Sunday, February 01, 2009

Conceptually Thinking

(Above: Dimensions Gallery, Savannah, Georgia. Location for Stitch Spectacular.)

(Small interior space, partitioned off from the rest of the space. In this area hung the work by Karin Soderholm and Rubi McGrory, MFA (Fibers) adult students at the Savannah College of Art and Design and Stitch Spectacular organizers. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Looking from the smaller space into the larger space at Stitch Spectacular. Click on image to enlarge.)

CYBER FYBER has ended. CYBER FYBER 2 has's in the thinking stage/the "drafting" a schedule/plan stage. I truly appreciate the many suggestions I've been receiving. Many will be implemented. I'd love to hear more ideas too.

Most importantly, I appreciate the supportive comments....especially since I received an email from a stitcher in Australia threatening to write to Stitchin Fingers to "warn people off me" because I hadn't written to confirm receipt of her extremely late ATCs for the International Random Trade. The mailman brought this envelope this past week! It is still unopened and will be returned to her in this condition.

I tried so very, very hard to please EVERYONE....Yes, I know this is an impossible task....but I still tried. It's funny that no matter how many compliments and sincerely offered words of praise I receive, I'll hone in on the one negative thing....let it break my heart. This is a silly way to act; I've got to get over it such nasty pettiness! Especially, since there are so many great things to do.

(Above: Rubi McGrory manning Stitch Spectacular. Click on image to enlarge.)

One of these amazing experiences happened last Friday. I went to see Stitch Spectacular at Dimensions Gallery in Savannah, Georgia. (Images in this post are from this show.) I had heard about this juried opportunity several months ago. Karin Sonderholm and Rubi McGrory, two MFA (Fibers) adult students at the Savannah College of Art and Design, mounted this show using a blog to promote and document it. They linked my blog last autumn. I didn't submit for this show....the deadline was during my residency at the MacNamara Foundation in Maine; but, I wanted to see it.

(Above: Karin Soderholm's Is Loving this cool breezy night! YESSSS! Click on image to enlarge.)

Now I'm going to regress a bit....into my childhood, growing up the daughter of a university professor. I never knew a time in my life that I wasn't bound for college. Education, especially higher education, was of paramount importance. Everything intellectual and academic were things of greatest value. When it comes to art, especially fibers, there's nothing more honored in my "pea brain" that an MFA in fiber. a sense....I was going to "Mecca" on Friday....into the hallowed world of conceptual art, onto the pedestal where I'd placed all the best that fiber arts has to offer. I'd checked in on the Stitch Spectacular blog, seen images that tickled my brain, and was excited about going to lunch with Karin and Ruby. My fantasy was in place....probably not a good way to approach the day! Yet, it was probably the best way for me to learn a few very important lessons.

(Above: Julia Wilson's While You Were Sleeping. The exhibition label identified this as latex, cheesecloth, thread, 2008. Julia Wilson is from Brooklyn, NY. These were some of the most interesting use of embroidery stitches in the show. The stitches truly appeared as objects. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above and below: Details of Julia Wilson's While You Were Sleeping. Click on images to enlarge.)

I planned to pitch a great idea....because I already knew the duo was entertaining the idea of mounting Stitch Spectacular 2. So I pitched it: Stitch Spectucular 2 would be the juried show in the main gallery at CYBER FYBER 2. This sounded like a "no brainer" to me....join forces, unite, 1 + 1 = THREE. Together, we could work for bigger, better, more important exhibitions that would blend all our Internet connected fiber artists. Stitch Spectacular 2 would become a traveling show....Columbia and Savannah....maybe further! CYBER FYBER 2 would benefit from Rubi and Karin's experience because I wouldn't be entering the yet uncharted territory of mounting a juried show alone.

I was turned down flat.

Still, I got to go to the show, see the art, and THINK....a lot! I had to face many misconceptions about my own work. Though many people (my husband, my mother, my sister Wanda, my mentor Stephen Chesley, etc. etc. etc.) have been telling me that CONCEPT isn't more important than craftsmanship and talent....and that a university degree can't replace work ethic and innate quality....I finally faced this truth. I will never earn an MFA....and finally can say I DON'T EVEN WANT ONE! I am never going back to school (and I was an EXCELLENT student...graduated from Ohio State at age 20!) I finally don't care. Conceptual work is great. An academic approach; a trained, discerning eye; the ability to talk "Art Speak"; and university approved initials are all great. They will not make me "better". They are not a ticket to "approval". I am not WORSE because I didn't take this route.

(Above: Julia Wilson's I Love You. Condoms, thread. 2008. Click on image to enlarge.)

Stitch Spectacular was not BETTER than CYBER FYBER. They were two entirely different shows. Joining forces would have been could have made both events more amazing; but, that wasn't my choice to make. It's not going to happen....but CYBER FYBER 2 is going to happen....and it will be fantastic. I learned a lot in Savannah. CYBER FYBER 2 will be better because I went, looked, learned, and grew professional and personally.

