Thursday, December 22, 2011
(Above: Time, found art object assemblage. Approximately 40" x 25" x 20". Click on image to enlarge.)
In October I started converting a back room at Mouse House (the first floor/business area of our downtown, historic house) into a new, 3D studio. Until July 2001, Mouse House was a very, very busy custom picture framing shop with up to 14 on payroll. Up until that time, I couldn't even admit to myself that I wanted to be "an artist" ... because I knew there was no time for such a "hair-brained" dream.
Then, I fired my head mat cutter and we started to forcibly downsize. I got an off-site studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios and went to work with my needle and thread. Now, Mouse House still does very limited framing but we don't really have to use that back room in the business. Slowly, I'm taking over the entire room. I made a lectern for The Book of the Dead and then started on this piece. It seems very fitting that I'm created work based on the concept of time in a place that formerly had so little of it!
Appropriately, this piece is titled Time. The clock cases, gears, and almost everything else came from my favorite place for "found art objects" ... Bill Mishoe's auction. Some of the other, interesting items came from my neighbor Gita who now lives in Asheville and is in the process of getting the-house-next-door ready to "go on the market". Some things also came from Slippery Rock, my parents' old house or garage. Symbolically, all the bits and pieces are mementos of from the past ... ways we mark our days ... saved trinkets ... relics of yesteryear that serve as reminders of a certain moment that is ever more distant away. Time is moving quickly. We can hold a remnant. We can cherish a memory. We just can't still the pace of time.
Generally, I don't take a lot of photos of works-in-progress but we're about to travel to Slippery Rock, PA for Christmas to visit my parents. I can't bring the piece to share with my Dad. Thus, I took photos. My Dad taught me how to use an electric screw driver, how to pre-drill holes, how to use various types of glue, where to put C-clamps, how to measure angles, how to saw wood, how to select the size of a bolt and its nuts, and why a level was important. He'd love this piece; he has a great workshop himself!
Actually, I took loads of photos ... well over 130 of them. I saved about 38 and posted them on a Flickr set. Click HERE to see them. (As a slideshow, click here.)
There are a few places on this piece to which I want to add a few more jars of collected items and a few surfaces to which I want to collage vintage paper (handwritten notes and a few late 19th c. cancelled checks and stamps). Then, I think this will be done.
I have several more clock cases, an old step stool, a bag of piano keys, old license plates, lots more random pieces of Victorian furniture, two more cradles, about ten pairs of wooden crutches, a pile of clock gears, and hundreds of "things" that used to belong to "something". The new year is going to be great ... because this new "home" studio is going to be used even more!
Enjoy the rest of the photos! Each one can be clicked on for an enlargement!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:22 PM
Monday, December 19, 2011
(Above: Spirit Tokens made in 2004 while coping with our house fire. Wood shutter slats, feathers from the two birds who lived outside the furnished executive apartment where we lived during the reconstruction, beads and fibers. Click on image to enlarge.)
I've set New Year's resolutions almost every year ... artistic goals.
In 2009 my goal was to find gallery representation ... a "good place": One with a knowledgeable, active staff; a website; a strong sales record; a high level of professionalism; a history in its community. It took until September of that year until I was part of Grovewood Gallery. It's been awesome ever since ... and a goal achieved.
In 2010 I decided to seek a professional affiliation ... a "good group": One headed by knowledgeable people; a website; a strong advocacy for its members; a high level of professionalism; recognition in the broader art world; juried or adjudicated. I got lucky. I was accepted as a PAM (Professional Art Member) of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) before the end of January. It's been awesome ever since ... and a goal achieved.
In 2011 I wanted a solo show in a museum ... a "good location": One headed by a knowledgeable and active board and staff; a website; a consistent record of presenting quality exhibitions; a high level of professionalism; recognition in the broader art world; with publicity contacts and the potential for networking. "Personal Grounds" ran from February through March at Waterworks Visual Arts in Salisbury, North Carolina. It was more than I hoped for and the director of Green Hill Art Center in Greensboro saw my work ... which led to my participation (and sales) in their "Winter Show".
(Above: Studio wall ... first time in years ... no holes but new paint!)
So ... now I'm approaching 2012 and my mind is a blank.
I know I want to work "bigger" ... in scale, in scope, in concept, and with others. How do I put this into words? Into a "New Year's Resolution"? I'm not quite sure but I'm in the midst of change.
