(Above: Recent "curiosities" on top of my dry mount machine ... waiting to be photographed, entered into my inventory book, and places on The Cabinet of Curiosities. Click on any image in this very long blog post to enlarge.)
I'm on schedule! I need to keep on schedule because the next six or more weeks are CRAZY. Tomorrow Steve and I drive to Washington, DC to deliver my installation to the Textile Museum. We meet with the staff on Friday morning and I'm told a photographer will be there to snap images for the exhibit's publicity department. We drive on to Slippery Rock to spend time with my family. April will find us installing my solo show at the Georgia Agriculture Museum's gallery, delivering another installation to the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum in Arizona, going directly to the opening reception at the Textile Museum, and on to the northern shores of New Jersey to deliver work to a gallery. Back at home, I immediately prepare for a performance installation that is part of the annual, spring Artista Vista art crawl. April is CRAZY ... but before this great things happen, I'll be starting the month (April Fools Day) in a rental cargo van taking The Cabinet of Curiosities to ArtFields in Lake City, South Carolina. I've been working on this piece for months. It is pure joy but today is the last day. I'm on schedule! Last weekend I poured epoxy. Monday and Tuesday, I took photos and entered pieces into my inventory book. This blog post is the result. Below are the newest pieces. I will photograph the completed Cabinet of Curiosities after setting it up on site, April 1st!
(Above: Curiosity XXXII. Some of the curiosities have very specific meaning to me. Some include trinkets and keepsakes donated by friends and family. Some, like this one, are just odd assortments of small found objects combined and sealed with epoxy. It doesn't matter to me whether I know "a story" for each work. Each is suggestive of a narrative. This tea cup and matching saucer came from Bill Mishoe's auction. (Lots of my "stash" comes from there. Bill Mishoe's is my very favorite "art supply" store ... especially the Tuesday night walk-around auction.) The tea cup is filled with a pair of rhinestone studded, clip-on earrings, an electronics part, a shell, and two vintage squirrel shaped pins. Once I added the squirrels, it seems fitting to place a half eaten black walnut shell picked up on the grounds of the Anderson Center, an art residency program in Red Wing, Minnesota. I also added a strange seed pod that was donated by my friends Ed and Bert.
(Above: Curiosities XXX and XXIX.)
These two figurines once belonged to my Grandma Lenz. Grandma and Grandpa Lenz and my Dad came to America in 1952. I have of Grandma's things ... none of which are "valuable", just sentimental. Turning them into "curiosities" is my way of giving these things a chance at a life beyond my own. As art, they might be cherished. As part of the Cabinet of Curiosities, they will have an opportunity to be on display. They will be seen by other people who might remember their own keepsakes and their own family stories. Originally there must have been four of these figurines, a suite of playing card motifs. All that is left is the club and the spade. They also appear to have been dainty ashtrays ... though I don't think my Grandma Lenz ever smoked ... but I also don't think she ever played cards either. With one, I've placed a Chinese coin, a miniature doll thimble, a fossil of a nautilus shaped shell, and a ring with a cross. With the other, I've placed a button, a heart-shaped lock charm, an odd nail and connector from Ellen Kochansky, and a blue plastic telephone on a small coin chain (which came from my friend Molly.)
(Above: Curiosity XLV.)
One of my favorite toys as a child was a set of "The Presidents". Grandma Lenz gave them to me. I think they came after collecting A&P grocery store stamps. We had Washington through the current president, Nixon. My younger sisters and I made houses and offices from old shoe boxes and glued inset photos of alternate fashion colors from Sears and Penney's catalogs to cardboard ... creating tiny figures of "women" to serve as "First Ladies". My youngest sister Sonya told this strange tale to her friend Stephanie ... who thought it totally hilarious that four girls played with these things. Stephanie found a set on eBay and bought it for Sonya. Now, I have ALL of them. So ... the first five presidents have now been affixed to a butterfly from a cheap piece of costume jewelry epoxied to a sherbert glass with a white bathroom door knob.
(Above: Curiosity XLVI and XLVII.)
On the right is Curiosity XLVI. A porcelain dish is filled with a faux-bone handled manicure set, a NeHi bottle opener in the shape of a woman's leg, two charms, a ring and a small wooden stamp that reads Betty Lou. The stamp came from Bert and Ed ... but Bert probably got it at Bill Mishoe's auction ... like I got all the rest of the stuff. On the left is Curiosity XLVII. This porcelain dish was filled with two, vintage Arm & Hammer "Beautiful Flowers" advertisement cards, a thread label, a recycled glass star Christmas ornament, buttons, a crucifix, and my National Park volunteer pin (from my art residency at Hot Springs National Park). Ed and Bert contributed the little elephant, a shark's tooth, and one of those little plastic things that comes in the bottom of many boxes to protect the freshness of the box's contents. It reads: Do Not Eat.
