Thursday, July 30, 2009

Muslim....and teaching at Saluda Shoals!

(Above: Muslim, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I Forgive Those Who Look at Me with Hate. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beaded and stitched. 31" x 25", framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

My studio is located at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios in downtown Columbia, SC. There are twelve other private studios and a large gallery, atrium, and hallways for outside individuals and groups to rent for their own exhibitions. This summer The University Painting Society held a show. One of the exhibiting artists was very interested in my studio and my work. She wanted to expand her artwork to include fibers. Well, I was as interested in her as she was in me. The moment I lay eyes on her, I hoped she would pose for this portrait.....and SHE DID!

(Above: Friends in my studio. Click on image to enlarge.)

As a result, she came to the weekly, informal gathering of friends in my studio....a "stitch, knit, and talk session on Monday evenings. I introduced her to some fiber techniques and got the photo and signed model's release for the portrait.

(Above: Detail of Muslim. Click on image to enlarge.)

This portrait is a powerful work, an important addition to the series. We all talked about religious freedom....a value that founded this country; we all talked about how world conflict interferes with this fundamental right. We all agreed that tolerance is needed.

A hijab is a headscarf worn by Muslim women. It conceals the hair and neck and sometimes the face with a veil for the eyes. The word in Arabic means "curtain / cover" and is based on the root حجب meaning "to cover, to veil, to shelter" It is worn over daily clothes in public and generally removed at home. It is similar to a burqa which Wikipedia describes as a garment covering most of the body as an outer garment. Burqa comes from the Arabic root /r/+/q/+/ʕ/ which means "to patch up" or "to sew up". Both are worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty and religious devotion. Unfortunately, there are many people all over the world that look upon these clothing choices as something sinister and fearful. Personally, I simply see a fellow female who is proud to proclaim a faith that shares the same Old Testament as my beliefs. I hope this portrait when viewed by others, provokes thoughts about how to best respond to someone of another faith. I am happy to number this new "fiber enthusiast" as a new friends.

One of my "Monday night" friends is the fabulous Dolly Patton, Executive Director of the Saluda Shoals Foundation. Dolly and the incredible staff at Saluda Shoals Park have arranged for me to teach a class in their modern facilities. Here's the info:

NEW! Hot, Exploration in Contemporary Fiber Arts

Join nationally-known fiber artist, Susan Lenz, in this creative fiber workshop using needle and thread, fabric and beads. Create works of art using a heat-activated process and various types of fiber embellished with hand and free motion embroidery. Participants will leave with a finished piece suitable for framing.Maximum 18 participants. Susan's Art
Dates: August 25, Sept. 1 & Sept. 8; 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Location: Environmental Center Classrooms, Saluda Shoals Park

Ages: 16 & up

For more information, call 772-1228 or visit!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

At Risk Adoption, Decision Portraits Series

(Above: At Risk Adoption, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: A Family Decision. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beaded and stitched. 31" x 41", framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

Permanently welcoming a child into a loving family changes EVERYTHING! The child will no longer face the uncertainty of life in foster care. The family grows, introducing the new child's already formed personality into the family's established mix. Very special people make this important decision. I am lucky enough to live about a block from such me introduce my neighbors! In back from left to right: Zeb, Gini, Hoke; In front from left to right: Liberty and Daniel.

(Above: Detail of At Risk Adoption. Click on image to enlarge.)

It isn't important which of the kids will soon be adopted. It doesn't alter the fact that this is a family. Last year, they all actively participated in the decision to include another person in their tight unit. In fact, the decision involved extended family members too. In the "immediate" family, the eldest daughter, Jessica, is missing from this photo. She's a lovely grown woman (who is my Photoshop instructor and an artist in her own right!) This image depicts those living in the "family home"....a block away. Another family member, Grandma, also posed for the Decision Portrait Series. She's my College Student. This decision was carefully made by everyone involved...a year ago. Now, this is simply a family....a fantastic family!

