Thursday, December 31, 2015
Happy New Year's Eve!
I've always used the last days of a year to review the past twelve months and to contemplate the coming twelve. This year is no different ... and yet it is. Like last year and the year before, I am happy with what recently unfolded but eager to make significant changes in the future. During 2015 I made several hundred tagged keys for an installation at the Festival of Quilts in England. Every time I add to this ongoing project, I am reminded that the abstract noun I want most in life is RESPECT. (Please hum Eartha Franklin's 1967 hit R-E-S-P-E-C-T ... and ... if you aren't familiar with this song ... for some completely unknown reason ... CLICK HERE. Written by Otis Redding ... and I'll admit that I'd never heard it until Steve introduced me to the Top 40s of the 1960s while we dated during college ... late 1970s ... and he is STILL listening to all of them! LOL!)
(Above: Large Stained Glass LXXI.)
Anyway, it is high time for some changes in my artistic life. I seem to have hit a plateau. What do I mean by that? Well, I enter national juried exhibitions, submit solo show proposals to small venues, enjoy gallery representation, sell some pieces, and ... by most other people's account ... "have made it" as an artist. Yet, I've been doing this for a couple years. That's a plateau. Sure, each acceptance, every exhibition, and each sale is validation, an emotional "high", and what I hope to continue doing ... but ... I want more. (Please note, it is really hard/embarrassing/scary to admit this. Part of me thinks I ought to be satisfied with the successes I've enjoyed. Part of me, however, isn't satisfied ... almost greedy/arrogant/hungry for more.)
I want to think and work bigger ... and more in depth. I want to spend all my time exploring creative ideas. I want to concentrate on significant art work. Most of all, I want RESPECT ... most likely my own. I don't know exactly how to accomplish any of these goals but I do know that continuing along the successful path on which I've been operating will only result in "more of the same". While it is "good", it is not enough. Thus, I am in the process of changing my future. Change will come in small doses, but it will come.
I am writing this as a blog post with the hopes to make a noticeable comparison between NOW and "a year from now". I've always set New Year's resolutions with a built in accountability factor. Twice this meant scheduling local solo shows for work that only existed in my mind. This year, I plan to change the way I work, my very schedule and the location in which I operate. With luck and good planning, I might find myself busier, happier, more excited, and working in productive ways with the respect I want most ... my own.
In the meantime, this is the last piece finished during 2015 ... a good year ... a great year ... in fact, an awesome year but one I hope pales in comparison to 2016.
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 2:39 PM
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Last week I blogged about my recent experiment with white crackle paste made by DecoArt. It was such a success that I ordered five more containers from City Art. They arrived while Steve and I were in Slippery Rock, PA for Christmas (which as lots of fun and filled with fabulous food!) I had already sealed each fiber vessel with a nice coating of gel medium ... anticipating the crackle paste. I got it on Monday afternoon and went immediately home to coat the fiber vessels. The first, experimental one was PERFECT overnight, but Tuesday morning did not have the expected results on these newer works. Steve said, "Have patience! The humidity is so high that they probably aren't totally dry." I was still very, very worried.
(Above: Detail of the crackling!)
Steve was right! Thank goodness! I couldn't fret over them yesterday. I had no choice but to wait. Why? Well, Steve and I drove to Carrollton, GA to collect my solo show, Last Words, from the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum. Carrollton is a little more than four hours away. By the time we got home, it was evening ... and the fiber vessels still weren't perfect. Yet, they were "almost perfect".
By this morning ... Wallah! PERFECT! It really is quite humid here in South Carolina ... and record high temperatures were set all last week (as in 79 degrees ... with some areas reporting 80! Humidity has been in the nineties.) It is nice to know that this ultra cool product is sensitive to humidity but will slowly crackle just the way I wanted it even in such poor atmospheric conditions! I have one container left and a couple new ideas for it!
Today was spent checking items off the exhibit's inventory list and putting everything away. It took several hours longer than I anticipated. It always does. This is just one of the many, thankless tasks that working, professional studio artists must do. It isn't glamorous. It isn't particularly fun but it is unfortunately necessary. Yet, it wasn't the only " arts administrative" chore on today's "to do" list.
(Above: Rolls of art quilts headed to another Last Words solo show at the Etherredge Center's art gallery on the campus of the USC Aiken.)
