Sunday, August 08, 2021


(Above:  Chosen Ones. Framed: 23" x 19".  Mixed media:  Screen printed image of a west African mask on a densely hand and machine embroidered background with a 2-ply gold metallic halo embellished with square cut nails and beads. Small cross.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last week I was contacted by a representative at Bullets and Bandaids for an upcoming fund raiser. They wanted to know whether I'd create an artwork based on a story about a veteran or survivor of war. Volunteer writers had already interviewed the subjects and written rough drafts of the stories. I wouldn't be picking the writer, the story, or the subject of the story but I would be receiving $100 to help defray the expenses. It all sounded intriguing.  It was certainly for a good cause ... so I agreed.

I sort of assumed I would be assigned a man or woman who served my country.  I was wrong!  The story I received was about a starving, eight year old boy and his mother struggling for life during the Liberia civil war.  It was horrific.  The two were turned away from a church giving handfuls of rice to the hungry ... simply because they were not from the chosen tribe. Later, they passed the church and saw "the chosen" murdered by another rebel faction.  War is hell.  The story was titled "Chosen Ones."

It did not take me long to find screen prints I'd once made (2007).  The image came from a west African mask I'd photographed years ago.  I fused it to canvas and cut the mask away from the rest of the decorative paper.  I also found a very early 2D piece of hand and machine embroidery (2003).  In the center was an antique engraving of Apollo on his chariot, but I covered that up.  The texture and color seemed perfect.  After cutting a piece of 2-ply metallic gold mat board, I had a halo.  My stash of found objects includes plenty of square cut nails.  The piece came together inside of one afternoon. 

(Above:  Please Vaccinate.  Altered antique oil painting. Framed: 16 1/2" x 20 1/2".  Altered with anonymous antique photos and hand embroidery.)

I've been told that pieces like Chosen Ones are "one-offs".  I've never really liked the term. It sounds as if the artwork wasn't up to snuff, was second rate, or somehow didn't live up to the artist's expectations.  Yet ... here's a definition:  One-off, noun, something done, made, or happening only once, not as part of a regular sequence.  Actually, one-offs just might be more unique than artwork that is predetermined to be part of a series.  I'm hopeful that is the case ... because ... I seem to thrive on one-offs.  For me, the departure from an established series is invigorating and helpful in the continuation of the series.  Also, it seems to widen the scope of the series.

This coming Friday I'm delivering my solo show Once and Again: Alterations to the Overcash Gallery on the Piedmont Community College campus in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It is the first time I haven't been the one crafting the exhibit.  The curator made the selection of the pieces from a list of available work.  She even requested two pieces from my show Anonymous Ancestors.  They weren't even on the list!  She sent a mock-up of the exhibition's layout!  She sees the thread running through all my work, whether part of one series or another.  She seems to understand that one of my driving forces is the satisfaction of "giving new life to old, neglected things".  So ... perhaps my found object mandalas is "a series" but perhaps the more important series is larger than that.  Perhaps all my one-offs are part of my series of "transformations" ... anything that was neglected but used for a new expression.

If so, Please Vaccinate is simply another transformation.  Perhaps, it is also a one-off.  It really doesn't matter to me ... because it is saying something I feel strongly about!  I got the little oil painting at Bill Mishoe's auction.  It came with several other framed pieces.  I bought them because there was another piece in the stack that I wanted.  (I got an early Suzy Scarborough encaustic!  I adore Suzy's work. I got it for an obscenely low price. I am thrilled.)  I had no idea what to do with the oil painting but it occurred to me that it had survived for decades ... through smallpox and influenza and the polio epidemic. With nothing to lose and absolutely no money in the materials, I found five anonymous photographs which I'd already fused to muslin.  I cut them and started stitching.  While stitching, I refined the words and decided that they should be done in wrapped back-stitch. The words were printed on regular paper.  I stitched directly through the paper and then tore the paper away.   

(Above:  Please Vaccinate, in progress ... being re-lined.)

As I stitched, the oil painting naturally slackened on its wooden stretcher bar.  I also knew that I would need to remove it from the stretcher bar in order to finish the stitching on both far sides.  The stretcher bar was otherwise "in the way".  In order to re-stretch the oil painting, I had to re-line it by gluing the canvas to a new piece of canvas.  Thankfully, I own the proper, acid-free, water-soluble glue and a Seal press to totally fuse the two layers together.  Using my canvas pliers, the piece was quickly back on its original stretcher bar and back in its original frame.

(Above:  Please Vaccinate, detail.)

In the statement for my upcoming show, I mention how my alterations of old things are done for new expression.  If this isn't a perfect example ... even if it is a one-off ... I don't know what is!

(Above:  La Sylphide, an altered lithograph.)

I didn't create La Slyphide this past week.  I threw it together sometime last month and then forgot about it.  (Maybe this is a true one-off!) Maybe I forgot because it really doesn't altered the sad story of La Slyphide.  I just added letters clipped from antique ephemera to point out that "not all fairy tales end well."  This one doesn't.  

Yes, I got the frame and the lithograph from Bill Mishoe's auction.  Like the oil painting, neither was something I wanted.  They just came with things I knew would work for some of my found object mandalas.  There was an old Bible too.  Between some of the pages were the pressed flowers.  I used water soluble pencils to add color to the otherwise black-and-white lithograph. I created this piece one day while cutting mats for customer orders.  Sometimes, it is the little things that just keep the routine/series going!

1 comment:

Christine said...

Beautiful 'one offs'. I love the vaccinate artwork, pity it couldn't go to the show.....
Didn't like the chosen ones but after reading the story and then going back..... veerrryyyee good. Have to keep going back to see more.