(Above: Curiosity LXIV.)
This glass vase was partially filled with old keys from my sister Sonya and friend Curran. Into it was placed part of a player piano roll of music. On the roll's end is a ceramic cup with a champagne cork. I drilled a hole in the cork to hold a turkey's wishbone. I found three wishbones on the top of my refrigerator ... from past Thanksgivings. As the epoxy began to set, I carefully arranged all the blue jay feathers I have, including some from cousin Ann in Canada though I think most came from my parents property in Pennsylvania.
(Above: Curiosity LXVIII and Curiosity LIX.)
On the left is Curiosity LIX. This dish was filled with a few scales shed from my sister's pet turtle Icky. So, of course, I placed the little turtle figurine into the mix. It came from a box of Red Rose tea, my favorite. But, more was needed. Randomly, I selected a cross section of a shell donated by my friend Kim, a Girl Scout basketry badge (not mine), a beer bottle cap from Oregon's Ten Barrels (a place Steve and I actually went), some costume jewelry and a pin from Innsbruck. Please notice the tea-stained tag. Several of these curiosities include detailed description on tags ... as if a real "museum" piece. On the right is Curiosity LIX. On this decorate "Made in Japan" wall hanging, I placed a ring of glass. It was once attached to a wine glass but broke in a perfect circle inside the dishwasher. I have no idea why I kept it; just a "curiosity". I added a heart shaped charm and a handful of jacks.
(Above: Curiosity LXIII. I've talked a lot about Bill Mishoe's auction. I'm a regular with a "permanent bidding number" and a retail tax license on file. I've been attending Bill's auction for years and years ... long enough that both my sons' births were announced at an auction. (The "boys" are 25 and 27 now.) Well, Bill Mishoe collects art glass. There are several shelves at the auction house displaying some of the things he's bought over the years. Recently, there was a break in. The vandals broke a bunch of glass. It was all caught on the surveillance system and I hope the guilty are caught. Yet, because this happened, Bill's broken glass was laid out one Tuesday night in order for the insurance agent to inspect the damage. Later, I got to select some of the pieces ... including this clown's head. It went perfectly into the ceramic hand ... another purchase from Bill Mishoe's. The dreidel and the penny with the cut-out cross just seemed to belong to this group.
(Above: Curiosity XXXVII.)
The other piece made from Bill Mishoe's unfortunately broken glass is this fish. I don't think it was originally a flounder but after placing both eyes near one another, it became a flounder.
On the left is Curiosity XLII. Epoxied to the porcelain plate is a Delft Blue liquor bottle from Holland. The paper label says that it was made for Rynbende, a Dutch distillery. It is also marked with the letters KLM, the Dutch airlines. Perhaps this bottle came from Bill Mishoe's but probably not. My parents started a summer studies program to Salzburg, Austria in 1964. We flew aboard for years, often more than once annually. To be honest, I have no idea how many times I've crossed the Atlantic ocean. This bottle might have been a "family treasure", one with a mostly forgotten tale. With it are four, vintage ceramic insulator tubes collected in my sister Sonya's rental property attics, two dominoes, and two "white" chess knights. Curiosity XLI was inspired by a glass Christmas ornament that Steve and I bought in Birmingham, England. The vendor was from Bath, UK which is famous for its aqua-colored glass. Steve dropped the bag shortly after we made the purchase ... breaking the circular space from which the ornament was to hang. It's been under the Christmas tree ever since ... until combined with several glass marbles, a Hershey's kiss shaped piece of glass, and a metal whistle that had lost it's ball and thus didn't actually blow a sound.
(Above: Curiosity L and Curiosity LI.)
