Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Result of a Spinal Surgery Decision

(Above:  Results of a Spinal Surgery Decision, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  Still driving, quilting, and making the most of Life.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand stitched.  25" x 31" unframed; 31" x 37" framed.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The day after Dawn Goldsmith posted a blog entry about my Decision Portrait Series, I got LOTS of email messages.  It felt like the entire fiber arts world was coming to my rescue...volunteering to participate in the series by sharing deeply significant decisions.  I opened a note from Suzanne Riggio and read, "Susan, my decision was 'I chose spine surgery'. My picture would be me in a wheelchair, a paraplegic, as a result of this decision.  Are you interested?"
 (Above:  Result of a Spinal Surgery Decision, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Of course I was interested!  We immediately started a chain of correspondence and the focus of the piece began to change.  Sure, Suzanne made the decision to seek surgery.  It went badly.  This was TERRIBLE.  Her husband and five children were obviously devastated....but that was the beginning of many, many new, powerful decisions.  Suzanne was determined to continue living a very full life....and she's doing just that!

 (Above:  Result of a Spinal Surgery Decision, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Her emails were full of enthusiasm and future plans.  Her engineer/son designed and created unique pieces of equipment for her daily life, including a sewing machine adaptation system!  She drives with hand controls and recently finished a major project, St. Mary's commemorative quilt.  So, although Suzanne decided to have spinal surgery, this Decision Portrait focuses on her positive decisions in the aftermath.  She joins me in hoping that those to see the piece will consider how they might handle physical limitations and other negative situations.  

I send an email with attached images to every participant before posting here on my blog.  The message I just received from Suzanne is:

"Susan, what a lovely piece!  I brought in my husband, sat him down next to me, and surprised the heck out of him with your images.  Then we read the text.   He gave me a hug (as much as is possible when one of you in in a wheelchair!) and said, "Suzanne, you are an inspiration to us all."   We love your depiction and your words.  Thank you."  

Suzanne really is an inspiration to us all.  THANK YOU!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trio of work for Decision Portraits Series

(Above:  Friend to Those in Prison, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  Letters + Visits that Touch Lives.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand beaded and stitched.  25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed.  Click on image to enlarge.

Barbie Mathis
is a talented, professional artist.  Her watercolors carry a distinctive, naturalistic style, vibrant colors, and glazes of atmospheric depth.  She's also a lovely person, inside and out; so, it came as no surprise to me that she extends herself to others.  What I didn't know until embarking on the Decision Portrait Series is that Barbie generously shares hope with several people who are incarcerated. 

(Friend to Those in Prison, detail 1.  Click on image to enlarge.)

She told me how it all started.  There was a bank robbery in West Columbia.  The police captured all of the robbers....except one....who was known to be lurking in an affluent neighborhood.  Everyone was scared.  Barbie and her church prayer group prayed for all those living in the area.  The bank robber was finally apprehended after trying to high-jack a car at gunpoint. 

(Friend to Those in Prison, detail 2.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Then, the newspaper carried an article in which the "villain" was described as having been a popular high school graduate and an active former church member.  Barbie was stunned.  She'd been praying for everyone involved except the one person that likely needed it most....the bank robber.  She went to visit him.  She's been writing to him ever since and to several of his friends.  Barbie spreads words of hope and forgiveness.

(Above:  Prisoner II, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I robbed a bank.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand stitched and beaded.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed:  31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.)

Barbie took the photo I used to create the portrait above.....right through the Plexi-Glas prison barrier.  The young man will not be part of the general population for years but will be ready for that day when it comes.  He's got a connection to something good, to hope, to religion, and to someone who cares enough to write letters.  It makes a difference. 

(Prisoner II, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm sure this young man agreed to participate in this series because of Barbie's positive influence.  He hopes that someone will see his image and think about the humanity that really is part of prison life.  He hopes, like Barbie and I hope, that there might be viewers at the upcoming exhibition who have friends or relatives in prison.  Perhaps, coming face-to-face with his outward staring eyes, these people will be prompted to reach out and communicate a word or two of hope.  It would make a difference.

