Monday, April 24, 2017


(Above:  The first batch of circles.   These circles are the beginning of a new fiber installation for Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, NC.  The show will be called In Stitches, opening on September 9, 2017 and running through February 2, 2018.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

At the beginning of the year I worked at a feverish pace trying to submit my solo show Anonymous Ancestors to any venue that might consider it.  I researched for museums in the southeast, locations known to exhibit textiles, and places where my work has already been on view in a juried show.  I waded into dozens of websites looking for any information on a venue's proper procedure for solo show submissions.  I followed the directions.  I applied to some through Cafe (Call for Entry) and paid a fee.  I also sent dozens and dozens of unsolicited proposals ... some via email and some via the USPS.  I am sure that most were never looked at.  I received a handful of messages saying (paraphrased), "Thanks but no thanks!"  I got the show into two upcoming locations ... one with a signed contract and the other on a promise with someone I actually know.  Yet, something else did happen.

(Above:  The first batch of circles on my living room floor.)

Waterworks Visual Arts Arts Center in Salisbury, NC offered me a solo show ... not with Anonymous Ancestors (the show I proposed) ... but with the work I regularly sell through gallery representation.  This is my "In Box Series" and my "Stained Glass Series".  Of course I said yes and I signed a contract.  This correspondence also included an interesting idea.

You see, I've had a solo show at Waterworks.  A curated selection of my Decision Portrait Series was exhibited there in 2011.  (Click here for a blog post of that show.)  Working with the Anne Scott Clement, the executive director, was a wonderful education.  She taught me that viewers bring to artwork their own experiences and don't really have to "get it" the way I intended.  I was under the impression that the labels for my portraits were as important and necessary for a personal engagement as the portraits themselves.

When I arrived at the opening (totally alone and without knowing anyone but Anne!), I was shocked by the lack of labels.  Trying not to panic, I asked Anne where they were.  Calmly she said that they weren't needed.  Somehow, I knew to trust her.  My mind said, "Susan!  She's the nice lady who gave you this opportunity, hung the work the way you wanted it, and just wrote an email telling you that benches had been installed in the two spaces with boxes of Kleenex because people were touched to the point of tears!  Trust her judgment!"

Then I proceeded to watch people looking at my artwork.  Two portraits worried me. 

I wandered up to very well dressed man and asked him what he thought about the portrait on the left.  He smiled and with a knowing twinkle in his eye said, "Ah honey, I've known a few drama queens in my life."  We laughed together.  He "got it" ... in his own, wonderful unique way.  He didn't need to know that the actual title is Drag Queen.

The portrait that was bring so many people to tears, however, was the one on the right.  I don't know how many times people touched my shoulder during the reception and said, "We've all made mistakes.  We all need forgiveness."  They were right!  In fact, that was the point of the series ... to not judge others.  It was totally unnecessary for the success of this piece to have people know that the title was DUI: Driving Under the Influence.  Anne Scott Clement knew her community and my work.  She knew better than I did how to show it best.  She taught me that viewers don't have to understand every little symbol, every nuance, or even my own conceptual intent in order to appreciate the work.  It is a valuable lesson.

(Above:  The first batch of circles on the living room floor.)

Thus, when Anne Scott Clement suggested that some of my upcoming work ought to be left UNFRAMED, I was scared.  I knew to trust her even though I couldn't see "not framing" my usual work.  After some thought ... which I might never have done ... a new idea emerged.  I'm now very, very excited about CIRCLES.  Anne agrees.

I have a foggy vision of the gallery's large back wall hung with fiber circles suggestive of celestial orbs ... made using the same materials and processes as my regular work.  The "Stained Glass" and "In Box" series work would hang (framed) on the two side walls.  Ideas are surfacing ... like perhaps one big comet shape in the middle ... or backing some with highly reflective metallic 2-ply mat board like the brooches I've made ... or pouring epoxy over some ... and hanging some with t-pins and others flat against the wall and others away from the wall by perhaps an inch-and-a-half.  My vision taps into my excitement about the coming solar eclipse as well as the magical evenings at PLAYA art residency in Oregon watching the Milky Way over head.  Of course, viewers don't have to relate to the work as if a celestial depiction.  They can bring to it whatever their life experiences with round objects happen to be!

Yet, I immediately have a problem.  Although my foggy vision will turn into a reality, I'd like a better way to work through the design possibilities than using my living room floor.  I have no design wall ... and certainly not a space as large as the gallery wall.  I am mulling over a few ideas ... some really, really good ones using a public space and adding to it every week until "show time".  I'll keep this blog posted.  I have cut substrata for twenty-five larger circles and thirty-four smaller ones.  From my experience in installation work, I'll need more.  I have eighteen weeks to create all this.  I'm nervous ... as usual ... and excited.

(Above:  The season prospectus from the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum in Arizona ... with my Threads: Gathering My Thoughts installation on the cover!)

Lastly, look what came in the mail!  So proud.  Installation work is scary and very well worth the effort!

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


Shasta Matova said...

I absolutely love these circles. They will be a great addition to the installation.

Margaret said...

I wasn't sure about the circles...then I realized they reminded me of sea creatures, like urchins, or even the prehistoric choia found in the Burgess Shale excavation in B.C....about which I did the piece that someday will hang in the group exhibit there... How the mind works! Wow!

Deb Thuman said...

The circles are fascinating.

Madalene Axford Murphy said...

These circles, or rather the circles within circles, are wonderful. I love the tension between the regularity of the main shape and the lack of rigorous regularity of the shapes within. Creating a whole show with these will be exciting. Hope we get lots of pictures of the exhibit!