Curiosity L is on the right. I filled the glass vase with buttons from Bill Mishoe's. I recently bought over two dozen boxes of buttons for $30. I really don't like shanked buttons and would probably never use pink buttons. Don't worry, this vase didn't use even half of them. On top is a dish into which I placed almost all the obsidian I collected while at PLAYA, an art residency in the remote Oregon Outback, eight square-cut nails, and a glass peach. Curiosity LI is on the left. Once upon a time there was an alternative art space in Columbia called Art Garage. It didn't last long; but, while it did, I had an opportunity to purchase small things from local artists for almost nothing at all. The bottom of this curiosity was an aluminum cup to which Lee Malerich cemented triangular "stones". Lee Malerich was once my "Goddess of Embroidery". She's won the South Carolina Fellowship for Fine Craft three times. After the third win, the agency changed the rules. Now, I own one of Lee's early embroideries. It seemed fitting that the tin cup be turned into a curiosity by adding the paper pages from a 1943 miniature calendar, a shell from my friend Kim, and a pair of pointe shoes from my sister Sonya. Sonya thought the point shoes were once mine. She thought that Dottie McGill's Dance Studio gave them to pupils when their ankles were finally strong enough to wear real point shoes. Perhaps this was correct but I wouldn't have known. After three or four years of once-a-week ballet lessons conducted in the basement of the Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Department (using the back of a folding chair as the ballet barre), Dottie stopped teaching in town. I never got good enough for pointe shoes. Yet, I loved the idea of dance and that is probably why I took my son Mathias to see it. Unwittingly, I had no idea he'd love it ... eventually becoming a principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet. After adding the pointe shoes, I found the beaded necklace with the steer's head. Mathias made it when he was about eight or nine. I also added a crystal scarab from my mother and a piece of costume jewelry from Toledo, Spain. That one might have been my mother's but is might have been something I acquired because it reminded me of the one my mother bought in Spain. Some stories are half forgotten.
Curiosity LII is a collection of half-stories. It started with the cover Vivilore: The Pathway to Mental and Physical Perfection; The 20th Century Book for Every Woman (1904). I bought this book at the South Carolina Book Festival in 2011 and made a long, skinny 2D altered book from it that is now owned by my friend Cindi Boiter. I blogged about it HERE. For some reason, I still had the cover. Vivilore provided the opportunity for me to actually learn about women's rights. It was "my education". So, I used part if Grandma Lenz's spinning wheel. It had been in a back room that was recently turned into "art storage". During the transition, I stepped backwards and broke part of it. Other parts were already broken. Several things weren't original to it. It was not a "museum" piece, just sentimental. I had to face the fact that after me, there would be no one wanting it. Perfect for art. Grandma Lenz grew the flax she combed into fibers for spinning. The thread was taken to a weaver. Grandma Lenz used the resulting fabric to make all the household linens. I think Grandma would like the idea that her spinning wheel was the support from the cover of Vivilore.
On the top I added several doll figures and cheap cameoes, some from my sister Sonya, some from Ed and Bert, and some from Bill Mishoe's auction. There's a porcelain dish too ... in which I placed a glass egg, a nicely feminine symbol.
Here's a view to the part of the spinning wheel that included the date 1941. On the other end is a rose decal. The hanging pennant was from Bert and Ed. (By the way, Ed is an English professor at the University of South Carolina. He's also a poet, activist, and the Director of Women's and Gender Studies.)
I added a paper fan, a lock and key, and a tin box in the shape of a house that shows circus performers. To me, this is all very suggestive of a narrative or two or three.
(Above: Curiosity XXXI.)
Part of Grandma Lenz's spinning wheel also became the base for this copper votive candle stand that was a gift from a lady in Wisconsin. To it I added a leather steer's head which may or may not have come from one of my son's old wallets. The two little creatures were made from Western burrs. I bought them at a trading post in Colorado years ago. They are placed on top of a round piece of leather with fur sides (perhaps a doll's hat?) Bert and Ed gave me some strange seed pods. I don't remember what they called them ... but they worked nice with this curiosity.
(Above: Curiosity XXVIII.)
When I found the cover of Vivilore, I found the cover of Steve's high school Latin book. I used it as a base for a strange piece of metal that was once part of a piece bought at the Art Garage. A visiting art instructor teaching metal sculpture made the original piece. I took it apart and added the remaining scrolls of fabric donated by Lindsay from Florida.
(Above: Curiosity XXVIII.)
I showed Steve the back of the piece. He read the Latin inscription aloud ... something about his high school being the best and the phrase "No one is perfect". I studied Latin in college. I knew what it said. Then we both laughed and laughed. Steve finally said, "We were such nerds!"
On the right is Curiosity XXXIII filled with a shell, two pieces of quartz that Steve and I dug up in Arkansas, some obsidian I collected from the Oregon Outback, and a shark's tooth donated by Ed and Bert. On the left is Curiosity XXXIV filled with a compass, miniature pair of scissors, an enameled ring, a thimble and a rhinestone studded elephant pin.
(Above: Curiosity XXXV.)
A vintage pair of toddler shoes and a comb/brush set make up this curiosity. The are "family" pieces ... just not my family.
(Above: Curiosity XXXVI.)
