Thursday, November 27, 2014
For the past couple months I've been exploring new ideas and inspirations that swirl around the mental images that occurred during four lectures provided by Muddy Ford Press. These informal presentations were meant to provide background information for an upcoming exhibition called Art from the Ashes. There will be a literary publication as well as a month-long show at the Tapps Art Center. It is all very exciting, but honestly I didn't imagine this at the beginning. Why? Well, the entire event is a commemoration of Sherman's Civil War burning of Columbia. Never would I have imagined "war" and "destruction" and "fire" as the fuel for new work ... but that's exactly what happened. Work is simply pouring out of me!
Perhaps this inspiration is coming from the viewpoint stressed by Cindi Boiter and the Muddy Ford staff. They'd like to see artwork and literary pieces that take into account marginalized citizens, ordinary people, and what it must have been like to live in a city out-numbered by "the enemy". Military strategies, accounts of generals, raw statistics, and reliance on existing, first-person accounts is NOT compulsory and NOT my point of departure. I listened to all four lectures and realized that I could leave the controversial issues of blame and percentage of burning to the historian. I only needed to RESPOND in an artistic way ... say something in material that spoke to what must have been a night of terror. My imagination tried to feel the night of February 17, 1865 as "a mother", someone like I might have been.
Let me set the stage with a quotation from Wikipedia:
On February 17, 1865, Columbia surrendered to Sherman, and Wade Hampton Confederate cavalry retreated from the city. Union forces were overwhelmed by throngs of liberated Federal prisoners and emancipated slaves. Many soldiers took advantage of ample supplies of liquor in the city and began to drink. Fires began in the city, and high winds spread the flames across a wide area. Most of the central city was destroyed, and municipal fire companies found it difficult to operate in conjunction with the invading army, many of whom were also fighting the fire. The burning of Columbia has engendered controversy ever since, with some claiming the fires were accidental, a deliberate act of vengeance, or perhaps set by retreating Confederate soldiers who lit cotton bales while leaving town.
So ... I've been inspired ... by the fact that COTTON, a fiber, is central to the burning of Columbia no matter who lit the bales. I've been inspired to scorch silk, wrap nails, collaborate with a local poet Al Black, and especially by the idea that vintage garments (visual suggestions of "the past" ... even though not as far back as the Civil War) could be stained with the earth and the plant life from my own Columbia backyard. I've been rusting old christening gowns and using everything from magnolia leaves to kutzu to make natural dyes.
As much as these garments reflect the burning of Columbia, I wanted to also create something beautiful to show life before the Civil War ... despite the fact that I don't really find the politics of that time period particularly pleasant and certainly not where I would have wanted to live ... ever! I wanted something "idealized", something to contrast with the sense of destruction, something to stand for the "Lost Cause". Thus, I tried my hand at flower pounding. I selected a most lovely, lacy sleeping gown. It was soaked in alum water, left to dry, and then I pounded flowers into the fibers. I used things mostly from my own backyard. The bright pink is ordinary clover.
Some of the leaves are from our hydrangea. Some of the petals were collected in lower Richland County at a farm where I picked cotton for another installation headed to this same exhibition.
I'd read about flower pounding on-line but had never seen it done. Before starting, I googled the subject and read that a mallet and unprinted newspaper should be used. I don't own either. I made due with a hammer and scraps of mat board. It worked perfect! Then, the most amazing thing occurred. I noticed that the flower imprinted itself on the mat board as well as onto the garment. Before long, I was intentionally pounding the flowers onto both ... and created twenty pieces of matted and shrink-wrapped art!
I used scraps of 100% cotton rag mat board. It seemed appropriate. I tore all the edges and matted them to 20" x 16". They will be going to the Sustainable Midlands Holiday Sale on Monday. They are, after all, ORGANIC. Yet, all the color is from the flowers ... the tiny, humble pink buds of clover that seem to grow like weeds when the grass isn't cut! I added a few pencil lines ... making the resulting work look as if it is an original watercolor. It isn't. Instead, the mark is the actual moisture and pigments from the flower itself. I don't think I could draw any blossom quite as perfectly!
