Saturday, September 23, 2017

Large Stained Glass LXXIX

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Another piece finished this past week is Large Stained Glass LXXIX.  Framed, it measures 63" x 23," and it has crystal-clear, anti-reflective glass ... so that there is absolutely no reflection when standing in front of it or even snapping a photo!  Amazing! 

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX.  Framed: 63" x 23". Inventory # 4080. $1300.)

It will be heading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 9 - 12.  This is the second piece in this series made during September.  My plan is to create two more before the big show.  I generally show three in my booth and to have one in reserve.  All my other "Large Stained Glass" series pieces are hanging in Waterworks Visual Arts Center until January 3rd.

  (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX, detail.)

Thus far, I'm on schedule.  Thus far, I have other work under construction, under the needle of my sewing machine, and in the garage awaiting the final melting steps.

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX, detail.)

I'm also working on Christmas ornaments.  These are made from my wrapped-and-stitched wooden thread spools combined with buttons and ribbon.  They are a perfect project for evenings in front of the television.  I'll share some during the coming week.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Full time artist

 (Above:  In Box CCXCVII, detail.  Click on any image for an enlargement.)

Once upon a time ... and not that long ago ... somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen years ... I dreamed of becoming an artist, a "real" artist with respect from friends, family, and my local community. 

(Above:  Vista Guild's reception for artists whose work was included in a recent project to wrap local electrical and utility boxes with images of artwork.)

Back then, I used to go to art receptions just to rub elbows and hear words of wisdom from talented creative-types.  I'd admire work I thought I couldn't produce and applaud in all the right places.  Becoming "an artist" was a fantasy.  Then, I started ... slowly ... after getting a studio in "The Vista", a section of downtown Columbia that was becoming the arts and cultural district.  I cherished the few moments when I got to "play artist".  This generally happened during two annual "art walks" in The Vista. In a very real sense, I "grew up" in my Vista studio. 

A year-and-a-half ago, I gave up that studio.  I needed more room and had it at Mouse House, my home/business.  Leaving The Vista was hard.  I'd practically made everything in that studio.  It was my sacred space, a security net, my artistic haven.  I worried that my local community would forget me, but that didn't happen.  Instead, I was one of the first artists selected by The Vista Guild to have an image of my work wrapped on a utility box.  Fifteen total boxes have been completed.  Friday night was the artist reception.  It really was special.  It reminded me of how far I've come in fifteen years of making.

(Above:  Reception for Anonymous Ancestors at the University of South Carolina Upstate's Gallery on Main with Jane Nodine providing my introduction.)

The next night (and in the same dress, LOL!), I was in my solo installation at USC Upstate's Gallery on Main for another reception. The talented Jane Nodine, art professor and assistant department chair, introduced me to students, facility, and the public.

This time, I was the one expected to deliver words of wisdom and encouragement.  Artists and art students from USC Upstate, Converse College, and Limestone College were in attendance.  I talked about installation art as a media, a way to use physical space for a temporary, site-specific expression of conceptual intentions.  I talked about collecting old photos and giving them a new life.  It was really wonderful and reminded me once again that I've really come far.  Most days, I tend to focus on how much further I want to go, forgetting the journey I've already managed.

After speaking, questions were asked and answered.  There are two typical questions that seem always to be asked:  1) How did you start? and 2) Do you ever sleep?  To me, they are totally related.  When one starts as late in life as I did (age 42), one is filled with more ideas than is humanly possible.  I'm acutely aware that I'll never get to most of my plans.  Constantly, I feel "behind the eight ball".  Time is limited ... which is why I work, work, work!  I don't waste time.  It is my most precious commodity!

 (Above:  In Box CCXCVII.  Framed 33" x 21". $550.)

The only way to really enjoy art receptions is to "keep them coming".  The only way to manage that is to constantly be making more and more work ... which is how I spent most of the week.  I finished two Large In Box series pieces.  These are headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in November.

 (Above:  In Box CCXCVIII, detail.)

Fifteen years ago I dreamed of becoming "a full time artist" ... one that spent approximately 37.5 hours weekly working in the field.  (By the way, 37.5 was my goal as it represents "full time" in most fields, especially any government agency!) It didn't happen quickly (and I am still framing pictures for a financial living) but I've been working "full time" for the last couple of years.  Dreams do come true!

(Above:  In Box CCXCVIII.  Framed:  33" x 21". $550.)

