Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Homestead National Monument, Day Two

 (Above:  The Palmer-Epard Cabin at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I've promised to blog about my art residency every day! Each day I plan on sharing some aspect of Homestead National Monument and then what I've accomplished art-wise.  Today is Day Two!  First up ... the Palmer-Epard Cabin.  (Then my art!)

The Palmer-Epard cabin was built in 1867 from mixed hardwoods (which I've learned is a real luxury here on the nearly tree-less prairie).  At the time, the size was consider quite spacious, measuring 14' x 16'.  Originally, it stood on a homestead about fourteen miles away and was moved to the National Monument in 1950.

The most impressive thing about this cabin is the fact that it was once the home to a family with TEN CHILDREN.  I can't even imagine! 

Every night the park rangers strip the bed.  The mattress isn't a traditional one.  It's an air mattress.  Why?  Well, this is the prairie.  There are mice.  Mice would just love to live here!

The cabin is beautifully restored and I especially liked the white-washing of the interior logs.

I've always enjoyed seeing antique implements and utensils in such settings.

 During the summer, the little cabin provides shade but is actually rather hot inside.

In the cold winters, however, the stove probably kept the place quite cozy ... if one had enough firewood.  Again ... hardwood wasn't plentiful on the prairie.

The logs for this cabin conformed to the shape of the trees they came from.

Even the door knob is nice!

Now ... BUTTONS!  My art residency proposal called for using buttons.  Boy do I have plenty to use!  This is my work table!

I started another piece similar to Waste Not Fresh Tears.  This will be Waste Not Fresh Tears II.  It is another xylene photo transfer on print making paper that was later fused to fabric.  The image is one of my many cemetery angel sculptures.  I've highlighted it with a touch of water soluble crayon.

These are the flesh, light tan, slightly greyed-yellow and similar toned buttons.  I've made a dent in this pile ... but have plenty more.

I am supplementing with light pink, peach, and dull mauve buttons ... and still have many, many more.  There's no danger of running short.

Today I did the free-motion machine embroidery on this piece.  It measures 20" x 24" and is a digital image that was printed by Spoonflower onto cotton.  The image is in the public domain and features a couple of homesteaders.  I plan on finding a perfect quotation to hand stitch in the sky ... which is still just basted.

I also started adding black buttons to the image transfer of the Homestead Act Centennial stamp.  I have an entire box of these black buttons.  I plan on adding some hand quilting to the stamp area.  The pink threads are just the basting lines.

Finally, I transformed these wrapped-and-stitched wooden thread spools into Christmas ornaments.  I completed half of the spools I have ready ... but I have a shopping bag filled with wooden thread spools.  Those have been wrapped with wool yarn and also have the button hole stitching done.  I have all the decorative stitching to do.  There's no way I'll finish all of them ... or half of them ... or probably not even a fourth!  I collect wooden thread spools compulsively but I enjoy transforming them.  Check back tomorrow!  I'll blog again!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Homestead National Monument art resideny, the first full day

(Above:  The Visitor's Center at Homestead National Monument, just four miles outside Beatrice, Nebraska.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

I left Columbia bright-and-early Sunday morning and spent the night outside St. Charles, Missouri.  That left about six more hours to Homestead National Monument outside Beatrice, Nebraska.  I arrived yesterday mid-afternoon, met some of the park rangers and interns, and moved into the provided housing.  It's hot here but that didn't stop me from walking most of the trails.  I wanted to get the lay of the land, the feel of the place, and the sense of history.  I wanted to settle my racing mind and think about my residency proposal.  I wanted to set my own goals and start to see a connection between this special place and the focused work I intend to make.

 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears, detail.)

My residency proposal centered on buttons.  I wanted to explore buttons as a symbol of long gone relatives and the ways ordinary objects are saved or discarded.  I wanted to link buttons to the thriftiness and "make-do" lifestyle necessary to homesteading.  A phrase kept running through my head:  Waste Not, Want Not.  An image stuck in my mind:  the universal jar of shirt buttons that everyone's grandmother had!

