Thursday, April 09, 2020

Yellow-breasted Chat

(Above:  Yellow-breasted Chat, 12" x 12" mini art quilt.  Manipulated digital image printed on fabric with hand stitching and trapunto/stuffing.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Earlier this year I created three, 12" x 12" mini art quilts that included a central image "stuffed" from the reverse.  This technique is called trapunto.  When approaching this technique, it is essential that no stitching is done between the two layers, front and back.  That's where the "stuffing" goes.  While stitching the last piece, I wondered how I might stitch in this area and still do the trapunto work.

(Above:  Photograph of the dead yellow-breasted chat.)

I had an idea but needed an image ... something with an obvious, central shape and an equally obvious background.  I'm sure the current COVID-19 crisis had a lot to do with my selection of a dead gold finch.  Every day news carries statistics of increasing numbers of the infected and of those who have died.  How very different this year is from last year when I was in Belle, Missouri at the Osage Art Community art residency program.  During my stay, the neighbor mentioned finding a dead gold finch.  (At the time, we thought it was a dead gold finch.  Since originally posting this blog entry, I've learned and re-titled the piece correctly as a Yellow-breasted chat!)  I retrieved it from her trash bin and took over seventy images of the poor, beautiful bird.  Dead birds have always held a place of sacred fascination for me and for many other, famous artists ...

... like Albert Pinkham Ryder's 1890s Dead Bird.  This tiny 4 1/4" x 10" painting absolutely touched me when touring the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.  Dead birds are symbolic of life's briefness.  Their still bodies instantly tell tales of flight cut short, the loss of days, and voices never to be heard again. They elicit empathy for creatures of the earth and sky often dying because man has interfered with the natural order of the world.  (Ryder might have titled this piece Dead Bird because he didn't know what species it really was! LOL!)

 (Above:  Gold Finch, detail.)

I don't know what killed the tiny Missourian yellow-breasted chat, but photographing him was part documentation, part inspiration, part reverence, part a promise to create art.  I did not return him to the garage; he was solemnly buried on the nearby farm, under the wide sky.  Until now, my promise wasn't kept.  I hadn't done anything with the photos.  As touching as the original image is, I knew I wanted a different look ... something ominous.  Through Photoshop, the image was altered.  Turning some of the yellow feathers green was an attempt to create a slight, sickly background for brilliant yellow thread.  This area ... the bird's entire body ... would be "stuffed". 

 (Above:  Opening the area for trapunto but also for additional hand stitching.)

After totally seed stitching the background in indigo and black thread with a metallic silver running stitch suggesting a stilled ability to fly, I cut open the felt under the fabric.  I pinned it open and then stitched with the yellow thread.

 (Above:  Tracing the bird's outline.)

Once finished with the stitching, I traced the outline of the bird ...

... and cut the outline approximately one-quarter inch inside the pencil line.

This pattern was used to cut a piece of scrap felt.  Then, I cut another piece ... again, a quarter-inch smaller than the pattern.  The larger piece of felt went against the bird.  The smaller went against the felt ... which was stitched back together again.

(Above: Reverse side of an oriental embroidery ... being made into the reverse of the mini art quilt.)

For the art quilt's reverse, I found a piece of gold work embroidery in my stash.  It was a donation from one of my friends, a lady who regularly attends Bill Mishoe's estate service's Friday night auctions.  She knows I might not use anything from my stash "as is".  This fancy embroidery is the type made for the tourist industry.  It was exactly 12" in height and included two birds!  I've always wanted to see the back of the stitching, so I cut it.

(Above:  Gold Finch, reverse.)

One of the pieces cut away was turned into a hanging sleeve.  Now, the back is as beautiful and bird-inspired as the front!

1 comment:

Ann Scott said...

As dead birds go (we've seen two this past week.) it is beautiful. The perfect object to trapunto. Your Photoshop filter really did produce a feeling in me. The backing is beautiful, and the sleeve - well done.