Friday, April 10, 2009

Crunch Time and Big Announcements!

(Above: Epitaph, Grave Rubbing Quilt Series, in progress. Click on image to enlarge.)

BLUES CHAPEL is headed to the Visual Arts Center in Denton, TEXAS!
I received the exhibition contract earlier in the week, November 2009 through the first week in January, 2010.

(Generally I try to keep my blog as positive and upbeat as possible. I realize, of course, that by sharing mostly amazing pieces of news like this, it might sound like I only experience the best in the world of art. This isn't the case! Last Saturday the mail brought rejections from the Penland summer program scholarship department and the I-Park residency program. I felt totally dejected while stitching feverishly in my studio. Tears leaked and I doubted my own talent. From the depths of depression, I soared to the outer atmosphere two days later with this news!)

Steve and I are joining my mother for a week in LONDON! We leave early Monday morning and will be seeing Mathias and Laura-Jane dance with Birmingham Royal Ballet while the company is on tour to London's Coliseum!

(Another "disclaimer": I realize that so many trips might suggest that we are living a jet-setting lifestyle and have the money to back it up. This, too, isn't the case! Steve is a master at frequent flyer miles and on-line discount travel options. We love to our television is old with a 21" screen; I haven't bought make-up in years; we shop at a thrift store; we don't have a second car and the first one is economical; eating out is a luxury; we're comfortable but order to travel.!) we come! But, I'm so behind in blogging that I never wrote about the juried Stitched Textile Competition held at the Forge Mill Needle Museum in last trip to England. Well, it's "crunch time" to catch up before the next departure!

The exhibition was called The Spellbinding Textile Competition; the theme was MAGIC. There'd been approximately one hundred of entries. Getting accepted for this national juried show was obviously an honor. Only thirty pieces got in. I could overlook that less than ideal setting and poor lighting because the Forge Mill Needle Museum really doesn't have dedicated space for temporary exhibits but is certainly a destination for those interested in textiles of all sorts. I absolutely loved the historical information about needles and their production and didn't mind the adjustments to fit the juried work around the permanent displays on the first level. The prize fund for this competition was amazingly significant. If memory serves, first place carried 1,500 British pounds! That's a king's ransom for juried shows in the USA.

(Above: Janice Myers' Hat Trick. First Prize. Click on image to enlarge.)

I've said before, themed exhibitions are problematic. Artists either create work especially for the show or try to make existing work suit the show by retitling it or providing some statement for its otherwise weak reason for inclusion. Sometimes, an artist gets lucky and happens to be seriously committed to the theme already, but this isn't the norm. I suspect that most of the artists represented in "Spellbinding" had created their work just for this occasion. With the prize fund available, I might have been tempted to do the same. Overall, I found many of the pieces overly interested in technique....especially trying to incorporate as many new products and approaches as possible. I also am not much impressed with fairies. Basically, few of the works were more than "nice stitches and creative uses for unconventional materials". That's not bad....but it's also not great!

(Above: Janice Myers' Hat Trick, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

I am glad that I went to see this show because it made me think....not about the art on display but about my own work. I know that I want to create well crafted pieces with good design elements and technically proficient handwork but also art that generates emotional and intellectual responses. I want my work to be presented professionally and have merit even when removed from the concept of a larger unified theme.

Please don't get me wrong about this show. It was great to see the work. I admired many of the pieces. I just found myself looking at "techniques" and "stitches" (which I really, really like!) I just didn't find most of the work to stand on its own merits as totally successful pieces of art.

(Above: Janice Myers' Hat Trick, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

The first place winner was Janice Myers of Cornwall for Hat Trick. I adored the interesting use of plastics.

(Above: Vikki Lafford's Second Place prize winner, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

The second place winner was Vikki Lafford's (London) Enchanted Woodland Gown. If I could fit into it, I'd be thrilled to wear it to any posh party. The hand dying/painting and attention to details was amazing. Obviously, Vikki is a very, very talented fashion designer.