(Above and further below: Detail of At Risk Adoption. Click on image to enlarge.)

Personally, I don't think I could have made it through the day my younger son Alex left home without Gini. She was there for all of us, too. The love that exudes from their home simply spills out all over the neighborhood. I think this decision, this portrait, and this family make a very important statement for the entire series.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Death the Divider, Grave Rubbing Series

(Above: Death the Divider, Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. Crayon on fabric. Hand and free-motion machine embroidery. Vintage pillowcase with crochet and severely light damaged materil. Vintage buttons. 38 1/2" x 19 1/2". Detail below. Click on images to enlarge.)

This piece was mostly stitched in Minnesota. I returned to finish the free-motion work, add the buttons, and create the unique back from vintage linens. I'm particularly happy about the new "sleeve". Until the workshop at the University of Minnesota, I didn't realize that the sleeve needed to incorporate "space" for the hanging rod. (This seems pretty obvious now....but I just didn't "get it"....probably because I don't actually hang all this on my own walls.)

(Above: Death the Divider, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

Now I'm busy correcting this on the other quilts.....including Never Accurate But Never Dull....which was just accepted by juror Glen Kaufman, for inclusion in "Fiber Artistry - Journey of the Imagination" at the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts in Duluth, GA. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend the opening but this exhibit is close enough to actually SEE in person at a later date! I'm so excited!

(Above and below: Details of Death the Divider. Click on images to enlarge. Obviously, I remain under the kantha stitch spell. This piece is really "thick". I use recycled black felt from a kayak shop for the center. Most stitches were done a "poke at a time"....but, even so it was very mediative. Also, this was the first grave rubbing quilt that I didn't free motion around the individual letters. The words came from Birmingham, UK (I think?) and the floral pattern came from Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Meanwhile, I've found a "rhythm" for free motion stitching the collected epitaphs on sheer chiffon. Images coming later!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Patriot, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Patriot, Decision Portrait Series. Framed, 31" x 25". Xylene photo transfer on tea stained muslin. Hand beaded and stitched. Stitched words: I decided to serve my country. Marine LCpl. Born July 26, 1984. Entered Jan. 12, 2004. Killed in Action Mar. 14, 2005. Click on image to enlarge.)

The very worst thing that could ever happen to me would be the loss of one of my sons. Approaching this significant portrait meant meeting two wonderful people who daily live with this very worst experience. Of course we shared a very meaningful time, one I'll never forget.

Their lives were forever changed; yet, they are strong....real role models. They brought photos that their son snapped while in Iraq. We talked about his friends; they've met many of them. We talked about their son. I took a digital photo of the official Marine picture...right through the frame...on my studio floor. Though touches of red, white, and blue were used to create the final portrait, I was careful not to overshadow his piercing eyes with color or anything else that could shift attention away from the image of a very young man, a proud solider who knowingly made a life altering decision. He decided to enter the Marines; he decided to serve his country; he knew the risks; it was his choice to make. His parents are proud of him, as they should be.

Most of the Decision Portraits are meant to reflect a specific individual but also suggest others in the same situation. This portrait really is Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Torrence. I want people to see him. He is loved and missed; his life is important. Yet, I hope people viewing this work also see through him all the others serving our country. They are important too...and each one made this serve our country.

(Above: Detail of Patriot. Click on image to enlarge.)

Below are two Associated Press articles:

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Torrence. Died: March 14, 2005.
Columbia, SC - A 20-year-old Marine from Lexington has been killed in Iraq, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Torrence was killed in Iraq on Monday while fighting in Anbar province, the Defense Department said. Torrence was a crewman on an amphibious assault vehicle, a lightweight tank than can go under water, said Lt. Barry Edwards, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division.

