Sunday, June 07, 2020

Re-working old pieces and old presentations

(Above:  Three Tessera ... "new" pieces made after pouring UV filtering epoxy over "old" pieces.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

2017 isn't really that far into the past but it seemed that way when I received a text message ten days ago from a local gallery asking me to pick up artwork that has been there since that time.  None of the work was actually on display.  I'd totally forgotten just how many of my pieces this gallery actually had.  They were supposed to be representing me but what they were really doing was providing "storage".

Please don't read any negativity into this.  It's just a simple truth, one I'd heard about from my creative mentor years beforehand.  Back in July 2001 (before I'd actually made anything ... when I forty-two years old and first declared that I wanted to "be an artist when I grew up"), I went to Stephen Chesley for advise. (He is still my creative mentor.)  He told me many important things. One of these simple truths was about storage.  He said that there would come a time when storage would become a problem.  I thought he was nuts.  I assumed that starting out at my "advanced age" would spare me from this seemingly distant problem.  It didn't.  Storage is most assuredly a problem now and has been for a couple years.  Looking back, Chesley was right ... again ... as usual ... always.

Well, Stephen Chesley told me other truths too.  Some of these were about gallery representation.  He said that a good relationship was one that included an active part on both sides of the artwork. Obviously, an artist actively creates and provides the artwork.  Not so obvious is the active part an gallery is supposed to do.  They are supposed to be working to sell the work and promote the artist.  Chesley said that galleries didn't "get" a commission; they EARN it.  He said that 50% is a fair commission.  I quite agree.

Yet, Stephen Chesley went further with his explanations.  He said that a gallery that wasn't working was simply providing storage for the artwork.  He said there would come a time when provided storage wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing either.  Storage outside one's studio/house has certain advantages.  Well ... Chesley was right ... again ... as usual ... always.  My artwork had been "in storage" in this gallery for three years and I didn't even think about it.

The gallery might have continued storing my artwork but COVID-19 provided time to address their storage problem! Who really knows how many artists' works were "in storage" there?  When picking up my work, I had a perfectly nice conversation with the gallerist.  I was told that the flurry of text messages sent to artists was initiated after someone claimed their gallery "was a place for artwork to go to die".  That's a bit harsh ... but only because picking up my artwork meant some sort of resurrection was possible.

(Above:  Photo of framed Artifacts from 2017.)

So, about ten days ago I had more than a dozen pieces back at Mouse House, my business, which I hadn't seen in three years.  Even though the conversation was pleasant enough and the pick-up went smoothly, I had an "icky feeling" about it.  After all, I had tried to interest the gallery in other work, tried to interest them in "switching things out", and tried to be a "good artist" ... but I also knew that just last November a person contacted me and bought a piece of my artwork after she'd been to this gallery and couldn't find anyone to help her.  (The gallery also doubles as an event venue. They were too busy setting up for a private party to assist with a sale.)  Even with this knowledge, I did nothing.  I was too intimidated, too busy, too worried about "losing representation" even though it was obvious that I really didn't have representation.  Looking at the returned artwork meant staring at a failure on so many levels.  There was only one thing for me to do ... change EVERYTHING!

(Above:  Former Artifacts removed from their frames and backed with 2-ply metallic cardboard ... then a support frame was glued to the back.  UV filtering epoxy was poured over each one. Hanging wire and a label were then attached to the back.  These "old pieces" became Tessera, a new series!)

Eight of the returned pieces were called Artifacts.  I removed them from their mats and frames ... keeping the mats and frames for other work.  Each piece was backed with 2-ply metallic cardboard and stiffened with GAC 200.  Small frames were glued to the reverse.  Each one got a coating of UV filtering epoxy.  Finally, I attached a hanging wire and a new label.  These "old" pieces are now new Tessera.

 (Above:  Two Tessera being photographed.)

I selected this new name because the word tessera means a small block of stone, tile, glass, or other material used in the construction of a mosaic.  With the shiny, hard, reflected surface of epoxy, these pieces remind me of mosaic, the individual and hard components that make up an interconnected whole.  They are, however, difficult to photograph.  I have to use a wall in my studio, directly under my color-correcting track lighting that is aimed perfectly downward.  All other light sources have been blocked in order to reduce reflections.  It is a pain, but it works! 

   (Above:  One of the Tessera showing the reflective nature of the UV filtering epoxy.)

Some comments on Facebook have questioned my use of epoxy, wondering why I bother to use it.  Well, the reflective nature of epoxy is hard to photograph but it is also a unique surface that belies the fact that this is a fiber artwork.  The finished piece is more "object" than "art quilt" or even fabric.  It is truly an example of mixed media ... when the approach and materials and even the process become secondary to the end result.  I am pleased that these "artifacts" from "storage" have a new and completely different look and feel. 

(Above:  Two of the "new" Tessera.  Each one is approximately 14' x 10". Layers of polyester stretch velvet with lots of metallic foiling, free-motion embroidery, melted holes, and UV filtering epoxy. $95 each.)

Once these were finished, I cleared a wall at Mouse House and hung the Tessera with a selection of small pieces in the Nike's Advice series. 

(Above:  Nike's Advice pieces and Tessera on a wall ... near furniture used for my Anonymous Ancestors installation.)

I'm frequently changing my wall arrangements.  I don't want my own shop to look filled with "old artwork".  I don't want Mouse House to look like it is only my "storage area" even though it basically is just that.  I think I learned something important from this recent gallery experience.  I know I had to address the problem, and I'm pleased with this part of my solution.

 (Above:  Two of the "new" Tessera.)

Of course, this only solved part of my dilemma.  After taking the work out of their mats and frames, I still had the mats and frames.  Thus, I decided to make new Window Series pieces to fill those presentations.  So far, I've made the following five pieces!  I'm on a roll but I do have more work needing attention.

(Above:  Window CLXXIV.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 15 1/2" x 11 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

Even though I own my frame shop, I don't have enough wall space to hang everything!  My future will be a continual battle against "storage", a continual quest to find permanent homes for at least some of my creations, and a continual fight to keep "newer" work on display instead of being content with "older" pieces.  

 (Above:  Window CLXXV.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 15 1/2" x 11 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

I do hope to find additional gallery representation, a place with people who really want to sell artwork and promote their artists, a place that wants to EARN their 50% commission. With COVID-19 and the "new normal" that is hopefully coming, it will be hard to find such a place.  Yet, the unknown should never stop an artist from making more artwork.  It is what I am supposed to do.  Making art is more than my outlet for self expression.  It is my habit, my chosen career, and my passion.

(Above:  Window CLXXVI.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 14 1/2" x 10 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

I'm very please with the "new work" in the old presentations. After shuffling the walls here at Mouse House to hang the Tessera, I don't have another place for these new pieces.  For now, they are stacked in a corner ... but none of this work reminds me of the "icky feeling" when I brought then home. They are all fresh and new and look terrific!

 (Above:  New work in old mats and frames.)

I will be making more, of course.  That's what I do.  Now ... back to the studio!

 (Above:  Window CLXXVII.  Layers of polyester stretch velvet fused on recycled black industrial felt with free-motion machine stitching and melting techniques.  Artwork approximately 14 1/2" x 10 1/2".  Framed:  26" x 22". $325.)

(Above:  Peacock Feather XXIII.  Artwork approximately 14 1/2" x 10 1/2". Framed:  26: x 22:.  $325.)

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