Now ... back to my studio.  It is always time to make art!
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three New Lancet Windows

(Above:  Lancet Window  CCV.  Framed:  31" x 11". $395.)

I've recently finished these three, new Lancet Windows.  They will be headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 9 - 12 ... which seems like a long way off but will undoubtedly be here in the blink of an eye. 

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCIII.  Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

I've got several other pieces in various stages ... being constructed/fused ... being stitched ... being melted ... being mounted and framed.  More work is coming and I'm keeping busy!  

(Above:  Lancet Window CCV. Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

Later this afternoon my husband Steve and I are attending a reception for all the artist's with work selected as images to cover local electrical boxes.  In Box CCLXXIII is featured at the corner of Gervais and Lincoln Street. (CLICK HERE for a blog post.) Tomorrow is the monthly art walk in Spartanburg, SC which coordinates with the reception for my solo show, Anonymous Ancestors, at the university's Gallery on Main.   Once upon a time, I used to get so excited about art receptions (whether I had work on display or not).  This week, however, I'm conflicted.  I need the time in my studio.  I'd rather be creating than celebrating.  I wonder if other artists feel this way or not? 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Art reception at Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, NC

 (Above:  In Stitches, my solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, a regional museum in Salisbury, NC through January 3, 2018.)

Friday was a busy, busy day.  After installing Threads: Gathering My Thoughts at the South Carolina State Library (blog post HERE), Steve and I drove to Salisbury, North Carolina for the art reception at Waterworks Visual Arts Center.  This regional museum hosts really great exhibitions.

Right this very moment, my work hangs in a space beside a retrospective of Ben Martin's photos.  Ben Martin's images are iconic.  He died this past February but his work will live on forever ... images like Richard M. Nixon’s haggard 5 o’clock shadow, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march to Montgomery, Ala., and John F. Kennedy’s grieving widow and children.  These evocative images defined the 1960s.  I am humbled to be showing work in the same space.

 (Above:  Two ladies closely inspecting my installation, Celestial Orbs.)

I am also indebted to CMFA (Columbia Music Festival Association) for providing temporary wall space all summer long.  The opportunity to stand back and gauge size, number, and spacing for a 24' wall filled with fiber orbs and a giant comet made the back wall of my show possible!  THANK YOU, John Whitehead, the CMFA board, and all those who went to see this installation-in-progress.

The art reception was very, very well attended and included time for an "artist's talk".  I was able to thank so many people but also had the time to speak about my materials, inspirations, and my general approach to making art.

So many people were really interested in polyester stretch velvet ... and couldn't believe that pouring epoxy over it created such vibrancy and sheen.

The entire show looks just wonderful and is hung perfectly.  This was one of the rare occasions that I didn't have to do this work.  I provided sketches of the wall placement  ... and it was done PERFECTLY!  Thank you, Waterworks Visual Arts Center.

In addition to my solo show and the Ben Martin's retrospective, Carolyn Ford's work hung in another gallery across the hallway.  This was the space in which a selection of my Decision Portraits hung almost six years ago.  (CLICK HERE to see that exhibit.)

Carolyn Ford is a tenured associate art professor and head of the art department at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina.  Her work is wonderful!

The reception was wonderful too.  This is Carolyn and me with Salisbury's major, Karen Alexander.

All this was possible because Executive Director Anne Scott Alexander it GREAT ... and even knew to position us beside the Wells Fargo logo, sponsor for these three solo shows!  THANK YOU, Anne Scott ... you've taught me so much.  I will be eternally grateful!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Threads at the SC State Library

(Above: Detail from Threads: Gathering My Thoughts, an installation at the South Carolina State Library.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Yesterday was a busy, busy day!  It started at 8:30 in the lobby of the South Carolina State Library and ended in Salisbury, North Carolina at the art reception for my solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center.  This blog post covers the installation.  I'll blog about the wonderful evening sometime tomorrow!

 (Above:  Threads: Gathering My Thoughts at the SC State Library.)

A little over a month ago, I started corresponding with Andersen Cook, Statewide Initiatives Coordinator, about an installation for the library focusing on the state's textile history and incorporating reproduction historic images from mill life and industry.  A wonderful collaboration resulted.  Yesterday was "installation day".  It was GREAT!

I showed up with my three, giant leaf bags full of unraveled thread and a bag of supplies.  Andersen Cook had twenty-seven images already mounted on foam-centered board.  We used the library's nine mess-and-aluminum display screens to create three triangular units.