Torrence was a leader who lived life with a purpose, his former high school football coach Mark Cagle said. "He is a wonderful young man who exemplifies all that's good about family, our country, God," said Cagle, who coaches at White Knoll High School. "I can't say enough good things about him.". Torrence graduated from White Knoll in 2003 and joined the Marines in January 2004. Torrence played on the first-ever White Knoll football team in 2000. He was a leader on and off the field, and always made sure to visit when he was home on leave, Cagle said. "We were looking forward to seeing him," he said. "He was supposed to have a leave in April." Cagle said Torrence was proud to serve in the Marines. "He felt there was a purpose for him being there," Cagle said. "I've got an 11-year-old son that thought Josh was unbelievable...If my son Steven grows up to be like Josh Torrence, I'd be unbelievably proud of him."

Lexington Marine is laid to rest
-Associated Press

LEXINGTON, SC - While a military jeep towed Lance Cpl. Joshua Torrence's casket into the cemetery, a half-dozen soldiers dressed in Civil War uniforms escorted him to his final resting place. Torrence, who loved being a Civil War re-enactor and dreamed of service in the miliary, was buried Thursday. A member of the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battolion, the 20-year-old Marine was killed March 14 in combat in western Iraq's Anbar province.

The old mixed with the new throughout the ceremony. A platoon of re-enactors and U.S. Marines fired successive volleys in their young comrade's honor, while Torrence's father was dressed in a Civil War-era officer uniform to honor his son. The two had participated in re-enactments of the war for the past decade. The ceremony began with re-enactors from the 3rd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry slowly marching the coffin into the church. It ended with a marine presenting Torrence's mother with the U.S. flag that had been draped over her son's casket.

"He went to serve and to sacrifice in the cause of freedom," the Rev. Bill Green said. "He knew the risks. He understood his decisions. He had the support of his family." Torrence had written to a friend to describe his joy at being a Marine, Green said. "For those who fight for it, freedom has a special flavor those protected will never know," he wrote.

Torrence also made his mark on the football field as an offensive lineman and highlights of his games were shown at his funeral. Several White Knoll High School teammates wore their football jerseys even though most of them graduated with Torrence in 2003.

Torrence is the second member of the military from Lexington to die in Iraq. Army Reserve Pfc. Thomas Caughman, also 20, died when his armored vehicle was ambushed June 9, 2004, near Baghdad. Thirty-one soldiers from South Carolina have died since the war with Iraq began two years ago.

(The total of young servicemen and women who have been killed in the war in Iraq is now over 4,300. Each one made a decision to serve. White Knoll High School's Memorial Field House is named in honor of Joshua L. Torrence. Each portrait is stitched and shared via email with the "model" before being posted on the Internet. This allows the "model" to view the finished work first and to read the intended blog post before it is made public. I encourage suggestions and comments from those who have agreed to participate in this series. Of course, in this case, I was corresponding with Joshua's parents. Joshua's Dad responded this morning with the following statement: "My personal opinion of Josh's life was that he was a participant, and not a spectator. He truly loved life, and gave back as much, if not more, as he received. We miss him dearly.")

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Minnesota, Pennsylvania....and back home to a pile of work!

Unfortunately, traveling gets me far, far behind on my daily work and normal blogging. Posting a "recap" has often become necessary....and here's another such entry.

(Above: Most of the great ladies in the class! Some of my images weren't exactly "great".... so I thankfully didn't use them! Click on image to enlarge.)

Last week I was at the University of Minnesota's Split Rock Arts Program studying art quilts on a full scholarship. The class was filled with very accomplished artists and quilters. We painted fabric, mostly opaque and transparent silks, with watered down acrylic paint. The approach was unique. Fabric was layered, spritzed with water, and painted with loose, board strokes. The "sandwich" of material often included objects like coins, strings, and buttons. Some layers were folded fabric. As the paint moved through the wet material, unique patterns were formed. We even applied pastels on the top. The results were unexpectedly wonderful. These painted fabrics became our non-objective pieces for quiltmaking. Cut shapes were applied to a base fabric. Transparent, but painted, sheers overlapped. The edges were hand stitched. The instructions included backing with a sheer material (revealing the back and its delicate hand stitches) and forming a binding and sleeve. The best past of the week was undoubtedly meeting fellow fiber artists and sharing the experiences.

