Friday, September 28, 2012

A Difficult Decision

(Above:  A Difficult Decision.  Plastic models of brain and heart, rat trap, chain with collaged tag, fibers.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I envisioned this piece over two years ago and toyed with the idea of creating organs from fabric.  Even in my mind, it didn't look right.  Some sort of tactile difference was necessary.  Plastic models of the brain and the heart would simply look better, contrast more with the fibers, and fulfill my mental image.  But, where to get a brain and a heart?

(Above:  A Therm-O-Chill Overnite shippers Styrofoam container.)

Last August during my first week with Studios Midwest's art residency program, I saw the work of Steve Carlson at the Galesburg Civic Art Center.  Some of his 3D assemblages included more than one style of artificial tongue.  Now this guy just had to have a brain and a heart!  I emailed him.  HE DID!  I made arrangements to purchase these artificial organs and pick them up at Outsider Gallery, a shop Steve has with his wife Marsha in Bishop Hill, Illinois.  They were packaged in a Styrofoam container as if "real" body parts headed for a transplant!

(Above:  A Difficult Decision in progress.)

I already had two thicknesses of upholstery cord.  The thinner was dyed red inside a Ziploc bag.  Next, I pulled out all sorts of yarn.  Please note, I don't buy yarn.  I don't even knit or crochet but I seem to acquire lots of yarn from various estate sales and auctions.  Using my sewing machine, I zigzagged cord from several different types ... both reds and blues ... arteries and veins.

(Above:  A Difficult Decision ... with an old, rusted 110 conibear trap.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I already had an old, rusted 110 conibear trap.  My Dad found it on his property.  U Tube videos taught me how it worked to catch muskrats.  I collaged the title of the piece on the tag and took the photo above.  But, there was a problem.  The other artists at Gallery 80808 weren't familiar with the trap.  They didn't recognize it or its function.  Without an understanding of the trap, how was this piece going to make sense?  Sure ... the fibers attaching the brain and the heart sort of make sense with the title ... but ... the trap is symbolic of the feeling one gets when caught up with matters of the heart, when struggling to "do the right thing" when your heart wants to do just the opposite, when wrestling with common sense when passion is involved.  The trap is important.  My artistic mentor, Stephen Chesley, suggested a rat trap.  He gave me the one that's pictured at the top of this post.  I removed the rusty chain and tag from the conibear trap and put it on the rat trap.  I think the piece is a perfect illustration of a feeling we've all had from time to time.

(Above:  Volumes: Women Bound By Art's reception ... woman looking at my piece in the show.)

Words are very important to my art.  I think it is one of the reasons I frequently make book art.  Last Thursday was the opening reception of Volumes: Women Bound by Art at Portfolio Gallery here in Columbia.

(Above: Ball Bearings thru Cables, an altered book. 14" x 9" x 2 3/4". Discarded library tome, old cables and ball bearings, clipped letters from vintage sheet music, found paper, engraved plates, wood, plexiglass, screws. Click on image to enlarge.)

This invitational book art show featured altered volumes from the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers Products and Services.  My book covered ball bearings through cable.  I kept the title, obviously.  To read more about this piece, CLICK HERE

(Above:  Volumes: Women Bound by Art reception photo.)

There were some organizational problems with this local show but the results were great.  In fact, the problems led to two shows in two locations.  Volumes 2 opened the same night in conjunction with the first book art show.  Several of the same artists were involved.  I went to this exhibit later in the week.

(Above:  Volumes 2 at Gallery V.)

The second book art show featured all sorts of different types of books ... altered books, sculptural books, and handmade books.

(Above:  Wasted Words: Global Warnings ... my piece on the far left.)

My piece is above.  This was the one that was in the show Green: A Color and a Cause at the National Textile Museum in Washington, DC.  I'd never really shown it in Columbia until now!

(Above:  Studio in the state of being cleaned!)

Going to art openings and playing with artificial human organs, however, weren't the most important thing I've done all week.  
I cleaned my studio!

(Above:  Four boxes of material donated to a new fiber friend.  The studio has been purged.)

The catalyst for the cleaning was a new shelving unit donated by my friend Jeff Donovan.  The new unit is taller and deeper than the old, bedroom book shelf that sort of "came with" my studio eight years ago.  It was time to remove the old one, make room for the new one, and face a few facts.  Fact number one:  I'm not getting any younger and I'll never get to any of the projects that might use the collected material in my numerous bins.  These were the "fabrics of my life" ... old cloth that had been my grandmothers, old dresses, old curtains, yards of material from auction, samples from interior design shops, etc.  Fact number two:  There are people who would really would love this material and use it.  It was time to give half my studio's textiles away.

