Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Angels, In Box, and Sunday newspaper article

(Above: A Bud on Earth, Angels in Mourning Series. Framed: 37 1/2" x 29". Paper: 30" x 22 1/2". Xylene photo transfer, found objects...including some of the smallest artificial flowers collected from local cemetery dumpsters and trash bins, hand stitching. Click on images to enlarge.)

Although I have more than a dozen angel images transferred onto the soft, printmaking paper still waiting for stitches, I only ordered twenty-five sheets of 100% cotton rag mat board on which to mount them. Thus, these are the last of the "Angels in Mourning Series" for awhile.

(Above: Mortality, Angels in Mourning Series. Framed: 37 1/2" x 29". Paper: 30" x 22 1/2". Xylene photo transfer, hand stitching. Click on images to enlarge.)

(Above: The Hour is Near, Angels in Mourning Series. Framed: 37 1/2" x 29". Paper: 30" x 22 1/2". Xylene photo transfer, clock gears, hand stitching. Click on images to enlarge.)

(Above: Wings, Angels in Mourning Series. Framed: 37 1/2" x 29". Paper: 30" x 22 1/2". Xylene photo transfer, feathers, hand stitching. Click on images to enlarge.)

From the start I listed the "framed" and "paper" size; but, if the truth be told, I only had a single frame. Steve is now busy building the other twenty-four. By Christmas they'll all be ready to hang....with plenty of time before my show in February. There's still too much to do and too little time. At least this much is accomplished!

(Above: Spirit in Stone, Angels in Mourning Series. Framed: 37 1/2" x 29". Paper: 30" x 22 1/2". Xylene photo transfer, hand stitching. Click on images to enlarge.)

(Above: Tomorrow in Heaven, Angels in Mourning Series. Framed: 37 1/2" x 29". Paper: 30" x 22 1/2". Xylene photo transfer, buttons, hand stitching. Click on images to enlarge.)

Recently I finished four pieces in the "In Box Series" to take to the Grovewood Gallery, but I actually started six. So, yesterday I got one of the other two done. I'm not sure when the sixth will be finished though because I'm back to stitching epitaphs on the sheer chiffon.

(Above: In Box LIX, 25" x 15" unframed. 35 1/2" x 23 1/2" framed. Polyester stretch velvets on acrylic felt. Free motion machine embroidery. Melting. Click on image to enlarge. Below: Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

In the meantime, Blues Chapel made the Denton Record-Chronicle. This was the result of a lovely telephone interview with Lucinda Breeding. It can be read HERE but I included it on this post as well. Obviously, I'm thrilled!

Rhapsody in blue

Artist honors female singers with devotional installation
04:32 PM CST on Saturday, December 12, 2009
By Lucinda Breeding / Features Editor

Artist Susan Lenz didn’t begin her artistic career until her children were grown. It was even later when she took interest in women who lived loudly, sang the blues like no one else and then faded into obscurity.

To look at any piece in “Blues Chapel” in the Ray and Georgia Gough Gallery at the Center for the Visual Arts in downtown Denton, you’d think art and the blues were the artist’s lifelong passions.

The work in the Columbia, S.C., artist’s solo installation betrays Lenz’s eye and hand — both are steady and both are strong. Her tribute to women who sang the blues feels like Lenz approached it with a library of knowledge in her head.

“I really hesitate to call myself a fiber artist,” said Lenz, whose installation renders images of singers and stained glass patterns on vintage dishcloths, on textured paper and in careful thread. “When they hear that, many people assume I weave, quilt, crochet or knit. I do quilt, but not in the traditional way. I consider myself a contemporary embroiderer.”

“Blues Chapel” establishes Lenz as an embroiderer, an installation artist and a found object artist. The installation begins as soon as you enter the Gough Gallery. The walls are lined with pieces that recall Orthodox and Roman Catholic sacred art. The viewer passes a piece, Altar of Forgiveness, an altar dressed with painted railroad ties, wrapped nails and found objects like candles and bottle caps. Viewers are invited to write their sins on slips of paper and drop them into a box. Lenz said she will burn the papers — without reading them — as a symbolic act.