(Above: View of Vikki Lafford's Enchanted Woodland Gown. Click on image to enlarge.)

The third place winner was Rachel Doyle of Kingswinford for Magic Box. This was undoubted one of my favorite pieces in the show. It was elegant, well crafted, on target for the theme, and brilliantly conceived. Unfortunately the badly scratched plexi-glass container prevented me from getting a suitable image. Let's just say it was the some remarkable card deck!

Fourth place went to Tracy Curtis of Plymouth for Merlin's Magic. Sorry, no image.

(Above: Doreen Caldwell's Narrative Story. Click on image to enlarge.)

Honorable Mentions went to Judith Lovatt of Wolverhampton for Faires and Doreen Caldwell of Altrincham, Chesire for Narrative Story.

(Above: Kay Haskins' Booties. Click on image to enlarge.)

How do I know all this? Well, I take notes! My notes include Booties by Warrington's Kay Haskins. I loved these....simple, perfect, interesting! Magical Dragon by Spolie Long of Walton on Thames was wonderful...and one of those pieces that automatically fit the theme. Her silk and metal dragon showed years of working in this media and with fittingly "magic" inspired designs. I loved it.

(Above; Sandra Ross' Willow the Witch. Click on image to enlarge.)

I particularly liked Sandra Ross' (Birmingham) Willow the Witch. This mixed media doll was another piece that spoke volumes about magic without "playing to the theme". I admired both pieces of fiber jewelry. Astrid Pendant by Carol Coleman of Keighley, West Yorkshire, successfully combined black vinyl, thread, and stone. The felted collar by Charlotte Handley of York was beaded in a way that sung with youthful energy. It was simply fun and very, very pretty. I also found Di Schonhut's (Hook, Hampshire) Magical Book interesting.

(Above: Charlotte Handly's felted collar, detail. Click on image to enlarge. Below: Di Schonhut's Magical Book. Click on image to enlarge.)

So...I'm almost caught up with blogging before my departure to England....except that I've been working on my Grave Rubbing Quilt Series and haven't written about that recently either!

The first image in this post is a picture of progress. Yes, this grave rubbing is my own name. I've been collecting written epitaphs, stitching grave rubbing quilts, and thinking a lot about my fascination with cemeteries, death, and the markings left by older generations. I've come to the conclusion that all this stems from the fact that I'll be fifty years old in June. So...what would I like to leave behind to speak of my character after I'm gone? What words would I chose for a tombstone? Well....I'm stitching them. In fact, I've decided to cram the entire thing into my over-sized purse and take it to England. I'll stitch on the plane and in the evenings. I'll post another image when I return.

In the meantime, I've been doing research for this series and the installation that I'm creating for next January at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. Until last week, I really didn't know much about the process of death....well....the process of dealing with a death. Though I've been to a funeral home, I've never made final arrangements. So, I arranged a behind-the-scenes tour of Shive's Funeral Home here in Columbia. It was absolutely fascinating!

One of the major display areas shows all sorts of interesting and individual coffins and ideas for creating a "memory table" to be viewed alongside the deceased.

(Above: Notice the University of South Carolina items....denoting a loyal fan!)

(Above: No need for an explanation!)

We didn't really spend much time in the room displaying coffins. There are other areas of far greater the embalming room. I had the opportunity to learn about this procedure and also to ask as many detailed questions as I cared to pose! Every answer was more and more interesting.

Above is one of the nice gentleman who guided me through the steps for embalming. Below is the cabinet with the embalming fluids. Who knew that the "art" was in years of experience in mixing coloring for infusion....not really in the application of cosmetics!

Below is part of the display area for marker. I hope to find a few bronze plagues with so much detail for future rubbings!