I met "Seamstress Krys" on "First Thursday" on Main Street.  She was set up at a table in the Tapp Art Center selling totes and purses.  She was advertising her alterations and costume making services.  I took her card and "friended" her on Facebook.  It was like playing Santa Claus when she hauled away all these boxes.

Now my studio has a new energy and wide open, tidy space.  There are more square inches of flat table surfaces on which to work and lots less dust.  I even mixed up a pail of ammonia and water and scrubbed the blue painted floor.  Everything is ripe for the work I'm meant to make.  It was a bittersweet process of purging my studio but the results are promising.

Lastly, I'm linking this post to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays" blog that shares "WIPs", works in progress.  It's a cool way to share work in a new way. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jasper Magazine is an exciting, new bi-monthly arts publication in Columbia, South Carolina.  It is now in its second year covering dance, theater, music, visual arts, literary arts, and film.  Backing up its printed magazine pages, there's an interactive website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account. 

Last month a call went out for nominations for "Jasper Artist of the Year" in fiver different categories:  Dance, Theater, Music, Literary Arts, and Visual Arts.  I was fortunate enough to be nominated more than once!  Yesterday three finalists were announced.  I'm one of them ... obviously in "Visual Arts"!

Now ... I need votes! 

I am the only female visual artist and the only artist working in fibers!  Please vote for me by CLICKING THIS LINK ... then scroll down for the Visual Arts Category and submit your vote.  Please also check out the other very worthy visual artists: Lyon Hill and Thomas Crouch.  It is an honor to be in their company!  To view the Jasper page featuring my work for this award, click HERE!  One vote per computer!  Thanks so much!   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

McMinn County Living Heritage Museum's Annual Quilt Show

(Above:  One of the historic quilts on display at the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum in Athens, TN.  Click on this or any other image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

Last weekend was wonderful.  The weather was perfect.  Steve did the driving while I stitched and looked out the window on our way to Athens, Tennessee.  We were headed to the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum as I was asked to be a presenter at their annual quilt show.  It was my honor, of course ... as the "Best of Show" and "First Place Art Quilt" winner in last year's event.

(Above:  A selection of my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts, wrapped wooden spools, and business cards in a fiber vessel.)

I was also honored to share the speaking engagement with Julie Jack, gallery director and assistant professor of art at Tennessee Wesleyan College, whose work was also on display in the spacious temporary exhibition space.  (She shared the exhibition with her husband Jerry Hagaman.  The show's title: "Contemporary Interpretations of Traditional Folk Art")  Julie's working with epoxy.  We have lots in common, including interest in Medieval and Renaissance studies and love of fibers.  I can't wait to try some of the ideas for epoxy that her work suggested to me!

(Above:  Me ... speaking to some of the people who came for the quilt show opening.)

It was wonderful to share my work with local quilters and also to have Randall Higgins, a newspaper reporter with Time Free Press, in the midst who snapped a photo and wrote a nice article ... HERE.

(Above:  The McMinn County Living Heritage Museum.  One of the historic rooms featuring a Victorian crazy quilt.  Click on this or any other image to enlarge.)

We arrived with plenty of time to check out the museum.  It was showing an outstanding collection of Victorian crazy quilts and historic applique quilts from their collection and in many of their permanent exhibition spaces.  I love this sort of museum.  They are always filled with all the personal, special, and details of life from a bygone era ...

(Above:  Retail bobbin box.)

 ... like this unique retail container for sewing machine bobbins.

(Above:  Detail from one of the finest Victorian crazy quilts I've ever seen.  Signage listed it as circa 1860.)

I could have spent the entire afternoon admiring the needlework skills on the more than a dozen crazy quilts and another afternoon studying the insane number of quilting stitches on the appliqued quilts.

(Above:  Detail from a Rose of Sharon quilt made by Miriam Alexander (Ragsdale) before her marriage, circa 1840.)

(Above:  McMinn County Living Heritage Museum, detail from a pioneer cabin.)

I took loads of photos ... some of which actually turned out very well.  Hand holding a camera is so difficult when trying to capture the delicacy of hand embroidery.  I uploaded the photos I liked onto a Flickr! set.  There are plenty of nice picture of the crazy quilts and applique.  (It can be viewed as a slideshow as well.)

 (Above:  Steve getting an education at the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum.)

