Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Nails in a Coffin

(Above:  Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  49" x 33". Used target practice sheet with collage of clipped letters and colorful papers in frame embellished with used shot gun shells.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

My studio is one of thirteen at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios in downtown Columbia, SC.  Twice a year the group exhibits together during the annual spring and autumn art crawls sponsored by the Congaree Vista Guild, our neighborhood association.  The fall event is called "Vista Lights" and it always falls the Thursday before Thanksgiving which this year is November 20th from 5 - 9 PM.  There's a Facebook page, a professionally designed logo, and a PR firm involved.  Participants have been asked to help "spread the word". With this blog post, I now consider myself in good standing! LOL!

(Above:  Logo for Vista Lights.  Facebook event.)

Vista Lights is in its 29th year.  That's a lot of shows. That's a lot of show titles. Finding a new title for our group exhibit has become rather difficult.  Titles must be appropriate for all the artists and their media ... from non-objective oil paintings to stone carving to classical realism to my fiber arts.  For some reason, the group selected "Just Another Cliché".  (I wasn't at the meeting when this title was picked.)  At first, I HATED the title.  I thought to myself: Why would any artist want work in a show touted as a "cliché"?  Synonyms include:  commonplace, banality, stereotype, triviality, trite remark, threadbare phrase, old story, overused, and hackneyed phrase.  Maybe I just didn't get it?  I wrote to Michel McNinch, one of the other artists.  She explained it while laughing.  She was in the midst of painting The Shirt Off My Back and Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Michel reminded me that I once had an entire series of pieces collaged with various adages or common phrases.  She further reminded me that she owns my Hell NO! 

 (Above:  Thumbnail photos of the thirty-five rather creepy dolls I photographed in Edinburgh, Scotland's toy museum.)

I didn't really want to return to my earlier work so I thought about "clichés" and somehow found myself realizing that the Twilight Zone theme song is an audio-cliché.  Almost everyone I know is familiar with it even though the program went off the air long before my parents thought me old enough to watch it.  Horror movies and scary television shows are filled with clichés.  Then I remembered the thirty-five framed photos of very creepy dolls that I had in storage.  I've only showed them twice: once in Galesburg, Illinois and then in Chandler, AZ.  In the blink of an eye, I was ready for the upcoming show!
 (Above:  One of the images of the antique dolls.  Definitely scary!)

Here's my statement:

“My name is Talky Tina and you’ll be sorry!”

In November 1963 the popular television show, The Twilight Zone, aired "Living Doll", an episode in which a wind-up, talking doll was featured and eventually caused the death of the overbearing father.  Since then, people exposed to this scary program have rarely seen dolls as innocent play toys.  Instead, an antique doll’s stoic gaze is likened to the clichés of horror flicks in which an innocent (generally barely clad) teenager goes off alone into the night to meet untimely horrors.  In stereotypical fashion, Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone theme song often accompanies mental visions of such scenes.

Susan Lenz has created a series of thirty-five photographs that suggest the sensations of a “Living Doll”.  Each straightforward but evocative image is equipped with every scary attribute equated with after dark fears and supernatural powers.  
“Living Doll” was episode 126.  It aired on November 1, 1963 during season five.  It was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, written by  Jerry Sohl (credited to Charles Beaumont), and included an original score by Bernard Herrmann.  The stars included: Telly Savalas as Erich Streator; Mary LaRoche as Annabelle Streator; Tracy Stratford as Christie Streator; and June Foray’s voice for Talky Tina.   

(Above:  The postcard for our group exhibit.)

(Above:  Detail of Hit Me With Your Best Shot.)

I thought I was done.  Yet, there was a little nagging voice in the back of my mind ... a hair-brained idea ... and finally I gave in and made Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  I've had the target practice sheet for years.  Another artist, Pat Callahan, found it while on one of her long-distant runs.  Pat's life drawing skills are top-notch but recently she's been making unique jewelry from discarded pieces of metal found while running.  I've also had the shot gun shells ... donated by the client who most recently purchased one of my large stained glass windows.  The only thing I really didn't have was the large drill bits.  Yet, my parents were coming through town on their way to their Hilton Head timeshare.  I called Dad and asked to borrow his.  It didn't take long to make this piece.  Frankly, I think it is hilarious.