Courtesy photo/Greater Denton Arts Council
Courtesy photo/Greater Denton Arts Council
Tapestry in Blue, a 24-piece block quilt, is an atmospheric installation by self-described contemporary embroiderer Susan Lenz.

Lenz started studying female blues singers only after she saw a small photo exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., in fall 2005. An artist had photos of 25 female blues singers displayed with their biographies in chronological order. Her research led to the creation of Tapestry in Blue, an installation that has evolved over time.

She wanted to create something that might honor the transcendent part of the singers’ legacies.

“They were almost too human,” Lenz said of her subjects. “Once the blues faded in popularity, a lot of these women were forgotten and a lot of them died in poverty. I wanted to give them the acknowledgment of fame that I felt they deserved. When you think about sacrifice, that’s a martyr. This, the blues, is their life, their livelihood. It wasn’t rewarded the way it should have been.”

Lenz said the singers were working in a male-dominated industry and didn’t get credit for songwriting, the credibility for attracting crowds or the money that men in the business got. “Blues Chapel” is an effort to honor the sacrifices they made to music.

Lenz doesn’t have a formal background in art.

“There was a horrible early experience, when I had to embroider something and I didn’t do well,” she said. “I didn’t take up a needle and thread until after I married. My husband was in graduate school. We’d go to the state fair and I would walk around the craft section and say, ‘I could do this. I could do this!’ And my husband was walking around behind me and he’d be saying, ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’”

Lenz said she remembers picking up a booklet that explained requirements for entering, and noticing all the names of the needlework crafts.

“I’d been to Assisi, but I didn’t have any idea what kind of relationship it had to embroidery. I realized I had a lot to learn,” Lenz said.

Lenz ended up winning a blue ribbon for a pillow slip she’d made.

“But that wasn’t the exciting part,” she said. “The exciting part what for me, at 25 years old, was learning about all of these different categories. My bible for embroidery was The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework. … It’s still the best reference I’ve ever seen for needlework.”

Lenz delved into the art form after that. When her husband got a job in South Carolina, Lenz joined a guild and got to know its collective of women who viewed their needlework as a legitimate cultural contribution. She said their mentorship gave her work depth and breadth.

“I went to a workshop in 1996 and saw the two winners of the contemporary embroidery category. I knew when I laid eyes on it that this is what I wanted to do,” she said.

Contemporary embroidery uses the tools and techniques of traditional embroidery — fine fabrics and threads — to produce nontraditional work. Contemporary embroiderers do portraiture, abstract design and the like. Some contemporary embroiderers are creating graphic T-shirts using needlework where others would use a screenprinting method.

Lenz began a framing business in Columbia, too. Her business bounded until she had 14 employees in her charge, employees with paid vacation and insurance benefits.

When she got serious about art, she made the painful decision to downsize. Gradually, she began producing art and getting it into coffeehouses. She joined a cooperative gallery in 2002, a move that pushed her to study and work more.

“Even though I started needlework as an adult with interest, I didn’t know at the time that I would eventually be an artist and live the lifestyle of an artist,” Lenz said. “I don’t create my work so that someone will like it. I do it to convey a message. If someone goes into one of my installations and they get something out of it, I feel like I’ve done my job.”

The exhibit runs through Jan. 8 in the Ray and Georgia Gough Gallery in the Center for the Visual Arts, 400 E. Hickory St. Gallery hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information or to schedule a docent tour, call 940-382-2787 or visit www.dentonarts.com.

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is cbreeding@dentonrc.com


Wanda said...

The Angels in Mourning are incredible. I love them. They touch my heart! Great work! And the article...wow!!! The press you are getting in Texas is fabulous! I am so thrilled for you!

connie akers said...

Susan, The response here has been wonderful and I'm still spreading the word. The angels are beautiful and I can hardly wait to see what you do next. My small fiber group is going back to see the show Jan. 5th. Is there any chance you could come to dinner when you're back in town as they'd love to meet you? Also, do you need help packing up? I'm offering.