One of the best parts of the tour was the crematorium. I found the place perfect....simple, bear, quiet, peaceful, and void of unnecessary nostalgia. It is my personal choice. My guide was just the sort of man one would trust for this task....honest, humble, respectful, with great insight and direct answers. I learned so much and found my own answers and peace.

Below is a standard box for ashen remains. The finger points to the lever of an average person's ashes. The amount depends entirely on bone density.

I probably don't have to mention that my guides found me more than a little strange. Few people are excited to go to there place of employment...and I was definitely excited to be there! My oddity was never more apparent than when noticing (with total glee) familiar articles that related to needles

....and specialty fabric....

I am totally in debt to those at Shive's Funeral Home who took me through the steps of a death certificate to the options for burial and cremation. They shared their best and worst memories and left me knowing how much they cared about each and every person (dead or alive) that comes through their doors. They showed me air crates for transporting bodies to other destinations and how digital technology allows them to make DVDs honoring the deceased. They answered all my questions, even the personal ones about their own believes and decisions. They let me know that the best words to say to someone who's loved one has passed is still, "I'm sorry for your loss". Yet, they were quick to point out that it absolutely had to be said with complete sincerity. It was my honor to see death from such wise viewpoints.

When I return from England, I come back to one of the busiest weeks of the year here in Columbia, South Carolina. Each spring there is an annual art gallery crawl called Artista Vista. My studio is located at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios which is an anchor location for this popular weekend. As a group, the artists renting space at Gallery 80808/Vista Studio mount an exhibition. This year we are calling the show "View from the Studios". I'm writing this now because I don't know how I'll ever catch up with blogging then!

This is the brief statement I wrote for my work, the newest Decision Portrait Series pieces, to be shown for Artista Vista:

The view from my studio is unique. Over my walls I can see the entire main gallery, all of the atrium, plus most of the hallway space at Gallery 80808. These are the public exhibition areas and are often filled with people. I can also see the upper edges of many artists' studios. If I were working alone at home, I would not feel impacted by this special location or the people who come to it. I would not have the opportunity to be inspired by creative mentors (the other artists), chance visitors, or experience the reactions the public has to the artwork on display. My studio offers this view and exposure to interesting people. The view has influence my work, especially my Decision Portrait Series.


Chris said...

That's some post! I almost didn't leave a comment because i didn't know where to start! Anyway, I enjoyed it. Strange, because I have my own fascination with the rituals surrounding death, and I'm following another blog where the owner has just gained employment at a coroner's office. Can you imagine?

arlee said...

That is fascinating! Before we left for Vancouver Island, i was offered an apprenticeship as an undertaker's assistant, which i unfortunately had to turn down. I've decided though that i will be buried in a willow basket and sheet on Vancouver Island in the Royal Oaks "green" cemetery, to *really* get/give back to the earth.

Wanda said...

Wow...beautiful stuff from the exhibit. The dress is stunning. I could probably get my thigh into would look amazing in it! I remember when I went through a tour of the funeral home. I can't remember why or when but I thought the neatest thing was that the embalming fluid glows in the dark. Congrats on Blues Chapel...very thrilling news indeed. I'm sorry for the rejections. I understand the tears but know that they only make your resolve stronger. You are one of the strongest people I know. And do you mean to tell me that you are still using that make-up we bought in LA???? in 2001??? I wouldn't be surprised! ha ha Our lives were always like that...we did without the luxuries to have the luxury of travel. Have a wonderful time...I'll so be thinking of you close and yet so far

Julie said...

Thank you for sharing the magical exhibition. I'm with you on Willow the Witch.

Congratulations on your Blues Chapel exhibition. Fantastic news! Your account of your visit to the Funeral Director's was very interesting. It's something we mostly choose not to think about.

You'll have already left for your trip to London so I hope you have a wonderful time catching up with your talented son.

Karen said...

What an amazing post! Enjoy your trip, it sounds wonderful! Also wanted to thank you for sending on the magazine with the cyber fyber article!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on Denton, Susan!

~ Cindi