(Above: Carolyn Begley's Summer 2007 # 1. Hand embroidery on silk with text decal. Carolyn is from Bridgewater, Vermont.)

I learned exactly what kind of juried show I really want for CYBER FYBER 2. I want the kind of exhibition I'd be proud to be part of. There will be sustainable, financial awards. Sales will net artists 60% to 70%. I already have most of the physical requirements for a first-class juried show....a 32' x 21' main gallery and an 18' x 18' atrium plus very long, wide hallways; professional lighting; a clean space in a safe, arts and cultural district with a brand new parking facility and fancy restaurants within a block; great press from the first event; media contacts; groups and corporations are already interested, etc. I can make this work!

(Above: Installation by Emily Barletta. Scabs. Felt, thread, plastic bags, nails. Emily is also from Brooklyn, NY. Click on image to enlarge.)

In the meantime, check out the artists included in Stitch Spectacular. I want each an every one of them to know about CYBER FYBER 2. So much of the work made me THINK....just what good conceptually charged works should do. I've thought about my own work. I know the experience of seeing this show will influence some of my future work. Not all of the pieces were overtly academic but the best of them were.

(Above: Three pieces by Joetta Maue who won Best of Show at Stitch Spectacular. From left to right: On the Couch; On the Edge, Again; and In With You. Found fabric, thread and hoops. Click on image to enlarge.)

I also had a chance to visit Bonaventura Cemetery. Most people know this place from the cover of John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It was larger and much more interesting that I had expected. Walking through the tall trees dripping with Spanish moss was spiritually moving. I couldn't stop taking photos but almost felt like snapping these images was taking away from the peacefulness of the place. I want to go back. I know that something artistic is brewing in the recesses of my mind. My grave rubbing quilts figure into this equation...somehow. There is a "concept" here....but my natural approach is by intuition. I'll just keep stitching until the vision makes itself known....until the concept riddles itself out...just like Blues Chapel and the Decision Series happened...over time...from the heart...with millions of well placed stitches.....talent/craftsmanship/concept. I've got it all. I'm learning to balance them.

(Above and below: Candace Hicks' Common Threads. Click on images to enlarge.)

(Above: Audrey Wagner's artist book Treasured. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Monoprint created with by transferring embroidery with ink onto paper by Anna Keck. Trip to the Mountains. Anna is from Savannah, Georgia.)


Doreen G said...

We all agree that you don't need a degree to be an artist Susan you have proven that to us and I am so pleased that you have come to accept it yourself now.

Carol said...

I have been sat in front of the PC for a while now trying to formulate what to write. I have a degree, admittedly in ceramics so i have switched dicipline but I feel all the time as you do, so the piece of paper obviously does NOTHING. While there were some fab, thought provoking pieces in the sho you just showed us, not one gave me the emotional reaction that I have got with your pieces. and as for the person down under well, long may she regret her oh so quick tongue. Do not allow that to cloud your experience, it is a triffling, a pifling piece of pettiness by someone who should have acknowledged, A) the postal system and B) the fat that you had a show resting on your shoulders. All your thoughts on the juried show are right and just and if it is an open thing, I will be there with bells on! Keep your chin up, love carol t

Julie said...

Doreen and especially Carol have said it all! Keep thinking positively. You have everything to be proud of.

Nellie's Needles said...

Well, there's absolutely no doubt about you being an artist nor about your work being art.

I enjoyed the photos you posted of this show. I "get" conceptual art and some of the work is intriguing. Personally, I could not work that way. For me the craftsmanship of my medium is an important element. That's too bad in a way. There would be no unfinished projects taking up space in my studio if I could be satisfied with just the concept of my idea for each being present.

Wanda said...

I've been waiting to hear you say that!!!! I am so proud of you for saying it and really meaning it. are who you are. That piece of paper means nothing for your art. A degree can't teach you to be SUSAN and that is what your art is about! You DON'T need it. You never did.

arlee said...

You've opened my mind so much "The Suze", and no paper would or could have done that---you've led by example and hard work and vision. You've engaged on a personal level, and a professional one.
It was fascinating and fabulous speaking with you last night!

lindacreates said...

Susan, your work touches me in a way no other has. Keep doing what you are doing and all will be well. You have proven yourself as a professional curator. Your show was fantastic and I am sure the next one will even be better.

Gina E. said...

I am the Australian who lost her temper with Susan because she hadn't replied to my emails. I honestly thought my ATCs would arrive in time, and when I didn't hear from her to confirm they'd got to her, I emailed her. I got mad when she didn't reply, because, as I explained to her, I've had a couple of letdowns in past exchanges, and I get really cheesed off! So again, my apologies to Susan - in public this time. She has returned my ATCs as promised, and sent me three of hers in the parcel - most unexpected, in view of my rudeness. They are just beautiful, Susan - thank you very much for being so forgiving.