Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hope, CLAWS, and Elizabeth Siddal

(Above:  Elizabeth Siddal, 24" x 18". Image transfer, artificial flowers, paint, sequins and beads, self-guided free-motion machine quilting. Hand stitching. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Just after the start of 2012, I joined a national group called CLAWS (Crossing the Line: Artists at Work).  Membership is limited to just twenty art quilters.  Every six months each member creates a 24" x 18" art quilt in response to a theme.  Karen Musgrave heads up this group and is seeking traveling exhibition opportunities for the work.  Our first deadline was August 15, 2012.  The theme/title was:  Women Who Broke All the Rules.  I stitched a portrait of Skirt! Magazine founder and editor Nikki Hardin.  I couldn't blog about the piece I made because this group had one of those very silly rules banning Internet exposure.  For some strange reason, much of the art quilt world still has a foot stuck in the 19th century with the notion that some "grand unveiling" of new work generates more interest than the technology available today.  I don't get it; I never did; nonetheless, I followed the rules!

(Above:  Elizabeth Siddal, detail.)

THANK GOODNESS!  This group came to its sense and has lifted this silly rule.  I can blog again!  Please know, I'm very happy I joined this group because I've learned quite a bit ... like the fact that trying to organize a long-distance group of creative women is pretty much like attempting to "herd cats".  I don't really know any of the other members.  I don't even know their artwork, but I've come to know that some are late, miss deadlines, quit, and change their minds after initially selecting a response to a given topic.  I also learned that I am certainly NOT a typical art quilter.  I've made mistakes too!

(Above:  Elizabeth Siddal, detail.)

One of the more recent themes for the CLAW group was "Rewriting History".  Each member was supposed to select a professional female artist who isn't generally found in art history books and/or major museum collections.  I volunteered to stitch Ana Mendieta (scroll down to see this work).  Karen Musgrave accepted my subject; I made the piece; I sent it a month before the deadline. Later I learned that only twelve art quilts were submitted before the deadline and others weren't necessarily coming.  Thus, I volunteered to stitch another piece (because this theme has actually been my favorite one!).  Karen Musgrave accepted my subject, Elizabeth Siddal.

(Above:  John Everett Millais' Ophelia.)

I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Of course I did!  The image for the art quilt is of me ... but it is also entirely inspired by Elizabeth Siddal.  So, who is she?  Well, Elizabeth Siddal was a favorite model and muse for several of the Pre-Raphelite painters including John Everett Millais who painted one of my favorite pieces, Ophelia.  Elizabeth Siddal posed in a tub of water for this in 1852 ... day-after-day ... into the winter ... never complaining ... even when the lamp heating the water went out.  This painting and my obsession with artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters triggered a hair-brained idea for my first performance art piece.  I blogged about preparing for this adventure HERE.  There was a "dress rehearsal" too ... during which time several people photographed me in the claw-footed tub inside the Main Street storefront window of the Tapps Art Center.  I blogged about this too!  One of the photos was taken by my mentor, Stephen Chesley.  It was his image that I used for the art quilt of Elizabeth Siddal. 

(Above:  Ophelia, performance art piece at the Tapps Art Center, June 2011.)

In addition to collaborating with a couple of photographers, I also worked with Michael Krajewski, a local graffiti artist, who covered the walls in pencil and red paint ... truly reflecting the thoughts of a lovesick teenager about to commit suicide.  One of the best parts of this experience is Heather Bauer's time-lapse video of the people watching.  It is HERE.   So, Elizabeth Siddal inspired me too ... and her life saddens me as well.  During her brief and unfortunate life, she wrote poetry and painted.  Unfortunately, she was a woman.  The men in her life thought she was the ideal of feminine beauty but they didn't really treat her right.  They certainly didn't allow any aspirations she might have had for making art to flourish.  A few of her works still exist but are rarely exhibited.  She inspired but was stifled. Her features grace art history but rarely her name.

(Above:  Elizabeth Siddal, reverse.)

I am very pleased with this piece.  For the reverse, I used a piece of dirndl material I bought in Salzburg, Austria two decades or more ago.  I loved it then and still do.  While rummaging in my "vintage" stash for this fabric, I happened upon a piece of needlework that I stitched at least fifteen or more years ago.  It was finished ... in the sense that the stitches were all there.  It was unfinished ... in the sense that I threw the piece into the plastic bin with everything else.  Why not use it for something?

(Above:  Elizabeth Siddal, reverse, detail of signature.)

It is very likely that I'll never do any needlepoint again, especially anything that requires counting. So, I took that piece, stitched on my name (without counting! LOL!) and date, put it on a crochet edged doily, and put it on the back of Elizabeth Siddal.  There's something fitting about a very ornate addition to a work inspired by the PreRaphelites!

(Above:  Hope. 24" x 18".  Xylene photo transfer on muslin combined with scraps of a vintage pink kimono and other cotton fabrics; beads, sequins and upholstery trim. Hand stitched.)

I am sending Elizabeth Siddal off to Karen Musgrave.  In the box is yet another art quilt.  (Both were made during the last week.)  This is Hope.  It is for another CLAW group theme ... Twenty Words That Can Change Your Life.  Karen provided a list of twenty words.  I volunteered to create Appreciate.  (Scroll down to see it!)  I finished it last month and sent it in early.  The deadline with these quilts is actually on February 15th.  As I mentioned earlier, this group has had its share of problems ... and Hope became available a couple of weeks ago.  I snapped it up!  Again, I knew exactly what I was going to do.    