I found a cheap necklace in a box lot from Bill Mishoe's auction. It is shaped in the outline of the state of Oregon and has a small heart on it. I knew immediately what to do with it. I got the handful of algae I brought back from the pond at PLAYA, the art residency program at which I spent a magical month. I also got the three owl pellets collected there ... perfect under epoxy. I do love Oregon.
(Above: Curiosity XXXVIII and XXXIX and XL.)
Two of these three small curiosities have stories. The little creamer is filled with a broken wooden rosary I found outside the parking lot at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta. That weekend I was showing my art at the ACC (American Craft Council) Show ... and maybe this chance find is what brought success. The bone was once in a terrarium made by my friend Shannon. The terrarium was doing very well until moved into too much sunlight. Then, everything died ... but I kept the bone. The little Panama container came from Bill Mishoe's. It probably has a story but I don't know much more than it once contained a typewriter ribbon and I filled it with a toy plane and a few charms in the shape of wings.
(Above: Curiosity LIII.)
I've had this "specimen" container for several years. Even before dreaming up The Cabinet of Curiosities, I knew I wanted to fill the twelve circle with found objects. I almost didn't use it though because I worried that the epoxy would leak through the velvet and thin wooden interior and cause a total mess. Finally, I decided to use gel medium to "seal" the fabric. It worked like a charm. Yet, the epoxy did seep into the fabric hinge. The case no longer shuts ... which I like very much! The original glass was broken. It is thin, wavy, antique glass ... so I decided not to replace it but to glue several uncanceled 4-cents stamps to the crack. (I have several sheets of uncanceled 4-cents stamps.)
Filling the circles was wonderful. Below are just a few of the things I used.
Top row, left to right: A cross, a ring, a prayer hands charm, and the rose pennant that I wore on my wedding day ... just like the ones given to my brides' maids; A shark tooth from Ed and Bert with copper roofing nails and beads with letters; a rock I found with a perfect hole drilled into it and one of those "freshness" plastic things with the phrase "Do Not Eat; several shells that fell off a little jewelry box that had been my Grandma Lenz's
Middle row from top, left to right: A scorpion and Cancer crab charm, heart shaped mother-of-pearl button, and a clock spring; A box of miniature matches bought in Sweden buy featuring a detail from Gustav Klimt's The Kiss, and small clock gears; a pair of earrings that had been my Grandma Lenz's and the key to her shell covered jewelry box with a pin stating "Victory or Death"; a service medal with clock gears and four strips of shredded handwriting by Evelyn Rensing that were given to me by Ellen Kochansky at her solo show several years ago
Bottom row from top, left to right: An award of excellence pin, a charm from Triberg and a US flag pin from Grandma Lenz's jewelry box; clock gears, a tiny elephant (from Bert and Ed), and an old locket into which I placed the faces of a couple cut from an anonymous photo; two acorns that my Dad gave me along with a pink plastic telephone on a coin chain given to me by my friend Molly; a key shaped pin given to Steve and I when we visited the Town of Colma outside San Francisco (a "cemetery" city) along with one earring left alone in Grandma Lenz's jewelry box.
Why am I writing all this? Well, it is part of the documentation for the Cabinet of Curiosities. The inspiration for this piece comes from the many visits to Natural History Museums. It seems only fitting that many of these works now include tag. The bottom of this red velvet specimen box now has a label listing "contents". Perhaps no one will notice these details. It doesn't matter. It is simply part of my process, a way to stay true to my vision and concept, and it all means something to me.
(Above: Curiosity LX, closed.)
Like the red velvet specimen box, I totally gelled this fabric covered container before pouring the epoxy. I knew I wanted to make this piece very special, very personal. The cover includes four buttons and an antique belt buckle. They are stitched directly through the lid.
(Above: Curiosity LX, inside.)
Inside the lid is my mother's junior high school needle case, a mandatory assignment in a home economics class. I placed an assortment of old pins into the tiny, fabric pages. The box is filled with random sewing things ... thimbles, bobbins, thread, etc.
(Above: Curiosity LVIII, one view.)
This is another very personal piece. Once upon a time I collected stamps, especially Olympic stamps. I fell in love with the idea during the summer of '72. As a family, we drove from Glanegg, a tiny village outside Salzburg, to Munich in order to watch the progression of the Olympic grounds. Unfortunately, we were already back in the States when the Olympics started ... an event that taught me what murder, tragedy, and terrorism was but an event that never made my affection for the Olympics fade.
(Above: Curiosity LVIII, the other side.)
I have hundreds of Olympic stamps from all over the world. This little bottle was filled with beads and a piece of stiff seaweed from Hilton Head ... in order to pull out some of those stamps and finally DO SOMETHING with them!
