Wednesday, December 04, 2013

I Am Not Invisible

(Above:  Signage for my solo show at the Tapps Art Center with framed statement and one of six framed, nude photos.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

Last month my solo show, I Am Not Invisible, opened during "First Thursday" on Main Street.
I wasn't there.
I was in my booth at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  In fact, I didn't even see how it looked until after returning to Columbia.  Brenda Schwarz Miller, the director of the Tapps Art Center, designed and hung the exhibit.  Now, I'm looking forward to tomorrow, December's "First Thursday".  It is sort of like "my reception"!  I will be with my work, watching people's reactions, and making some important decisions regarding the future of this work.

(Above:  View from inside the Main Street, front door, to the Tapps Art Center ... looking down the left-hand side of the wide, center aisle.  On the left wall is The Virgin of Gone and Forgotten Triptych and four framed journal entries.  On the center aisle is the signage, framed statement, and six small nude photos spaced between three large pieces called I Am Not Invisible I, II, and III.  )

Let me back up a bit!  This show is the result of last January's New Year's Resolution to create an entirely new body of work based on the concept of remembrance.  I had plenty of ideas about "the way we remember", "the way we forget", and especially about the likelihood that everything and everybody will slip into the oblivious past in just a generation or two.  As a visual artist, this is a scary thought.  Will anyone remember me?  My art?  Will anything I create actually become a treasured family heirloom? Be valued? Stand the test of time?  

(Above:  View of the space just inside the Tapps Art Center's front door.  The main aisle extends down the opening between these two walls.  On the left wall is The Virgin of Gone and Forgotten Triptych and four framed journal entries.  On the far, right wall are four more framed journal entries and two 3D assemblages:  The Nature of Memory and Gathering My Thoughts.  Just visible on the center aisle is the start of The Wall of Ancestors.)

So, to add an accountability factor to my New Year's resolution, I contacted Brenda Schwarz Miller and arranged to have this exhibit.  There's nothing like the pressure of a deadline to keep the work on pace!  It was my intention to 1) make this new body of work 2) mount the exhibit 3) write an exhibition proposal for future opportunities.  I kept a journal through which the concepts developed.  Eight entries were edited, printed and framed.  This habit of writing also led to the various avenues for creative discovery that became this body of work ... or these bodies of work!

(Above:  View of the space just inside the Tapps Art Center's front door.  The main aisle extends down the opening between these two walls.  On the near, right-hand wall are four framed journal entries, The Nature of Memory and Gathering My Thoughts.)

The Nature of Memory was created because it is central to the theme for the entire exhibit.  It was wonderful to make and it brought "the brain" into consideration and conscious awareness.  Through my writing, I associated "the brain" with both "thread" and with modern technology.  Thus, Connected, Shared, Saved (later in this blog post) came about but also Gathering My Thoughts just had to be made.  

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

Gathering My Thoughts evolved.  It was first just one tiny basket filled with thread.  Then it became this installation.  It is going to evolve again ... or at least I hope it will.  I honestly would love to create an even larger installation.  Try to imagine dozens of baskets and miles of thread ... a thread bomb ... and more appropriate to the millions of thoughts running through any brain on any given day.  I hope this will become its own exhibition proposal. 

(Above:  The right-hand side of the center aisle.  The Grid of Photos is flanked by The Wall of Ancestors.)

Through the process of writing and reacting in stitch, many pieces organically grew and morphed into other work.  The Grid of Photos naturally spawned The Wall of Ancestors.  (The links are to earlier blog posts about these pieces.)  Now that I'm looking at this past year's work, I realize that these two installations can really stand on their own.  I sort of want to make another, larger grid of photos and I can envision three or four times of number of framed "ancestor" pieces ... or more.  Finding the source material isn't much of problem.  I probably already own quite enough of it.  These two pieces are likely going to become a proposal on its own. 

(Above:  The Grid of Photos and The Wall of Ancestors.)

(Above:  The left-hand side of the center aisle.)

The funny thing about exploring a concept for a future exhibit is that the work I initially thought to make didn't quite happen.  I ended up with so many other deadlines, commitments, and the retail shows in November that I never finished the large, nude art quilts I wanted to make.  Oh ... they are started ... and one of two smaller pieces did get completed ... but the original mental image for this show is still in the works and will likely become another, separate exhibition proposal.  At least that's my current plan!  In the meantime, I did get the images created.  There are six nudes of me in barren landscapes (as if dead) or atop sprays of funeral flowers or on various cemetery plots.  Yes, this means I posed; Steve snapped the camera.

(Above:  Seven basted art quilts ... ready to stitch.)

The images were altered in Photoshop, sent to Spoonflower and printed on fabric, and were basted onto recycled black acrylic felt.  One is in the process of being stitched.  I will, of course, stitch all of them ... and likely cover the surfaces with poured epoxy ... a thin, light-reflecting layer that puts the image just out of physical touch and more like the finish of a photograph.  Now, I guess I have my next New Year's resolution already in place.  

(Above:  Four of the six nude photos and two of the three I Am Not Invisible pieces.)

Quite a bit of my writing dealt with the ephemera from Bill Mishoe's auctions ... whether I bought it or not.  The scraps of paper, the old photos, the nicknacks, and formerly precious things of other people's lives is a constant source of inspiration.  They seem to ask:  Why wasn't I saved by someone in the family?  Was there no family? They seem to beg:  Use me for art! 

(Above:  One of the I Am Not Invisible pieces.  The link is to a former blog post with more information on these three pieces.)

I used all sorts of papers ... from my family and from families I don't know but found at auction ... and collaged three giant canvases.  The surfaces were covered with light washes of white paint which semi-obscured the details ... as if fading off into a forgotten past.  Returning to the idea of using my own body, I stitched my silhouette onto very sheer chiffon.  This was just another way to explore the concept of remembrance.  I'm pleased with the results and think these pieces could easily be shown with the art quilts to come.

