Friday, October 30, 2015

Last Week at PLAYA

(Above:  Four blue fiber vessels created during my four week art residency at PLAYA.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

I'm blogging from the Portland Airport before my red-eye flight back to Charlotte.  The last few days were emotionally strained.  I loved every single minute at PLAYA, the art residency where I've been soaking up nature and enjoying inspired quietness in the wonderful studio.  I really, really hated counting down the hours until this morning's early departure.  It was so sad to close the door on the lovely cabin and its glorious view to the dried lake bed and the Milky Way stars at night.  I started missing this high desert sanctuary even before I pulled out the driveway. Sure, during this past month, I missed my husband Steve.  Sure, I missed having a high speed Internet connection at my fingertips any moment, day and night ... but I absolutely cherished the solitary time of uninterrupted work and the chance to contemplate my current work, future plans, and upcoming goals.  Being at PLAYA was magical ... and productive.

(Above:  Paisley Caves: Man and Nature.  Sun-bleached animal bones, discarded ammo shells, fiber vessel.)

My original residency proposal included a desire to create fiber vessels ... more than just "containers" but conceptual pieces.  I wanted to mentally think about the forms I was zigzag stitching and find ways to use the results as part of a greater statement.  One of the best ideas came in an instant.  Deb Ford, the executive director of PLAYA, took several of the artists-in-residence to the nearby Paisley Caves, the location where archeologists uncovered the oldest DNA evidence of man's existence in North America.  Approximately 14,000 years ago humans inhabited these caves ... which are only about ten miles from PLAYA.  When we visited, we gathered a few animal bones.

No!  These are NOT relics!  Raptors nest above the caves and dine on the small rodents, pigeons, and other creatures who live in the area.  They discard the bones. These caves are on public land.  It isn't a designated historical site, and the archeological dig is finished!  (I posted photos on Facebook and many people were alarmed that I was stealing away precious relics!  Not the case!)  Anyway, there were also plenty of small ammo shells on the ground.  Instantly, I looked at the shells and thought, "Well, there's modern day evidence of man!"  

(Above:  Detail of Paisley Caves:  Man and Nature.)

From that moment, I wanted to collect more bones, more ammo shells, and fill a fiber vessel.  There's a concept!  Deb warned that the dirt road had deep ruts.  It might be very risky to drive back in a small car, low riding car.  I thought about it and thought about it ... and finally risked the drive.  It was worth it!  I'm really pleased with this piece!
(Above:  Three, natural toned fiber vessels.)

I'm not precisely sure how I will use some of the many other fiber vessels to make strong, conceptual statements ... but I had fun making them nonetheless!

(Above:  Composer Susan Alexander and the fiber vessel she bought.)

Some of these vessels don't need a lofty concept.  Two have already been sold.  One went to Susan Alexander, a composer.  Another went to Stephanie Dykes, a printmaker from Salt Lake City.  (Thanks, Susan and Stephanie!  Your support means the world to me!)

(Above:  Free motion stitching a new Lunette Window.)

This week also found me creating another Lunette Window for my upcoming solo show at the Douglasville Arts Council in Douglasville, Georgia!  I've got a busy, busy week ahead when I return to Columbia!

(Above:  My photo arrangement for the four, blue fiber vessels with the Five Points Pavement Diptych tacked to the design wall.)

Another deadline includes my commissioned diptych for the Five Points Association.  The two works tacked to the design wall will be available through the Starry Night Gala on December 3rd.  They are due, however, on Tuesday of next week.  Thank goodness I selected the framing material before I left home!

(Above:  Additional images of pavement in Five Points ... in the process of being free motion quilted and embellished with hand stitching.)

When I created the digital files for my Five Point Pavement Diptych, I also ordered several, smaller prints of my picture.  This past week allowed me to finish most of these small works.  They have been so much fun to stitch!  Plus ... I was also working on another deadline.  I didn't snap a photo but I plan to do so before I ship the pieces to Washington, DC!  So ... what's the big secret?  Well, I was selected to create the twelve Christmas ornaments from South Carolina for the National Christmas tree.  This year the ornaments had to reflect each state's National Parks and Monuments.  I gathered my images, uploaded them to Spoonflower, and waited to receive the protective 5" plastic globes in which the ornaments were to fit.  The globes arrived in Columbia after I was in Oregon.  Steve shipped me one ... so I made eighteen during my final week at PLAYA.  (That means I have a few extra for the SC Arts Commission, my friend Dolly Patton who recommended me for the commission, and for my parents who kept this a secret!)  Yes ... Steve and I actually get to go to DC with coveted tickets for the National Tree Lighting!  I'm excited!

(Above:  Four containers of different soil collected at PLAYA.)

