Friday, May 07, 2021

Last Words at Appalachian Center for Craft

(Above and all the images below:  Last Words, my solo installation at the Appalachian Center for Craft at Tennessee Tech, Smithville, TN.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This week has loomed large for several months. It promised to be more than a little busy, have almost too many moving parts, and could spell disaster at any point.  I looked forward to this week with a mix of eager excitement and a healthy dose of anxious dread.  Thankfully, everything has worked out swimmingly. 

The week started on Sunday.  Of course it did!  Steve and I were in Lake City, South Carolina before 10:00 AM in order to dismantle my installation, The Cocoon, at ArtFields.  This event closed just the night before. We folded textile panels onto heavy duty drapery hangers, packed the van, and drove back home by 2:00 PM.  Immediately, everything was hauled back into storage.  We then started loading the cargo van with TWO other installations.  I was on the road to the Rensing Center, an art residency outside Pickens, South Carolina (two-and-a-half hours from home) by 5:00. 

Bright and early on Monday morning, I uploaded everything for The Big Day, a brand new solo installation featuring nearly forty donated and found wedding gowns and lots of other things focused on weddings.  This show marks Steve and my fortieth wedding anniversary.  I was excited to install but the gallery space wasn't quite ready and I had other things to do!  So did Steve! 

That day (Monday) Steve borrowed a friend's car (because we only have the cargo van and a moped) and drove to the North Charleston Convention Center to pick up my two pieces from Palmetto Hands, a state-wide juried fine craft competition.  Happily, this meant picking up a $500 Outstanding Merit Award too ... for my art quilt Oswald Home Laundry!

Still in the borrowed car, Steve left home early on Tuesday, picked me up at the Rensing Center, and drove us to Smithville, Tennessee.  We arrived before 5:00 and got to see the exhibition space, unload the artwork, and enjoy a fabulous provided cabin right there on campus!

Because several staff members live on campus, it was possible for Steve and I to start installing Last Words at 8:30 AM.  We've installed this show before ... several times.  I have so much work for this show that I could have filled a space at least four times larger.  As such, it took only two hours for us to hang the work.

The artwork includes several grave rubbing art quilts. I have a blog specifically for these unique crayon-in-fabric rubbings.  We were able to hang twelve of the 35+ sheer chiffon epitaph banners.  Each one is free-motion machine stitched.  I used a water soluble stabilizer in order to stitch on this ultra thin material.  When I did this, I became aware that I couldn't stitch all the deeply moving, heartfelt epitaphs I'd been collecting from various cemeteries.  So, I created The Book of the Dead.  This 696-page altered sketch book contains 1200+ epitaphs in my version of calligraphy.  All the pages were first embellished with watercolor markings.  This show includes several framed pieces from my Angels in Mourning Series, xylene photo transfers on paper to which I stitched small trinkets.  The last things added to this show were the artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.  The colorful flower fabric was carefully dissected from the plastic parts and washed.  (The plastic was put into our recycle bin!)  We used only half of the flowers that I've collected.  

Steve and I were back on the highway after lunch.  We arrived back at the Rensing Center before dark.  Steve then switched vehicles, driving the borrowed car back home.  I stayed.  After all, I had another solo installation to install!

For the past two days, I've been working inside my gallery space at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History.  It's the longest time I've ever had to enjoy working with my own materials and concepts.  Truly, this opportunity is a gift.  It is also one of the "silver linings" to this on-going pandemic.  Many small museums have found themselves short staffed and forced to postpone or cancel too many events.  They've been apprehensive about scheduling due to the uncertain future.  The Pickens County Museum of Art and History is such a place but it was also willing to extend this opportunity to me.  I am so very, very grateful. 

So ... The Big Day has been installed.  It looks great, even better than I had hoped! I'll write about it tomorrow. 


Margaret said...

What you do makes my head spin! And weren't (AREN'T) you on an artist's residency??

Cynthia said...

Susan, I'm so blown away by your work. I've been following your blog for a while now and find so much inspiration from you and the work you create. This exhibit is so touching, so heartful and done with so much love. Thank you for what you do. Cynthia