Unfortunately, it is terribly difficult to adequately capture these very ethereal pieces digitally. These photos aren't the best. For one, I was hand-holding the camera ... not using a tripod. Secondly, I wasn't in an ideal lighting situation. Finally, I dropped my camera. It seemed to work alright thereafter ... except for one corner having a permanent black shadow. Then, I noticed that other images weren't crystal clear. The fine tuning of the automatic focusing isn't work. It isn't working quite as well as it should when I go off automatic. I had to face the fact that I needed a new digital camera. One has been purchased. It arrived. I'll be sharing photo of the rusted and natural dyed vintage garments soon. I had to re-shoot all thirteen garments over again. Of well! I'm not going back to re-shoot these pieces though. It's just too much work and I'm too busy making more art!
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:12 PM
Monday, November 24, 2014
(Above: Wrapped wooden spool Christmas ornaments. Click on image to enlarge.)
A week from today is the Sustainable Midlands Holiday Show at 701 Whaley here in Columbia. The one-night-only sale runs from 4:30 - 8:30. I really support this organization and its mission to promote the "three Rs": Recycle, reuse, repurpose. Everything in the sale must be either organic or incorporate recyclables. I've been making all sorts of things including these Christmas ornaments!
I've been making A LOT OF THEM! Each one also includes vintage buttons, ribbon from my stash (almost all of which comes from yard sales and auction), and beads ... also from a variety of sources that don't include a traditional store front.
I have other fiber ornaments too. They use trim, felt, and yarn from my "recycled stash".
Yet, I've also been making some silly things ... like earrings from this year's bread bag closure tabs. I had at least three dozen more of these little things but something went wrong.
I hoped to eliminate the inked numbers and letters that appear on one side. These marks are the freshness dates for the bread. I tried nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, Windex, an erasure, and turpentine. The ink didn't even fade but the color of the tabs certainly did. So, I tried gold metallic spray paint. I'm a terrible spray painter. I had finger prints all over them and eventually threw them out. Oh well. At least I have twenty pairs that weren't subjected to all my solvents! LOL!
I also made another ten bottle cap photo frames. Five are vertical. Five are horizontal. All fit a standard 5" x 7" picture.
I've got twelve different sized mirrors embellished with used bottle caps too!
For my bookmarks, earrings, and Christmas ornaments, I have a large stack of recycled bags. These were made from two spreads of old issues of Jasper Magazine. I think I'm ready ... except for the set-up which will be next Monday!
In the meantime, I finished up two more pieces for the upcoming ACC (American Craft Council) Baltimore and Atlanta shows in February and March of next year.
Sometimes I forget to blog about the personal, wonderful things in my life ... like Max, our very spoiled cat. Max is so spoiled that he isn't content with only one house and one family. Max also lives next door at the Finney Law Firm. Jerry Finney even splits the vet bill with us. I couldn't help but to snap this photo of Max's newest nap place. He figured out how to crawl up onto a stack of my grave rubbing art quilts ... onto Beloved which seems to suit him.
Also, yesterday we enjoyed Anita Ashley's Columbia Ballet School's production of The Nutcracker at A.C. Flora High School. This is the first of several versions of this holiday classic being done here in Columbia. We aren't sure just how many Nutcrackers we'll see but who's counting!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:29 PM
Friday, November 21, 2014
I made Death Bed several months ago but didn't blog it. Why? Well it was one of two pieces submitted for the biennial Quilt National. This international show has odd and very strict rules prohibiting any prior exposure. Circular Churchyard made it into Quilt National 2013 but neither of my submissions were accepted for the coming exhibition. I didn't get to blog Circular Churchyard until May 2013 even though I'd finished the piece in April 2012. At least I got to blog it as an "acceptance" and a big, big deal.
(Above: Death Bed at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for Vista Lights 2014.)