As exciting as this opportunity has been, it can't compare to the hair-brained ideas that came to me during my final week at PLAYA.  I think that during my first week I was simply too in awe of the natural surroundings to entertain new ideas.  By the second week, I was heavily into my proposal and making the work I planned for this special time.  By the end, however, unique opportunities seemed to present themselves ... like collecting four samples of soil to make "paint".  One of the samples came from the mowed grass paths.  One came from the salty crust of the playa.  One came from the grey sand that blows into eddy in the late autumn heat, and the final sample of cinnamon brown soil was dug up from just under the cracked, sere lake bed in areas that are able to sustain some plant growth.  I mixed each sample with a little water from the spring fed pond at PLAYA.  Then, one by one, I used wadded up pieces of paper (as I had no proper brushes!) and spread and flinged the mixtures onto the Wonder Under I brought.

(Above:  Wonder Under painted with soil samples from PLAYA.)

(Above:  Detail of my soil painting on Wonder Under.)

I allowed each sample to dry before adding the next, preventing the hues from mingling into a really muddy mess!  Now ... I know Wonder Under!  It is a heat-activated adhesive but it only effectively holds a very thin layer of coloring agents.  My soil samples were too thick.  Once dry, I brushed off most of the encrusted soil ... leaving just the traces.

(Above:  PLAYA soil samples on Wonder Under ... with a few twigs of local vegetation ... ironed onto paper.)

Then, I cut the Wonder Under and ironed it onto 100% cotton rag paper.  On this one, I also added a few stems of local vegetation.

(Above:  PLAYA soil on Wonder Under ironed to paper.)

I am really, really pleased with this hair-brained idea.  I ended up with eight horizontal pieces and two smaller works.  I plan to coat them with polymer emulsion, fuse the paper to fabric, and add a couple of machine embroidered lines suggesting a horizon line.  Stay tuned on this blog!  I'll be getting to this as soon as my shipped boxes arrive in Columbia1

(Above:  Sign for the Fremont Recreation Trailhead.)

Now ... as much as I absolutely loved my uninterrupted studio time, I did get out into nature while in Oregon.  One day last week I went hiking to Cat Canyon.  It was miraculous to be all alone in the wilderness.  I saw deer, chipmunk, and plenty of birds.  The high desert scenery is wild and full of life.

In sections the path was quite steep and rocky.  In other areas it was more like a gentle indentation across a board, upward inclined field.

I went through patches with tall Ponderosa pines and marveled at the deep texture of the bark.

Some trees were intentionally downed to prevent a forest fire from spreading.

Other delicate trees clung to their late fall leaves that rustled in the occasional, fierce wind.

I collected a few rocks ... and obsidian!  I admired the lichen.

(Above:  A group from PLAYA out to explore an area with many petroglyphs.)

At another time I went to Coffee Pot Flats and found more obsidian!  I'm thrilled ... and I found even more while visiting the native American petroglyphs with other residents from PLAYA.  All and all, I really did spend time in nature as well as in my studio!

(Above:  My stone spiral formation on the playa.)

In fact, at least twice a day ... sometimes three or four times ... I walked from my cabin to the studio (or back) via the playa ... collecting stones along the way ... depositing them in my own spiral formation.  Unfortunately, I learned that only the one called Black Diamond and the line called True North are allowed to stay.  Neighbors have complained about these "unnatural" formations despite the good intentions and the pure joy in the making.  Reluctantly, Deb Ford asked that I dismantle mine.  If I didn't do it, the nice facilities guy would have to do it.  Better me doing it with sadness than him doing it while cursing the artist!  So I removed all the stones ... hauled them off into the sage brush.  To me, this felt very much like the sand mandelas created by devote lamas ... whose final gesture is to brush away their efforts.  It was wonderful while it lasted and it now back to the pristine, arid lake bed ... waiting for another artist to have the same sort of temporary fun. 

Last my stone spiral, I'm now gone from PLAYA ... and hopeful to return.  Yes, I'll reapply!  It was a magical time of vast horizons and special details ... like this stack of chopped wood waiting for the winter.

While I drove to Portland, it started to rain ... and even rainy days are wonderful in Oregon!


Sandy said...

This, Susan, was what I sensed you needed in August when we spoke together. I am so glad it came up when it did. So, glad you had the opportunity to restore.

And SOOOO very excited about you doing decorations for the National Christmas tree! Do you know what they do with them after the season?

Wanda said...

The National Christmas tree?? Oh wow!!! I am in awe of this and of everything in this post. Your insight into things speaks from my own heart as well. Can it be that we are sisters? I ask that in jest but also not at all. We ARE sisters and, through you, I get to do and see and experience so very much. And because we are sisters, I GET what you say and what you explain and how you feel. I love you!