Monday, May 31, 2010
(Above: On Fighting Cancer I, Decision Portrait. Stitched words: Over Chemotherapy. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. 25" x 19", unframed; 31" x 25", framed. Hand embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: On Fighting Cancer II, Decision Portrait. Stitched words: Chemo and Radiation over Mastectomy. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. 25" x 19", unframed: 31" x 25", framed. Hand embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)
On St. Patrick's Day Dawn Goldsmith published an amazing blog post on her Subversive Stitchers site about my Decision Portrait Series and my need for "models". She included my entire "wish list". Within almost no time at all, fiber artists from all over the world responded....including Gerrie and Jane. In fact, their email messages popped into my "in box" within fifteen minutes of one another....and that's how I determined which was "I"/one and which was "II"/two.
These two works are inseparable for me. Why? Because these ladies, both fiber artists, faced the same horrible problem. They made two equally good but completely different decisions. I will display them flanking Solidarity which carries the words: I shave my head to support those with breast cancer. To view this portrait, click HERE.
(Above: On Fighting Cancer I, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Together, these portraits illustrate the complexities of dealing with breast cancer. There are options. For some, one treatment is better than another; For others, the exact opposite is true.
(Above: On Fighting Cancer II, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
The Decision Portrait Series isn't about "right" or "wrong". It is about the decisions....especially the difficult decisions. Personally, I don't know what I would do if confronting breast cancer. I guess I'd listen to my doctors, get second opinions, consult my family, weigh the odds....just like these brave ladies did. I hope people seeing the work in the upcoming exhibit quietly ask themselves, "What would I do?" and "How can I show support".
Please also visit Gerrie Congdon's excellent website and blog. Please also visit Jane Compeau's blog. Their work is GREAT!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 8:36 AM
Saturday, May 29, 2010
(Above: Late Night Driver, Decision Portrait. Stitched words: 1979 - 2008; Fell asleep at the wheel. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand embroidered and beaded. Click on image to enlarge.)
The Decision Portrait Series blog includes a "wish list" of portraits I'd like to stitch. I created this blog over a year ago but knew that some of the "decisions" were going to be very difficult to find. After all, how does one locate a person who decided to drive when actually too tired to successfully navigate the road? My research lead me to the Fatality Memorial Website. (This is Jesse's page.)
I found Jesse M. Sainz IV. Facebook lead me to Jesse's sister. Then I met his mother. We worked together in order to create this portrait. Their hope is that Jesse will never be forgotten and that his tragic choice might cause someone to think about the wisdom of driving while too tired. This is my hope too. My husband and my artistic mentor both confessed times that they escaped Jesse's end....too tired to drive but behind the wheel.
(Above: Late Night Driver, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
I stitched the words in threads that don't have much contrast with Jesse's formal wear. I want his smiling face to draw viewers from a distance, from across the art gallery. The birth and death dates will become obvious before the phrase. It will make people come even closer. This is my way of bringing people face to face with this decision, up front, close and personal...something to remember and heed.
Jesse's mother wrote the following on the SC Highway Patrol Fatality Memorial website:
The tragic death of my 29 year old son will forever leave me with a broken heart. Jesse had recently taken a management position at Wild Wing at Sandhills and was on his way home from working a double shift. He was very tired and left Wild Wing around 3:15 a.m. and apparently fell asleep behind the wheel and left the road around 3:40 a.m. and was killed instantly. Needless to say my entire family will never be the same again.
Jesse was such a fun loving person and never met a stranger. We miss his personality which was so upbeat, happy go lucky and always smiling and making others laugh. He had the most beautiful smile that I will never forget. He could be having the worse day of his life and we'd go to cheer him up but he'd find a way to make us laugh. If Jesse had a penny for everytime he made others laugh he would have died a millionaire. These are just a few of the things everyone will miss about Jesse. The emptiness in our hearts will forever be present. No holiday will ever be the same for us. Jesse had so many friends and leaves behind so many people that miss him every day. He also leaves behind a sister, Jessica, who was so very close to her only sibling and feels so lost without him. His Grandparents are so devastated as Jesse was the first grandchild and has such a special place in their hearts.
