Saturday, August 28, 2010

Youngest Child, Decision Portrait....and tagging keys!

(Above: Youngest Child, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I took over the family business. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stain muslin. Hand stitched. 25" x 31" unframed; 31" x 37" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

Family businesses have been around...well...forever! Yet, it is a known fact that the transition from one generation to the next is a very, very difficult one. Traditionally, a family business is past from father to eldest son....after years of apprenticeship and a very gradual process of "letting go" and "taking over". When the eldest son is unable or unwilling, the next son has an opportunity. When there are no sons, a daughter might get a chance. Rarely does the youngest child figure prominently, especially a girl!

(Above: Youngest Child, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

That isn't the case here! Let me introduce my father and my youngest sister Sonya. The Cultural Studies Academy was founded in 1963. It was initially a college credit summer program teaching the German language. It grew to include other subjects and courses that weren't "for academic credit". Along the way, Lenz Travel Services was established as a full service travel agency. Specialty tours were conducted to exotic places all over the world. Airport Orbit, Inc. was added....a shuttle and car service in western Pennsylvania. Property was bought too. There are several rental houses and offices that fall under the umbrella of this "family business".

(Above: Youngest Child, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Once upon a time, I was a part time secretary for The Cultural Studies Academy....long before it grew into such a conglomerate. I went off to Ohio State University, got married, and started my own business. I never considered "taking over the family business" and it didn't consider me for the job either! The next daughter, as there are no sons, did work full time in the business for a few years. She had another calling. The third daughter also worked full time in the business for a few years but left as well. The job sort of became Sonya's....whether she wanted it or not! She didn't intend to move back to Slippery Rock and take over but gradually, gently and with love and attention the transition came.

Sonya is a terrific business woman. My parents are both quite happy that the business that developed is in such capable hands. Please visit Sonya's website....she's got places for you to go!

Okay.....the post above has been planned for day. Yes...I email each participant(s) (in this case, both my youngest sister Sonya and my Dad) and wait for their response. Then I edit, upload images, and "publish". This particular post, however, was also coordinated with my artistic efforts this week and today. I knew I would post Youngest Child along with some very special photos..... taken in my studio....the final artwork being completed for the upcoming exhibition at City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston.

This show is called "Personal Grounds". It has a very, very simple statement:


Obviously, the 107 portraits illustrate the "decisions" made. There will be two unique sculptural units.....old doors covered in peeling paint, various keys, nails, and other symbols for human life. There will be keys.....LOTS OF KEYS!

The keys are tagged:
The Key to Happiness
The Key to Knowledge
The Key to Wisdom
The Key to Success
The Key to Hell
The Key to Fame
The Key to Fortune
The Key to the City
The Key to Diligence
The Key to Forgiveness
The Key to My Heart
The Key to the World
The Key to Evil
The Key to Compassion
The Key to Understanding....etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

(Above: Keys being created in my studio. Click on image to enlarge.)

There are HUNDRED OF KEYS! They will occupy a installation unto themselves...the physical notion of human if a real key could really exist....really unlock the way to a desired reality. This past week I've been creating all these keys.

(Above: Keys from DEA Bathroom Machineries...above... and from my Dad....below...along with a pile of free motion embroidered cording on the right. Click on image to enlarge.)

First, I create the unique cording....zig zag stitching over three different yarns. Then, I created the tags. (In a former life I must have been a kidnapper....I LOVE clipped letters....and the entire process of making words and sentences as if a "ransom note"! I actually have envelopes organized by letter....A, B, C, D, .....X, Y, Z.....which I regularly file with clipped letter from early 20th century advertisement clipping or late 19th c. art book text.) Finally, I attached the keys and took all day....hundreds of keys were created!

So... from where did all these unique keys come? Well, a great many were ordered from DEA Bathroom Machineries in Murphys, California. I found this place when I had a show at Ironstone Vineyards in California. It is WONDERFUL...and they have mail order! Yet, the other half of the keys came from my Dad.....the man who, along with my mother, founded the Cultural Studies Academy.