(Above:  Prisoner I, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I let drugs nearly ruin my LIFE.  Hand stitched and beaded.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed:  31" x 25".)

The lady in this portrait is also in prison.  I was put in touch with her through another source.  Our method of communication is by letters.  She wrote about her life, how she neglected her children, herself, and everything she held most dear while spiraling down into a world of lawless drug use.  
(Above:  Prisoner II, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)
In prison, she found hope.  She writes to her family.  They write to her.  It makes a difference.  She is very upfront about her crimes, her mistakes, and her recovery.  In order to share her decisions, she sent me a photo.  I scanned it.  This portrait is the result.  This blog post will be printed, put into an envelope, and mailed to her.  She hopes that those seeing her image will reflect on it....see a transformed woman....see both the mistakes and the corrections.  Life is a series of decisions.  None of us have made all the "right" ones.  All of us must decide how to handle the poorer ones we've made and how to react to people who paid for their mistakes with prison time.
 (Above:  Prisoner II, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Argentine Tango Dancer, Decision Portrait Series

(Above:  Argentine Tango Dancer, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I took up TANGO at age 60.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed.  Click on image to enlarge.)

It didn't surprise me at all when my friend Melissa Bush, a professional family and marriage counselor, took up Argentine Tango dancing four years ago.  Melissa knows exactly how to enjoy life, indulge herself while balancing a career, and dabbles in all sorts of artistic pursuits.  Melissa and I have collaborated.  I turned several of her poems into visual arts expressions.  She frequently attends art openings, makes art purchases, and supports local non-profits. 

Several weeks ago Melissa was in my studio.  I was showing my Decision Portraits to another couple when Melissa said, "You should stitch me.....for deciding to be a tango dancer!"  Of course I agreed, enthusiastically!  There was a "milonga" the next night at Vista Ballroom.  (From Wikipedia....  Milonga is a term for a place or an event where tango is danced.)  Melissa stopped by my studio.....dressed "to kill"...before attending the milonga.  We had a blast snapping sexy photos while talking about her decision.

(Argentine Tango Dancer, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Melissa took up Argentine Tango dancing BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO DANCE!  For her, it was a very, very simple decision.  But, she knows there are a lot of people in this world who would allow their age to interfere with such a choice.  She hopes that people seeing her portrait might reflect on their own decisions, excuses, and "artistic blocks" that prevent happiness and fulfillment.  My "photo session" with Melissa was very brief.....after all, she had on her dancing shoes and the counterclockwise motion to counterpoint 2x4 music beckoned.  Hopefully, others will follow their denied, hidden passions!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Drag Queen, Decision Portrait

(Above:  Drag Queen, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I was meant for this.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand embroidery and beading.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed 31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.)

I met Carla at Runaway Runway, a local fashion show featuring outfits made entirely from recycled materials.  The Lady Chablis (best known as the incredible drag queen from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) headlined the opening act of wild and wonderfully talented local female impersonators.  Carla was one of the best.  We exchanged business cards after the event and chatted about art.

Later, I corresponded with Carlos.  Our emails arranged for me to come to a great drag show only a mile from my house.  It started at midnight.  Boy....this series has provided some exciting adventures!  The show was wonderful. 

(Above:  Drag Queen, Decision Portrait.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Watching Carlos transform into Carla was amazing.  I don't think I ever owned as much make-up collectively in my entire life.  I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to apply most of it....but Carla knows.  She knows all about wigs, artificial eyelashes, push-up bras, and how to maneuver sexy pivots in four-inch heels after climbing make-shift steps onto the bar-turned-stage.  She knows what to wear....and where to have it made.  She is able to wiggle into and out of exotic costumes in tiny dressing rooms without much air-conditioning.  She is sensitive to rhinestones, sequins, beads, and fabulous jewelry.  She has taste in music, dance, and acting.  Communicating with an audience is second nature.  She's smart too. 