Another great part of the week was the was great! Cool, clear skies were dotted with puffy white clouds. Being on a university campus brought back many memories.

(Above: Weisman Art Museum. Click on image to admire the Frank Gehry architecture!)

The Weisman Art Museum was free and included three great exhibits. Mass transportation in the Twin Cities is phenomenal! Split Rock is clearly a quality program!

(Above: Coffman Memorial Union. The program's closing program was held here. The dorm and cafeteria were in building directly behind this one....and the shuttle bus stop was in front, by the curb. The bus was brand new and the ride went by the equally new football stadium...from the Minneapolis part of the campus to the St. Paul area where the classroom was located.)

So....What did I do? What did I learn? Above is my "class" piece. I'm calling it that. It's about 10" x 10". Below is a detail shot. Click on either to enlarge.

I can safely say that I'll never be a non-objective artist. I really LIKE having a focal point and at least a suggestion of something recognizable. My work is meant to have more "content" than merely a title that reflects some thought process that privately belongs to the creator. Analyzing a composition by shapes and lines alone isn't my approach....and never will be. Of course, creating work in which a viewer's eyes travel pleasantly around the surface is a good idea....but it can't be my driving force. My work is a more direct expression of a concrete idea; it is meant to communicate; color and shape are not enough.

(Above: Moon. Approximately 13" x 7". Click on image to enlarge.)

I started another, larger piece. It was considered "good enough" to stitch. There is a strong likelihood that nothing will ever come of it. Yet.....I can't sit in a classroom, all day, for five days, and accomplish so very, very little. I HAVE TO WORK! By the end of the week I still felt like I accomplished NOTHING! (Except, of course, stitching on another Grave Rubbing Quilt every evening in my dorm room!) On the side, I put together these other small pieces using my painted fabrics. (By the way, I enjoyed the painting more than I would have guessed and have ideas as to how this new technique can figure into future work.)

(Above: My Two Cents Worth. Painted fabrics. I finished this piece and my "class piece" with the binding and sleeve instructions. Learning how to make "better" sleeves will probably be the most useful thing I learned.)

(Above: Detail of My Two Cents Worth. Click on image to enlarge and see how the paint interacted with two pennies trapped in the layered sandwich of material. The "circles" in Moon, above, were other results of spare change and acrylics.)

(Above: Fragment. Click on image to enlarge.)

The list of supplies for this course included "scraps" of material. I grabbed a piece of a vintage pillowcase with worn stitches and a handful of leftover silk and damask stained with rusted nails. I really liked the results. Fragment is approximately 14" x 8". I tucked it aside....refusing to cut a random shape in it. Once home, I backed it with an olive wool felt and buttonhole stitched the edges. As far as I'm concerned, it's done. I'm toying with the idea of doing more painting like this....using fragments of clothing and other household linens....coloring something discarded for a new, life. There's a lingering memory in this piece. There's an appreciation of the past use, a suggestions of former value. This concept is important to me.

(Above: Work in progress, painted material....some stained with rusted nails. Hand stitched. Click on image to enlarge.)

I am acutely aware that pieces created in a classroom setting are not appropriately "original". Exhibiting this work is out of the question. Selling it outside a gallery situation is probably okay. Donating it to a charity auction is definitely fine...and probably the destination for these pieces. Yet, the one above isn't finished yet. I don't know if I want to work more on it or not. I could simple bind it off.....or I could do something radical and make it "mine". Any ideas?

After flying away last Saturday, Steve and I headed north by car.... to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania... to visit my parent (Dad's been in the hospital recently... but is much, much better)... and to visit my grandmother who turned ninety last December. It was a whirlwind, 24 hour visit that included a cookout with my younger sister Sonya and Vipin, collecting epitaphs in two graveyards, and going through a couple of boxes of vintage family photos.

(Above: Me and my grandma! Click on image to enlarge.)

