Sunday, February 28, 2010
(Above: Happily Ever After Again, Decision Portrait Series. 2010. Framed: 31" x 37"; unframed 25" x 31". Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beaded and stitched. Words: 1994 Married 1995 Divorced 2009 Remarried. Click on image to enlarge.)
Love and marriage! They're complicated matters for many....and I'm really glad I don't fully understand the emotional toll of a significant break up. I met my husband Steve during an Ohio State football game. I'd been a college freshman for less than two weeks. He was a first year graduate student. I wouldn't date him for months thinking he was "too old" for me....twenty-two. I really had no serious experience with guys at all. I was scared. But, once I gave in, we became a couple....waiting for the "right time" to get married. Had it not been for college tuition, the need to introduce one another to our parents, and all the other social requirements of an actual ceremony, I would have married Steve within a month. That was in the fall of 1977. We got married in 1981....and have joked that the only way out of this relationship is for one of us to die...which is only a "joke" because it is true.
(Above: Happily Ever After Again, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Over the years, we've had many friends suffer the pains of divorce, failed relationships, and the problems of being both "married" to the "wrong" person as well as "being single" when a relationship was most wanted. I've come to appreciate my own happiness on a deeper level. Love and marriage really are complicated. There's no "easy" answer.
When asked why our relationship works, we don't have a "magic" formula. What seems "simple" to us really isn't "easy". So many external factors could change everything in an instant. What brought us together, what keeps us together, what could drive up apart, and what would allow us to find one another is as complicated as the road these two people have walked. Once they were married, then divorced; but, they found one another again.
The two recently came to the opening reception of my Blues Chapel and Last Words. I would have thought they've been together forever. They are happy. I hope they'll stay just that way. I hope to stay happy and married myself. We'll all have to work at it....because love and marriage are complicated.
By the way, I've updated the Decision Portrait blog with new ideas for future work (MY "WISH LIST"). Since I've got an upcoming exhibition, I REALLY NEED more people willing to share one of their decisions. It is EASY to participate. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a digital image of yourself and a note about your decision. I will provide a standard "model's release" and a self addressed, stamped return envelope. I'll share the work with each participant before posting it and will invite them to all opening receptions when the work is shown in public!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 9:40 AM
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
(Above: Family Role Models, Decision Portrait Series. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Framed 31" x 37"; unframed 25" x 31". Stitched words: Go to work Mom; Stay at home Dad. Click on image to enlarge.)
I started the Decision Portrait Series in May 2008. Immediately I loved the work. It was part scavenger hunt, part technical challenge, part creative impulse; and part promotion. Of course, blogging about each piece was the "promotion"....which completed the cycle because it was also the catalyst for the "hunt". By this I mean, I posted every finished work on my blog....hoping that someone would read it and find the Decision Portrait blog. I created this special place in June 2008....to explain the concept to potential "models" and document the series. This blog includes a "wish list"....suggestions for future people willing to share an important life choice through stitches. (I'm still looking for "models"!)
(Above: Family Role Models, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Of course, I also talk about this series....A LOT! works....but slowly. Many of my early conversations about the Decision Portraits included someone telling me, "You should get a Facebook page". I was reluctant. I needed another Internet connection like a "whole in the head". I didn't want to be part of something called a social network. Yet, I did really, really want to connect with people...promote my series as a way to find new portraits.
In March I finally gave in....went to Facebook....created a profile...uploaded Decision Portraits into a photo album...and hoped for the best.
(Above: Family Role Models, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
The BEST happened. Facebook put me in touch with hundreds of people and resulted in several portraits...including this one! I went to Slippery Rock Area High School with the great guy in these photos...back in the 70s....we graduated in 1977. Yet, we'd completely lost touch...until Facebook.