Our conversation drifted effortlessly from personal experiences to environmental concerns, about people we know in common, best places to shop, and arts businesses in our area.  Carla directed my camera for the best angles and knew how to use the space to create a Hollywood, back-lighting effect for the image.  We talked about the decision to perform in drag and about the wording for this portrait.  All in all, the stitched words truly reflect the decision:  "I was meant for this".  She was.  He was.  It was obvious! 

(Above:  Drag Queen, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Over the weekend Steve and I made a whirlwind trip to Washington, DC.  I headed for Bedazzled, a great bead shop on Dupont Circle.  I stitched the portrait using some of my needed something special...something to convey a little of the glamor and beauty that Carlos and Carla enjoy with fulfillment.  Since finishing the portrait, I shared it with Carlos through an email and received one of the nicest messages in response including permission to share a great Facebook Page!  This is one smart professional entertainer who possesses the right mind, body, and soul to make it big because the decision was honestly made...."I was meant for this!"

Hitch Hiker, Decision Portrait

(Above:  Hitch Hiker, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  Thumbs Up!  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand embroidery.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed:  31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.)

Back when I was a child hitch-hiking seemed more prevalent.  College kids hitch-hiked through Europe staying in youth hostels.  Highway entry ramps always had someone with an out stretched thumb.  Hitch-hiking was an ad hoc form of car pooling.  The road was open for adventure. 

I'm not exactly sure what killed hitch-hiking.  The "love fest" mentality of the 60s was somehow replaced by generations of paranoia brought on by feature horror films that cast hitch-hikers as chain saw murderers and those who picked them up as serial rapists.

(Above:  Hitch Hiker, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.)

I've never hitch-hiked.  I've never picked up a hitch hiker.  Until embarking on this series, I would have said, "I'll never do either".  BUT LOOK AT THIS KID!  How can I honestly say, "I'll never pick up a hitch hiker?"  Sometimes a person just needs to get to one place from another.  This kid did.  (His mother nearly fainted when she heard his admission.  He added that he was "scared to death".) 

Although I'm hardly advocating for this sort of transportation or suggesting that it is "safe", I do hope that people viewing this portrait will think about the decision someone makes when sticking ones thumb out in traffic.  They might just need a ride!  I'm hoping, too, that people will think about the decision to stereotype others.   

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Educating At Home, Decision Portrait Series

(Above:  Educating at Home, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  His primary educator for 10 1/2 years.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand stitched and beaded.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed 31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.)

Carol Mesimer is a talented fiber artist, a Mid-Atlantic state quilt instructor, and the designer of many beautiful appliqued pieces.  She is also an advocate for a quality education even if it means homeschooling a child that the public school didn't challenge adequately. 

(Above:  Educating at Home, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Her son is very, very intelligent.  Years ago, the school expected him to "stay with his class".  Carol knew he needed more.  She provided it through high school! 

I stitched the portrait using lots of gold star sequins meant as rather obvious symbols of a great job done in the classroom!  I also tried to stitch a few gold metallic threads around Carol's face in order to draw attention to her.  This was her choice, her decision.  Raising children is difficult enough; she took on even more work!

(Above:  Educating at Home, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Currently, Carol and her son are still traveling together.  He's into computers, F-1, and NASCAR racing while looking for an ideal job.  When asked about the experience of having his mother as a primary instructor, he said, "There were times when I thought nearly anything would be an improvement to learning at home from Mom, but thinking back, I got to travel a lot, we did things other kids couldn't, and it really was a lot of fun."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Only Child Accepted into National Small Art Quilts Juried Show!

(Above: Only Child, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. 16" x 16". Vintage doll's dress, antique quilt fragment, recycled felt, vintage buttons and linens. Hand stitched.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I just received my notification that Only Child was accepted into the 2010 National Small Art Quilt Works Exhibition at The Main Street Gallery in Groton, NY!  The show runs from July 23 - September 5, 2010.  To read more about this little art quilt with additional images, please CLICK HERE!  

