the Fairy of Darkness. I am planning to create the Lilac Fairy, the Silver Fairy, the Gold Fairy, and something for the Fairies of Playfulness and Courage. I've also been toying with the idea of Blue Bird and Puss and Boots. Who knows! I'm open to other suggestions too!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Signs: Alex is suspended

GOD, Please GRANT me serenity! It's been a rough week.

(Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.)

I've felt DEVOURED by recent events!

I've recycled arguments! I've recycled memories.

I'm looking for directions. They're somewhere, buried or hiding!

Steve and I feel like we've asked for help but that the responses are as confusing as the problems we face.

In a nutshell, Alex was suspended. It happened last Wednesday. We were summoned to the principal's office--both of us, despite the fact that the administration knew this meant our business had to close immediately. We were, we were terrified. We knew that just the day before the Dreher High School staff found out about the MySpace profile that Alex had created for the principal. (From time to time, I've monitored Alex's MySpace. We had no idea he'd created this new, slanderous profile.) We thought he'd be expelled. Fortunately, he was only suspended for three days, Wednesday through Friday. We couldn't say anything. For all we knew, this meeting was an attempt to gain more evidence against us---slander, libel, lawsuits went through our minds...lose of our home, business, etc. We were told that his missed homework could be emailed to him....did they actually think he still had access to the Internet? Yes, they did! They seemed totally shocked that we would deny Alex a password as a punishment for Internet infractions. So, I handed the school officer my business card and requested all homework to be sent to my email address. We were instructed to collect the assignments in the school office on Friday afternoon. We were told to be grateful (Steve and I were) and that all the school's actions were in Alex's best interests.

We left, with Alex, mortified, embarrassed, and still scared. Only one teacher wrote to us; the drama instructor promised the missing assignment would be in the office. There were more than one "knock down/drag out" and tearful fights. The MySpace profile included the "JK" for "Just Kidding" and said it had been hosted by the first amendment. Alex was shocked to learn that such actions aren't covered in the first amendment, but he knew (and could recite as if he possessed a law degree) that ignorance of a law was no excuse for breaking it.

This was also report card day. Alex managed to take his first good interim grades in years and turn them into a dismal result. From four As, two Bs, and a C he dropped to one A (100% in speech---cute teacher that he likes), one B (drama), four Ds and an F. He likely had to try to fail this miserably! I have no idea how else this could happen.

The grades weren't the worst of it. He lied. He managed to convince Steve that the grades would be good enough for Steve to book the airline ticket to England. Alex conned his Dad into spring break with Mathias.

Of course, the trip has been cancelled. Alex is grounded. We are reeling in depression---how could we be such horribly irresponsible parents? Steve and I held on to the words, "This is in Alex's best interest". (At the Gallery80808/VistaStudios art opening on Friday night, a Dreher teacher gave Alex a "high five" for his efforts.....great help for parenting.)

On Friday afternoon I went to collect Alex's assignments. None were in the office or with the attendance secretary. I checked with the school officer; yes, the email requesting assignments had been sent on Wednesday afternoon. No one bothered---Alex's best interest.

Well, the yard sure benefited. Alex became manual labor for the yard Steve always wanted. It looks great. Carolina jasmine have been planted in the beds in front of the garage. All the other flower beds were raked and cleared, weeded and mulched. There's a cute edging around the century old oak tree. Impatiences ring the tree trunk. Poppy seeds from a vineyard in California line a fence. They bought a stand for the hammock. Plants are out front too. The yard has never looked this good.

Alex also wanted to learn to make pants. I bought a really, really cheap unisex pattern and insisted he use only material in my studio for the first pair. The result is totally hilarious....but it was created following the instructions by Alex. I guess the yard and the sewing were in Alex's best interest. Our arguments (which naturally Steve and I won---though with difficulty....Alex is brilliant despite his grades and very good at debate!) were also in his best interests.

At the same time, I feel like parenting is like following most of the signs I saw in California. The directions are just not obvious. I'm at a loss, feel helpless, and rather pathetic most of the time.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


On Friday Steve, Alex, Erica (Alex's girlfriend) and I went to the Township to see Carolina Ballet's Cinderella. The company is the civic one in town and it was the first time that I can remember their spring event being held outside the small, poorly located auditorium at Keenan High School.

John Whitehead and the staff did a fine job with publicity. I noticed posters all over town for at least a week before opening night. All the newspapers carried an advertisement, announcements and most also included a photo. Still, this was a bit of a risk. The bigger theater is more expensive. To cut costs, the company went into the building Thursday night. Years past, at Keenan, they've had all week on location. I heard that this gamble paid off nicely. There was a children's school performance on Friday and nice attendance at the show we saw.

