Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hung By the Chimney With Care, a window installation

(Above: S & S Art Supply on Columbia's Main Street ... the setting for my window installation Hung By the Chimney With Care. Click on any image in this post for an enlargement.)

Last spring, from the moment I knew about the pile of abandoned socks in the vacant laundry building on the grounds of the South Carolina State Mental Hospital, I knew what I wanted to do. I had a foggy vision of suspended socks and a make-shift fireplace and a concept of tying these found objects to Clement Moore's famous The Night Before Christmas, particularly the line reading "Hung By the Chimney With Care". I knew I wanted to suggest remembrance of all those in every community who are unable to celebrate a traditional holiday.

Serendipitously, I was asked by S & S Art Supply, a Main Street store, to create both an interior exhibit of work and mount a window installation ... in DECEMBER! My foggy vision became clearer once I saw the socks on the very dirty floor. Of course, I just couldn't drive up to the historic site (Robert Mills designed the main building) and go rummaging in the many outbuildings. I had to get special permission, sign a waiver and a confidentiality form, and be accompanied. While gathering the socks, I found the asylum's Christmas tree and tinsel ... and got permission to haul this off. Also, the alterations department's floor was littered with buttons ... thousands of them. I got these too.

(Above: Suspending socks from the SC State Mental Hospital. My studio assistant Reba and I had already attached lengths of mono-filament to each one. I just stapled and tied.)

During the summer I spent time on Main Street just looking at the two window units at S & S ... deciding exactly how I wanted the installation to take form. Then, I gathered all the materials and tools ... and borrowing Michel McNinch's Grandfather's pine mantel. (Thanks Michel! She's a talented painter whose studio is near mine at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.) Yesterday, my plan came together. It was "installation day".

After suspending some of the socks, I taped footprints to the floor. Steve's old tennis shoes were used with acrylic paint on black kraft paper.

Then I spread out the buttons ... to resemble "snow" or to mimic the look of the asylum's alteration floor where I found them or to symbolize the difficulties in walking through a life full of mental issues (as in "walking on eggshells"). I'm not too particular when it comes to specific meanings. If a person viewing my installation is touched in any way ... that's my aim. It doesn't matter if he or she takes the exact meaning I might associate with the work.

I really like how the buttons look on the floor. I worked my way from the front/street side of the window units to the back ... knowing that access to the front would really mess up the careful placement of all the buttons.

The view above and below is the right-hand window unit as one enters the shop from Main Street. The Christmas tree, tinsel, socks, buttons, and framed photos are all from the Mental Hospital.

I completed the left-hand window unit before I tackled the other side.

Above and below is the left-hand window unit. The two framed photos are of the socks and the buttons ... as I found them in the Mental Hospital. On each 16" x 20" photo, I collaged the phrase: There But By the Grace of God Go I.

The gas fireplace was purchased at Bill Mishoe's auction. I made the makeshift fireplace from scrap wood and an old piece of Victorian furniture ... also from Bill Mishoe's auction ... my favorite place for "art objects".

The mantel was borrow from Michel McNinch ... who saved it from her Grandfather's home. Above I hung one of the mirrors Steve and I sell at Mouse House. Red acrylic paint carries the installation message.

Yet ... the "longer" statement is this:

a Holiday Window Installation
by Susan Lenz

This installation was inspired by a seasonal truth: NOT EVERYONE CAN COME HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS.

This Christmas some people will be working in a hospital or in another round-the-clock industry. Others will be in prison, serving our country abroad, unable to travel great distances, be sick or confined to a mental facility. Poverty or serious family issues trouble others, making it impossible to celebrate a traditional Christmas. As a visual artist, I created this installation as a reminder to keep these special members of our community in our hearts and prayers. The socks, Christmas tree and tinsel, buttons and photographic images come from the now vacant laundry and alterations building at the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital.

Our Mayor, Steven Benjamin, wrote a most fitting Thanksgiving message that beautifully sums up the concept behind this artwork: “Let us not forget those less fortunate than ourselves. Let us keep them in our hearts and in our prayers and let us dedicate ourselves."

(Above: View into the right-hand window from the shop.)

The opening reception for this installation and the interior artwork (which I blogged about HERE) is on Thursday, December 1 during Main Street's Mingle and Jingle celebration 5 - 9 PM.

(Above: View of S & S from Main Street ... during a slight rain but with the installation FINISHED!)


lynda Howells said...

FANTASTIC.....love itxxlynda

liniecat said...

Very touching and a cracking idea!

Unknown said...

Wow...This is an amazingly creative and important message for us all... Especially for those of us who know and love someone who will not be home... May never be home again. You are a gift Susan...this time a Christmas one.... You will touch many. Thank you for touching my heart as well....
Val Zaba

Elizabeth said...

You know, I was wondering when we were going to see the socks and the buttons? Brilliant!!!

underatopazsky said...

The way you've brought all these elements together is intelligent and creative as well as being a thought provoking piece of artwork. Wonderful!

My Sweet Prairie said...

That is awesome. Beautiful. Thoughtful. True. I love it.
Monika K.

Wanda said...

I agree...very touching. Very important. Boy do I understand the message. Thank you. You reach out and touch people through your art. Absolutely awe-inspiring. Not everyone can get their point and feelings across and you do it with old socks and buttons. Wow

Mormor Marianne said...

What a wonderful blog. I love all those colors and ideas.