So ... where was Steve while I was drooling over historic textiles?  He was getting an education of his own, complete with recipes!

 (Above:  How to make Moonshine!)

(Above:  Outdoor Adventures' bus unloading rafts for the upper Ocoee River white water course.)

We had time to take some back roads on our return trip, including a winding road up the Ocoee River.  Dozens and dozens of white water rafters and kayakers were enjoying the water.  We just had to stop at the drop in point for the upper course.  It is right near the 1996 Olympic white water course!

(Above:  The dam at the head of the upper Ocoee white water river course.)

The parking lot served as a place for the former school buses to unload the rafts and a place where instructions were given to those brave enough to be headed down river.

After instruction, the rafters carried their vessel down a ramp to the waters immediately below the dam. 

The mist from the dam can be seen in this photo!

Off they go!  Steve and I now really want to try this experience.  One of the many reasons why I blog is the fact that I can store information right where I need it ... like the Internet link to one of the many companies that take people safely down the Ocoee River ... High Country's Outdoor Adventures!

 (Above:  The back of one of my Decision Portraits with rod from Hang Ups stitched in place.)

So ... what new "art" have I been up to lately?  I've been unframing the curated selection of Decision Portraits and preparing them for the upcoming November Quilt's Inc. show in Houston.   All 107 pieces are created on three, edge-exposed layers and were framed.  (Click here for a post of the show in Charleston where they occupied both floors of City Gallery at Waterfront Park.)  Forty are headed to Texas.  All of them will be shown at Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona this coming January - March.


It is imperative that the hanging devices work with the lanyards used by Quilt's, Inc.  I learned that their system comes from Hang Ups in Oregon.  Through a series of conversations, I was able to purchase single rods in desired lengths.  I drilled holes in the rods.  This week I've been stitching the rods to the back of the forty pieces ... hiding the stitches so that they don't show on the front.  They are now all packed in boxes and ready to be shipped.   Soon, I'll start doing the same to the remaining pieces ... as this is how they'll all be hung in Arizona.  So ... in a very real sense, this is a WIP (Work in Progress) and oddly appropriate for Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays" project ... which I'll link to this Friday! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

A collaboration with Jeff Donovan in search of a title!

(Above:  Unexplored Territories or A Day's Catch.  Collaboration.  Boat by Jeff Donovan. Fibers by Susan Lenz.  Click on image to enlarge.)

My studio is one of thirteen at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  My friend Jeff Donovan also has a studio there.  He works in both ceramics and painting.  Many of his ceramic sculptures are created from his own 2D images.  Several include boats.  Jeff has constructed several boats, including this one.  He wasn't satisfied with this boat ... at least not for one of his sculptures.  We talked about boats ... symbolically, spiritually, figuratively, and finally decided to collaborate.  We talked further ... the journey of life, the mythological River Styx, lazy childhood days floating on a marsh, ethereal memories, threads of communication, unraveling thoughts, Alzheimer's, tall tales and yarns.  This is what we came up with.     

(Above:  Detail of collaboration.)

Jeff and I had this conversation before I went to my August art residency in Galesburg, Illinois where I made The Canopy.  Thus, I knew to save all the scraps that ended up on my studio floor.  To this I added even more strips of bridal gown lace, vintage tablecloths, a crocheted spread, and other assorted household textiles (generally damaged or permanently stained). 

(Above:  Another view of the collaboration.  Click on image to enlarge.)

It took more than five days for me to rip all the material, roll it, and tie each piece.  Slowly the vessel was filled.  (Believe me, I didn't think it would take this long!  This was one of those projects that seemed very easy, straight forward, and as if a day or two would find it finished.  It just didn't work that way ... and I'm actually a very fast worker!)  

(Above:  Detail of rolls of assorted vintage textiles.)

While ripping, rolling, and tying, Jeff and I talked about potential titles.  We thought about words that referenced aging, loss of short term memory, Alzheimer's, and life journey's that just don't move in straight forward directions.  We dismissed all these ideas.  Why?  Because there are so many other wonderful ways to look at a boat or contemplate a collection of fiber scrolls.  We tossed around other phrases and liked two in particular:  Unexplored Territories and A Day's Catch.  

(Above:  Detail of Unexplored Territories or A Day's Catch ... the choice of titles will be decided during Vista Lights 2012, November 15 - 17!)