Well, I posted my original residency proposal back on May 13th ... at the bottom of a long blog depicting "Romantic Buttons".  (CLICK HERE to read it.)  Since then, I've been using buttons in unique ways, expressing all sorts of things.  There's now even a new section on my website called "Button Art".  I've never before had an art residency where I started the work two months in advance.  So now I'm here and trying to wrap my head around my original intentions ... trying to get back to my imagination from months ago when I first wrote the proposal.

 (Above:  The housing and maintenance area of Homestead National Monument.)

So ... where, exactly, am I?  I'm living in the building at the end of this driveway.  It is one of several structures in the maintenance and housing area of the National Monument.  (It is not an area open to the public.)


Here's the building itself.  The window to the right of the door is my bedroom.  The other window is another bedroom but no one is staying there.  It has become my studio.

Inside the front door is a spacious living room ... a place I will probably never use.  If left to my own devices, I'd rarely watch television.

The living room is connected to this dining area ... but I probably won't be eating there either.  I hate to cook.  Nibbling on fresh veggies and fruit is more my style.

 So ... the kitchen is also one of those areas where I have little use ... except for a few shelves in the refrigerator and as a place to brew coffee.  These areas are all very nice, clean, and well maintained.

Now ... the bedroom, however, will obviously be used.  I have a nice place for my laptop.  There's a big closet.  The bathroom is across the hallway.  Further down the hall is a third bedroom.  One of the National Monument's interns is living there.


I've never actually been to an art residency where there wasn't some sort of studio space provided ... something separate from the bedroom and not part of a shared area.  I could manage, of course ... plus this is Homestead National Monument, a place with a one-room log cabin that had been home to a family with ten children.  As an embroiderer and art quilter, I can work anywhere.  Yet, there are three bedrooms in this building.  One of which wasn't being used ... so I made it my "studio".  By the way, the lighting in these bedrooms is GREAT!

Today I ironed four digital images printed on fabric by Spoonflower.  (I ordered them a month ago.)  I basted them to some of my recycled, black acrylic packaging felt.  All four images are in the public domain.  I found three of them on the Homestead National Monument website. (The fourth is a copy of the 1962 Homestead Act US stamp.) A National Park art residency requires a public program and an artwork donation.  Artists are supposed to explore the "historical and natural themes" in their work.  Without having been here before, planning for this can be hard.  For me, however, it is pretty easy.  I have these art quilts ready to go.  I can stitch on them in public, allow the public to add a few buttons, and then donate one to the park. 

(Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears, 18" x 14".  Xylene photo transfer on print-making paper fused to fabric.  Water soluble crayon highlights.  Hand stitched assorted buttons.)

I brought other, older things with me too ... things to which I might add buttons.  I started with one of the many xylene photo transfers I made several years ago when creating a series called Angels in Mourning.   To me, the pioneer spirit struggled for life.  Sometimes, death won.  Yet, the demands for subsidence, success, and the American dream meant there was little time to grieve when tragedy did occurred. Weep a bit ... but then go on.  Homesteading was a 24/7 job.  Euripides quotation would have made a great deal of sense to these hardworking souls.  (Euripides, Greek tragic dramatist, 484 BC - 406 BC:  Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.)  This is the first piece completed during my art residency!  I'm off to a good start.
 (Above:  Along the Cottonwood Trail loop, looking toward the Homestead National Monument Visitor's Center.

I do not plan to spend all my time in the two bedrooms.  I will daily walk the trails and explore the cultural resources here.  I've already snapped 325 photos (though I pared them down to fewer than eighty). 

I plan to write a new blog post every day while I'm here.  Some will show the prairie flowers ...

and the morning dew.  Some will share the quilt block signs along the trail, the exhibitions in the visitor's center, the brick school house, the homesteader's log cabin, the rusted farm equipment on display, and other things of interest (like the Pet Cemetery in nearby Beatrice!)  Naturally, I'll be blogging about the artwork I am making too!