This past weekend Steve and I made a whirlwind trip to the Washington, DC area.  We saw an incredible triple bill ballet performance at the Kennedy Center.  It was part of the annual "Ballet Across America" series.  Tulsa Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet danced great modern works.  We caught up with Seia Rassenti and her boyfriend Joseph Watson who now dance for Aspen Santa Fe.  We also ran into Alexandra Tomalonis, the ballet history teacher at the Kirov....who taught both Seia and our son Mathias.

(Above:  Workhouse Arts Center, Lorton, Virginia.  Click on image to enlarge.)

On the trip north we visited the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia.  This was once a federal prison for non-violent offenders.  There was also once a "woman's division" that housed suffragists from the National Woman's Party....brave ladies who fought for the right to vote.  A museum in their honor is planned on the site.  Workhouse is now a most amazing complex of galleries, artists' studios, and cooperative groups.  There's a building for dance, pilates, and yoga.  There are studios for woodworkers, ceramists, painters, sculptures, mosaic and glass artists, printmakers......and FIBER ARTISTS!
(Above:  Studio Fiber Arts, a cooperative gallery space at Workhouse Arts Center.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The various buildings are all very, very carefully maintaining as much of the original prison complex as possible.  The interiors have semi-permanent walls that can be moved in order to accommodate individual studios are the large spaces like the one housing the work of approximately ten fiber artists.  This is Studio Fiber Arts.  It is manned by member volunteers.  We met Joan Hutton and had an excellent conversation and introduction to the complex.  Joan was making lovely red roses from needle felted fibers.  Below is a photo taken down the hallway in her building.

We came to Workhouse, however, because I saw an advertisement for "Yard Art - Art at the Yard", a group exhibition by a group called "New Image Artists".  There were lots of techniques applied in the variety of art quilts by people like BJ Adams and Dominie Nash, but my favorite was undoubtedly Candace Edgerley's Talbot Farm Spring House.  I snapped a photo, wrote to Candace, and got her permission to share the work here!  Click on it to enlarge.  It is an amazingly sheer creation hung in front of a piece of equally sheer black chiffon.  The hanging device creates a space between the two layers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Leaf Dress wins an award!

Last Wednesday I went to the award's presentation and reception for Art From Trash, a juried show at Picture This Gallery on Hilton Head Island.  All three juror's were present.  Mira Scott, gallery owner and also a talented artist, had a full house that evening.  My Leaf Dress won second place!  I also attended wearing one of the two flower dresses, a walking work of art!  It was so much fun.  The photo above includes me, Mira Scott, and Kristie Duncan.  Kristie is an MFA candidate in fibers at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  Her Search Party, a mixed media piece including tree branches, is hanging behind us.

Above is another view of the gallery space.  The Leaf Dress looked great hanging on the wall.  Mira displayed the matching shoes on an empty shoe box underneath.  PERFECT!  My statement for the piece was:

Every leaf, every petal, and every artificial flower that makes up “The Leaf Dress” came from cemetery dumpsters.  Each had been brought to the cemetery as a token of love and a symbol of memory.  Each was headed for a landfill.  Now a wash-and-wear dress carries a fashion statement of unique remembrance and hope:  “Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust…. in sure and certain hope of RECYCLING”.

One of the highlights to the evening was making a purchase from "The Yarn Girls".  They custom created a "green" pompom hair barrette for me!  Including children in art activities is obviously important to Mira and the gallery.  There was a youth's division to the juried show and an educational component focusing on recycling for area school groups.  The gallery is very small, but one corner was reserved for these two cute girls who were learning both retail and charity lessons.  Some of the money they raised went to "green" causes!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Personal Appearances I, Decision Portrait Series

(Above:  On Personal Appearances I, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I've dyed my hair for years.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand embroidery and beading.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed:  31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.)

Kathryn Schmidt is a very talented quilter and the author of Rule-Breaking Quilts.  (This excellent book is also available through the American's Quilter's Society where there's several nice reviews!)   Kathryn's techniques are heralded as great for both beginners and more experienced quilters.  She embraces spontaneity.   "Stack-Slash-Move" and "Easy-Curvy-Sewing" are phrases that suggest energy, creativity, and a youthful exuberance.  Perhaps this is why Kathryn has dyed her hair for years!  The look suits her!  Her decision is a personal appearance choice....and it looks good!