I won't mention any of the performers by name. It isn't necessary. All seemed well rehearsed. The choreography was straight-forward and nicely executed. The partnering was simple and appropriate for the young cast. This was also a show that featured only those old enough and with enough experience to get on and off the stage without three and four year old kids. In fact, I think all the dancers were on pointe. Alas, this means the youngest were about eight and that their legs weren't always straight. Still, they knew their cues, knew their steps, and danced with every count of the music.

The men were mostly USC dancers, friends of CMFA, and one was recently fired by Radenko Pavlovich. They did a nice job showcasing the girls, most of whom had never done more than a pirouette with a guy outside a summer program. It was a joy to watch everyone after the show. All were excited, giggling with friends, and very proud of their accomplishments in leading roles.

Sure, the show didn't have me at the edge of my seat. This isn't world class dancing. It is a chance to have the local students perform the major roles. Past years revealed great potential in a few of the students. Joseph Phillips started with this company as did Sara Mearns and so many others. The list of professional dancers who participated as youths in Columbia's civic performances is a long one, it includes Mathias. Who knows if the next international award winner was on the stage. Time will tell.

The performance had its flaws but they were few...a stumble here and missed lighting cue there. All in all, it was a nice evening. The best part, however, was in the audience. We sat near a young boy, almost four years old. He talked too much and in his excitement couldn't maintain a whisper, but no one around us cared. He was enchanted. He'd been prepared, knew the story, was thrilled with the Good Fairy and searched for Prince Charming. Without a doubt, civic companies provide the best training ground for the next generation of ballet fans!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Not all the roads were open on the day I went to Yosemite. There was no reason to plow that much snow away. I'd venture to guess that only about one hundred vehicles entered the vast park. Nearly half had to have been professional photographers or highly skilled amateurs. Never had I seen so many tripods, even in the local shop catering to masters of the art. Most had two or more cameras hanging around their necks. There were long, expensive lens. Still, there weren't more than four of them in any one place. The largest concentration of people I encountered was in the main grocery/general store. There were about twelve people altogether, including the staff.

I walked to the lower falls, stopped in every turnoff area, visited the chapel, saw deer, listened to the water, and stared in awe. This was Ansel Adams live and in color. Mere words cannot do Yosemite justice. Even poetry can only scrape the surface of a day like this one had been.

Getting to Yosemite

Driving from Angels Camp to Yosemite was an awesome experience. The day was crisp, crystal clear, picture perfect. The colors were super saturated. I didn't "spike" these images in PhotoShop....I had been blessed with a day almost too beautiful to describe. The drive itself was fun. The road hair pinned up the foothills and into the High Sierras. Snow had been plowed. There was no traffic. Sometimes I just stopped my rental car and got out to take a picture. Sometimes I pulled into a provided turnout area for scenic viewing. Much of the time I laughed at the speed limit signs. Were these suggested goals? How could anyone actually GO that fast and not miss...not die?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Elements of Architecture XXXV

To the left is the collage. Below is the embroidery! Another Elements of Architecture is complete!

Ballet Art

I am part of an upcoming exhibit at Fish Or Cut Bait Gallery in Edisto, SC this coming May. My name was suggested by Janet Kozachek, but I really didn't think it would pan out into a "real" opportunity. It did. I was just contacted, sent a letter, and given schedule for deadlines (statements, images, drop-off, reception times, etc.) Thus, I decided to create eight "quick" pieces. I used my digital images from Varna, tweaked them in PhotoShop, and transferred them onto the pages from an early 20th century book on the History of Ballet. Like my "Life Everlasting Series", I stitched each with beads to handmade papers or scrapes of fabric. Here are two.

I have also started a new "ballet" inspired series. I used water-soluble fabric with some interesting yarns, lots of free-motion machining, and heavy beading. My idea is to create "fabric fit for a fairy". Based on the ballet, Sleeping Beauty, I want to make abstract impressions in textiles for the Lilac Fairy, the Jeweled Fairies (Diamond, Sapphire, Silver, Gold), the Fairy of Darkness, Puss and Boots, Aurora's wedding, Blue Bird, and maybe even the Czarina. I've did several experiments and then attempted "Diamond". It was a success. I'll post images later.