I have no plans to blog about the tornado shelter ... because tornado season has already passed.  I will not blog about recycling ... but I'll be doing it!  Check back tomorrow to see what's going on at Homestead National Monument!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three new Lancet Windows

(Above:  Lancet Windows CC (left, inventory # 4045) and CCI (right, inventory # 4046).  Each piece is framed at 31" x 11" outer dimensions.  Each is priced at $395.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

The mad dash is on!  I'm trying my best to finish up loose ends, complete waiting custom picture framing orders, and think about what needs to be packed for my National Park art residency at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I leave bright-and-early on Sunday morning.  Excited!
 (Above:  Lancet Window XCIX, inventory # 4044.  Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

I've finished and framed three new Lancet Windows and am trying to get several, small "Windows" constructed and stitched before I leave.  Their melting, mounting, and framing can be done after I return.  It is nice to return to waiting work.  Such a plan helps avoid procrastination. 

 (Above:  Detail of Lancet Window CC.)

I also got very good news today.  My work, In Box CCLXI, is currently on view at the Lincoln Center's 35th New Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts and won the Award for Creative Innovation. I mailed my w-9 in order to receive the cash prize!   I'm elated.

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCI, detail.)

Other news:  After several years of being asked to write about the Columbia dance scene for Jasper Magazine and blog, I finally accepted.  I had an important stipulation.  I will not be writing as a "dance critic".  My viewpoint will be as an "expert audience member".  I have several articles in mind that will hopefully increase my community's desire to see dance.  I've lined up several opportunities to see various productions and events.  It should be an interesting experience.  I'm very happy that I am being taken seriously for my abilities to put words together!

(Above:  Lancet Window XCIX, detail.)

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Installation-in-progress, Week Nine

(Above:  Celestial Orbs, my fiber arts installation for Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, North Carolina.)

Nine short weeks ago I was really nervous.  I had a signed contract for a solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, a regional museum in Salisbury, North Carolina.  For this opportunity, I agreed to create an installation for the twenty-four foot long back wall.  Obviously, this had to be done before delivering the work in late August for the September 9, 2017 - January 3, 2018 exhibit. 

 (Above:  Detail of the corner.)

Nine weeks ago I feared that I'd need more than one hundred orbs.  I thought I'd be spending my entire summer stitching circles.  Ideas for exploring epoxy surfaces spun in my head, but I didn't think I'd have time to try them.  I didn't know how best to attach the orbs to the wall.  Although I'm usually very good at visualizing a finished presentation, I just couldn't grasp the spatial concerns enough to know whether I wanted a giant comet or not.  I hadn't even thought about "comet dust".

Fortunately, CMFA (Columbia Music Festival Association) partnered with me!  They have allowed me to come once a week and "play" on the temporary walls erected just for my use!  I could stand back to consider the relationship between the orbs and the best distance off the wall for shadows.  I could experiment with different hanging devices.  The back of the wall is actually 20'  ... but turning the corner makes a total of 24 feet.  This week, "I turned the corner".  The installation is almost complete! 

There are approximately sixty-five final orbs.  During the past weeks, I did create the comet and the "comet dust".  I had enough time to cover every single orb in the shiny, reflective coating of epoxy.  The final hanging system works wonderfully!  The shadows are great.  The only thing left to do is to pour epoxy over the comet and the "comet dust".  That will have to wait.  Why? 

Well, on Sunday morning I'm off to a National Park art residency at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  My proposal calls for using buttons in interesting ways to evoke the spirit of thriftiness common to the pioneering spirit and the development of the American West.  (Anyone following my blog already knows I'm ahead of the game with "buttons"!  I can't wait to have even more time to focus on unique art applications for this humble found object.)  My husband Steve and I will pour the epoxy on the comet and it's "dust" after I return.  We will do it before August 21st! 

Finally, I've settled on a name for this installation.  Celestial Orbs.  Columbia, South Carolina is one of the many locations across the United States for optional viewing of the coming total solar eclipse!  That's on August 21.  This installation was inspired by the excitement over this natural phenomena ... but also the Milky Way nights I experienced while at PLAYA, an art residency in the remote Oregon Outback.  That's why I have a comet ... or is it a shooting star?  I saw shooting stars often while listening to coyotes on the high desert!  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Button Artwork at Anastasia & Friends Gallery

(Above:  Anastasia & Friends Gallery hung with some of my recent button artwork.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Thursday was a wonderful evening showing Saint Anastasia, a fiber triptych, in the space that Anastasia loved best and to her many friends.  But, it was a one-night-only event!  Before midnight, Steve and I had everything packed, loaded into our car, and put back into the house.  The gallery was bare!