We will miss our Jesse and his positive spirit, upbeat personality, and his smile which is as big as his heart. Jesse loved unconditionally and always made others feel as though he was their best friend.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 8:57 AM
Thursday, May 27, 2010
(Above: Runaway, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: At 15 I hitch hiked to NYC. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand embroidered and beaded. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)
Jean Bourque is a talented visual artist living in Columbia, South Carolina and enjoying Internet connections with people all over the globe using her blog and every networking system currently available. She's very productive, very reliable, very professional, and actively promotes art everywhere. Jean is always helping other artists too. She's helped me find "models" for several Decision Portraits and volunteered for this one, Runaway.
At first I couldn't believe it! How could this intelligent, even tempered, dependable, hardworking artist have ever been a runaway? Had she once been a "troubled teenager" or some sort of social outcast? Had she been failing in school, disruptive at home, or come from an abusive family? All these stereotypical ideas of a "runaway" flooded my brain.
(Above: Runaway, Decision Portrait Series. Detail.)
CONFRONTING INCORRECT STEREOTYPES IS AN IMPORTANT CONCEPT IN THIS SERIES.
I know this! It is my series after all! I talk about stereotypes all the time.....how this series is meant to get people THINKING about the decisions made by others, especially the ones that challenge stereotyped ideas. This one challenged me. I didn't understand that runaways leave home for all sorts of reasons....not just the "bad ones".
(Above: Runaway, detail, including inset of Jean at age 15. Click on image to enlarge.)
Jean was a good student, well adjusted, and mature for her age when she hitch hiked to New York City. She was fifteen years old and wanted to protest against the Viet Nam war in which her father was fighting. She earned a living as best she could, often stitching the fancy, floral based embroidery designs popular on bell-bottomed jeans and matching denim jackets. She was gone for nearly two years. She looks back on those days as a time of youthful passion, heightened creativity, and bravery beyond the norm. I selected the decorative Indian appliques for the piece because they remind me of just the sort of thing one might use to ornate a pair of Levi's! Please visit Jean's blog HERE!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 5:35 PM
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
(Above: Husband II, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I put my wife through law school. Unframed 25" x 19"; framed 31" x 25". Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)
Patrick Parise is a wonderful artist, a master print-maker, and devoted to his family. His wife Sandi runs her own law firm and enjoys well-earned respect and admiration from her peers in the legal field. They met in college, got married, and were trying to support themselves working in food service positions. Of course, they were barely getting by. I relate to "those days". Steve and I tried it too; something had to give! Lots of young newlyweds work in low paying, under appreciated positions. Perhaps that's why so many marriages end in divorce; financial problems cause too much friction......but......now back to Patrick and Sandi.
(Above: Husband II, Decision Portrait Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Sandi had an opportunity to work in the public defender's office....as a secretary, nothing particularly special...a little more money....but importantly, the opportunity to see what other, better jobs entailed. One day, she told Patrick that she thought she could do a lawyer's job; she wanted to go to law school. Patrick's reply, "Will it make you happy?" She said, "Yes!"
Without hesitation, Patrick found a way....taking more shifts, moonlighting, working several jobs to keep Sandi in school. He has supporter her every dream, including setting up her own practice. He maintains the house. He was a hands-on parent to their only child, a daughter....who he's now helping put through law school!
Patrick Parise is also a brilliant man, articulate, educated, and talented. He could have been anything he wanted to be....and he is exactly that....someone's soul mate....for over thirty years of marriage. Please visit Patrick's website. His artwork is as meticulous and beautiful as the man who created it!
By the way, this portrait is titled Husband II because, obviously, there's another one called Husband! The first piece has stitched words reading: I loved her for 45 years, the last 15 with MS. The background includes (repeated): In sickness and in health 'til death do us part. To see this portrait, click HERE.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:28 AM
Sunday, May 23, 2010
(Above: , Decision Portraits. Stitched words: The best thing I ever did for myself. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. 25" x 19", unframed; 31" x 25", framed. Hand embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)
This portrait is of my dear friend Dolly Patton, Executive Director of Saluda Shoals Foundation which supports Saluda Shoals Park ....a wonderful riverfront place with paved and unpaved hiking and biking trails, an environmental center, several picnic shelters, a state-of-the-art conference center, and a kayak/canoe/boat launch. This is a public, non-profit organization. Dolly has been working in the non-profit world for longer than I've known her. (I've known her for over fifteen years.) She writes grants, organizes incredible events, and gives amazing presentations that simply make people want to donate funds. Everything Dolly seems to do is "for someone else" or "for charity" or "to benefit a worthwhile cause". Dolly is one of those super nice people that tries everyday to please every one. Dolly is selflessly nice.
