Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Day as an Installation Artist, Part One ... Gathering My Thoughts

(Above:  The Nature of Memory on left and Gathering My Thoughts on right.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Tomorrow I'll start transporting all the work created for my solo show, I Am Not Invisible, to the Tapps Art Center on Main Street here in Columbia.  The exhibit opens during the monthly "First Thursday" art crawl, November 7th from 5:30 - 8:30.  I, however, will not be in attendance.  I'll be on my way from the Washington Craft Show (Nov. 1 - 3) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show (Nov. 8 - 11).  Not only will I not be at my own opening (though I will be at the second reception during December's "First Thursday"), I'm not even hanging the show.  Thus, I've got to provide good photos and instructions for some of the more complicated hanging arrangement ... like Gathering My Thoughts.  Yesterday was spent creating this installation, snapping photos, and finishing up another grouping of work.  

(Above:  Gathering My Thoughts ... or how it looked before I decided to expand it!)

It all started back in September.  I just had to make this little piece.  It was included in another blog post (Click HERE to access) and I wrote:

While working on The Nature of Memory, I realized that I still had plenty of unwound sewing thread.  They are so pretty.  Threads have such symbolic meaning ... from on-line correspondence or parts of discussions to the fabric of life to the many ways we are connected ... and I couldn't help myself.  This little piece was totally created due to a phrase that stuck in my head while looking at my threads ... Gathering My Thoughts.

Something was wrong though.  Something bothered me about it and it didn't get much feedback on my blog or on Facebook.  Something was simply "off" and I finally realized that it just wasn't BIG enough.  It didn't manage to capture the mass of information in our minds, the bombardment of connections, the millions of visual imagery that pass through our heads, and the complexity of memory.  It was just a cute little basket with a tangle of thread.  Since that time, I've been unwinding LOTS of thread ... all the old thread from anonymous stitchers whose "stash" ended up at auction ... hundreds of spools.  Even my husband Steve helped while watching television.  I had a plan, the materials, and an installation coming together.  I needed, however, to mount it and photograph it before dropping it all off at the Tapps Art Center.  How else could anyone other than me recreate this vision?  Yesterday was the day. 

(Above:  Yesterday in the atrium outside my studio ... getting ready to assemble Gathering My Thoughts on the wall where my Grid of Photos was hanging.)

I am fortunate to have a perfect location in which to mount such work.  Just outside my studio door is the public space at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  As long as this area isn't being rented by an outside artist or art group, the resident artists hang their own work.  My work, The Grid of Photos (and yes, I finally decided to just go with my "working title" ... The Grid of Photos) has been hanging on the atrium's back wall.  If I took it down, I'd have an empty wall to mount the new idea.  (To read more about The Grid of Photos ... and all the wonderful title suggestions I received ... many of which will likely be used for other work, CLICK HERE.)

On the floor I laid out a king bed flat sheet and two pieces of vintage damask.

Then I took down the white dowels, letting The Grid of Photos collapse onto the floor.

I unfolded the grid onto the fabric ...

... and rolled it all up!

The Grid of Photos is now ready to be transported to the Tapps Art Center.  Fortunately, the executive director has seen it ... up close and very personal ... while I explained how it was installed ... because she'll be hanging it at Tapps!

Next, I placed The Nature of Memory in front of the empty wall and attached wires to three baskets ... which were then hung.  The wicker laundry basket was placed below on the floor.  In my mind, these two works will be positioned together in the upcoming solo show.  Thus, I figured I'd take the photos with this arrangement.   (To read more about The Nature of Memory, CLICK HERE.)

I'm lucky to have wonderful friends who serendipitously seem to donate wonderful fibers from the past at just the most perfect time!  Carole Rothstein is one of these great friends.  A couple of years ago she gave me an enormous amount of wool thread.  Ever since then, I've been using this amazing stash to wrap wooden spools.  I LOVE DOING THIS.  Well, a couple of weeks ago, she dropped off two Olive Garden take-out paper bags full of vintage silk floss ... piles of it.  I dumped the contents of one bag into the laundry basket.

Now, who can resist the sheer beauty of all these shiny threads?  Just gorgeous!

The other paper bag was different.  It was filled with silk floss ... but in the most wonderful vintage paper wrappers with a patent date of August 16, 1904.  I googled the Belding Brothers and learned that the business began in 1860 and merged with Heminway Silk in 1925 ... so these packages had to date from 1904 - 25.  This was undoubtedly some anonymous woman's stash of the finest silk threads.  It seemed totally a shame to open them. 

The wannabe curator in me protested, wanted me to "save" them ... just as they were ... but to "save" them would deny them from their intention, from their very purpose, from all the dreams someone had to USE THEM.  They'd already been saved for around one hundred years.  Almost reluctantly, I decided it was time to FREE THEM ... USE THEM ... OPEN UP THE PAPER WRAPPERS.

Believe it or not, it took three hours!  The little pile on the right are the packages that easily released the floss, leaving the paper wrappers almost perfect.  I did save these.  I also saved several just as they were.  Most, however all in the beautiful, colorful pile between the rest of the damaged paper wrappers and the laundry basket.  The more I worked, the more I knew I was doing the right thing ... making ART ... resurrecting materials from the past for a new creative expression.  It was a lovely three hours!  The laundry basket was filled and all the fibers were mixed together ... beautiful!

Then, it was time to bring out the box into which I'd been putting all the rest of the unwound thread ... the spun fibers from hundreds of old spools!

It was great dumping them onto the floor!

It took time to tangle, untangle, stretch, and arrange all these threads into the hanging baskets but every minute was so much fun!


Now this is A LOT OF THREAD!  The piece was transformed from a "cute little basket" into a full installation, a manifestation of all the zillions of things rattling around in our heads, the tangle of thoughts, the way we try so hard to remember everything but the way so many things slip away.  I love this piece from ...

... the top basket ...

... to the original little basket ...

... the lowest hanging basket ...

... and into the laundry basket.

(Above:  Gathering My Thoughts.)

So here it is ... without the other piece ...

(Above:  The Nature of Memory and Gathering My Thoughts.)

... and here it is with the other piece ... the way it should hang in the exhibit at the Tapps Art Center during November and December!

Finally, here it is all packed up and ready to be transported!  Believe it or not, this was only the first part of "my day as an installation artist"!


Nancy said...

Susan, you have captured the minds of many of us.. as the threads become tangled and frayed.

Margaret said...

I come to these posts belatedly, but I have to say, I love the way your mind works, the way you see the gift in the thread...and have to ask: How could you not preserve and stitch with it?!

Wanda said...

Although I love how the thread Looks, it sort of makes me cringe. ha ha Oh my...I have so much work to do, untangling, cataloging, sorting. How can we have such different Brains and still, we are the same?