I've shown Last Words on multiple occasions. No two shows have ever been remotely the same. This coming Sunday I'll deliver another version to the Etherredge Center's art gallery on the University of South Carolina-Aiken's campus. None of the chiffon banners on which I've stitched collected epitaphs will be in the show. None of the artificial cemetery flowers are going. There will be lots fewer art quilts but seventeen "Angels in Mourning" pieces will be featured. (Some of which can be seen HERE and HERE.) There used to be twenty-five of them. Some sold! Maybe a few more might find a new home!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 6:00 PM
Monday, December 21, 2015
Almost every morning finds me sitting at the dining room table typing stream-of-consciousness journal entries on my laptop. Each one is saved by its date and stored in a file by year. The earliest are from 2007. Before that, I wrote longhand (and I have no idea where in my house these volumes are! LOL!) Occasionally I peek back to read my own words ... from a year ago, three years ago, five years ago ... now even eight years ago. As a result, I know that most of the artwork I create first appears as "words", descriptive passages of a foggy vision, and phrases of concept mixed with a healthy dose of dreaming. I've been writing about The Cabinet of Curiosities for over a year. A couple months ago I started gathering wooden containers, jewelry and cigar boxes, and an old chest of drawers. While clearing out the attic over our garage, Steve found a vintage clothes drying rack. I played around with these assorted things ... until about a week ago. From words to my "hunter-gatherer" phase to considering various ways to begin, it finally came down to one of my mantras: JUST GO FOR IT!
Out came the electric drill and the battery operated screwdriver. Working in tandem, holes were pre-drilled and filled with finish screws. A few picture frames with glass were installed. A slightly broken table top with cut into wedges for ledges.
Decorative wooden organ pipes and old piano keys altered the spaces inside the structure.
I have a stash of Victorian knobs and filigree. Pieces came in handy for leveling the extensions.
Very consciously, I worked while walking around the piece. There is no "front" or "back". My intention is "in the round".
Dominoes, chess pieces, a giant spool, and parts of old clocks were added.
I am grateful to my Dad for teaching me how to use the tools I need. Measuring, leveling, pre-drilling, gluing, and screwing things together is NOT instinctive. It was something I learned as a child while helping my Dad turn a basement room into a "study", a place to do homework and practice the piano. I learned a lot ... so it feels "instinctive" now! (Thanks, Dad!)
Almost everything I used came from Bill Mishoe's auction, especially the one held on Tuesday nights. That's when "used household items" are sold. Friday night is reserved for "better items". (I generally go to both, just buy more on Tuesday!) Yet, the piano keys and the decorative organ parts came from my friend Pat Callahan. (Thanks, Pat!)
The large clock case (which had wooden gears ... saved for another, yet-to-be-determined project) came from another friend, Skip Dudley. I'm fairly sure, however, that Skip got it at Bill Mishoe's auction (probably on a Friday night as Skip generally has a taste for "better items"! LOL! Thanks, Skip!)
Some of the items undoubtedly came from my youngest sister Sonya ... who now owns the family house in Slippery Rock with the basement "study". Sonya is known in Slippery Rock as the owner of Airport Orbit, a shuttle service for western Pennsylvania ... taking people to the Pittsburgh airport or bus station. Yet, she has a great reputation for spear-heading recycling efforts and even "dumpster diving" when the pickings are good. She's always saving things for me too! (Thank you, Sonya!)
I'm also in debt to my husband Steve ... who helped take apart the old radio, held parts together for me, and allowed me to boss him around for nearly a day in order to get the structure stable. Steve also suggested adding a base. He stood back and said, "It's too flat on the floor. You need a pedestal."
Fortunately, last Tuesday's auction included a 42" round, oak table ... with two leaves. It was sitting in the aisle, in pieces, and labeled with a number that was clearly at the end of the evening. I figured I'd get it for $20 or less. I did ... for $6. Easily it could have been put back together as a nice, antique oak table ... but I cut it's base down and made it into a low pedestal. It is perfect.
I will probably add more things to the cabinet ... like the wooden ruler with the 1944 calendar on its back.
I also might collage a few foreign, cancelled stamps to it ... and scraps of hand-written letters from the 1950s or check stubs from the late 19th century.
I'm sure there's a few places for anonymous, black-and-white family photos too.
After photographing the cabinet, I arranged the "curiosities". These are small found art assemblages. Each is meant as a suggested narrative, as if an obscure family heirloom ... strange combinations of unrelated keepsakes fixed in place by epoxy. I've only made twenty-four of them. (Here's a link to how they were made with a bit about their concept.)
I joked with Steve that I probably now need about one hundred more. He laughed. He knows that I meant for him to laugh but that I'm not kidding about the number. I probably do need about one hundred.
Part of that scares me. It is a lot of work. I will need plenty of "stuff" ... marbles, shells, athletic pins, small travel souvenirs, campaign buttons, charm bracelets, war medals, rosary beads ... all the little, precious possessions that generally end up in a forgotten drawer or sold at auction. I love these things ... they really do suggest a narrative, a story of someone's life.
They also remind me of the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) in Vienna and Haus der Natur (House of Nature) in Salzburg, favorite childhood places full of mysterious specimen. I loved these places!