We drove back to South Carolina on Monday....ten hours of blessed stitching in the car on the next Grave Rubbing Quilt. It is almost done coming! Oh...on the subject of grave rubbing quilts: 18th. Century Angel was just accepted into the Wichita National All Media Craft Exhibition, Sept. 4 - Oct. 18!

(Above: All six faux-stained glass pieces in frames! Click on image to enlarge.)

At least I returned to this beautiful sight: Steve finished the framing on all six of the faux-stained glass pieces while I was in Minnesota....and lined them up for a great visual impression. I'm almost caught up with the rest of the work that grew into an enormous pile in my absence!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

He Who Is, Grave Rubbing Quilt Series

(Above: He Who Is, Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. 32 1/2" x 22". Crayon on fabric rubbing with free motion and hand embroidery. Vintage buttons. Click on image to enlarge.)

I made this grave rubbing in the Serbian Cemetery in Colma, California. It is the largest single rubbing I've ever attempted and it turned out fabulously. Thus, it became a whole quilt. As I've recently learned, a whole quilt is created using a single piece of fabric for the top layer. It is generally white; has no patchwork or applique; and relies on the stitching for its ornamentation. Well, the fabric isn't exactly white and the stitching is simply the kantha running stitches and there is a design.....but, by and large, this is a whole quilt! I did the hand stitching during last week's trip to England. Once home, I finished it with vintage buttons, buttonhole stitches, and a unique reverse made of old household linens.

(Above: Detail of He Who Is. Click on image to enlarge.)

The title is a rough translation of the letters found in the halo. The other letters, beside the halo spell "Jesus Christ".

(Above: Another detail of He Who Is. Click on image to enlarge.)

Although I still have hundreds of vintage buttons, I'm starting to run out of my favorite ones. This means that Steve and I will be attending a few more local auctions. Twenty years ago we used to go to an auction every week or so. We bought and sold all sorts of things, mostly antiquarian prints but also buttons, linens and lace. We sold them at Terrace Oaks Antique Mall in Charleston but then our framing business got enormous; we had no more time for auctions. Eight years ago I forcibly downsized Mouse House, our frame shop, in order to "become an artist". I've been using my leftover stash of notion and trim.....but I'm running out! Steve and I are looking forward to the "hunt".... which can easily become an addiction! more thing....THANK YOU, Ruth, for naming my last Grave Rubbing Series art quilt. The title Reverence is simply PERFECT! In fact, I entered it into a juried show with this title.....with luck, it might get in. Speaking of "getting in", Our Darling Sons was accepted by juror Pritika Chowdhry into Woman Made Gallery's upcoming exhibit "Cultural Memory: Transdiasporic Art Practices", September 4 - October 10, in Chicago, Illinois!

(Above: Reverse of He Who Is. Click on image to enlarge.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

England....a endless source for inspiration!

(Above: Mounting the six faux-stained glass fiber pieces on Edelweiss linen over-sized mat board already placed in black linen liners. I stitch directly through the piece and the linen mat board. It's hard work but totally reversible. The linen liner prevents the Plexi-Glass from touching the artwork....basically, the Plexi-Glas is between the frame and the liner. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Mathias and Laura-Jane as gypsies in Act II of Two Pigeons. Click on image to enlarge. There are more photos on "My Family Blog".)

Steve and I just returned from a wonderful week in Manchester, England. While there, we went to nearby Chester and Liverpool. I took hundreds of photographs. I scribbled down epitaphs for my hanging art installation. I got a few, utterly unique grave rubbings for potential art quilts. I stitched on the plane, on the trains, and during most evenings. We watched two different performances by Birmingham Royal Ballet...twice each. Our elder son Mathias and his girlfriend Laura-Jane danced beautifully....and I wrote all about the trip on my "Family Blog".

(Above: Leslie Pontz's incredible fiber work on display in the International Terminal of the Philadelphia Airport.)