What do I mean by that? I'm changing my very environment, clearing my studio space, and "getting ready" for "something NEW". For the first time in years, I patched all the holes in my studio walls (except for The Wall of Keys) and painted. I've left them blank. Part of this is a result of my upcoming solo show at Rocky Mount's Imperial Center. "Last Words" will open on January 5 and close on May 13, 2012. The public reception is on Sunday, January 29 from 2 - 4 PM. Everything is boxed, packaged, inventoried, and ready for the staff person who is coming in a cargo van on December 29th to pick it all up. I'm excited.
(Above: Spirit Tokens suspended above my studio ... since 2004 but no longer! The Wall of Keys is the only thing left ... all those lovely possibilities! The Key to Happiness, The Key to Inspiration, The Key to Success, The Key to Respect, The Key to the World, The Key to Quietness, The Key to CHANGE! Click on image to enlarge.)
Part of my desire for change comes after reading a blog post by Arlee called "Rethinks = Clean Slate". I want something "new" so creating a "clean slate" seemed logical, smart, simply ... without distraction or over stimulation. Already my studio feels new.
I went to the extreme of taking down all the Spirit Tokens that have been suspended above my studio since our house fire in 2004. I don't know what I'll do with them ... likely put them in a box, into storage. They served their purpose well. Now it is time for something new to take their place. What? Who knows!
Already the space seems ripe for change. All I've got to do is "keep working". Whatever is coming will arrive in its due time. Part of the equation, however, has to do with a Chuck Close quotation that I found on-line today when checking out an artist (Sarah Hempel) who lives near my mother:
"The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case."
I've also been having some fun ... including going to the Ohio State vs. USC (University of South Carolina) basketball game. It was supposed to be a Gamecock home game but their only "home field" advantage seemed to be the fact that they controlled the loud speaker and continued to interrupt our wild cheering with an obnoxious rooster crow. Their band, cheerleaders, and dancing squad couldn't overpower the Buckeyes. As proof, I made a little video ... showing the Scarlet and Grey four-sided cheer O - H - I - O around the arena. It is HERE.
We had no idea that my cousin Joann and her family would venture down from Virginia for the game. Jamie graduated from USC last spring ... and wore garnet and black. It didn't help! Go Bucks!
By the way, I thank EVERYONE who contributed a title for my last piece. My list now fills and entire page. Many of the potential titles seem to suggest new work ... yes, change is in the air. I haven't yet selected a piece though ... still thinking ... but still stitching on two different art quilts and also working on a 3D mixed media piece.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 2:57 PM
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
(Above: Untitled cradle full of wrapped and stitched wooden spools. The piece NEEDS A TITLE! Click on any image to enlarge.)
I love wooden spools ... always have. I've made several pieces using them. Right now, there's a group in a fiber vessel at Lorton, Virginia's Workhouse Art Center's "Art of Fiber" national juried show. That piece even sold! It's called Ancestors. I made so many last December that I have two pieces with the same name. The second group will be on display in the 33rd annual Mesa Contemporary Crafts national juried show from Jan. 27 - March 18, 2011. Both pieces have been in exhibitions before ... at the same time. (The original blog post for Ancestors is HERE.)
Still, I seem to collect more wooden spools ... but I don't want to repeat exactly the same thing. Ancestors suggested that each little spool was like a family member from past generations. Collectively, they gave the appearance of a "family tree" and evoked memories and traditions and handicrafts of grandmothers and great grandmothers. The work is personal while still being universal. So ... what to do with the next couple of hundred wooden spools?
On the drive to Slippery Rock for Thanksgiving, I wrapped and stitched spools. While there, I acquired even more spools ... once my grandmother's. I don't really know how many there are.
Well, I got the wooden cradle at Bill Mishoes' every-other-Tuesday-night, walk-around auction of used household items ... my very favorite place for "found objects". A little glue on spindles that were literally falling out stabilized the structure. I cut old shutter slats for the cradle's bed and fashioned a "mattress" from an old pillowslip and feather pillow. (Boy was that fun ... feathers all over the living room!)
The work is done ... but I still haven't landed on the perfect title. To me, each spool is like a narrative ... a tale spun in thread ... a story told in yarn ... a yarn told to a child ... the thread of life as a bedtime fable. So ... I need help! Here are the titles I've been wrestling with:
Tell Me a Story
If Threads Could Talk
Tales from Childhood
I'm open to suggestions! Leave a comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Thanks!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 2:12 PM
Sunday, December 11, 2011
(Above: Three grave rubbing art quilts being pinned and basted on the floor at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios ... and my cool Indian leather slippers, pin cushion and roll of tape in the foreground for a sense of scale! Click on image to enlarge.)