 (Above:  Touché the Button, far left; His Secrets and Her Secrets; and Typewriter Ads I, II, and III plus the exhibit sign.)

There had been another plan involving another artist, but things didn't quite work out.  I asked Bohumila, the gallery manager, if she needed artwork for the rest of the month.  She did.  This afternoon I hung a small show featuring some of my recent button artwork.

 (Above:  Ready, Aim, Fire! on the left; a piece from The Button as Art series; and Silence is Golden II over the water fountain.)

I really like this alternative art space.  It is the front of the Free-Times newspaper office.  The Free-Times is Columbia's weekly print publication, covering news, politics, arts and entertainment since 1987 (which is when Steve and I moved here.)  The walls are rich in the texture and colors of the building's past life.  The ceilings are beautifully high.  There are always lots of people going in and out.  I've shown quite a bit of artwork here over the years, in group shows and as a solo artist.

 (Above:  His Secrets and Her Secrets, a diptych.)

Because I know the space well, it was easy to put together a small sampling of my recent work.  I was especially happy to hang His Secrets and Her Secrets ... because many of the original snapshots were actually taken with feet of the wall.  Although lots of people sent images via the Internet, I took dozens while standing in the gallery for "First Thursday" in June.  Others were snapped at the weekly, Saturday Farmer's Market ... just outside the door!

(Above:  His Secrets and Her Secrets, a diptych.)

The same photos were used to create Silence is Golden I and II ... which are also on display until the end of the month.  At the end of the week, I travel to Homestead National Monument in Nebraska for my National Park art residency.  The proposal called for "using buttons".  Who knows other creative way I'll come up with for these otherwise ordinary objects!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Saint Anastasia and Installation-in-Progress

(Above:  Saint Anastasia, a one-night-only installation at Anastasia & Friends Gallery.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last night was "First Thursday" on Main Street.  It was a long day but well worth the experience.  In the morning, Steve and I packed our van, drove to Anastasia & Friends Gallery on Main Street, and unloaded the pieces for a one-night-only installation for a single work of art.  The solitary work was my triptych, Saint Anastasia.  From the very beginning, I knew this portrait would be headed to a special exhibition with Through Our Hands at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England.  Thousands will see it there.  Yet, it only felt right to debut the work in the place Anastasia loved and to the many people who loved her.  That's why the evening was so special.

 (Above:  Another view ... slightly to the left from the photo above.)

Perhaps I'm naturally an installation artist, intuitively controlling the environment in which my work is experienced.  Perhaps I simply love sacred settings, churches, places with a deep spiritual aura.  Perhaps, I was inspired by Frederic Church's 1859 unveiling of Heart of the Andes.  This mammoth oil painting was elaborately framed with a large, theater curtain.  South American plants decorated the darkened room filled with benches.  Tickets were sold.  The curtain was drawn, intentionally creating the illusion of a window to an exotic landscape.  The public was even charged and admission to witness this single work ... and allowed to use opera glasses to examine the details.  Today, we'd call Frederic Church's presentation "installation art".  This spectacle was an instant success, and the work was later sold to the Metropolitan Museum for $10,000.  (At the time, this was the highest price ever paid to a living American artist.  The Met has since exhibited the piece in its original, curtained frame!)

 (Above:  Wall with the signage for Saint Anastasia.  The information on the sign appears at the very bottom of this blog post.  Just scroll down!)

Whatever the reason, I was very excited to create this one-night-only installation for a single piece.  It was great to transform the space.   One person told me, "I feel like I'm supposed to whisper".  To me, that comment meant I succeeded.  The environment reflected the "sacred setting" I hoped to achieve.  It was a most appropriate way to showcase the triptych and to send it off to England with good karma.

Because I often work in the medium of installation art, I pulled from some of my other projects.  Artificial flowers from my solo installation Last Works were carefully placed on areas of the floor.

I included a framed photo of Anastasia taken long before her cancer diagnosis.  The image was the one I originally snapped for my Decision Portrait Series.  (To read Anastasia's decision, CLICK HERE.)  The roses tinted with black spray paint were part of Blues Chapel.  The container in which I placed the roses was once a basket for Threads: Gathering My Thoughts.