(Above:  Handed Down on the right with The Wall of Ancestors and The Grid of Photos on the center aisle.)

The only work in the exhibit that was not created during the past year is Handed Down.  For me, it is a bridge between all the work I've done before this year and this new body of work.  My past work includes my Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series and 3D assemblages based on "time".  These were more abstract ways of looking at the concept of remembrance.  Handed Down, however, uses my family's names.  Creatively, it marks a transition into the new work.  This new work goes a step further ... it considers my ultimate death, the way I want to be remembered, and my fears that my memory will not last more than a generation or two!  The new work is much more personal.    

(Above:  The area at the back of the center aisle.  On the right wall is Connected, Shared, Saved, a triptych of found cords and computer parts.  On the left is Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust.  In the center aisle is part of The Wall of Ancestors.)

Connected, Shared, Saved is more personal too.  I try desperately to keep an accurate inventory of my work.  I document everything.  This blog is another, modern example of my commitment to being remembered ... through the tools I use ... the computer.  Yet, it is also part of my fears.  Will I be able to keep up?  Will new systems, equipment, and programs simply replace all my efforts?  Will all these Internet words fade into oblivion?

(Above:  Area at the far end of the center aisle.  On left-hand wall is Where Have All the Flowers Gone?  On the far wall on the right, Handed Down.)

Another transitional piece is Where Have All the Flowers Gone?  Although I created it this past year, the piece started in 2012 when I poured epoxy over a pane of glass and covered it in the plastic stems and foundations of artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.  Originally, only the title of the folk song inspired this act.  During the year, however, I figured out how to actually make the piece.  It needed a focal point.  It needed something personal, more than just a response to well known lyrics.  It needed a photo of me ... naked on a spray of funeral flowers.  This brought me into the inevitable cycle.  

(Above:  Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust and framed exhibition statement.  Center aisle:  The Wall of Ancestors and The Grid of Photos.)

Finally, the one nude art quilt that is in the show is Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust. It was one of two smaller works I stitched before ordering seven larger images from Spoonflower. 

(Above:  Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust.  26" x 20".  Image transfer and artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters. Trapunto. Self-guided, free motion machine embroidery with hand stitching and beading. )

The other piece is very similar.  It is called Earth to Earth and has been sent to Karen Musgrave for the CLAWS group she is curating.  It was for a group of twenty 24" x 18" pieces called Rewriting History.    This exhibition theme is an exploration of women artists who aren't included in standard art history texts, shown often in major museums, and part of many private collections.  I selected Ana Mendieta.  Why?  Because I knew I wanted to make these pieces ... both of them ... plus the upcoming, seven large others.  The exploration of Ana Mendieta's earth/body art falls quite naturally into my own interests in remembrance.  If history is "rewritten", will it include me?  Will my work be remembered?  Will I be remembered.  For me, these two pieces are equally a response to Ana Mendieta's life and work and to my own. 

I can't show a full view of Earth to Earth.  Why?  Because the CLAWS (Crossing the Line: Artists at Work) has one of those silly rules against sharing the full image on line.  In order to have a QR code for my piece, I did write a blog post.  It is hidden on my "Strata" blog, a place for just these sorts of things ... and for my "full CV".  It includes a detail shot only.  It is HERE and includes the lengthy statement ending with this paragraph:

By posing my own nude body on a spray of funeral flowers, I physically worked in Ana Mendieta's medium, documenting the experience through photography and fibers.  My concept asks, "What if Ana Mendieta had lived to post menopausal years?"  This question and others is directly related to my ongoing exploration of the ethereal nature of memory, the passing of time, and the traces one might leave on earth to mark one's existence.  My hope is that Ana Mendieta would have approved and that by continuing her legacy, art history might include a more equatable number of works by female artists, even me.

(Above:  People visiting my show at the Tapps Art Center.)

Tomorrow night I'll be with my work, able to see and listen to responses to the work, and think about how I might write more than one exhibition proposal.  It should be interesting.  Not every artist has a personality that might allow her to pose nude and display the results.  I do.  It isn't narcissistic.  I'm not a nudist or an exhibitionist at all ... I'm only willing to do this in order to best make a point.  For me, there is no better way to face one's own ultimate death and the possibility of being lost over time than to put yourself naturally into the work ... just the way one came into the world ... nothing else ... just the human form, the person ... ME!

By the way, the people in the photo above did walk the rest of the way down the center aisle while I was taking these pictures.  They looked at Ashes the Ashes; Dust to Dust and then asked me if I were a photographer.  I'm not exactly sure what to think; they never recognized me as the artist in the image at all! LOL!

Update:  I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.  Obviously, it is now Friday and "First Thursday" was last night.  It was fun to watch people looking at my work.  Most didn't know me.  Some did.  I was twice asked if I had a good model's release ... because these people didn't know I was the model.  Strange ... and funny!  


Debbie Bein said...

Susan, you continue to impress me with the scope of your work and imagination. This show looks stunning! I wish I could see it in person. Happy Holidays! Debbie Bein

Margaret said...

What Debbie said. And...I too have had a life-long concern with remembering/being remembered...Your work touches a chord. Thank you -- again!

Julianne said...


Gwyned Trefethen said...

What a fascinating theme and creative interpretation.

Wanda said...

The Show Looks awesome. So clean and crisp. Almost eerie with the White surroundings. I love so many of the individual pieces. On a whole though, I just can't go there. I can't think about it without really Messing myself up. So I have to leave it for you to do. And you do such a wonderful Job. It's all very emotional, you know.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an amazing show - it looks fascinating and I so wish I could see it in person. Well done doesn't really cut it, but well done anyway!