On Halloween weekend I spent a day in the historic Circular Churchyard in Charleston making crayon-on-silk grave rubbings. It was a BIG DEAL. I had to get written permission. (For a blog post on this, click HERE.) On Wednesday night I took three of the collaged images and recycled packaging felt and went to work on the atrium floor at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios ... right outside my studio door. I don't know how other art quilters pin and baste ... but this system seems to work for me.
(My friend Jeff Donovan's art is hanging on the wall. His show opened the next night.) I think I started this stitching because I'm also in the midst of gathering up my other, finished grave rubbing art quilts, "Angels in Mourning" series, epitaph banners, The Book of the Dead, and related work for my solo show in Rocky Mount's Imperial Center. Of course this piece won't be in the show ... but I've got this body of work on my mind! A staff person comes to pick everything up on December 29th. The show opens on January 7 and runs through May 13, 2012. I'm quite excited.)
(Above: Free motion stitching on the large grave rubbing quilt.)
I love King Tut thread ... the subtle variations in browns. I recently ordered two extra large spools and made the mistake of having my husband pick them up. He hasn't quite recovered from the "cost of thread"! (Just kidding! Sort of!)
(Above: In Box XC. Click on image to enlarge.)
Earlier in the week I finished another two, small "In Box Series" pieces. These measure approximately 14" x 10" and are framed to 19 1/4" x 15 1/4". I love making them.
(Above: In Box LXXXIX. Click on image to enlarge.)
Plus ... I got a review for my window installation at S&S Art Supplies. The review was written by Ed Madden, associate professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of South Carolina. He's also on the staff of a local arts magazine called Jasper ... and the review was featured on the magazine's blog ... HERE!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 10:10 AM
Monday, December 05, 2011
(Above: Me ... standing beside my artwork as shown at the Collector's Choice reception of the "Winter Show" in the Green Hill Center for NC Art. Photo by Barbara Tyroler ... one of the talented artists with work in the exhibit. Her website is HERE.)
Since last week's installation at S & S Art Supply and "Mingle & Jingle", the December "First Thursday on Main Street art crawl, I've been happily going through some of the things I got from my family over Thanksgiving weekend ... like a few thousand keys!
They weigh a lot ... easily over 30 pounds a container. My youngest Sister Sonya acquired them through one of her drivers. (Sonya has an mini-van shuttle service from Slippery Rock and surroundings to the Pittsburgh airport, bus service, etc.) This driver also works for Grove City College and knew about these old keys to dorm rooms, classrooms, mail boxes, etc.
Well ... they're now mine! Boy do they make my HAPPY!
I've sold well over 150 tagged keys from my "Wall of Keys" (above ... as shown last spring. The "Wall" is now in my studio.) I need to replace these sold keys. I have lots of ideas for the other "couple thousand" keys too. First, however, I needed to make more cord for the tags.
I use various yarns ... stuff from table lots at Bill Mishoe's "used household goods" auctions ... the remains of someone else's knitting stash. (I don't knit.) When making cord for a fiber vessel, I generally shove six or seven strands through the Bernina cording foot. When making cord for tagged keys, I use only two ... but I zigzag over the entire length twice. This makes the cord as thin as I dare create and also subtly colorful in a "used" or "makeshift" sort of way.
I also use old thread for this ... whatever I've accumulated at auction or yardsales. Most of the thread I used for this cording came from wooden spools which I'm now wrapping with wool and covering with embroidery. The "new batch" of wooden spools also came from my family ... from my grandmother's storage unit which was recently cleaned out.
Now I've got a nice sized ball of cord for the keys! (Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)
I've been stitching on the wooden spools while riding in our car ... back and forth to Slippery Rock, PA for Thanksgiving but also more recently. On Saturday Steve and I drove to Greensboro for the 32nd annual "Winter Show" at the Green Hill Center for the Arts. It was a most incredible evening. It started right off inside the main entrance where two of my smaller "Window" series works and one large "Faux-Stained Glass" fiber piece were hanging ... ALL THREE WITH RED DOTS! (SOLD!) Barbara Tyroler, a talented photographer whose work was also in the exhibit, took the photos ... this one with my camera! Her work is amazing!
Later in the evening I met the curator. She asked if I had more of the small pieces and if I would mind mailing them for potential buyers visiting the show through January 15th. As luck would have it, I'd just started another two earlier in the week.
Above is Window XXXV and Window XXXVI. I finished the stitching and melting yesterday. We put them in frames today and then into a box and then off to FedEx Ground. I forgot to snap photos before the framing ... so, above, are the two before packaging! I'm quite thrilled!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:33 PM