I got my rejection last month. I could have blogged about the work then ... but it just felt too much like saying, "See ... look at my reject!" So, I waited until I could say, "See ... look at my piece in a proper gallery, in a well attended exhibition, with people admiring the work!" That happened last night at Vista Lights, the annual art crawl/holiday kick off in downtown Columbia, SC. My studio was open and I had other work in the group show. Yet, it was this piece that seemed to make the evening special.
(Above: Death Bed. This is the image submitted to Quilt National.)
This work was created to be suspended ... totally "in the round" ... allowing viewers to see both sides. It started as a grave rubbing made on the very same day at those for Circular Churchyard. This grave rubbing was entirely outlined with self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery ... and then the background was filled in with dense hand seeding stitches. The edges were embellished with a row of vintage buttons. I could have stopped there but I didn't. I saw this art quilt as if a pillow for the vintage lace single-bed's spread. I appliqued the quilt to the top of the spread. Then, I added a layer of chiffon to the center of the spread (behind it) ... sandwiching in individual pieces of crochet. Some of these crochet insertions are on the top of the bedspread. Some are between the two layers of fabric. Some are on the reverse/behind the back layer of chiffon. This aids in the ethereal look of the whole. I also took another layer of sheer chiffon and hand stitched my silhouette onto it. That layer is only attached at the top. This layer actually moves a little with the slight air current that comes from the air-conditioning/heating system in the gallery.
I wanted this piece to be suspended because I knew that any lighting would also intensify the ethereal nature of the whole. There is a great transparency to the work and the cast shadows are almost unearthly. I like that! Of course, there were many challenges along the way.
I had to tackle the fact that the bedspread didn't hang as a perpendicular unit, straight toward the floor. The sides sloped toward the center. To tackle that, I needed "weight" running down the sides. I added a heavy vintage trim, more buttons, and finally a dowel along the bottom from which I hung a thick row of lacy fringe.
(Above: Death Bed, from the reverse.)
These additions are seen best from the reverse.
(Above: Death Bed, detail of reverse.)
I also added a large, eyelet embellished doily to the reverse of the upper section. I stitched the title, my name, and the date to this doily. Below are additional images shot last July or August. Enjoy! I know plenty of people did last night ... especially Eileen Blyth.
Eileen Blyth is another artist with studio space at Gallery 80808/Vista. She was so taken with the work that she added a "response" ... in the form of two, tiny leather soles from an antique child's pair of shoes. I love them! This little touch seems to heighten the three-dimensionality of the work. The shoes appear to have stepped out of the otherwise vertical surface of the fabric, invading today's time and space. They almost invite viewers to approach and certainly suggest a human element that is both gone but also present. Thank you, Eileen! (The tiny soles are visible in the first two photos in this blog post.)
I am also adding this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:32 PM
Thursday, November 13, 2014
(Above: Detail of Stained Glass LXII. Click on any image to enlarge.)
My husband Steve is a genius when it comes to travel arrangements. He's always able to figure out the complicated "point" systems for airline tickets and hotel accommodations. I'll not divulge the ridiculously low prices we paid for our recent trip to Phoenix. Trust me! It was cheap! (Okay, he made the car rental reservation, checked it daily, and changed it THREE TIMES ... each time to a lower rate. I could never be so diligent but I'm so glad he is!) So early last Friday morning we flew west! We returned on the Monday "red-eye", arriving back on Tuesday morning. It was a glorious time to visit Death Valley, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, the Valley of Fire, a couple ghost towns, and attend the opening reception for ARTQUILTS Year XI: Permission to Play at the Chandler Center for the Arts, Chandler, AZ. (Yes, this means that a significant portion of the trip is a legitimate tax deduction! Like I said, Steve is a travel guru!)
(Above: Stained Glass LXII. Framed: 63" x 23". $1200.)
When we left, I had several new pieces almost finished. Yet, I can't really share this work until it is mounted on mat board, photographed, entered into my inventory ledger, and ready to be fitted into frames. Since returning, these last steps were done on these FIVE pieces. So ... here they are!
I'm gearing up for the ACC (American Craft Council) shows in Baltimore and Atlanta. Plus, the Grovewood Gallery recently sold several pieces! More pieces will be coming soon!