(Above: Lasik Eye Surgery, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
When I posted the idea for this portrait on the Decision Portrait Series blog, I suggested stitched words reading: 20/20 Vision. I also didn't know that Dolly had undergone this procedure but she follows my artwork. Recently, she was part of my Artist's Way group too. When we talked about this decision, Dolly said she'd worn glasses since grade school. Yet, she wanted to wake up in the morning able to see her alarm clock. She also said....not once but twice...."It's the best thing I ever did for myself".
(Above: Lasik Eye Surgery, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
This statement struck me with its importance. The decision to have Lasik eye surgery is an optional one. It is something one really does for oneself! It also takes courage. Dolly doesn't often put herself first, but she bravely did when making this decision. I'm not half as nice as Dolly nor am I half as brave. Today I made an eye doctor appointment. It's time for a new eyeglass prescription!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 6:14 PM
Friday, May 21, 2010
(Above: Psychic/Medium. Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: It's in the cards. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Unframed: 25" x 19"; framed 31" x 25". Hand embroidery and beading; found objects. Click on image to enlarge.)
Stacy Appel is a professional psychic and medium. She's been working in the field for over twenty-five years. Her readings are featured at both corporate and private events. She’s appeared on radio and television programs and her essays have been published in various publications. Stacy also teaches Tarot and intuition/creativity classes. The image she sent was from the Great Dickens Christmas Fair and I liked it very much because it immediately helps tell the story.
The "story" is about DECISIONS. At some point years ago, Stacy chose to leave a traditional job in the health care and hospice field in order to work full-time as a psychic. A skeptic by nature, she had to decide to embrace her gifts and to follow this alternative career path. Those seeking her guidance often face the similar decisions of trust and belief.
For me and for the Decision Portrait Series, this piece is significant. When on display in the upcoming exhibitions, it subtly asks viewer if they believe in the mystical realm. Is there an intelligent creativity operating behind the scenes?
(Above: Psychic/Medium, Decision Portrait Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Although I've never consulted a psychic and/or medium, I would consider doing so. I own a little book by Georgia Routsis Savas called The Oracle Book. I bought over twelve years ago, before I ever really dared of becoming an artist; that was just a "dream". After reading the introduction, silently asking the question, "Can I really become an artist?” I closed my eyes and ran my fingers over the pages. Then I opened the book to read: The Palm Reader sees a starred palm: You will be successful by virtue of sheer talent.
I guess I want to believe; I bought the book! If I lived closer to Stacy, I'd likely enroll in one of her classes! The issue of belief…. In one’s talent, one’s life path, one’s choices…. is one of the driving forces in the Decision Portrait Series. Where, and in what, do we place our faith?
Posted by Susan Lenz at 10:37 AM
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
(Above: Boomerang Child, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Living with Dad....Again. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Unframed: 25" x 19"; framed 31" x 25". Hand embroidery and beading. Click on image to enlarge.)
Nikolai Oshkolkov is a talented young visual artist and musician whose life is a mixture of interests and cultures. He's Russian; he's American. His conversations glide effortlessly between the two languages, the two artistic forms of expression, and with people of all ages and backgrounds. He's had three shows at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. (This is where my studio is located!) Each exhibition was a near "sell out". Each included a jam session....banjo pickers and Nikolai on the balalaika, though he is equally competent on the piano. (Here's a link to one of the videos!)
Nikolai is also very young and trying to "make it" as a professional artist. His work is excellent; sales at his annual exhibit are excellent. Yet, like most young, struggling artists, the financial demands of the world are more overwhelming than the successes can fulfill. As a result, Nikolai is back at home....his father's home.