He's everything that a husband and father strives to be: kind, patient, loving, understanding, compassionate, honest, reliable, trusting and trustworthy, passionate, and spiritually good. He describes his lovely wife with touching words of sincere endearment and total respect. Their partnership is strong and deep. They are adoring parents. The years have brought hardships and joys, including bouts with breast cancer and a child born with a disability. Yet, the joys come in part from the closeness of shared values and shared decisions. She's a "go-to-work" Mom; he's supportive and proud. He's a "stay-at-home" Dad; she's supportive and proud. I'm honored to have stitched this work. I thank them both for sharing their choices.,,,,and thank Facebook for putting us together after so many years!
(Above: Family Role Models, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Stereotypical is something I really only know from television reruns of impossible sitcoms that I don't even watch and never saw when originally aired. It isn't part of my life. I'm happily married to another wonderful man....who cooks, cleans, does the shopping and laundry, pays the bills, mows the lawn, takes out the trash, calculates the taxes, and works along side me at our business Mouse House. My husband Steve has assumed all these household chores in order that I have time in my studio to pursue fiber arts. He knows that I need time to make the artwork and time to do all the "paperwork" associated with being a professional artist. One of the "paperwork" tasks is to submit for solo show opportunities.
I started submitting the Decision Portrait Series last spring. Believe it or not, I just signed TWO exhibition contracts for the work. One will be a large installation at the at Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC during the MOJA 2010 festival, September - October, 2010. The other is a smaller show at Waterworks Gallery in Salisbury, NC for spring 2011. I've over the moon about these venues!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 7:01 PM
Thursday, February 18, 2010
|(Above: Pulling the Plug, Decision Portrait Series. Framed: 31" x 25"; unframed 25" x 19". Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beading and embroidery. Stitched words: I took my mother off life support. Click on image to enlarge.)|
Steve and I moved to Columbia in January 1987. We met people quickly, especially as our custom picture framing business started to grow. Toni M. Elkins was one of the first artists we came to know. She encouraged me to "be creative" long before I actually considered this advise! She's been supportive ever since I started turning stitches into fiber art. Our relationship mostly centered around the arts community. I really didn't know much about her family....just tidbits over the years, a casual mention of a daughter's wedding or the fact that her house (like ours) caught fire. (Hers sadly burnt down; ours was miraculously salvaged.)
(Above: Pulling the Plug, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)
Recently, we were discussing our work. I mentioned my Decision Portraits, explaining the concepts and talking about future ideas.....like needing someone who had taken a loved one off life support. Immediately, Toni said, "I did that! I'll pose for this decision".
While I snapped her photo and she signed the model's release, we talked about the difficult time she endured. She prayed for a miracle. She prayed to be spared from this decision. She came to grips with the necessary paperwork....her signature that allowed life support to cease. Reluctantly she signed; she mourns; she knows she did the "right" thing for her beloved mother; and her heart beats for all those who face the same decision.
Each finished portrait is shared via email with the "model" before being posted here on my blog. This gives each person an opportunity to see the work first, read my words and suggest changes. It is also when I ask if using the model's name is "okay".... or whether the blog post should be written in "third person". Toni wrote back, "Thanks for giving me closure on this whole emotional thing".
My first thoughts swirled around a way to connect the stitching to Toni's decision. Without rising from my studio stool, I reached for the plastic bag of the tiniest artificial cemetery flowers. Everything I needed was within arms length....serendipitously....a very, very smooth transition from all the graveyard inspiration to this earlier series. While couching the words, I thought about "closure" and "transition". I made several important decisions.
The focal point of Blues Chapel, Tapestry in Blue (portraits of the 24 early female blues singers), is now in storage. It was created in 2006 and responsible for so many other pieces....the entire resulting installation. It got me four solo shows before this last one. Yet, it is time to move on. I'm working on exhibition proposals for Last Words. (This is the grave rubbing art quilts and associated work.) I'm working on the Decision Portrait Series too. As much as I truly love Blues Chapel, I've "pulled the plug"....ready for the next phase of my artistic life.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 10:22 AM
Sunday, February 07, 2010
(Above: Tapestry in Blue, 51" x 112", 2006. The unit is the focal point for Blues Chapel, honoring 24 early female blues singers. The 24 mixed media portraits are hung as a single unit. Click on image to enlarge.)
