Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sleeping Beauty and reasons for reworking older art

(Above:  Sleeping Beauty. Mixed media with fibers and stitch. 14" x 13 1/2". $350. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once upon a time (2004 - 2005), I made a series of mixed media works using my digital images of genuine African masks and artifacts.  Each one was printed as a high quality giclee print (approximately 22" x 17") which I fused to fabric before applying all sorts of stuff ... including silk and wool rovings and snippets of thread suspended in various gel media, pieces of fused polyester velvet, and fabric paint along with oil pastels.  Some had free-motion embroidery. Some had hand stitching (This one didn't have any stitching!)

 (Above:  Sleeping Beauty, detail.)

There were easily twenty-five or more pieces in this series.  Several were sold.  Several were removed from their frames and shrink-wrapped. I haven't looked at any of them in years, and I might not have peeked except for a particular Day-of-the-Dead "call-for-entry" at Visions Art Museum in partnership with the New Americas Museum. I noticed that there was a size limitation of 14" x 14" but thought nothing of it.  I have several Grave Rubbing Art Quilts under this size and thought I'd enter them.  Then, I read the entry more carefully.  I had a problem.  There is a very specific Day-of-the-Dead theme.  The focus is on the Luchadores.  The prospectus reads: Lucha Libra or free fight is the name of Mexico’s professional wrestling genre which was named a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of Mexico City in 2018. Lucha Librewrestlers are called Luchadores and are characterized by their colorful masks.

 (Above:  Sleeping Beauty, view including the side.)

Well, I'd never even heard of this sport, but the idea of "masks" reminded me of the older work. Of course I know that West African masks have nothing to do with Mexican wrestlers ... but this particular mask was already titled Sleeping Beauty.  Even back in 2005, I thought of it as "dead" ... as in "lifeless" or "sleeping" or waiting for someone to remember a time when someone wore the mask.  Somehow (at least in my mind), this mask seemed right for any Day-of-the-Dead theme.  Yet, at 22" x 17", it wasn't even close to the limited size ... unless I cut it.  Why not cut it?  Why not rework it?  Why not take on a challenge to see whether I could transform a piece made fourteen years ago into a new work?

The very idea of reworking an older piece was once totally foreign to me.  I remember seeing the Dada show at the National Gallery of Art in 2006.  (Click here for a webpage about this major exhibition.)  Lots of the work on display were reworked several times. Many pieces had multiple dates of completion.  I thought, "How odd?" and "Why would an artist do this? Rework a perfectly sound piece of art instead of getting a new fresh start?" and "If it hadn't sold the first time, why spend any more time on it?"

Well, I get it now.  Storage is an issue!  Just because an owner wasn't found shortly after the work was done doesn't mean the piece wasn't any good.  Just because a piece is "good" doesn't mean it couldn't be "better" or at least "different"!  Why not rework an older piece?  Why not cut it up?  I cut Sleeping Beauty to 14" x 13 1/2" (because square was just too wide) and started adding hand stitching.  Then, I fused it to a piece of acid-free mat board and glued it to a stretcher bar cut to the same size.  I spent more time painting and distressing the stretcher bar's sides than anything else.  I'm quite pleased with the results, and I don't care if it gets in the show or not!  It was fun!

 (Above:  Paper tags for keys.)

While the paint was out, I decided to cover a few pieces of heavy watercolor paper and make tags for keys.  I also found an old, unsigned lithograph and painted over it too.  Darker colors were sponged on and ink was splattered over both sides of all surfaces.

 (Above:  Tags for keys ... in front of the Wall of Keys.)

I like having plenty of "tags" on hand for keys and for workshops I conduct.  After the page was dry, I scored and tore them into the desired strips ... but when I came upon the last section of the lithograph, I stopped.  Parts of it looked very intriguing, especially since the scraps from The Sleeping Beauty were sitting very close by.  Before I knew it, I made three little pieces for three old frames!

 (Above:  Cascade.  Framed: 17 3/4" x 12 1/4"; unframed 11 1/2" x 5". $100.)

Sure, I didn't design or print the lithograph, but I did paint over it and add the little squares from The Sleeping Beauty and the stitches.  How is repurposing an old lithograph really any different from collage artists who use images from magazines?  
 (Above:  Detail of The Cascade.)

Then, I put together two more pieces.  They are below.  I don't know that I'll spend more time altering old work but I will not rule it out.  It was fun.  It was a challenge.  It opened my mind to possibilities I hadn't really considered.  This is a good thing!

 (Above: Prairie.  Framed: 9 1/4" x 7 1/4"; unframed 5 1/4" x 3". $45.)

 (Above and below:  Summer.  Framed: 11" x 11"; unframed 5 1/2" x 6". $70.)


Margaret said...

I like "Prairie" very much! It wouldn't cost too much to ship without the PM me, please! :-)

lorrie said...

These are incredible!

Meanqueen said...

A brilliant idea, thank you.

Ann Scott said...

Love this post and your pieces are so inspiring. I, too, am working on a piece for Visions. I noticed on the acceptance rules it states - "Artwork should reflect the Day of the Dead and/or Luchador theme" so not just the wrestling mask (Scared me, I had to go back and check!).
My (adult) son and I had a collaborative series solo show at VAM and shortly after that he was standing on his bed to reach something, the bed slid out from the wall and he fall against one of the pieces from that exhibit, breaking it... I've been planning on reworking it into something new ever since. Creating and recreating, sounds good to me!