So ... now to fill up The Cabinet of Curiosities. If someone wants to donate their small, precious possessions ... I'll try my best to create something unique and add it to this sculptural creation! My address is: 2123 Park Street, Columbia, SC 29201
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art ... even though this isn't really "fiber"! At least a "fiber artist" created it!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 3:53 PM
Friday, December 18, 2015
(Above: My "spiral", a stone formation on the dried lake bed at PLAYA, an art residency program in the remote Oregon "Outback." Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)
Last October was a truly magical time. I was awarded a four week art residency at PLAYA in the remote Oregon "Outback", along the edge of the arid, empty Summer Lake bed. Everything about PLAYA, the time, the experience was miraculous. On the first day there I wrote in my journal, "I am already missing this place". I knew I would hate leaving. I did.
(Above: Detail of Summer Lake's dried soil.)
I'm not going to write about that glorious month. I don't have to. Every Friday I drove 83 miles north on highway 31 to La Pine where I blogged from a McDonalds and then bought thread at the Homestead Quilt Shop. (I went through over 20,000 yards of thread during the month!) To find these blog entries, just look for the monthly listing in the sidebar (right-hand side of this blog) and find "October 2015". Each blog post includes plenty of new work. After all, I am productive, especially when awarded "the gift of time". My proposal was to create fiber vessels ... but not just ones referencing functional possibilities. I wanted to make works with a concept, a suggested narrative or some sort of symbolism. I wanted pieces that responded to "a sense of place". Some of my vessels did just that. Most, however, couldn't come completely to fruition until I returned to Columbia. Why? Well, it occurred to me that my fiber vessels could suggest Summer Lake ... a container for water but arid, cracked, and empty. To pull this idea off, I needed experimentation with "white crackle" medium. This week, I did the experiment! IT WORKED!
First, I applied heavy gel medium to the entire interior surface and allowed it to dry for a couple of days. I surmised that this would "seal" the fibers, make the vessel less porous. Gel medium dries clear ... but it is an acrylic and did reflect some of the light in the photo above.
(Above: White crackle paste applied to the interior and left to dry overnight.)
I used an entire (though small) container of white crackle paste made by DecoArt and purchased at City Art here in Columbia. I've used Golden's crackle medium in the past ... generally not too successfully ... but City Art was out of this product. Hence, I bought the stuff from DecoArt. I liberally applied it to the interior. I did this in the early evening and left it totally alone.
(Above: Detail of the white crackle medium when wet.)
I've read that crackle medium is often less successful when the artist continues to "mess around with it" and thereby prevent it from drying into the desired cracks. It was hard to just LET IT ALONE!
(Above: The fiber vessel with the dried crackle medium.)
The next morning while I was typing my "Morning Pages" (stream-of-consciousness journaling and part of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way discipline in which I firmly believe), my husband Steve came upstairs to show me my vessel! OMG! It is PERFECT! It is exactly what I hoped would happen! It is the vision I had for a fiber vessel while creating my stone spiral on the "playa", the dried arid lake bed.
Yesterday I went back to City Art only to learn that I'd already bought the only container of DecoArt white crackle paste. Thankfully, City Art took my order for five more! I can't wait to turn several other vessels into miniature "playas" ... especially since I've been offered a small solo show at Anastasia and Friends Gallery for the month of February! I'm also excited because this show gives me an excellent excuse to create a altar to my dead flicker bird ... using one of the vessels I made and photographed its tiny, dead body in. It also means I have a reason to use some of the image I created in Photoshop of my stone spiral!
I already have this image printed on fabric and ready to go under my sewing machine!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 3:09 PM
Thursday, December 17, 2015
For last year's ACC (American Craft Council) shows in Baltimore and Atlanta, I create a series of brooches that I placed on small, ornate frames. Everyone thought the idea of displaying a brooch when not wearing it was a great idea ... but no one purchased a single one. I removed the brooches from the frames and then sold nearly every one of them. I used eight of the sixteen frames for small works called "Charms". Recently I found the box with the other ten frames and decided it was time to make more "charms". They are fun and rather quick to make. They are mounted on really awesome silver mat boards and have no glass.
Best of all, these are excellent things for me to be working on during the holidays. As a custom picture framer, December is always very, very busy. I can only snag small bites of time for art work. These small pieces seem to keep me going!
The other week I finished several new Lancet Windows ... but I only got around to mounting, photographing, and framing them this week. I sort of sneaked them in between Christmas orders! LOL!
I know this blog post probably looks like some "sales blog". It's just that time of year. My attention does have to consider the big, upcoming ACC shows ... creating new work to fill my 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth. It is also Christmas time ... when shopping just seems to be in the air and many clients need my framing services. I hate the idea that my blog reflects this so much. Yet, my life does seem rather balanced. Why? ...