Blues Chapel and Last Words were installed with the volunteer help of my "Artist's Way" group friends including Dolly Patton (and her daughter Sims), Margaret Neville, Regan Regan, Kay Reardon, Mary Langston, and Kim Bendillo.
(Above: Last Words, an installation of cemetery related art quilts and mixed media pieces surrounding a grouping of sheer chiffon banners on which collected epitaphs were "written" in free motion embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)
Without a doubt, the exhibition looks much better than I could have done alone. Kim Bendillo, a professional interior designer at a big architectural company (Garvin Design), "set the cemetery". Mary Langston assisted. I ease-dropped on their conversations about my work and was treated to unique insights....things I didn't realize about my own work! It was really exciting to hear my art being discussed with such seriousness and respect. The resulting display is stunning. The groupings make sense and are beautiful together while highlighting each piece.
(Above: Never Accurate But Never Dull (left) and Ready for Burial (right). Grave Rubbing Art Quilts. White artificial cemetery flowers at the base. Click on image to enlarge.)
Sharon Licata, my friend and fellow Gallery 80808/Vista Studios artist (stone carver) helped me set the lights through the large space. My mentor Stephen Chesley calmed my nerves, supported my plans, and suggested the white artificial flowers at the base of the wall on which Ready for Burial was hung (above). Kay, Margaret, and Regan sorted and placed them.
The reception was on Friday night, 6 - 8....even though the exhibition stayed open until midnight! My partner and caterer for the evening was The Blue Martini, a late night bar with live music every Thursday through Saturday. They are located off the common hallway to the gallery. Eboniramm (above) sang a free blues tribute at 7 PM. I had "ushers" in Blues Chapel who passed out fliers about the show with advertisements from my sponsors, Shives Funeral Home, Fletcher Monuments, and the Christian Counseling Center.
(Above: Shannon Purvis, owner of Body Rites...a local tattoo shop... and her boyfriend Porter Barron as ushers for Blues Chapel. Shannon is also part of my Decision Portrait Series. She posed for Tattoo Artist with the stitched words "Marked for Life". Below: Shannon during the reception...please note that i'm in the background, center....one black shoe and one white shoe on tights with the opposite shade! Click on either image to enlarge.)
I had to wear something "special" for the reception. I had purchased an interesting pair of tights while in Stockholm with Annica (over a year ago) but never wore them. The reception was the perfect occasion....one leg black and the other white. A pair of black patent leather, four inch heeled shoes was altered....one was painted white just hours before I put them on! It was a blast! I also carried a martini glass...filled with a BLUE LOUNGE LIZARD! I don't like martinis...but a margarita with blue liqueur and lime slices and a salty rim completed my outfit!
(Above: Later I had to replace the black-and-white high heels for my comfortable felt studio slippers. They are part cat, part mouse, and part jester! The black velvet dress was a "hand-me-up" from my younger sister Sonya....altered to fit me because I'm so short waisted. Click on image to enlarge. Photo by Kim Bendillo)
(Above: Blues Chapel, view of south side of the room. Included: Three of six faux-stained glass fiber pieces, genuine mahogany church pew, one "Angel in Mourning" piece, and a wall of "Elements on Blue" series with Taking Flight in the middle. The "Elements in Blue" series and Taking Flight are all free motion machine embroidery directly into hand stitching with heavy yarns on polyester with heat-transfer designs. Taking Flight sold on Saturday night! Click on image to enlarge.)
Below are dozens of photos (in no particular order....sorry!) I'll caption them and they can all be "clicked on" for enlargements. Ordinarily I'd pare this number down to just a few but my parents couldn't make it to the show due to severe snow storms between here and there.....so, I hope everyone enjoys them!
(Above: Two soldiers looking at Killed Instantly, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. Photo by Kim Bendillo. Click on image to enlarge.)
The exhibit remains open through Tuesday, February 16, 2010 Monday - Wednesday from 11 AM until 6 PM. Next Thursday - Saturday I'm keeping "bar hours"....11 AM until Midnight! Should be fun...and I'm already getting lots of stitching done in my studio while manning the show!