I'm also busy every evening making wrapped-and-stitched wooden spool Christmas ornaments. These will be going to the Sustainable Midlands Holiday Sale on December 1st and to the independent handmade "Crafty Feast" show in the Columbia Convention Center on Sunday, December 14th. Photos will be coming. These are fun!
(Above: Lunette Window XV. Framed: 23" x 29". $495.)
This is a totally new design. I really like it! Another new development came in the form of an extra piece of museum glass. Museum glass is amazing. From most angles it looks utterly invisible. Unfortunately, it is also very, very expensive. Yet a client wanted museum glass on his over-sized artwork. I can only purchase it "by the box". There are two sheets in each box. Thus, I had a 68" x 48" sheet leftover. We cut it for several of these new works. I'm not raising my prices for these pieces, but I will gauge whether or not it makes a difference to art buyers. If it does, I might have to raise my prices and make a permanent stitch.
(Above: In Box CLXVII. Framed: 19 1/4" x 15 1/4". $225.)
(Above: In Box CLXVIII. Framed: 19 1/4" x 15 1/4". $225.)
(Above: Reception for ARTQUILTS Year XI: Permission to Play at the Chandler Center for the Arts, Chandler, AZ.)
So ... the excuse for our western trip was an art quilt show. No one had to twist my arm into going. I love the Chandler Center for the Arts and the nearby Vision Gallery. The staff is fabulous. I've had two solo exhibitions with these nice people.
The art quilts are always displayed very, very well. The lighting is perfect. The location gets plenty of traffic.
The Spool Quilt was suspended on this unique hanging system ... along with another two-sided art quilt featuring a dinosaur on one side and its skeleton on the other. (I voted for this piece for the "Viewers Choice" award.)
The photo above shows the other side of both the dinosaur quilt and my Spool Quilt ... plus ... my other two, smaller pieces from my "Wet Sand" series are shown on the end of the portable wall unit. I met lots of nice art quilters too! This is a great, annual show.
Before the art quilt reception, Steve and I headed to Goldfields near the Superstition Mountains outside Phoenix. It is a fabulous, tacky, tourist mecca with plenty of old rusty machines, revamped mercantile shops, a pioneer church, a full service saloon, and a place to pay $3 to see at least one of almost all the venomous snakes living in the state. (The owner was very informative and fun. We loved it). We watched an independent Western film being shot, talked to several of the actors, and had a great lunch before hiking for the rest of the afternoon.
The next day we headed toward Las Vegas with a side trip on the historic Route 66 highway ...
... stopping in Oatman, Arizona ... along with hundreds of Harley Davidson riders ...
... to watch two townspeople reenact a gun fight right in the middle of the road. Wild burros roamed freely and shops sold small bags of alfalfa to feed the adults. The younger burros all had post-it notes on their forehead asking visitors not to feed them. The place was so much fun. Steve got a new t-shirt.
Before nightfall, we made it to Hoover Dam. Years ago we took our two boys here ... before the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman bridge was built. The view from this bridge is amazing! Well worth the stop!
Steve and I don't gamble much. We spent a total of eleven dollars on a slot machine. I used the stop watch on my phone to gauge the amount of time it took to lose that money. Almost five whole minutes! LOL!
We really enjoyed walking through the fancy casinos and hotels!
I was thrilled to see the Dale Chihuly chandelier in the Bellagio Hotel lobby.
I took dozens of pretty pictures.
The Bellagio's art gallery was between exhibitions but the wide hallways were filled with artwork ... including this new Nick Cave sound suit!
(Above: Badwater in Death Valley, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level!)
Las Vegas is dazzling, exciting, and full of energy but it is also a great overnight location for those seeking the solitude and natural beauty of Death Valley ... like the scene above!
We even saw this coyote ... and, no, I didn't roll down the window in an attempt to take a better photo!
We also went to the Valley of Fire, Nevada's first state park. The day was somewhere beyond gorgeous. The landscape somewhere beyond surreal. The colors really were this vivid. The texture really was intense.
Steve and I did plenty of hiking. We had a blast! I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art creations!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:45 PM