(Above and further below:  On Personal Appearances I, details.  Click on images to enlarge.)

I don't dye my hair.  I've thought about it and know that "the time is right".  There's not so much gray that a dye job would stun people.  There's more than enough gray to be obvious.  Part of me wishes I would have deep, rich auburn hair.  But, I know myself.  I don't have Kathryn's resolve to maintain the color.  I'd have two inch roots before getting around to dying them.....but it would look good!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Xylene Photo Transfer Day

Today in Columbia, South Carolina it was 98° with a 104° heat index.  I don’t even want to know what the humidity was.  Yet, I had planned for it to be “Xylene Photo Transfer Day”…..and it was….despite the sweltering temperature.

There is no way to air-condition the garage when all the doors are wide open for ventilation.  I sort of tied my hair into a big knot on my head, donned my cute respirator, and went to work.

Our garage was built to my specifications.  It’s got an eleven-foot ceiling.  (Picture framing moulding generally comes in 10’ lengths.)  It has two large barn-like doors that open to the outside.  There are upright wooden racks inside.  There has NEVER been a car in the garage.  My husband cuts and joins frames here during the week.  He took the photos.

Now….I’ve got another amazing stack of Decision Portraits on which to work.  Everything must be done in time for the exhibition at The City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston….opening September 15!

I've posted several completed DECISION PORTRAITS today.....after a nice, cold bath!  It gave me some practice with this new blog template.  I've got a few others that are complete but am waiting to hear back from the "model" before posting.  I had been putting one up every other day.....but fortunately I'm working faster than that and my coming week is more than a little busy!  I'd say I was "snowed under".....but not in this heat.  I guess I'm "drowning" in both sweat and work!  Please be sure to scroll down to see:

Die Wanted to Die at Home
Knight Riders
For Science

He Wanted to Die at Home, Decision Portrait Series.

(Above:  He Wanted to Die at Home, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I refused to put my father in a home; Three years of loving care until he died.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand stitched.)

Rhonda Hall is a talented, self-taught photographer who also works in mixed media.  She creates wonderful work, writes passionately about our environment and has a great blog.  Please visit it HERE

(Above:  He Wanted to Die at Home, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Rhonda also understands the concept behind my Decision Portrait Series and knew I wanted to present straight-forward decisions without value judgment.  To do this, I often need to depict more than one option for a particularly difficult situation.  An earlier portrait, On Dealing with Alzheimer's, resonated with Rhonda.  She has worked as a nurse and has dealt with the myriad of issues involved with caring for the elderly.  She understand the choice to find professional care outside the home.  Rhonda's mother died in a hospital when she was only twelve.  Thus, when it came to her father, she made another that required tireless, loving care for three years.  Rhonda volunteered to share this with me through stitches.

I stitched the portrait almost as a companion to the earlier work....using similar thread choices and a minimal border at just the top and bottom.  I plan on hanging these two side-by-side.  Each is a powerful image.  Together, they are intensely profound and will touch many people at the upcoming exhibition.

(Above:  He Wanted to Die at Home, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The decisions one generation faces in handling their elder relatives can be stressful.  What is right for one person really isn't necessarily right for another.  Rhonda's loving care was a decision that required a great deal of work.  It was the best thing she could do.  Thank you so much, Rhonda, for being part of this series. 

Knight Riders, Decision Portrait Series

There is no photo on this post.  This is intentional.  I finished this piece over a month ago and then couldn't decide if, how, when, where, etc. about posting it.  It is controversial.

Controversy isn't new to the Decision Portrait Series.  I've created pieces on abortion, Pro Life, Atheism, and all sorts of other subjects.  Yet, this portrait is different.  The visual impact of it is so obvious that there aren't even any stitched words on it.