(Above: Dr. Bob Jolly, putting a "red dot" (indicating that the piece is SOLD) on Stained Glass XVIII. Click on image to enlarge.)
There have even been some SALES....which is most unexpected! Being an installation artist, I approach art making as a serious attempt to create a special environment....an atmosphere that evokes a particular sensation of time and place. The exhibition was about SHARING uniquely sacred places....a chapel remembering early female Blues singers and a cemetery that asks viewers questions about how they'd like to be remembered themselves. All I hoped was that my work TOUCHED people. Sales, however, are always GREAT!
(Above: Cindi Boiter, Bob's wife, and I posing by Stained Glass XVIII. Cindi is more than a friend. She's a talented writer. She blogged about my show, promoted it on Facebook, came, and then bought the piece for her Victorian styled house....a perfect artwork that will fill the dual function of beauty while giving the illusion of a real, architectural, stained glass feature in her home! Click on image to enlarge.....THANK YOU BOB and CINDI! By the way....Cindi's blog post about this show and me is about the most impressive article I've ever read with regard to my work. I am truly honored. Click HERE to read her well crafted words.)
Now.....just the photos and captions! Let me know what you think!
(Above: Blues Chapel, View from the north looking across the focal wall to the southern wall. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Stained Glass XVIII, XIX, and XX with one of the "Angels in Mourning" series. One corner of Blues Chapel. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: The other three faux-stained glass fiber pieces (XV, XVI, and XVII) with another "Angels in Mourning" work....and the opposite corner of Blues Chapel. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Stained Glass XV, XVI, and XVII with church pew and Altar for Forgiveness. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Blues Chapel with church pew. Artwork from left to right: Blues Madonna; Cats Leave Paw Prints on the Heart (Grave Rubbing Art Quilt); The Blues (abstract embellished fibers), Ma Rainey, Domestic; Elements in Blue: Blessing, and Altar for Forgiveness. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Tapestry in Blue, mixed media focal point for Blues Chapel honoring 24 early female blues singers. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Reverence, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt....attached to one of the black curtain panels...just outside my studio door. Also...the "margarita" styled flower arrangement sent by my Mom and Dad, my sister Sonya and Vipin and their little dog Lulu. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View through epitaph banners to western wall in atrium, especially to Spirit in Stone, Angels in Mourning Series. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View through epitaph banners to northern wall in atrium, especially to On Earth a Bud, Angels in Mourning Series and Lost at Sea, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. Click on image to enlarge.
(Above: View to epitaph banners from large, side hallway including two "Angels in Mourning" series works and Artificial Flowers, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above and below: View down the large, side hallway past two 7 1/2' long grave rubbing paneled curtains to the atrium with the epitaph banners. Click on image to enlarge.)
Now....a little "side story". During the twelve weeks that I facilitated a recent "Artist's Way" group, we (the group) spoke about our current projects. Naturally, I talked about creating Blues Chapel and Last Words....about dumpster diving for artificial cemetery flowers....about grave rubbings and ways by which society remembers their deceased family members. Margaret Neville, one of the members, owns The Mad Platter....a paint-it-yourself ceramic studio carried on the conversation. Her business is very near a floral shop that produces funeral sprays. Margaret's "favorite" arrangement was one with a telephone and a "Jesus Called" banner. We found this hilarious. A few moments before the reception officially started, such an arrangement (but with a cell phone!) was delivered. It included a card from the entire group....THANK YOU SO MUCH! Honestly, I wanted this small hallway to become a faux-chapel niche and intended to make some sort of funeral spray for this location. Because I ended up in "over drive" creating six major pieces instead....this "vision" was simply going to go undone....until serendipitously the perfect spray arrived!