Well, I'm also sneaking in a minute here, a minute there, a half hour when I'm lucky, and time on the weekend for more conceptually driven work. I'm LOVING it! So ... check back! I'm nearly ready to post two significant projects on which I'm working (aka "stealing hours" from my framing)! My Cabinet of Curiosities is definitely underway and I just got a solo show opportunity for February. For this, I'll be sharing work made and influenced by my month at PLAYA, an art residency in the remote Oregon Outback! I'm excited ... and the thrill of it is helping me get through the holiday framing rush!
I'm linking this blog post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art work. I haven't linked there for two weeks and have been wondering why (because, of course, I had a post to share each time). The only thing I can come up with is that having this opportunity has altered the way I blog. I used to blog more often but only when I was really ready to share something, even a "little something". My blog posts were often shorter. They generally included only one or two pieces at a time ... but I'd blog two or three times during the week. Since linking to "Off the Wall" (which I think I've been doing for something like two or three years), I've slowly and unwittingly started to blog only on Thursdays ... in order to link "everything" to this one site. I know this will sound stupid, but in my pea brain I didn't want to come off as some sort of slacker, like a "wannabe" artist playing around with something insignificant, as if I am only working on one thing at a time. This makes writing a blog post take more time. For me, it is less enjoyable. Finally, my subconscious interfered with this silly process. I stopped linking ... but that's a silly thing to do too!
For the past two or three weeks Nina-Marie has been writing about productivity. I know I'm productive. I know why I'm productive too ... I put in the hours, lots of them. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing. Even during the holidays I'm finding ways to steal a little time for art. I can't help myself. One of the most frequent questions other people ask me is, "Do you ever sleep?" Well, of course I do ... eight hours a night, every night! What makes me productive is how I use the other sixteen hours a day. I make art. Sure, I also work a "day job" ... but I'll "steal time" from every other part of my life. Anything for art! In the beginning (I started making art in the summer of 2001), I used to log my hours on a time card ... forming a habit, the habit of making art. Rather quickly, I didn't need to write down the numbers. Making art became as necessary as breathing. Yet, I liked seeing those time card numbers add up. Looking at them felt like some sort of validation. I think that's what happened with "Off the Wall". In my mind, it became a weekly accounting ... a new sort of "time card".
Today, while writing these additional words on yesterday's blog post, I am going to set out my New Year's Resolution ... even though it is December 18th ... my grandma's 97th birthday. From now on, I'm going to blog more often, shorter entries, and not care if I can only select one entry to link to "Off the Wall"!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 6:28 PM
Friday, December 11, 2015
(Above: Merry Christmas: Peace, Love, and Koi. Click on any image to enlarge.)
My studio is located at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. It is one of thirteen rental studios that surround a large, interior gallery space and atrium available for other artists and art groups to rent for their own exhibitions. When the public space isn't being rented, the resident artists can hang art on the walls! Well, the public space isn't being rented for the remainder of 2015! The resident artists decided to hang "small works". My wrapped nails are definitely small; and after seeing Jennifer Angus' In the Midnight Garden installation at the Renwick, I decided to pin the nails to the gallery wall ... spelling out "Merry Christmas".
(Above: Detail of Merry Christmas: Peace, Love, and Koi.)
At first, I was only given half of the largest wall in the main gallery. Then, I was offered the rest of the wall. I planned to "write" the words "Peace" and "Joy". While hammering 7/8" beading pins into the nails, Kirkland Smith was deciding what works she wanted to hang on the adjacent wall. She had several pieces out for consideration, including her triptych of koi. She didn't hang the koi. Kirkland's work is created using post consumer plastics. I asked her if she'd like to hang the koi on the large wall ... joking that "joy" and "koi" rhyme. Suddenly, the title occurred: Merry Christmas: Peace, Love, and Koi!
I am very grateful to Christine Wuerthner, a friend from our days as parents of boys attending the Kirov Academy of Ballet. I was really worried that using the inspiration from Jennifer Angus' installation was somehow "copying" her work. I was so close to my own work that I never realized that I certainly do have a history of nailing multiple items to a wall! Just because I've never used geometric patterns doesn't mean I can't do it just because Jennifer Angus does.
Christine Wuerthner wrote: Love your blog...Weren't your keys all mounted on a wall? Everything we see or experience is inspiration. What we do with it is what makes it unique. All art gets hung or mounted to something unless it stands free on its own. It's the art that matters...keep creating. THANK YOU! I needed to hear this!
It took approprimately 1,300 pins to create this piece. I didn't count the hours ... but I enjoyed every one of them. Believe it or not, I didn't use all the wrapped, rusted nails. In fact, I have another collection of wrapped, rusted nails that only have off-white yarns. I keep the colorful ones separated from the monochromatic ones. Is this compulsive? Well, of course it is ... but that's one of my favorite way to make artwork. Alone these nails aren't much, just a trinket. Together they can make a real statement ...
Please note, this is NOT going to be my final blog post for the year! It is, however, my wishes for everyone reading this month!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 11:29 AM