Last week I selected a random blog reader and wrote a message asking for an opinion.  The feedback was very, very helpful.  It reminded me of being in the third grade at a Lab School in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.  Lab schools were public institution that just happened to be inside college education buildings.  College students got hands on experience teaching mini-lessons to us.  The rooms had close circuit monitors and we had many interesting experiences including an occasional "art history" class....complete with slides.  We were show Goya's The Shootings of May 3rd/The Disasters of War.  To this day, it is the image that flashes through my mind when simply hearing the word "violence".  So....I don't really want unsuspecting people, especially regular fiber arts readers, to click to my blog and be face-to-face with two members of the Ku Klux Klan if they don't want to see such a thing!  It is frightful.  It is also a decision.

The blog post statement is below.  If you want to see the artwork, CLICK HERE.  I've buried the post in my "strata blog"....a place I bury things in blogland.  I "dug a hole" on the second page for this one and dated it in 2007!

Statement for Knight Riders:
The Decision Portrait Series is about decisions....all sorts of decisions.  It is NOT about establishing value judgment.  Each piece is meant as a straight forward presentation of a decision made by the person(s) depicted.  I was going to stitch the words:  KKK Members but this is obvious.

Some of the pieces in this series subtly ask viewers, "What would I do it this situation?"  Others remind people about a family member or friend facing a difficult choice.  Many bring awareness to religious, moral, social, and health related topics; but, nonetheless, the focus is on the decision...someone's personal option.  "Right" and "wrong" aren't was is important.....this is just a look at a DECISION.  This portrait is no except. 

Knight Riders challenges viewers to THINK about their reactions.  It asks, "How would I respond if I knew someone in the KKK?"  Who knows?  Maybe you do.....and don't even know it.  In truth, there are all sorts of controversial, pro-choice, many animal rights groups, most political and religious affiliations, various environmental groups, etc.  Do you belong to one of these?  What do those on the "opposing side" think of you?  How would you like them to react to your membership decision?

These two men belong to the Ku Klux Klan and were part of a march in Georgia.  I read about it on the Internet.  The townspeople weren't particularly happy about it but they respected the group's right to have such a parade.  They had to THINK about their reactions to a decision they wouldn't have made themselves.  My portrait is meant to challenge viewers with the same question.....How would you react?

For Science, Decision Portrait

(Above:  For Science, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  My body will be donated to a medical school.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; framed:  31" x 25".  Hand embroidered and beaded. Click on image to enlarge.)

Rita Blockson is a talented fiber artist who works in quilting and felting.  She is also a life long educator and author.  Her work is wonderful and she's always passing on her extensive knowledge through classes, quilting guilds, and various other activities.  Yet, there's something very special about Rita's generosity that is most unexpected.   Rita has left her body to a medical school.....volunteering it for the sake of science.

Rita knows that her heart is generous but it is also INTERESTING.  Why?  Well, the first open heart surgery was performed in 1952.  At five months of age Rita became a "pioneer" in this 1953!  She underwent open heart surgery again at age seven, 1959.  By 1993 she was diagnosed with serious heart problems again.  She was not expected to survive the impending heart surgery but knew her lifelong health issues made her an excellent candidate for scientific studies at the medical school.  She signed the donation papers.

(Above:  For Science, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Rita wrote, "Little did I know the can of worms that I opened ... because the Dean of the medical school had to get involved in the donation to ensure that Jason (her son), as a current medical student, did not "encounter" me in a classroom situation."  Fortunately, things didn't come to that.  Rita is alive and well....quilting, felting, and teaching in Arizona.  Her website is HERE.  Her blog is HERE.  The donation form is still valid....for when the time comes!
(Photo of donor card....altered to hide personal information!)

I stitched the portrait using some of the artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.  To some people, that might sound odd because Rita will not necessarily have a grave site of her own.  Yet, I know that medical schools are very, very respectful.  I've been the the medical school cemetery for the University of South Carolina....and it does have artificial flower arrangements!  (I wrote about this special place HERE!)  Flowers are given as a sign of respect and that's why I added them to this portrait.  The sterling silver pin was from a "box lot" I bought at a local auction house.  It wanted it to be used for "something special".