(Above: Boomerang Child, Decision Portrait Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
I learned this during Nikolai's last exhibition. We had a chance to talk while he was hanging his artwork. I asked him to consider participating in my series.....and he said "yes" even before I got a chance to explain my ideas for the piece. I don't think Nikolai had ever heard the term "boomerang child". He just laughed and signed the model's release and posed for the photos. Nikolai knows how hard it is to struggle for independence as an artist. He is always willing to help someone else pursuing this elusive dream. Thanks, Nikolai, for helping with my quest!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:03 PM
(Above: 40 yards of chiffon rolled out at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios....before being ripped into 18" x 12' to 14' banners. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)
City Gallery at Waterfront Park is an enormous space. My solo show opens on September 15th. That's like in fifteen weeks! I'm working on a stack of Decision Portraits, trying to get approximately 90 done. (Over fifty are finished!) Yet, there's another part of this exhibition to completely create. I want to use the amazing, two story space for a series of chiffon banners on which free-motion embroidered "decisions" will appear.
I bought the chiffon.....40 yards of it.....60" wide. Over last weekend I tore the 18" widths and cut them into 12 to 14 foot lengths. The photo above and below is the fabric rolled out on the floor at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios....and down the very long hallway. (The photos were taken from each end of the forty yards! My studio is located very near the photo below!). I stitched a sleeve in each panel and folded forty-eight of them into a large stack. This took five hours. I used muscles I forgot I had. I think sort of artistic day is called an ART WORKOUT!
I've been writing down "decisions" in the spiral bound notebook that Julie gave me last March when I met her in Nottingham. She made the beautiful cover and also gave me all these fabulous materials. Thank you so much, Julie!
I've filled the entire notebook and will free motion stitch from it. The decisions cover all sorts of things: Should I wear the blue shirt or the red one? Am I too drunk to drive? Should I dye my hair auburn? Do I trust him? Should I ask for a raise? Will I get caught if I cheat on my income tax? Is it time to put Mom in a nursing home? etc.
I'm generally terrible about posting the nice things other people do for me....but, finally I posted these wonderful gifts from Julie.....which reminded me to post the beautiful lace donation from Anita, a friend of a friend! (Hopefully, soon, a new Facebook friend!) Seriously, this is WONDERFUL! Thank you Anita. The lace will likely be used in future Grave Rubbing Art Quilts....which I'll return to stitching after the exhibit opens in September (though I do have one that I'm still working on while riding in the car!)
So...to end this post.....look at this photo below! This is a shot of another exhibition at City Gallery at Waterfront Park. I want to transform the space with chiffon banners......
...like I transformed Gallery 80808/Vista Studios last February with these chiffon banners in my show "Last Words". Of course, the chiffon I'm using this time isn't quite as transparent. This should help viewers read the words even from a greater distance. Now.... to stitch approximately four per week in addition to everything else!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:08 PM
Monday, May 17, 2010
(Above: Missing Holly, Decision Portrait. Beaded words: I turned my back on a friend in need; She committed suicide; Now I tell everyone. Stitched words: I love you. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand embroidered and beaded. Unframed: 25" x 19"; Framed 31" x 25". Click on image to enlarge.)
Anastasia Chernoff is one of the sweetest women I know. She's an openly loving person and really does say "I love you" almost in place of a normal "good-bye" phrase. I just thought this was part of her nature until I asked her to take a look at my series. I knew Anastasia lives an interesting life and thought she'd be just the sort of person willing to share an important decision. I had no idea what that decision would be until I got her email answer. This portrait is the result.
At seventeen Anastasia and Holly, who was still sixteen, were honor students, members of several school groups, and the sort of best friends that meant every weekend was a "sleep over". Then, Holly got caught cheating on a pop quiz. Her world started to crumble away. She was definitely going to be kicked out of National Honor Society, lose her place as Valedictorian, and kicked off the cheerleading squad where she’d been captain. Her friends distanced themselves from her....including Anastasia, her very best friend. Pills and a fast car ended her life....and shock set in for those she left behind.
(Above: Missing Holly, Decision Portrait. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
This portrait was going to read: "At seventeen I turned my back on a friend....." but I ran out of "e"s and had no numbers. Then I thought about it...long and hard. Why does the age really matter? This isn't a situation that really has anything to do with teenage years and peer pressure. How many of us have hung up the telephone on an unruly child calling with a flimsy excuse about breaking curfew? How many of us have said something sarcastic to a co-worker who isn't pulling his share at the office? How many of have ignored someone's needy request for attention? Most of the time, "tomorrow" comes; better words can be spoken; nicer things can be said; understanding and a solution can be found.....but not all the time. Anastasia knows this.
