(Above: Randomly selected "anonymous" vintage photos mounted on fabric. Click on any image to enlarge.)
I've been behind in my blogging ... almost exactly a week ... for at least a week ... until now! This post begins eight days ago on the Sunday before Mother's Day with an experiment that has been tumbling around in my mind for months, maybe a year. I've been thinking about all the vintage family snapshots I've collected from Bill Mishoe's Tuesday night walk-around auctions of used household goods. Who are all these people? Why did their keepsakes end up in a "box lot" or on a "table lot" sold for a few dollars? What do these pictures mean to me? How should I use them in my art?
In addition to the photos, I have old letters, military discharge papers, tax records, receipts, ticket stubs, a baby book, hand written recipes, and all sorts of other ephemera from families I don't know. They peak my curiosity. They are steeped with stories I can't quite hear. They have all the ethereal qualities of ordinary memories from the past, ever changing and fading into the distance. I find all these things wonderful and sad ... bittersweet ... indicative of life. How can I, as an artist, use these things to communicate my feelings and the sense of half-hidden history they seem to represent? Well, I had a "foggy vision" of these photos ... stitched into a grid, suspended about six inches in front of a gallery wall, casting their shadow on the white surface behind them. So ... how to achieve this? EXPERIMENT!
I randomly selected several images ... the top ones stacked inside a fairly large box. I used Fusion 4000, a clear heat-activated film used in the custom picture framing industry, to mount the images in my heat-press onto an off-white piece of fabric. (No ... I don't know what kind of fabric. It really doesn't matter. Like almost all my material, it came from Bill Mishoe's auction! It was simply in some, anonymous woman's stash sold by the box or table!)
Then, I cut the photo out. Basically, all these photos are now permanently backed with fabric.
Next, I used a dab of gel medium on the center, back of each photo ... and placed them onto a piece of Pellon's Stitch and Tear. I allowed this to dry ... adhering the photos to the Stitch-n-Tear.
Setting my Bernina to free motion and using a variegated off-white to sage green cotton thread, I stitched the photos together.
The process of stitching is exactly the same as I generally use to construct my In Box Series pieces ... outlining the edge of the photo and creating stitched "bridges" to link each one in all directions.
Finally, I turned the work over and tore away all the Stitch-n-Tear from between the images.
This was the result of my experiment. SUCCESS! Although the "experiment" is not "suspended" approximately six inches from the wall behind it, I know how I want to construct a wooden ledge from which to hang the actual work (yet to be made). I envision this future piece being at least 5' in height and 10' in length. The large size will create a sense of impact, a subtle suggestion of all the many people whose images are unknown. The space between the future piece and the wall is important. It will allow the grid of photos to physically occupy an area "in front of" the wall ... as opposed to the area "on the wall". The grid of photos will be like a transparent curtain, something between the present and the past ... casting a shadow. It is going to be GREAT! (Okay ... very labor intensive but GREAT! At least in my mind!)
Since the experiment revealed a process of working and indicated that the attempt to create a larger work would be successful. I spent most of last week using my tacking iron to position hundreds and hundreds of anonymous photos on more material ... then mount them in my heat press.
I'm been cutting out the photos ever since! This is going to take a while but I think I'm going to love the results! There will likely be more blogging as the weeks progress. This piece (God willing that it is achieved!) will be part of my November solo show at the Tapps Art Center in Columbia. I'm calling the exhibit, I Am Not Invisible. I don't yet have a name for this piece but I'm sure that all the cutting, stitching, and tearing away the Stitch-n-Tear will suggest an appropriate title!
(Above: View from Liberty Bridge, Greenville, SC.)
For Mother's Day, Steve and I drove to Greenville, South Carolina in order to attend Artisphere, a weekend outdoor arts festival that enjoys a great reputation as one of the nation's top shows. I can see why! We had a blast. The artwork was outstanding. The attendance was amazing. Okay ... the weather couldn't have been better! Steve and I spent quite a lot of time looking at the plastic canopies that protected the various artists' booths. We will be purchasing one in the coming year ... and I will apply to this festival next year! It is hard to get accepted ...
(Above: Liberty Bridge, Greenville, SC.)
... because this festival is so great. All the artists complimented the organization, said they were selling well, and had outstanding traffic. Yet, I'm happy to report that I did get accepted into the 37th Annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. This event, like Artisphere, has the reputation of being "so good that it is hard to get in"!