The Big Trees

As promised, here is another post with images from my recent trip to Calaveras County in California. One of the destinations I hoped to visit was the Big Trees Park located about eighteen miles up the road from my cute little motel in Angels Camp. I headed out in this direction on my first day alone. It was mildly drizzling. The road started to climb...up, up, windshield seemed to be a target for slushy, half frozen waves of sleet...the sleet turned to snow... the snow became a blinding sea of white...and just as my little rental car started to lose traction, I saw the sign requiring chains. I turned back down the road and noticed a sign indicating the elevation. I was near 4000 feet. This was the High Sierra...and would have to wait for another day.

It snowed all that night, over five inches accumulated in Angels Camp but then the weather turned sunny....still cold but crisp and clean and clear. I knew I'd make it to the Big Trees that Thursday. Another couple, an elderly lady, and I were the only ones who went. The forest ranger looked at our shoes. They were all wrong. The others ventured about a hundred yards to the "stump" which had been used as a dance floor in the 1920s or thereabout. The ranger said that the snow had been "packed down" as well as possible. The complete trail was only about a mile and a half, and I knew that life might not bring be back to this special place. So, off I went, trying to stay on the packed snow.

I could not see any of the trail markers, of course. Everything was covered in about four feet of light, white, dry snow. It was beautiful, beyond beautiful. It was spiritual. Within no time, all I could see were giant trees, puffy white clouds, and a sky as blue as oil paint straight from the tube. I felt at once very, very small and totally at one with God and Nature. Squirrels looked at me like some sort of fool, especially when the trail gave way and I sunk in above my knees. Occasionally, I'd hear a loud crack. A limb the size of an ordinary tree in my neighborhood back home broke under the weight of the snow. The vision was quite like a video tape of a collapsing building. It was awesome and a little scary.

Along the path I saw the "Mother of the Forest", a tree that had its bark stripped and had died. I went down the provided steps into the dry cavity of a fallen giant tree with icicles stained by the tree's minerals. One tree had been tunneled through. There was a photo of an old-fashioned touring car, probably the 20s, going through the tunnel.

Each step seemed to be a photo-op, in all 360 degrees. My feet were wet and cold but I never really minded. I seemed to be walking around in heaven, gawking at the magnificence of the place...all this, the day before Yosemite. The ranger was really surprised that I made the journey. I, however, wouldn't have missed the opportunity. Truly, this was one of the most special moments of the trip. It was among the most special in a lifetime.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Wizard of Oz

(Shih-Huai Liang as the Scarecrow; Junio Teixeira as the Tin Man; Leonid Flegmatov as the Cowardly Lion; Reka Gyulai as Dorothy; and artistic director Radenko Pavlovich)

Yesterday I drove back from an installation on Kiawah Island in time for Columbia Classical Ballet's "Wizard of Oz" at the Koger Center. Steve and I were pleasantly surprised to walk in and sit in front of an entourage from Columbia City Ballet including artistic director William Starrett, ballet mistress Mariclare Miranda and her lovely mother Pat, lighting designer Barry Sparks, former dancer Anthony Hampton, and a tall blond lady I didn't know. After the performance we ran into Brian Harrelson and his mother. We knew them from elementary school days at St. Peter's. Brian was a grade ahead of Mathias and they played soceer together. Now, he was waiting with a bouquet of roses for the Wicked Witch, Jeanette Medina. Still, later...while picking up a few groceries at Publix...we bumped into Chris Plus, who used to work for William Starrett. Together, he and I mounted the silent auction fundraiser that took place in the lobby during CCB's first Where the Wild Things Are production about seven years ago. Chris is now training new hires for Verizon, married, and living not far from us

So, why does this "review" (for lack of a better's not that I think I'm even qualified to write such a thing!) sound more like a "gossip column"? Well, because I found these to be the most interesting part of the evening. The performance was rather boring.

It isn't that everything was "bad". In fact, there were a few positive things. Here's my take:

1) Reka Gyulai, in the lead as Dorothy, was quite good. Her extension seems effortless and she looked perfect in the part.
2) The State Newspaper managed to run a review in this morning's paper, although there was no mention that readers could take advantage of the positive comments by seeing the two performances scheduled for today.
3) The music was a nice blend of familiar melodies ranging from Saint Saens' Carnival of the Animals to Paul Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice to Dvorak's Carnival Overture.
4) The attendance was very good and we waved at all sorts of former clients, many of whom had kids in the show.