(Above: Missing Holly, Decision Portrait Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Anastasia knows that none of us can perfectly anticipate what "tomorrow" might bring. She knows that every day might be the last one for someone close. She is determined to say what is really important....even if saying it makes the other person "a little uncomfortable"....because it just might be the last time, the final "good-bye", the final "I love you!".
Anastasia is a talented artist with a gallery space in the Free-Times foyer call Anastasia and Friends. Each portrait is shared with the person who posed before being posted here. Anastasia added the following, important sentences: I think about her (Holly) all the time and the lessons she gave me. More than anything, people need to love and feel love. The expression, "Love conquers all," couldn't be any truer. It does. It gets us through the toughest of times. There's never a bad time to tell someone you love them. It's, always, the right time to say those three words.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:45 PM
Friday, May 14, 2010
(Above: The new Dale Chihuly chandelier at the Columbia Museum of Art. Click on image to enlarge.)
Although I seriously try to balance "making a living" with "making art", there's many related events in which I participate that sort of "bridge the two".....like selling work and doing things that are "art related" that lead to or create income. This week I participated in the Young Contemporaries Art Auction and Soiree. It was the first time I had the opportunity to see the new Dale Chihuly chandelier....which the Young Contemporaries purchased with funds from past events.
(Above: My three pieces hanging on the first floor.....with the Dale Chihuly chandelier hanging in the foreground. Click on image to enlarge.)
I also was given the opportunity (and a stipend!) for jurying the 7th Annual Lowcountry Art Exhibition which opens this Saturday night at the South Carolina Artisan Center in Walterboro. It was the first time I've been in such a position. The experience was very insightful. I learned quite a bit while feeling the weight of "passing judgment" on others artwork. Below is my "juror's statement" (The winners were notified yesterday....so this isn't "spilling the beans". I also selected two "honorable mentions").
It was my sincere honor to serve as juror for the 7th annual Lowcountry Art Exhibition. As a juried member of the South Carolina Artisan Center, I was familiar with the criteria used in the process of selecting artists for this prestigious representation. The hardworking staff provided their handout and I based my award decisions using these guidelines:
- Originality of medium, technique, subject, perspective
- Quality of technique, medium
- Creativity in use of medium, subject
- Overall appeal, including presentation
I carefully studied very piece in the exhibition. Each fulfilled these requirements. Obviously a few simply stood out. These special works continued to draw my attention with their outstanding artistry. Amy Minson’s Cabbage Key I demonstrated serious command of her pastel medium and abilities as a colorist. Dolores Walters’ creative use of texture enhanced her imagery. Crosby Shrimp by Holger Obenaus is a masterpiece of light, balance and timeless beauty. There were several other pieces that deserved acclaim but did not fit into the parameters of the exhibition guidelines. I did not feel it appropriate to award work older than the listed rules of having been “completed within the last three years”.
(Above: Looking down on the catered food selection under the Dale Chihuly chandelier at the Young Contemporaries Art Auction and Soiree 2010.)
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:54 AM
Thursday, May 13, 2010
(Above: Importer, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Shipping Goods In; Importer. Below: Exporter, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Shipping Goods Out; Exporter. Both are xylene photo transfers on tea-stained muslin with found objects. Hand stitched and beaded. 25" x 19", unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on images to enlarge.)
Generally I write about each portrait separately, but I can't do this with these two special pieces. They are utterly related, inseparable! For every "importer" there's an "exporter". Every "exporter" in this country is supplying an "importer" somewhere else. When I look around my house, my studio, and my business, EVERYTHING COMES FROM ALL OVER THE PLACE!
(Above: Importer, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
I drive a Japanese Scion built in Canada for the US market. I stitch with a Swiss made . My favorite is Egyptian and my supplier is in Perth, Australia. Steve recently bought the official USA soccer jersey for the World Cup; it is made from 100% recycled materials.....plastic bottles from Korean and Japanese landfills.....made in Sri Lanka. The jersey was a birthday gift to our son who lives in England. Our current favorite red wine is any Malbec from Argentina. My custom picture framing supplies come from China, Mexico, Germany, and elsewhere. The aisles in the hardware store (likely my favorite shopping place) have products from across the globe. I also love antiques from all over the world and my blog gets regular hits from six different continents.