Despite using several things from earlier work, it was undoubtedly the church kneeler that defined the space as "sacred".  It's heavy ... solid oak ... but it provided a connection between the triptych and the public.  It seemed to suggest a prayer.  Of course it did!

Several people actually knelt down!  This nice man allowed me to snap a few photos.

I'm not so naive as to compare my work and myself to the likes of Frederic Church, but I do think I achieved some measure of success in the creation of "an experience".  The evening was more than just looking at art.  It was a time to emotionally feel it.  For me, I'm now happy to take the triptych to England.  The work seems to have been christened and is now ready for its big adventure!  Thank you to everyone who came last night, to those who wanted to come, and to all who keep Anastasia's message of love alive.

(Above:  My installation-in-progress.)

Now to change the subject from a one-night-only installation to another work that is in its eighth week of arrangement/transition/progression!  All the circles/orbs on the wall have successfully been covered in a layer of epoxy.  I have five more orbs needing epoxy, and I want to make ten additional ones.  That will leave only the large comet needing this shiny, highly reflective surface.

My goal is to complete these last circles/orbs before going to Homestead National Monument for my two-week art residency.  I leave on the 16th.  

I am indebted to CMFA (Columbia Music Festival Association) for providing the temporary walls on which I've been able to work.  All my questions about sizes, styles, type of hanging devices, and arrangements have been answered.  CMFA is located at 914 Pulaski Street in Columbia and open Monday through Thursday from 10 - 5.  I'm quite excited about taking this installation to Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, North Carolina for my solo show!

That solo show is called In Stitches and will run from September 9, 2017 through January 3, 2018.

Scroll down for the statement on Saint Anastasia's signage!  Thanks!

Finally ... here's the signage for Saint Anastasia:

Saint Anastasia began well over a year ago ... just after the invitational group "Through Our Hands" announced a theme for their August 2017 exhibition at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England. The theme is PORTRAITS. I'm a member of this international group. The show is August 10 -13th.

Initially, I wasn't excited about "portraits". Despite having stitched 108 pieces for my Decision Portrait Series (including one depicting Anastasia), I don't really consider this approach part of my personal repertoire. I certainly didn't want to make something similar to my past work ... but I also didn't have anything else in mind. Yet, I didn't want to skip participating in the show. I didn't want to miss having thousands of people see my work. So, my husband Steve and I talked about it.

He asked me, "What sort of portrait would you like to stitch?" My answer, "Something that goes way over the top ... like the twenty-four portraits in my Blues Chapel ... but those weren't in fabric. There weren't any stitches at all."

"Can't you stitch some sort of 'over the top' portrait?," he asked. My mind started churning. Hadn't I added sequins, beads, costume jewelry, millinery lace, and all sort of things to those early, female Blues singers? Hadn't I added gilded halos? Made them appear as if "sainted"? As if icons? Wouldn't I like to stitch "an icon"?


But what icon? Who would be my saint? Who did I know living a life meant to make a difference? Who was filled with enough passion? Who possessed the qualities of a saint spreading love? I really didn't have to think for long.


Anastasia spread love and passion everywhere and to everyone. She said "I Love You" in place of "good-bye". In the summer of 2016, Anastasia was changing people by facing cancer with an amazing dignity, grace, and ethereal spirit. That's when I asked her to pose for this icon. We met at her house and talked. I snapped photos. She enjoyed playing to my camera. She suggested the words for the two side panels.

Over autumn days, I altered the image ... combining Anastasia and a Russian icon. Before ordering the final image to be printed on fabric, I emailed it to Anastasia. She loved it. She sent a text back, our last text. It said, "I love you." I waited to start stitching. I began on the day Anastasia died ... last December. At the time, I was in the remote Oregon Outback at an art residency called PLAYA. Anastasia & Friends gallery hosted a solo show for the work I'd made after an earlier art residency in this beautiful place. I felt like Anastasia was with me ... every stitch of the way.

Past and present, I am totally indebted to Anastasia and her gallery's generosity. It seems only fitting that the finished triptych makes it's public debut here at Anastasia & Friends. I'll be taking the artwork to England next month. Thousands will see her there but none will truly know the beautiful woman behind those loving eyes. It is my honor to share this work with those who loved Anastasia best, with Columbia.