1) The dancing, which had its good moments too, was full of unfortunate bobbles which might have been easy to overlook but wasn't because there just wasn't much dancing done...I'm likely not saying this correctly. Let me try this....the plot, which followed the movie almost frame by frame, was carried along mostly by recital-like passages by single dancers. The production was what I would have expected (and enjoyed more) from a civic company, not a professional one. There wasn't much "group" choreography included, except for a mismatched group of six company and apprentice members who weren't often in unison.
2) The casting. There were dozens of beautifully costumed "munchkins", "poppies", "butterflies", "little flowers", "bumble bees", and "little flowers" who, though darling, dragged down the tempo of show. Don't get my wrong, I, too, adore seeing kids on stage. I know how important it is to help draw their parents into supporting the company. I am much more aware of the impact such an opportunity can have on the child....mine chose ballet as a career due to this. Yet, the use of children in a professional production should be tempered. Last week, at Swan Lake, we witnessed proper casting of children...fewer (making it a really special opportunity) that balanced the professional dancing with a few cute "ah" moments...not overly long passages where the kids run around in circles and are part of the plot's necessary progression. There were too many minutes spent dragging chairs on and off the stage for the professionals to sit while the kids did their "recital" type dancing.
3) The timing. Many of the dancing sequences seemed to drag a if waiting for the end of the canned music (which was often too loud but was a nice selection, nicely seamed together into a score). I was left with the impression that this show could be cut into a nice, shorter presentation. As it was, it just didn't have enough for the length of time or ought to have been significantly trimmed....either way, the timing was off.

There was another item that really puzzled me. The Teixeria boys, Junio and Humberto, who danced the Tin Man and Wizard, respectively, are from Charlotte. I'm relatively sure that live and work from there. Perhaps, using out-of-state dancers in leading roles contributed to the choreographic decisions to feature one dancer almost at a time. I just don't know. The newspaper review by Sarah Pellerin commented on Humberto's "strong, bold movements (that) pleasantly complemented Kenar's graceful Good Witch in the pas de deux that served as a finale". I really didn't see anything that I would call a "pas de deux". There simply wasn't enough partnering done in the entire production to add up to what a "classical" company ought to call a "pas"...or at least it seems so to me.

To end on a positive note, it was great to see Shih-Huai Liang as the scarecrow. Steve and I have considered it our privilege to watch his season, support our son's former roommate in his first professional job, and we enjoyed the comic actions he had with Teixeria and Flegmatov (the Cowardly Lion). These were the productions best moments.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

People....They never cease to amaze me!

I've met some wonderful people during the past few weeks. Several were in California. After Steve left, I knew no one. Sure, I met Chris Gomez, the dynamo that arranges events at Ironstone Vineyard, but I knew no one else at the lovely reception for the annual juried show. All the artists were given name tags, however, and many simply walked over and introduced themselves. Everyone was so nice. Even the Kautz family members who own the vineyard were more than friendly. Two of the images are of the juried show. My Lord's Prayer Triptych won an honorable mention.

Another picture is from a great yarn shop in Sonora. Weekly there is a Thursday night "Sit and Knit". They graciously let me come with embroidery. It was so pleasant to talk to fellow fiber enthusiasts. I took the picture later in the evening, unfortunately, after several knitters left.

Several of the images are from the Moorcroft Pottery workshop held at Ironstone Vineyard. Elise Adams and Ruth Fairweather had incredible patience trying to teach us how to apply the ceramic slip using a pouch like a cake-icing applicator. We students weren't much better trying to "float" the mixture of glaze/paint/clay into the cloisonne like spaces either! We weren't able to keep our attempts and some of the workshop participants weren't happy. (I was thankful even though mine was easily better than most.) We were actually working on REAL, Moorcroft stamped pieces. The two British girls had only been in the country for about 24 hours. Suffering jet lag, they sweetly taught two classes that Saturday and had two more scheduled for Sunday. They flew back on Monday. It was amazing to see how calm, friendly, and helpful they were.

Yet, the most amazing "people" story happened yesterday, right here at Mouse House. An ex-employee called....not just any former worker but one I had to fire. Firing people was always one of the most horrible experiences I ever had to do. Generally, I'd do just about anything to get the employee to "work out" rather than to let them go. I've lost sleep over such problems. I had nightmares after I fired this one....I was actually attacked, had a fistful of my hair pulled out, and then sued for unemployment (I won, of course; obviously, there were very good reasons for the dismal) Thus, when I heard the voice on the other end of the line, my heart started to race; but, I was listening to apologies, heartfelt; and an update: a life turned over to God; and a request for a mat. I agreed to cut the mat. The former employee came. We had a better conversation that ever in the six years of working together. We even talked about art. This ex-employee brought some incredible decoupaged pieces...papers glued creatively to the inside of hurricane lanterns and large, clear glass vases. I donated several pieces of decorative papers to the cause, didn't charge for the mat, and was sincerely hugged as a parting gesture. I'm so glad I was open to the power of was a strange and marvelous afternoon. People really do shock me sometimes....for all the right reasons!