Then, I went to work!

In order to attach the photographs to the screens, I cut small pieces of foam-centered board and stitched a length of heavy-duty thread through each one.

These were hot-glued to the back of each image.

Then, I piled thread onto the screens ...

... and stitched three images onto each individual panel ... straight through the fabric mess ... tied off on all four corners. 

Installing was lots of fun and an excellent example as to how my former incarnations with all this thread were translated into a new, site-specific installation.  (I've had several solo shows called Threads: Gathering My Thoughts ... but no two have ever been alike.  Mostly, I've suspended baskets and had the unraveled thread cascading through them.  This time, no baskets.  This time ... the threads represent more than just the millions of thoughts running through one's mind but the actual material in the historic mill photos!)

All the images were taken in South Carolina and are part of the Library of Congress.  Later, Andersen will be adding descriptions to each one.

This installation officially opens on Monday but is already on the State Library's website.  The write-up reads:

The textile industry had an enormous impact on South Carolina.  From the late nineteenth century through most of the twentieth century, the textile industry dominated the state’s manufacturing.  In the SC State Library’s exhibit “Threads: Gathering My Thoughts” historical images are used to honor South Carolina’s rich textile legacy and teach how the textile industry shaped cultures, demographics and economics in our state. This exhibit includes the artwork of professional studio artist, Susan Lenz, whose work has been juried into numerous national and international exhibits, featured in solo shows all over the United States, and shown on television and in print. 
By combining historical SC textile images with the creativity of Ms. Lenz, thread is used to symbolize the former abundance in Southern textile mills and a physical manifestation of millions of thoughts running through anyone’s brain.  This exhibit explores an ongoing engagement - and entanglement - with fibers. 

I wish I could take credit for the unique use of the clip-on clothes hangers, but this was Andersen's idea!  Additional images and information about South Carolina's textile history are on this nice, wood paneled wall opposite the three, triangular units.

(Above:  The view to the exhibition area from immediately inside the SC Library's main entrance.)

I'm honored to have this opportunity and especially to work with such a professional staff.  This exhibit is open to the public from September 18th through October 27th, weekdays from 8:30 - 5:00.  Artists interested in submitting to exhibit at the South Carolina State Library can find information and an application HERE

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Large Stained Glass LXXVIII

(Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXVIII.  Framed: 63" x 23". Inventory # 4075. $1300.  Polyester stretch velvets on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine embroidery and melting techniques.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Quite a lot of my work is currently on view at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, a regional museum in Salisbury, North Carolina.  This solo show runs through January 3rd.  So ... anything in the show is not available for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 9th - 12th.  There are five "Large Stained Glass" pieces in the show.  Until this week, there were none available for Philadelphia.  I'm up against a deadline.  This is the first of four I'm planning to make! 
(Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXVIII, detail of the top.)

The second "Large Stained Glass" piece is already constructed and stitched.  It is in the garage waiting to have holes melted through the layers of polyester stretch velvet.  After that, it must be stitched to mat board and framed.  At least it is started!

(Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXVIII, detail of middle.)

I looked over the inventory of work I do have on hand.  It looks like I'll be needing a couple more Lancet Windows, at least two more Large In Boxes, and some small Windows.  I have no Lunette Windows and am not even going to try making any.  I've got plenty of limited pallette pieces in the white-on-white presentation and enough Seasonal Leaves.  The booth will not be empty! LOL!

(Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXVIII, detail from the bottom section.)

Because all the Large Stained Glass pieces will be new, my husband Steve decided to upgrade the glass.  This piece (and the three that are coming) will have water-white, anti-reflective glass with UV protection.  This glass is AMAZING.  There's no reflection at all and no blur like non-glare glass has.  It looks as if there's no glass.  One can sit in front of the glass and NOT see one's reflection ... even in a snapshot!  I've been a little leery of this upgrade.  Why?  Because I had to increase the cost of the work by $100.  I hope people can see and appreciate the difference ... and want to own them!

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Anonymous Ancestors at USC Upstate, September 12 - November 4, 2017

(Above:  Anonymous Ancestors at The University of South Carolina-Upstate's "Gallery on Main", 172 East Main Street, Spartanburg, SC, September 12 - November 4, 2017.)

Installation Day is always exciting, a tad bit stressful, and requires more time than originally anticipated but it always ends well!  By the time everything is in place and the lights are set and the exhibition signage is hung ...