So ... this collaboration is now scheduled to be on view during the annual Vista Lights exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  The show features work by all thirteen artists with studio space in the building and runs from Nov. 8 - 28, 2012.  The reception is on Thursday, Nov. 15.  Jeff and I will have clip board for viewers to vote on their favorite title ... or leave another suggestion.  We plan to post this on Facebook and I'll accept votes left as "comments" on this blog post too!  Please leave your vote/comment!

Also ... this piece will be included on Nina Marie Sayre's "Off the Wall Fridays".

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Things That Go Bump in the Night

(Above: Exhibition Postcard for this year's "Day of the Dead" exhibition at Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona.)

I wish I could attend this year's October exhibition at Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona.  It is called Things that Go Bump in the Night.  Last year's "Day of the Dead" art show included Last Words, my solo show of grave rubbing art quilts, epitaph banners, and artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.  (To view a blog post of this show, CLICK HERE.)  Steve and I went.  This year, however, I submitted my "Tiny Tina" series of photographs and The Book of the Dead.  I was thrilled to have all the photos (12 framed and the remaining 23 matted & shrink wrapped) accepted along with the book.  It was also exciting to know that the staff at Vision Gallery was reading my blog, seeing my epoxy experiment, and wanted Bat in a Box too ... which I hadn't even submitted!  So ... all these works are currently in Arizona awaiting the October 5 opening and especially the October 19th opening reception.

(Above:  The back of the postcard invitation ... including in the most upper, right-hand corner ... one of my "Tiny Tina" doll photos.)

(Above: All 35 images in the "Tiny Tina Series".)

I'm particularly happy about these photos being accepted into an exhibition.  It is really the first time I've ever displayed my photographs ... going "out on a limb" ... calling myself a photographer!  The label on the reverse of every one of these pictures reads:
“My name is Talky Tina and you’ll be sorry!”

In November 1963 the popular television show, The Twilight Zone, aired "Living Doll", an episode in which a wind-up, talking doll was featured and eventually caused the death of the overbearing father.  Since then, people exposed to this scary program have rarely seen dolls as innocent play toys but as a "thing that goes bump in the night". 
“Living Doll” was episode 126.  It aired on November 1, 1963 during season five.  It was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, written by  Jerry Sohl (credited to Charles Beaumont), and included an original score by Bernard Herrmann.  The stars included: Telly Savalas as Erich Streator; Mary LaRoche as Annabelle Streator; Tracy Stratford as Christie Streator; and June Foray’s voice for Talky Tina.    
(PS  This is the first time I've tried using the new Blogger interface.  I think I hate it but supposedly the old interface is "going away ... somewhere into cyber space ... and I have to learn this new system.  I hope this looks alright and reads well.)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Better Late Than Never!

(Above: Carl Sandburg's Remembrance Rock, in progress. Click on image to enlarge.)

Last week Nina Marie Sayre started an on-line project called Off the Wall Friday. (Click HERE for this week's OFF THE WALL FRIDAY.) The idea is for artists working in textiles (especially art quilters) to post a blog image on her site of a WIP ... that is "Work in Progress". One is to link her blog post as well. I thought this was a very good idea. I'd fallen into the habit of blogging only finished work. This is week two. It is also Saturday ... a full day late but "better late than never!" I hope Nina Marie's site accepts this photo. I'll see in a minute!

(Above: Remembrance Rock, the final resting place of Carl Sandburg and his wife on the grounds of his birthplace in Galesburg, Illinois.)

So ... what am I working on? One of my current projects is the hand stitching of a unique grave rubbing art quilt. The rubbings are on a small vintage tablecloth with a wide crocheted edge. They include various Sandburg quotations, his name, and the impression from Remembrance Rock, the final resting place of Carl Sandburg. I made the rubbings on my first weekend at Studios Midwest for a month long art residency in Galesburg, Illinois, birthplace of Carl Sandburg. I combined the tablecloth with another, tan one with lots of cross stitch and did the free motion machine embroidery around all the letters during my final two days in Galesburg. I started hand stitching on the ride back to Columbia ... two weekends ago. The stitching is inspired by kantha, a form of quilting done in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India ... a way to use dense running stitches to "repurpose" old saris together as "quilt" or another household piece of linen. I love doing this ... and it will take quite some time to finish the surface!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Victoria ... a long weekend in a northwestern paradise

(Above: Steve and a microbrew at Swans Restaurant in Victoria, British Columbia. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

My husband Steve is some sort of a genius when it comes to making on-line travel arrangements. (No ... He can't find amazing deals to a precise destination on a very specific day. He can, however, find incredible deals for our "travel habit" because we do have a high degree of flexiblity and he will check lots of websites daily!) Well ... he managed to find a cheap ticket to Seattle and cash in a "companion" seat for me. He also booked ferry rides to Victoria, British Columbia. We had a marvelously long Labor Day weekend in the Northwest.

