Monday, September 14, 2015


(Above:  Exodus. Rusted vintage garments and dress form.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Exodus is one of my three entries for the upcoming, juried exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC.  The show is called Stories of Migration: Contemporary Artists Interpret Diaspora. The call-for-entry is found on the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) website. Both jurors are curators at the Textile Museum.  This is a BIG opportunity.  Competition will be fierce. Not many works are expected to be selected as space is limited ... plus the jurors will be inviting between five to seven artists to participate in addition to the juried works.  Most importantly, the Textile Museum doesn't generally have calls-for-entry.  This is a chance to have work in front of internationally respected fiber experts ... if only for a few seconds. These curators/jurors generally create shows "in house" or by borrowing work from other museums and private collections.  (The last time the Textile Museum had a call-for-entry was in 2011 for Green: A Color and a Cause. My piece, Wasted Words: Global Warnings was accepted.)

(Above:  Exodus, in progress.  This is my living room ... with Steve patiently watching CNBC while I start to assemble the rusted vintage garments, dress form, pins, etc.)

The call-for-entry doesn't open until October 1st and I'm ready for it! I need to be prepared in advance. The first few days of October will be hectic as I'm flying to Oregon on the 4th for a month-long art residency at PLAYA.  So ... how did this piece evolve?  I'm not entirely sure.  It started back in the spring of 2014. I had a hair-brained idea to rust and naturally dye vintage garments ... stain the fabric with the soil and minerals from my own backyard. That summer I was invited to participate in a local show, Art from the Ashes, commemorating the sesquicentennial of Gen. Sherman's Civil War burning of Columbia, South Carolina. Four lectures were provided for background information.  Cindi Boiter, the editor of Jasper Magazine and the show's sponsor, emphasized the vision of the exhibit to be from the viewpoint of marginalize people. For me, this meant "women and children" who would have been very frightened on that 1865 February night watching sparks of fire drifting in the high winds ... worried whether they'd have a house by morning. I decided that my idea to rust vintage garments would make an excellent installation to illustrate that viewpoint.  I was very pleased with the results.  I called it Night of Terror.

(Above:  Exodus, in progress.)

Even before creating Night of Terror, SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) announced the "Diaspora" call-for-entry. Even while pinning up the garments at the Tapps Art Center last February, I knew I wanted to later rearrange all the vintage garments on my mother's old dress form ... to enter it into the show at the Textile Museum.  This was my plan all along.  To me, this sculptural idea took the fears of marginalized Civil War era women and children and enlarged them to represent any group of people forced to flee their homelands.  There is a suggestion of a culture's former beauty but also of the struggles and the toils of migration. 

(Above:  Exodus, in progress.)

My "foggy vision" of this sculptural artwork included a long train ... lots of rusted garments ... more than I had last February.  Thus, I applied to Wormfarm Institute, an art residency program outside Reedsburg, Wisconsin. The program's website mentioned having lots of rusty farm implements. The program is housed in a barn ... a perfect location to get "down and dirty".  I was accepted and spent most of May rusting more garment as well as several yards of old fabric. 

(Above:  Exodus, in progress.)

Last week I turned the living room into my studio. All the rusted garments, my mother's old dress form, lots of straight pins and safety pins, and needle and thread were assembled.  It was fun to play with all the parts. It was fun to see my vision become real. But, I couldn't take photos in the living room ... at least not images to submit to the Textile Museum!

(Above:  Exodus, in progress.)

I had to take the entire thing to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. My studio is at this location. The atrium is WONDERFUL for photography ... white walls, a slate gray floor, and (best of all) four big skylights overhead!  I don't have to know a lot of about fancy lighting when working in defused, natural light!

(Above:  Exodus.)

When I arrived at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios I hadn't quite figured out how the train would be fashioned.  The garments for the train weren't yet attached to anything at all. I knew I needed to finish the piece in such a way that someone else (hopefully a staff person at the Textile Museum) could successfully install it. 

(Above:  Exodus ... the garment and its train.)

I decided that the train would be a separate piece.  This solution seemed far easier than trying to stitch all the pieces together ... and easier to transport too!

(Above:  Exodus, the back of the sculptural garment.)

This solution worked beautifully.  After snapping photos of the garment from the front, I removed the train, turned the piece, re-positioned the train ... and took the photos from the back.  I'm very pleased with this work.  My fingers and toes are crossed that it will be viewed in the museum setting!  Below are some of the detail shots.


I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.


Gabriele DiTota said...

It's a very provacative piece! The rusted fabrics work so very well.

Cathy Perlmutter said...

Fantastic piece.

Lesley Turner said...

It looks wonderful. Best of luck. Fingers crossed...

Yael said...

Hi Susan, this looks GORGEOUS! :-)

Sandy said...

This is wonderful Susan. Is this something you could enter for the Festival of Quilts fashion show? as in...can someone wear it? I think it needs to be seen! If you aren't planning to come, you could get it to me on one of your visits over for the ballet or something, and I would deliver it with mine AND make sure it was worn properly.

Mary Fincke McBride said...

You always leave me in awe.

Debbie said...

Just stunning.

Wanda said...

I think it could be worn in a wedding...a wedding of a forest fairy. She would ride to the center of the forest on a white unicorn. Your work always leads me into fantasy, a place I am happy!

Maggi said...

This is fantastic Susan. I sincerely hope that it gets juried in, it certainly deserves to be.