From the beginning, this blog was supposed to be my artistic journal...a way to write and share inspirations, new work, and creative impulses. It was never intended to document my life, day to day. Yet, there is no hard, fast line between my personal life and my artistic one....especially when traveling to England.

(Above: My husband Steve admiring more of Leslie Pontz's artwork. Click on image to enlarge.)

Thus, my recap of our trip is now on "My Family Blog" and this post is just a way to share some of the energy, inspiration, and great work I saw during the past week.

(Above: Leslie Pontz's work. Click on image to enlarge.)

I knew it would be a "good trip"...right from the start. The fiber installation at the Philadelphia airport is always an excellent indication of the week. Leslie Pontz's work filled the Plexi-Glass boxes in the International terminal.

(Above: More of Leslie Pontz's fiber art. Click on image to enlarge.)

I have no desire to knit or crochet scarves or sweaters or afghans.....but the desire to switch to un-eyed needles might take hold if I look at many more of these organic pieces. Each one was delicious, well crafted, and beautifully displayed.

Public art is important. I look forward to walking through the Philadelphia International terminal....just to view the fiber art on display there. I really believe that our world would be a more beautiful place if there were more exhibitions of I found in Salford, a suburb of Manchester....a few yards from the Manchester United Football (Soceer) Club's Old Trafford Stadium.

Along the quay in Salford was Silent Cargoes by Sites of NY. Quietly, these old artifacts bore witness to a profitable past while simultaneously decorating the modern canal side with significant art.

In every town or city, I look for the church. It is generally among the oldest of buildings and filled with ornamentation, beautiful art, and a in England......needlepoint kneelers. This one was in the Manchester Cathedral. I loved the different stitches and it was exceedingly well crafted.

Of course, I am currently writing down epitaphs for a hanging installation scheduled next February. The Manchester Cathedral had this most touching one (above, click to enlarge.) I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to use this one....but it just must be worked into the project.

While in Eccles, a tiny old village on the outskirts of Manchester, I found five or six gravestones at the back of the sanctuary, including this one with a mid-17th c. date. I was able to make several graverubbings....crayon on fabric. Yet, these stones were very textured, weathered, and not exactly ideal for a rubbing. I took loads of photographs and have an idea that will allow me to create a very unique art quilt.

(Above: Sculpture in Liverpool's Walker Gallery. Click on image to enlarge.)

One of our "side trips" was to Liverpool. We visited the Tate Liverpool for a great experience with contemporary art. We spent most of our time around the Albert Docks and the Maritime Museum. I concentrated on architecture....especially the blend of old and new. We saw the Cecil Beaton photography exhibition at the Walker Gallery and I took some great photos of winged sculpture in the marble gallery there too.

Since returning home, I've been trying to catch up with the mountain of work that accumulated in our absense.....but at least this included mounting and framing my own six faux-stained glass pieces and finishing up another Grave Rubbing Quilt (photos coming soon!)....all before heading out again this Sunday. I was awarded a full scholarship to the Split Rock Programs in Minnesota to study art quilts with Emily Richardson. I'll look at the supply list and pack tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Back from England/Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles!

Yesterday in the early evening Steve and I returned from England to a mountain of work, unanswered emails, telephone messages, framing, junk mail, and a very angry cat. (My artistic mentor, Stephen Chesley, did look in on Shadow almost every day....but she was still mad!)

The trip was wonderful. Mathias and his girlfriend Laura-Jane danced beautifully. I got to meet Laura-Jane's parents; they are fantastic. I took over three hundred photos. We spent a day in Liverpool and another day in Chester. We rode in a cute 1830s replica coal train but missed the last "ferry 'cross the Mersey". I stitched on two more grave rubbing quilts, collected several interesting epitaphs, and made a rubbing dated 1659! So...there will be blog posts coming soon.

While away, the fantastic writer Dawn Goldsmith published my guest blog post on Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles! With a title like that, how could I possibly refuse to write! Anyway.....CLICK HERE to read the article.

Now....back to work....including mounting and framing all six recently finished faux-stained glass pieces!