(Above: Exporter, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Thus, I had to stitch these pieces at the same time....with some of the same things on both pieces....because some of the seemingly "same things" actually are made in more than one country....just check out any department store. The two ladies who posed are friends. They are quite aware of the similarities in their decisions to ship goods across national borders. They are both providing products to eager people and jobs to many.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:51 AM
Monday, May 10, 2010
I've posted six entries on "My Family Blog":
Norfolk: Part I....Mom and Dad and Mermaids
Norfolk: Part II...The Moser Myer House
Norfolk: Part III...Day Trip to Bacon's Castle
Norfolk: Part IV...The Chrysler Museum
Norfolk: Part V....SWAN LAKE
a video from Veer Television about Swan Lake in which Mathias appears within the first minute!
In all this posting, I forgot one photo.....which I'm putting here. My Uncle Larry evidently said that the only way a man can expect to live as long as his wife was to marry an older woman. (Aunt Gloria is something like four years older than him.) Well.....it's not necessarily true and this grave marker proves it! He was two years older and lived sixty-two years longer! Amazing!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 5:44 PM
(Above: Advocate, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Letting Other Men Know They Aren't Alone; Breast Cancer Survivor. Hand embroidery and beading on tea-stained muslin. Unframed: 25" x 19"; Framed: 31" x 25". Click on image to enlarge.)
Thurston Murray is a man on a mission. I met him and his lovely wife last fall. It was October, National Breast Cancer Awareness month. She was wearing a blue ribbon. I asked what it meant. He explained....with gusto! ....and facts, figures, statistics, and especially compassion for other men facing breast cancer.
Thurston is a breast cancer survivor for over twenty-five years. He does everything he can to spread awareness of male breast cancer, writing letters and published articles, posting on Internet message boards, and speaking to various groups. Because many men facing this disease are embarrassed by any mention of "their breasts", Thurston speaks out. He says, "If I can help one man be telling my story, I'm willing to do that. Men need to know they can get breast cancer.
(Above: Advocate, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Breast cancer is one hundred times more common in women than men. Over two thousand cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in men each year. Thurston Murray's agreement to pose for the Decision Portrait Series is yet one more way he is advocating for male breast cancer awareness. To learn more about Thurston and breast cancer among men, please visit his page on the American Cancer Society.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 5:37 PM
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
(Above: Mackenzie at 15, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Self Directed Homeschooler. Xylene photo transfer. Hand embroidery and beading on tea-stained muslin. Unframed: 25" x 19"; Framed: 31" x 25". Click on image to enlarge.)
Writing about each portrait in this series is an important part of the creative process. It often summarizes how I came into contact with the "model", the decision being depicted, and the hope of eliciting a specific response when the work is finally exhibited. Mackenzie at 15 is the result of her mother's email message.
Mom, Christine Musgrave, wrote, "I have a 15 year old daughter, Mackenzie. She is the second of five girls....and also a homeschooler. She is in charge of her own homeschooling and is given an assessment each summer by a Masters level teacher. Mackenzie is a singer/songwriter, plays the guitar and cello, and has performed at local festivals, pubs, and clubs. Mackenzie also chooses forms of self-expression, such as a nose piercing in which she wears a hoop."
Christine responded to Dawn Goldsmith's fabulous blog post about my work and my need for Decision Portrait "models". We corresponded about the title and stitched words....and about our Ohio State/Columbus roots! (Christine lives only a few blocks from where I used to waitress tables back in the early 1980s!) I sent a model's release....for both Mackenzie and Christine to sign. (Mackenzie is obviously under 18!) This weekend I stitched the portrait and thought about it, about the response I hope it will generate because this decision to take command of ones education is truly profound.
I thought about my life at fifteen and throughout high school. I was a straight A student, played the piano, and was very responsible. Yet, there is no way I could have taken command of my education! I don't know many young people who could....a few, but not many. I could have, however, made other decisions at a very young age. I did make many because, like Mackenzie, my parents trusted my decision making abilities.