(Above:  Hope, detail.)

No ... I didn't throw this together inside of a week.  I did it in a single day!  Of course, I was already working with a finished piece!  In May 2011 I created The Face of Faith in the 21st Century.   It was high time to remove it from its frame, cut it down, and turn it into something else.  The funniest thing about this piece is that fact that at first I forgot the name was "Faith", not "Hope".  For me, these two words require one another.  They are also entirely interchangeable ... and also names for a girl!  This is not only the face of "faith", it is also the face of "hope" ... for all things spiritual, for all things good, for the future!

(Above:  Hope, reverse.)

The reverse of Hope is actually a crinkled gold foil paper.  My signature is on a pink dinner napkin that doubles as a hanging sleeve.  I added buttons ... assuring that all three layers are connected ... more than just on the side which is my normal blanket stitching.

(Above:  Nikki Hardin. 24" x 18". Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin, white recycled felt, Thai stucco decorative paper, paper, beads, thread.  Hand stitched.)

So ... now I have a bit of "back-blogging" to do!

The first theme for the CLAW group was "Women Who Break All the Rules".  Of course, I did just that ... I broke the rules on my first attempt! LOL!  I selected Nikki Hardin, Founder of Skirt! Magazine.  I was honored when she agreed to this project and sent photos and a model's release. 

(Above:  Nikki Hardin, detail.)

My problem started after reading the ideas for this group's hopeful exhibitions.  The initial information requested that all the pieces be 24" x 18" so that they could easily be shipped together ... neatly in one box.  Slats for hanging would be packaged separately.  Thus, I thought my "skirt hanger" didn't count toward the finished size of my first piece Skirt! Is a Rebel.  Karen rejected it.  So I made Nikki Hardin as a replacement piece.  This was easy enough.  After all, I've created 108 works in my Decision Portrait Series.  All the single portraits are basically 24" x 18".  I know how to do this! I'm happy that I can now show this piece!

(Above:  Skirt! Is a Rebel, an art quilt. Photo transfer on tea-stained muslin, two skirts, hand embroidery.)

I did, however, share my first attempt.  That early blog post is HERE.  This piece was also recently part of Art Quilts XVIII: ARTrageous, a juried national show at Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona.

(Above:  Skirt! Is a Rebel, reverse.)

As far as hanging this piece goes, it is actually easier that just about any other art quilt ... and can be done "in the round" since the reverse is finished with a collage from Skirt! Magazine!  I will continue to submit this piece when appropriate for a call-for-entry!  I like it a lot!

(Above:  'Til Death Do Us Part. 24" x 18". Gay pride flag, polyester velvet, beads.  Machine and hand stitching.)

The second theme for the CLAW group was "Art Can't Hurt You" and members were supposed to respond to a social issue.  I volunteered to create a work about same sex marriage. 

(Above:  'Til Death Do Us Part, detail.)

By this time, the group decided that one could blog "in progress" images and a "detail shot".  So ... I was able to write a post HERE ... just not show the full, finished work. 

(Above:  'Til Death Do Us Part, in progress.)

This was sort of ridiculous because "in progress" pictures along with the "details" on a piece this small make the final outcome sort of obvious!  Still, I'm happy to finally be able to show the WHOLE thing!

(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.)

Speaking of "showing the whole thing", the third installment for the CLAW group was the "Rewriting History".  As mentioned above, I volunteered to stitch a piece on Ana Mendieta, a pioneer of earth/body art.  Of course, my first attempt got away from me.  The artificial greenery extended several inches beyond the 24" x 18" required border.  So this one became part of my I Am Not Invisible solo show last November and December. 

(Above:  Earth to Earth. 24" x 18".  Image transfer and artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters. Trapunto. Self-guided, free motion machine embroidery with hand stitching and beading.)

I controlled my urge to allow the flowers to be more organically arranged on my second attempt.  Because Karen also might need a QR code for potential exhibitions, I did blog about this piece ... on a support blog ... trying very, very hard not to break any more rules especially since I was sending a nude.  It has additional information about Ana Mendieta, who still inspires me, and about my reasons for creating these two pieces. That post is HERE.

(Above:  Earth to Earth and Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust, reverses.)

I really liked using the vintage material for the background.  It likely dates from the time when Ana Mendieta work alive, well, and working!

(Above:  Appreciate, 24" x 18").

Finally, this was my "other word" for the Twenty Words That Might Change Your Life.  I was able to blog about it ... because the silly anti-Internet rule was finally dismissed!  That post is HERE.

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.  (I'm happy that this week I had a choice of blog posts from which to select!  I'm planning on keeping up my promise to blog more than once a week!)


Jane Jennings said...

Susan, everything you do is always so intriguing!

Wanda said...

And you are the one who taught me and guided me in counted stitching! I always get a kick out of that. Your work is outstanding. You are so versatile and your different Projects all have separate personalities and charm. They all say something different. I don't think that is an easy Thing to do. In my life, things tend to Looks the same, regardless of the differences. I don't even think you think about just happens for you. Your work is full of Emotion and it actually Shows through. Awesome...both you and your work!

Teresa Duryea Wong said...

Susan: Your productivity is so inspiring! Wow. I love the Lizzie Siddal quilt. I just finished a Master's art history course on the PRB and their women. She was truly unique. Your interpretation is just wonderful... so impressed with your work, as always.