... I can relax!  I'm very, very pleased with this solo show for several reasons.  The least is not the fact that USC Upstate just had all the walls redone.  Until last week, the walls were all carpeted in dark gray.  The lighter, brighter, white painted surfaces lend themselves to the work and the feel of a nostalgic interior.  Also, Steve and I recently purchased a new, large ProMaster Dodge utility van which meant everything could be hauled to Spartanburg in a single trip.

This is how our driveway looked before we packed the van.  It was necessary to put all boxes and assorted furniture here because ...

... the carpet was on the bottom of all the boxes.  This photo was taken months ago.  The "pile" had only gotten bigger because I continue to create more and more work for this show.  The carpet needed to go into the new van FIRST.  Storage is a bit of a nightmare! LOL!

After unloading the van into the gallery, I immediately started setting the stage, unrolling the carpet, and hanging the curtain which visually blocks the view to the door (to the bathrooms and an emergency exit ... which are still very accessible ... just not a part of "my room").  I placed the furniture and the three sculptural garments.

I hung a few of the framed photographs, especially the largest ones around which I would create vignettes of images.  These first steps allowed me to go from HERE to ...

HERE!  Basically, I use the framed anonymous images to draw spaces on the wall, encircling the interior.

The placement of the furniture and sculptural garments dictate where the vignettes ought to be centered.

I was careful to incorporate a little "negative space" between some of the vignettes too.

Plus, Steve and I hung the Grid of Photos, a fifteen foot long, suspended mosaic of additional, anonymous images.  It was hung right inside the front door, across from the gallery's desk.

I've hung the Grid of Photos in several other locations but none have enjoyed such superior lighting.  From my original concept, I wanted the grid to cast shadows on the wall behind it.  As a stand-alone work of art, it has its own statement:

Each snapshot is a frozen moment in time, a single second on life’s timeline. To stand in front of The Gird of Photos is to remember a not-so-distant past. It triggers a sense of familiarity and common ground. It is easy to envision one’s own family and friends, holidays and special occasions, former cars, and hilarious fashion trends. Yet, these are anonymous photos. They come from yard sales, auctions, and abandoned locations. Who are these people? Who knows? We stand in the present; they look out from the past; too soon we will all be the shadow on the wall.

The new, white painted walls and great track lighting are GREAT!

The exhibition card is equally look looking!  It is pictured here with two other show cards.  The large one with the black background is from Waterworks Visual Arts Center.  My solo show at Waterworks opened while I was installing in Spartanburg.  It's reception is on the 15th ... along with two other solo shows located elsewhere in this nice, regional museum in Salisbury, NC.  The third card is from the Gertrude Herbert Art Institute in Augusta, GA.  I have two pieces in the current national juried exhibition.  The opening was Friday night.  Steve and I went and were so surprised.  Her Secrets was selected for the show's exhibition card!  Now, how cool is that! 

After placing the carpet, furniture, sculptural garments, and a few large framed photos, I spent hours creating the vignettes of framed, altered photos.  This is the first time I had "more than enough".  Some two dozen were not hung.  I used what I needed and had plenty from which to select.  It may not be obvious, but each image has been altered with letters clipped from vintage ephemera.  The words read:  Will You Remember Me?; Pillar of the Community; Spent Time in Jail; I Married Four Times; Virgins on our Wedding Night; I Was Someone's Mother; We Didn't All Live to Adulthood; From an All White Neighborhood; Black Sheep of the Family; The Boy Next Door; Best Friends; He Never Really Loved Me; Every Day Was Mother's Day; etc.  The pictures draw viewers into their world with suggested narratives.  There's an irony between the cozy interior and the sense of "family" when compared to the anonymous lives on display.

There are four pairs of white gloves in this exhibition too.  These are for viewing the eight or nine altered books made while enjoying an art residency in Fergus Falls, Minnesota last year.

Several of the chairs have been altered too.  I created custom fabric using old family photos (from both Steve's family and mine) and used it as upholstery.

The sculptural garments really do add a sense of people who would inhabit such a room.  I am thankful to those who donated two of the three vintage dresses.

I am also thankful for the many opportunities and moments of inspiration that made this show possible.  I wish I knew how to add music to an mp4 video ... but I can't figure it out.  Nonetheless, CLICK HERE for a brief video tour I shot before leaving the gallery yesterday evening!