Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Day as an Installation Artist, Part Two ... I Am Not Invisible!

(Above:  I Am Not Invisible III, detail.)

Yesterday was wonderful.  I spent the entire day in the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios finishing up work for my upcoming solo show, I Am Not Invisible.  The exhibit opens at the Tapps Art Center 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.  So it was important that I make sure everything was READY FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO HANG.  First, I took down The Grid of Photos and installed Gathering My Thoughts.  That's in "Part One".  Click HERE to access.  This, however, is "Part Two" ... or what I did next!

(Above:  I Am Not Invisible II, I, and III hanging in the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.)

I've been working on these three pieces for quite some time.  Yesterday was the day for all the parts to come together ... for me to see my vision and plans come to life.  I'm quite happy with the results.  Below is how these works were made.

(Above:  I Am Not Invisible I, in progress.)

First, I had my husband Steve cut and build heavy-duty stretcher bars, 72" x 36".  Primed canvas was stapled into place and the collaging began.  I used all sorts of ephemera.  Some of these randomly selected papers came from box lots purchased at Bill Mishoe's auction house, including letters from the 1860s through the 1970s, canceled checks from the turn-of-the-twentieth century, war ration stamps, small calendar pages from 1944, achievement and government certificates, and more.  Some were pages torn from my Grandma Lenz's handwritten finance books from the early 1960s.  Some were ticket stubs from family trips to England and Africa in the mid-1970s.  I also used old passports, anonymous vintage photos, and a wide assortment of items that could be from just about anyone's life.  I bought a gallon of matte medium for the adhesive.

The results were almost perfect.  This was a surface covered in time but the clarity wasn't in keeping with the concept.

It all needed several coats of semi-transparent white-washing.  Watered down acrylic paint was brushed and poured over the surface several times in order to symbolically mimic the way memories fade into a distant past.

Everything is both legible and illegible ... remembered but half forgotten.  Now this was perfect!  Of course, it wasn't done yet.  I generally work in fiber after all.  I had a plan!

I wanted my silhouette to float in front of these canvases, a stitched outline ... personal but also universal ... a layer to hang between the "real time/present" of "real viewers"/the current public and the vestiges of past lives represented in the collage of ephemera.  To do this, I needed my silhouette.  I wanted it life sized and raw.  I wanted it hand drawn.  This meant going to the studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios and using the main gallery early one weekend morning before any of the other artists came to work!  I hung a large piece of white paper on the wall.  The ladder held the clip-on lamp.  I had to stand on two paint cans in order to get my feet into the projected shadow.  My husband Steve took a few photos (and this is the only one I'll show!) and traced my shadow, my silhouette.

We did four poses.  I used three of them.

Later, in the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, I transferred the silhouettes onto sheer chiffon.  I used an ordinary pencil.  Each panel was stitched ... just a running stitch.  Yet, I did the running stitch so that almost all the indigo perle cotton thread was on one side of the fabric ... just tiny pricks between each long stitch.  The "ends" were almost a problem.  The solution was to squeeze a drop of Golden's GAC 400, a clear polymer emulsion concocted as a fabric stiffener, onto the two ends ... right where they came out of the fabric.  Once dry, I cut off the rest of the thread ... the ends are bond in the clear dry acrylic and can't unravel.

I stitched a strip of recycled white, acrylic felt to the top of each panel.  (I cherish this white felt.  Most of my recycled felt is black.  It all used to be the packaging material for a canoe or kayak being shipped from a North Carolina manufacturer to River Runner, my local outdoors shop!)

Why felt?  Well, in order to attach each panel to the frames around the canvases, I planned on using velcro.  Even my velcro came from Bill Mishoe's auction house.  I bought a load of it years ago.  No one wanted it because it was only the "male" side of the velcro ... which is the only side a custom picture framer ever needs to attach moulding corner samples to carpeted display wall ... and, in this instant, the only side an artist needs to attach a chiffon banner to the top of three frames!

The velcro strip already had a sticky back.  I peeled off the facing plastic and stuck each piece to the tops of the frames.  The framing choice was carefully made too.  Please note that the face of this moulding is a half inch away from the canvas.  It's a bold, modern look.  The canvas is set back ... which means the chiffon banners really do "float" in front of the ephemera covered surface!

So ... I hung the three pieces on the atrium wall.  The banner are on the floor.

I used a stool to attach the white felt to the velcro ... and PRESTO ... they are done!

(Above:  I Am Not Invisible II.)

From left to right, I hung the second piece ... at least it is the second silhouette stitched.  Frankly, any one of the banners can hang on any one of the canvases but I had to number them somehow!  I went with the stitching, of course!

(Above:  I Am Not Invisible I.)

(Above:  I Am Not Invisible III.)

The collage on this piece includes my own passport photo ... from when I was just twelve years old.  It is right behind the silhouette of my own head!  (See the first photo in this blog post for an enlargement.)  There's something very fitting about this ... about how I envision the present as a physical space in front of the artwork with the past fading further through the layers of the work.  Literally, I am dissolving into time.

(Above:  Detail of I Am Not Invisible II.)

There's something ghostly about these three pieces.  I like it.  I like how it translates all the things this exhibition is about, how it make it real, makes it ART!

(Above:  I Am Not Invisible II and I, detail.)

Next, they'll be hanging at the Tapps Art Center!

(Above:  Detail of I Am Not Invisible I.)


Margaret said...

Potent. Powerful. Wish I could see it in person...

Wanda said...

Things are hitting me like a sledgehammer. Maybe that means you are successful, your work hitting me like a ton of bricks falling from the sky. I don't really want to look but I can't stop.

Amanda said...

These are wonderful. Beautiful, poignant and strong. I also want to thank you for the level of detail you share in your blog. I've been an artist for over a decade but am just turning to textiles to express myself, and I am really appreciative of all that I am learning from your posts. All the best, Amanda.

Unknown said...

Susan, I enjoyed perusing your site but I was struck by this work in particular. Very powerful, and was enhanced especially by the blog / journal post about "I am not Invisible" and your feelings about that topic.