My Dad saved all sorts of keys....from his days as a teaching and/or research assistant at The Ohio State University, from his fledgling business in Europe, from the first investment properties, from his first car. He had them in a coffee his garage. I saw them over a year ago and ask to "have them for art".......Well, Dad, THEY'RE ART NOW!

(Above: Tagged keys in the process of being created. Click on image to enlarge.)

Some of my keys are large. Some of my keys are tiny. Some of my keys are labeled with "Do not duplicate". All of the keys for this installation have a handmade tag. Yet, it is still quite remarkable to think about all the keys I've ever had...the keys we've all had....the keys issued to former employees, the keys that no longer work, the lost keys, the forgotten keys, the stupid keys to carry-on luggage, the diary keys, the keys that no longer work, the keys to cars that no longer run, the keys to apartment building that no longer exist, the keys to safe deposit boxes and post office accounts, the keys to bicycle locks and high school gym lockers, the keys to so many secret, supposedly safe places....trusted havens. We all have such memories. I've been swimming in these memories and their keys while transforming my Dad's key collection into art.

(Above: The Key to Love.....very, very small. The Key to Forgiveness....quite large. This is not necessarily how one finds these special qualities in life!) Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Looking into a box of tagged keys. Click on image to enlarge.)

Almost all of the text is vintage....from the first three decades of the 20th century to the waning years of the nineteenth century. Even the "complete words" generally date from a 1909 edition of Howard Chandler Christy's illustrated American Beauties by Harrison Fisher and other books that glorified the "Gibson Girl". Okay....I confess...the colored papers and letters were from Art Business News, Dance Europe, and Legends Magazine (a publication about South Carolina's Kiawah don't subscribe. I frame for the editor.) There's something rare and wonderful about turning the past into a piece of accessible artwork for the future! I LOVE TAGGING KEYS! Thank you, Dad, for such a wonderful day.....touching all those keys that once opened so many doors for you, for Mom, for all of us!


Anonymous said...

Well, Susan, I never thought that all those keys had as much "in them" as you found. I am very happy that I kept them. More happy that you saw them, and most happy that you where able to put them into an ART project.
They, the keys of old, are a thing of posterity and all those memories that went with them, when I looked at them, they are now immortalized in art.

Karoda said...

Susan, I just wanted to let you know that I love the work with the keys and the fact they belonged to your father is making me wonder about the everyday objects of not just myself but those of family members as well.

Rachel said...

I have been saving keys and always thought I would do something with them. I am very impressed and moved by what you have made of these many keys. In fact it is just incredible.

lindacreates said...

How special this portrait is. The keys are amazing! I look forward to seeing the photos of the old doors with the keys hanging on them.


Fabulous Susan...and it's not just the beautiful subject! hehe I'm so proud to be a part of your Decisions Series! By the you need more keys??? I still have a can full of Dad's keys that never made it to Lenzelhof!!! Let me know....and here you thought you had them all!!! Love you!--Sonya

CSA Tours said...

The Cultural Studies Academy thanks Susan Lenz for this very nice link and post! We love you, Susan!

Airport Orbit said...

Airport Orbit, Inc. is happy to be linked here on your incredible blog. Thank you Suzie-Q!

Angelcat said...

Your key exhibit is going to be wonderful I'm sure, what a great idea.

Rhonda Hall said...

Susan, How I love your tagged keys! I have always been intrigued with keys, especially old ones. Just as your father saved many keys, so did mine...and his father before him! I remember playing with them as a child, wondering what special place they could open to whoever happened to have the right key. And the tags - I too have my own files full of letters cut out from all kinds of sources. I have even drawn my own letters, and cut them out to add to "ransom notes"! I think you are a woman after my own heart. By the way, do you have a key labeled 'to my heart'?

Susan said...

Hi Rhonda!
The City Gallery at Waterfront Park has agreed to sell the individual tagged keys for $15 each, cash and carry! Knowing that this was a possibility, I made more than one tagged key with what I hoped would be "popular" Key to Happiness and, yes, The Key to My Heart! Thanks for the support!