Mackenzie's decision was originally made by her family. They had to approve the plan. Now Mackenzie makes this decision every day....to learn, to study, to plan for her future. It is awesome.
(Above: Mackenzie at 15, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
The title was selected because it takes the form of Sally Mann's portrait of her daughter Jesse in Jesse at 5. Both are beautiful young girls. Both suggest an accelerated maturity level. Both girls are close to their mothers. Both art works are meant to elicit a response about young girls in today's society. There is a shock value. Okay....Mackenzie at 15 doesn't have the "punch in the stomach" shock value of Sally Mann's photos (which I personally love!)....but....there's an unexpected truth that is subtly as significant as the social commentary in Mann's powerful photography.
Mackenzie is basically a normal teenage girl. There are thousands of other teenagers who are equally mature, equally ready to take on more responsibility....even if it isn't taking command of their own education. They deserve respect. I hope that those viewing the finished piece, especially parents, question themselves about the maturity level and abilities in the young people they know. Teenagers can and do make very significant decisions. I'm proud to have stitched Mackenzie; I'm proud to be a new Facebook friend with her mother.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 10:08 AM
(Above: The Joseph Manigault House, 1803. Federal Style. Charleston. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)
My last blog post had no photos but was called "Friday was a Great Day". It really was an excellent day! One of the reasons was that I had several hours in Charleston....all by myself....no work obligations....no one to consult....just a beautiful afternoon in a magnificently historic city. I went to the Charleston Museum to see "Aisle Style", an exhibit of wedding dresses and accessories from the museum's collection. It was very informative....especially since I'm mentally planning an installation for next spring called I do/I don't. To that end, if anyone has a old wedding veil that needs to be turned into art....let me know! I've been collecting for the past two months....which means I now have two! Yet, I'll get more! I know that the world serendipitously provides exactly what I need! (I'm also collecting socks....old, worn, matchless! This should be much, much easier. I've been collecting for two weeks and have one bag almost filled!)
(Above: The chandelier at the Joseph Manigault House, Charleston. Below: Plaster crown moulding.)
(Below: Dining Room at the Joseph Manigault House, Charleston.)
I also toured one of the grand Federal style homes, the Joseph Manigault House. It was built in 1803 and its interior has been restored to the period....down to the selection of colors, the beautiful furnishing, the plaster crown moulding, and the artwork.
(Above: Lee Sipe's Vessel 199. Best of Show at Palmetto Hands, a juried fine craft exhibition at the North Charleston Arts Festival. Click on image to enlarge.)
By 6 PM I was at the North Charleston Convention Center for the opening of Palmetto Hands. My Stained Glass XV (below) won an outstanding merit award. My friend Lee Sipe's Vessel 199 won "Best of Show". I really liked the assemblages by Nancy Pollock, including Formal Dining (below), and by Matt Wilson, including Bull Skull (below). Great use of interesting found objects!
(Above: Bull Skull by Matt Wilson. Click on image to enlarge. Great use for golf clubs and tees!)
(Above: Stained Glass XV. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Formal Dining by Nancy Pollack. Click on image to enlarge.)
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:26 AM
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Sorry....the photos will be in a later post....but FRIDAY WAS A GREAT DAY! I learned that My Epitaph Quilt, a Grave Rubbing Art Quilt, was accepted into the Australian Quilt Challenge at the AP&Q (Australian Patchwork and Quilting) Quilting Convention in Melbourne and will travel the country for the coming year! I also attended the opening of Palmetto Hands, the only juried fine art crafts exhibit in South Carolina at the North Charleston Arts Festival. Stained Glass XV won an outstanding merit award and at least one of my pieces was selected for the traveling exhibition. Furthermore, we received a message with a link to a BRB (Birmingham Royal Ballet) rehearsal video of Mathias dancing Brouillard's. This next weekend the ballet company is performing Swan Lake at the Virginia Arts Festival in Steve's hometown, Norfolk! Of course we are going and have tickets to all three shows....just in case Mathias is cast in the role of Benno, the Prince's friend. May 9th is Mother's Day but it is also Mathias' 22nd birthday. It will be the first time since he was 12 that I'll be able to see him on his birthday! We've got our fingers and toes crossed for "good casting"!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:23 AM