(Above:  Detail of Hit Me With Your Best Shot.)

I did have to order a unique moulding ... wide and thick enough into which I could drill the holes for inserting the shot gun shells.  This piece is a total lark, hair-brained idea, and a cliché.  Sometimes, I just have to make things for no better reason ... like ...

... A Difficult Decision.  I made this piece two years ago. Until being accepted into Spun, a national juried show at Etui Fiber Art Gallery, it hasn't been out of its storage box. 

(Above:  Detail of A Difficult Decision.)

I also have one of my fiber vessels filled with wrapped-and-stitched vintage wooden spools in this exhibit.  It is called Ancestors.  The exhibit opens tomorrow night.  It's in Larchmont, NY.  Obviously, I won't be there ... but I will be in the Durham Arts Council's Allenton Gallery!  Tomorrow is the reception for my solo show there!  I'll post about it later.

(Above:  Nails in the Coffin I, Fabric Fragment.  15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails and a snippet from an embroidered bedspread.  Hand stitched.)

In the meantime, I've finished the eight embroideries for an upcoming, February 2015 invitational exhibit called Art from the Ashes.  These eight pieces will be part of a larger installation.  I blogged about it HERE.  This work is in collaboration with Al Black, a poet, who is writing three pieces ... from the viewpoints of a period undertaker, Confederate soldier, and a Union Soldier.  I can hardly wait to put the entire piece together ... these eight pieces with their "cubes" and wrapped nails in shallow fiber vessels ... along with at least three large vessels filled with even more wrapped nails!  All very exciting! 

(Above:  Working example for the display of the embroideries ... hung over a 7" wall mounted cube on which will sit a shallow, fiber vessel filled with assorted, old wrapped nails.)

This is how I envision these pieces within the larger installation.

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin II, War is Hell. 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails. Hand stitched.) 

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin III. 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails. Hand stitched.)

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin IV, Gossypium herbicum (Cotton). 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails. Hand stitched.)

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin V, Three Small Nails. 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails with three, found nails. Hand stitched.)
(Above:  Nails in a Coffin VI, Wrapped Square Cut Nail. 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails. One, wrapped cut nail. Hand stitched.)

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin VII, March to the Sea. 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails.  Found sea shells.  Hand stitched.)

I finished the last two embroideries over last weekend ... which was a great time.  My Dad celebrated his 80th birthday at their timeshare on Hilton Head Island.  Steve and I took two long walks on the beach.  I picked up several shells.  At the time, I had no idea that they'd work themselves into my art.  Yet, the burning of Columbia was very much part of Sherman's "March to the Sea".  I used "invisible thread" to attach the shells through tiny holes and over the pointed shell ends.  No glue!  I love the texture of all these embroideries too.

(Above:  Dad and Mom at Chow Daddy's on Hilton Head last Sunday afternoon ... officially Dad's 80th birthday!)

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin VII, March to the Sea. 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails. Found sea shells. Hand stitched.)

(Above:  Nails in a Coffin VIII, All That Remains. 15 1/4" x 12 1/4" framed.  Scrap from a vintage damask tablecloth rusted with old nails. Hand stitched.)

I'm now working on several new "Stained Glass" pieces ... getting ready for the upcoming ACC (American Craft Council) shows in Atlanta and Baltimore!  This blog post is also linked to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts. 


Teresa Duryea Wong said...

Susan: You are definitely the ultimate over achiever! You have so many works of art here and so many amazing ideas, that you continue to inspire me! I guess my favorite is Hit me with your best shot. Love that! Love the target practice paper... love all of it. I think this could go viral - by either the NRA or the anti-gun. Not sure which. Be ready! Love that you were with your dad on his 80th! All wonderful!

Cathy Perlmutter said...

Very cool work. I like the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." I agree with Teresa on that one!

Wanda said...

Hit Me With Your Best Shot is once again proof that you are the most versatile Person I know! It takes a controversial topic and simply doesn't give an opinion or a pro/con stand. It just IS. I love that! The dolls certainly do live up to their name...CREEPY. By the way, X-Files also had a creepy doll episode. Just so you know! ha ha Nails in a Coffin are so eloquent, dainty and pure. I say again...VERSATILE! Great post!