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.

1 comment:

Spooky Boo Streett said...

Thank you for sharing the story behind the art. It is breathtaking. She was always called princess by me, the highest Russian princess, so I love how you chose her as the icon. I hope someone took your photo kneeling to capture the moment in your heart. Words could never express the stitched piece in my collection of Anastasia that you had in your show. I wake to I love you now daily. I know she and marvin are both smiling from heaven. Congratulations on your awards and residency. Karma has spoken and this really has been your year to shine. Hugs and love, Les