(Above: Our Lady of Found Art Objects Triptych; One Less to Love on Earth, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt; and JESUS CALLED funeral spray from my Artist's Way group. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Photo taken from where JESUS CALLED funeral spray stands....looking past Tomorrow in Heaven, Angels in Mourning Series; Ready for Burial, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt; to the main gallery entrance with Blues Chapel. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: The back side of the wall on which Ready for Burial hangs.....a place for Time Flies, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt besides two "Angels in Mourning" Series pieces. The pedestal provided a place for sponsors' literature. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: The Hour is Near, Angels in Mourning Series seen through two of the free motion stitched chiffon banners of epitaphs. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Blues Chapel, including Tapestry in Blue, focal point honoring 24 early female blues singers; Bessie's Quilt; Blues Bible (which sold on Saturday night); an "Angels in Mourning" series pieces as well as a small "Elements in Blues" embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Spirit in Stone, Angel in Mourning Series seen through free motion embroidered epitaphs on chiffon banners. Artificial cemetery flowers cover the edge of the room's flooring. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Southern wall in the atrium including a few of the free motion epitaphs on chiffon banners on the left and artificial cemetery flowers ringing the edge of the room. Above, from left to right: A Bud on Earth, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt; Sweetly Sleeping, After the Toils of Life, 'Til We Meet Again, Angels in Mourning Series; and Death the Divider, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Farewell, Beloved!, Angels in Mourning Series seen through a chiffon banner embroidered with epitaphs. From top to bottom on left: Sacred, Be Ye Also Ready, and Thy Blessed Will Be Done, Grave Rubbing Art Quilts. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Same wall as above except no chiffon banner....plus The Hour is Near, Angels in Mourning Series on right. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Blues Chapel during the reception. I'm on the far right talking to Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, Fletcher Monuments, sponsors of the exhibition. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Another shot early during the reception. I'm in the center...notice the black and white, alternating shoes/tights. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Another photo early in the reception. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Ready for Burial, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt and view to the main gallery with Blues Chapel. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: The entrance to Blues Chapel and Last Words including Ready for Burial, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt and view past the main gallery entrance....looking to the atrium with Last Words. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View of hallway between the main gallery entrance and the atrium....where My Epitaph Quilt, Eccles II, and Weep Not For Me (an others) hang. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: JESUS CALLED....funeral spray gift from my Artist's Way group! Click on image to enlarge!)
(Above: Guest book and brochures with flower arrangement from my sister Wanda in Munich! Click on image to enlarge. THANK YOU WANDA! THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL!)
(Above: Two 7 1/2' grave rubbing panels hanging with black curtains in large, side hallway off the atrium. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View to Farewell, Beloved!, Angels in Mourning as seen through the epitaphs on chiffon. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View through epitaphs on chiffon banners to western atrium wall. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View through epitaphs on chiffon banners to eastern atrium wall. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View of epitaphs on chiffon banners hanging from the skylights in the Gallery 80808/Vista Studios' atrium. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Another view of the western, atrium wall as seen through the chiffon banners. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Detail of free motion embroidered epitaphs on chiffon banners. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above and below: More photos of the free motion embroidered epitaphs on sheer chiffon banners hanging from the atrium skylights. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: View of the southern atrium wall through the chiffon banners. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above....okay....here's another view. I just LOVE how this looks....it is ghostly, legible, and gently moves in the breeze from the heating/air unit. People were encouraged to walk through the field of fabric. Many were moved nearly to tears. That's when I knew my efforts were truly worth it! Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Another photo from the entrance. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Looking down the large, side hallway...past the 7 1/2' grave rubbing panels to the atrium with the epitaphs on chiffon banners. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: Be Ye Also Ready and Thy Blessed Will Be Done, Grave Rubbing Art Quilts as seen through the epitaphs on chiffon banners. Click on image to enlarge.)
(Above: FINALLY....the last image.....the artificial flowers collected after many dumpster diving excursions to the cemetery. All petals were carefully dissected from their plastic stems and veins, washed, rinsed, and dried in our guest bathroom! Okay....my husband is saintly in his patience for my bizarre art ideas! The results, of course, were colorfully PERFECT! Click on image to enlarge.)
Posted by Susan Lenz at 6:59 PM