The weather was better than either of us dared to hope. We spent our first afternoon in Seattle's Pike Place Market ...

... admiring the salmon ...

... listening to a cool bluegrass music and watching the crowd of eager customers. For more photos from Seattle, CLICK HERE for a Flickr! set or HERE for a slideshow.

(Above: Cool reflection of stained glass on a second story glass wall above the nave in Victoria's Cathedral. )

Once in Victoria, we had a full schedule of sight-seeing. First up was the Christ Church Cathedral. We were almost alone in the sanctuary ... except for a couple of ladies ... one of which was the chairman of the liturgical textiles. We talked about the needlepoint cushions ...

...the amazing Victorian shells beads on an older altar screen, and about the amazing, new altar screen by Carole Sabiston.

(Above: Detail of altar screen at Christ Church Cathedral by Carole Sabiston.)

She told us about Munro Books, a store on the glamorous main shopping street owned by Ms. Sabiston's husband that featured several large banners.

Well ... we went there, of course. It was well worth the trip!

(Above: One of eight banners called The Four Seasons Suite by Carole Sabiston.)

The work was amazing and the book store was great too!

Of course we also toured Craigdarroche Castle. It truly is a legendary Victorian home!

It really isn't a "castle" and was never the home of true royalty ... but it certainly was a delight, filled with more than just period furniture. Every little detail was wonderful.

Every room was filled with personal items from the family that built the place. Everything was lovely, exquisite, and in excellent condition.

The staircase was a masterpiece in wood.

The dining room was ready for guests.

The wall was hung with interesting paintings, engravings, family portraits ... and this fascinating hair wreath.

One room was being used by volunteer stitchers conserving four panels of lace curtains.

Several rooms included sewing accessories like these great "sewing birds".

There was also an interesting "armadillo" tote/basket/purse ... the likes of which I've never seen! For more photos from Victoria's Craigdarroche Castle, Cathedral, harbor, Carole Sabiston's art, etc., please CLICK HERE for a Flickr! set or HERE for a slideshow.)

From Craigdarroche we walked to the nearby Victoria Art Gallery and saw several great exhibits. One featured William Kurelek. We were hooked. Another was called Silk Splendor.

I took load of photos.

(More are on a Flickr! set HERE or as a slideshow HERE.)

In the same general area is the Government House Gardens. We walked through the acreage that has been restored to the natural landscape of British Columbia ... before invasive plant life was introduced.

There were also several beautiful flower beds.

Most interesting though was a tent under which a team of native Canadians were busy carving a new totem pole. It will be dedicated this coming weekend with many festivities.

It is actually a reproduction of a totem pole originally carved by one of the master's grandfathers!

On we walked to the historic Ross Bay Cemetery ... visiting the grave site of Victoria's "first artist", Emily Carr ... whose permanent retrospective we'd just visited in the art gallery. The show was called "From the Edge of Nowhere."

Over the two days we spent in Victoria, we also walked through the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel and visited the colorful harbor. We watched seaplanes take off and land, whale watching tours come and go, and eyed the water taxis.

The water taxis are SO CUTE. They look like giant rubber duckies bobbing up and down across the harbor.

We had to take a ride to the nearby Fisherman's wharf area ...

... and see all the boats and pretty boat houses.

Also ... just for fun ... we went to Miniature World, a hilarious collection of tiny military scenes, railroad constructions, doll houses, and even outer space vehicles with tiny lights.

The circus area was quite expansive. The lighting changed from day to night and everything spun around non-stop.

Yet, one of the major reasons for coming to Victoria was a chance to visit the historic Butchard Garden. It was worth the trip entirely!

I took hundreds of photos (saved 99) ... practicing my skills "off automatic" ... trying to capture the vivid colors successfully ... so as not to need Photoshop for color and contrast corrections. Most of the images I took were exactly what I wanted. I have a Flickr! set HERE and a slideshow HERE.

Butchard Gardens has a "sunken garden" section, a Japanese garden, a formal rose garden, an Italian Garden, a place for fireworks, shops, a bog, restaurants, totem poles, a cove for boat rides, and a carousel. (Plus more!) We had a wonderful time.

We rarely do much shopping when traveling ... except for chocolate! This is Roger's Chocolate ... also a bit of history since it has been selling Steve's favorite flavors since 1885!