(Above: Curiosity LVII, eyes shut.)
Once night at Bill Mishoe's I got a table lot that included a very badly damaged old doll. I kept the head. Epoxy has it set into a frosted martini glass that says "Princess". Because it was top heavy, I constructed a base from a pile of antique wood trim in my stash. I used a length of cording made from neglected yarn (and generally I use this to "tag keys").
(Above: Curiosity LVII, eyes open.)
When the cord is pulled, the eyes open.
(Above: Curiosity LVII, detail.)
This is likely the creepiest of the curiosities!
(Above: Curiosity LIX.)
This little vial was filled with rusted, bent nails. Why someone saved old, bent nails is a mystery. I got them at Bill Mishoe's auction. Why I saved them ... who knows! I added part of a lamp shade and a strange light bulb. To it I added a collection of connectors from Ellen Kochansky, beads, and a small collection of pencil stubs. I remember students in elementary school sharpening their pencils into tiny stubs. I never did it ... probably because I bite all my pencils and they fall apart before I can sharpen them to such small lengths.
(Above: Curiosity XXV.)
Not all the recent curiosities required epoxy. This candle was once my sister Sonya's. I added dozens and dozens of necklaces to it and had a wonderful time melting more wax over the entire thing.
(Above: Curiosity XXV.)
Most of my costume jewelry comes from Bill Mishoe's ... but not all of it. Within a couple days, however, I can't remember which is which.
At Bill Mishoe's I came across a piece of artwork made by an artist I know. It had to have come from some flea market dealer who was selling merchandise off (a common practice in order to maintain a "new to you" inventory from week to week.) The flea market price tag read $8. I got the piece on a table-lot totally overflowing with random "junk". I paid $6 for all of it. I added the heart shaped lock and key plus lots of collaging and a few phrases.
On the bottom, I added Curiosity LIV, my name and date ... to where the original maker's information once was.
My friend Pat once gave me parts of an old piano she found while jogging. I added a few spindle-like parts, a few clock springs, and some beaded flowers from Bill Mishoe's. There are jingle bells in the bottom.
(Above: Curiosity LVI.)
This was once a glass-covered cheese board made from a one-gallon glass jug. I turned it into a menagerie of animals.
One of the giraffes and a lion came from a 1970s trip to Kenya. The other giraffe was donated by Bert and Ed. There are all sorts of animals, including a little mouse pin that I never wore but kept in my own jewelry box for years.
Over the past few weeks I've also added other objects ... curiosities that require no effort on my part whatsoever. This is an antique child's sewing machine toy and part of my Grandma Lenz's spinning wheel.
Once upon a time I participated in a challenge issued by the now defunct Art Garage. I was given a box of things to alter. In the box were several dowel-like sticks of wood. I cut them apart and made this little container. For nearly twelve or thirteen years it held hooks-and-nails in my studio at Gallery 80808. Since I've moved my studio home (and keep whole boxes of hooks-and-nails downstairs at my business, Mouse House), this piece had no function.
It is now perfect as another "curiosity". By the way, the original box of "stuff" included the beer coasters. This is how I used them.
I had only one half of a once, fancy fireplace bellows. I hung its "documentation label" on the pretty side.
(Above: Curiosity XXVI, front.)
This allowed me to transform the plainer side. I added a dentist mouth tray and a tiny doll from my sister Sonya. Along the sides are the minute and hour hands from assorted clocks, a few clock springs and gears, and the wooden bells off Grandma Lenz's spinning wheel.
The very top is a plastic hand grasping the base of a torch. Ed and Bert donated this platform as well as the odd gorilla.
I raided my own jewelry box for the ivory necklace from Kenya and my charm bracelet. Neither have been wore in over thirty years. The lovely cross was a gift from Charlene in Colorado. I cherished it but never wore it. It is about time other people see these special things.
(Above: Curiosity XXVII.)
This is one of two shell covered jewelry boxes that once belonged to Grandma Lenz. Over the years, one foot got lost. I replaced it with a piece of antique wood trim.
(Above: Curiosity XXVII, detail.)
The two little angels belonged to Grandma Lenz too. They were meant to decorate a candle. Now they are wrapped around a bunch of paint brushes, including two brought back from China by my Dad.
Inside the box is another container, a small fabric covered, heart-shaped box from Hungary. My Dad and Grandparents came from Hungary.
I've added several other things to the actual structure of the Cabinet of Curiosities. I love this piece. I will probably continue to work on it forever. At least that's the plan. I'll photograph it once installed at ArtFields. Look for that post shortly after April Fools Day!
I'm linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.