(Above:  For Science, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

There's one more thing about this piece that I can't fail to mention.  Rita's health issues undoubtedly influenced her son's decision to work in the medical field.  He did finish school and is a talented pediatric plastic surgeon doing craniofacial work at Payton Manning Children's Hospital.  He has performed MIRACLES in Guatamala with the Hirsche Smiles group out of Utah.....27 cleft palette operations in seven days.

CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO.....WARNING....You will shed tears as the miracles happen!  The video is a powerful 14 minutes of happy futures being given to those who were born with facial problems.

Warrior, Decision Portrait

(Above:  Warrior, Decision Portrait Series.  Beaded letters read:  Prayer, Genetic Testing, Radiation, Missing Work, Colonoscopy, Fear, Mastectomy, Preventive Hysterectomy, Chemotherapy, Remission, Losing Hair, Cancer Questions, Survivor, Insurance Problems, Urging Others to Get.....Stitched words:  Regular Check Ups.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand beaded and stitched.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; Framed 31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.)

This is Tina Kuhr, my very best friend....from clear back in the fourth grade.  We were Girl Scouts together and in most of the same college-prep classes throughout high school.  We were disasters at middle school summer tennis camp and took refuge in the library.  We hated gym.  We were "smart".  Our fathers were Slippery Rock University professors.  We both graduated early from the college of our choice.  Tina went to Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh; their scholarship offer was better than MIT.  Tina's REALLY engineer.  The first wedding we were ever in was mine.  The second was hers.  We are both the mother of two sons.
(Above:  Warrior, Decision Portrait.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

We are also very different.  I don't have a blood relative whose ever had cancer.  It seems that everyone in Tina's family did.  Sadly, Tina is now part of the eldest generation in her family.  Cancer claimed most and it's taken several swings at her too.  Tina, however, is determined to see her sons live long lives.  She's a WARRIOR fighting cancer.

I signed Tina up to participate in this series before many of the other cancer portraits.  Yet, I didn't stitch it right away.  I think their was a bit of serendipity involved.  The piece morphed into something different than I originally intended.  It "speaks" to EVERYONE....directly!  It speaks to me as well.
(Above:  Warrior, Decision Portrait.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

There are many lucky people like me who are otherwise not directly involved with cancer decisions.  They will be among the exhibition viewers who can look at the decision to have a mastectomy over chemo or vice versa and think, "What would I do?"  This is thought-provoking, powerful, and yet is a hypothetical they might never (hopefully) have to face in reality.  Tina's portrait lists all sort of issues and poses many of the same questions.  Yet, it goes a step further by focusing on a very simple decision.  This is a decision each person could make:  Should I get a regular check up?
(Above:  Warrior, Decision Portrait.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Tina's fight against cancer means she makes this simple decision frequently.  Last year we both turned fifty.  Tina went for a colonoscopy.  A pre-cancerous polyp was found and removed.  I've had mine too....and just scheduled a regular check up with my gynecologist for this year!  There's no link for this portrait.....because the best "link" is likely in your address book or's your doctor's telephone number.  I know this series isn't supposed to be about value judgment.....I'm considering this one "common sense"!

Smoker, Decision Portrait

(Above: Smoker, Decision Portrait. Stitched words: I enjoy it! Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched and beaded. Unframed: 25" x 19"; Framed: 31" x 25".  Click on image to enlarge.)

Years ago my husband and I started Mouse House, a small custom picture framing business. It took off like a rocket. We needed help but didn't really know who to hire until a college coed suggested her boyfriend for a "summer job" until he went to law school. Well, it worked out....except that he quit for law school. We told him to find his own replacement. He sent his brother John.....who stayed through college and graduate school. Of course, business continued to grow so we told John to "bring a friend to work". John brought David Fancher, his oldest and best friend since childhood....and we'll all Facebook friends now.
(Above:  Smoker, Decision Portrait.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

David smoked even then. Lots of people suggested he quit. He always said the same thing:  
I enjoy it!
He still does. This is solidly HIS DECISION and I thank him wholeheartedly for sharing it in stitches!