Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bessie's Quilt and trip to Craftform 2007

I planned to post a picture today, one of Bessie's Quilt. But, yesterday I had to go to Charleston. I still have one very important framing client there. He's a very important business man, a golf course & clubhouse and real estate developer who has trusted me to do my best work. He's the type of man that requires/demands speed and excellence...and expects to pay for it...always within days of the invoice. I've never pushed myself harder than to please him. For him, I've framed the River Course Club House, the Cassique Club House, three different personal houses, four sales centers on Kiawah Island, the sales center at Doonbeg in Ireland, most of the Doonbeg Club house, his suite at Doonbeg, his office, and the upper school building at the private school attended by his four children. Everything was the "best" money and my talents could provide. It is my honor to work for him. I've also framed and cataloged his entire art collection...all original...valued well over 1.2 million. Yesterday, he needed me to pick up a painting he'd commissioned. I had to rent a truck. It is 6' x 8'. Needless to say, it took all day to drive there, collect the painting, discuss the framing, and drive back home. I will likely write about this experience was unique...a visit to an aging but legendary painter...a glimpse into a studio the likes of which were amazing...the air was full of intrigue, greed, and also touching patience. I got dozens of photos but they're still on my camera.

With all this going on, I still finished Bessie's Quilt in my studio later in the evening. Personally, I've been absorbed with this absorbed that I haven't even mentioned it until now. I only started on Saturday. I don't know why I decided it was time to do this just was time. The vision came to me when I visited the Pickens County Museum, the site for my solo exhibition this coming summer. I knew I wanted a quilt with Bessie Smith on it. I knew how it was suppose to look...a rare thing for me. Honestly, I didn't think I could do it. I almost forgot about it. Then, I read my notes...from the notebook I keep in my purse...which I posted on my blog.

It was time to try a xylene transfer and use the strips of vintage, quilted fabric, and make Bessie's Quilt. I spent every available moment on this...loving each little stitch (yes, it's hand stitched), every single button, all the fabrics, and I even listened to the CD I have of Bessie singing the Blues. It is finished now. I'm thrilled with it and wanted nothing more than to photograph it today to post here.

It's Christmas time, however; and even down-sized, Christmas is more than a little hectic here at Mouse House. A designer dropped off over forty big pictures...all for "stock"...I'm to frame them beautifully...that's the only way I accept framing. I get to select everything...without input from the client. Yes, this is more than a bit arrogant; but, I use to have fourteen people on payroll. I couldn't stand it any longer and forcibly downsized. Now, it's just Steve and I. So, we can be quite selective when it comes to clients. This was work we would happily take in and frame before I couldn't photograph the quilt today.

Tomorrow, Steve and I leave at the "crack of dawn" in order to get to the Wayne Art Center outside Philadelphia for the Craftform 2007 reception. Honestly, I'm a bit nervous...just to be in such a talented group. Part of me is wondering why I got in. Part of me is wondering why I can be so secure about the framing I don't really want to do...but require the income...yet can't manage the smallest degree of self confidence about my artwork. I'll wonder about it in the car. It's almost 7 PM and I haven't started packing.

When I get back, I'll post all the things I've been thinking about:
1) How my catalog and paperwork is organized
2) Manning Williams' studio in Charleston
3) The Craftform 2007 reception and show
4) The Hopper and Turner and Rauschenburg exhibits in DC that we'll see on Saturday
5) Whatever I stitch in the car
6) The photographs I still have to take of Bessie's Quilt

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Elements in Blue, Alpha and Omega

This is Elements in Blue, Alpha and Omega. It is 9 3/4" x 8"! Wow! I finally remembered to include the size.

Believe it or not, each piece I finish is entered into a catalog, given an inventory number, priced, and includes a brief description of the materials and/or technique(s) as well as the size, unframed and framed (if applicable...and these are all 17 3/4" x 15 3/4" with the framing! If and when the piece is sold, the new owners name and contact information is listed too.

Why I haven't included the size when posting images in the past is a mystery. I've written comments on other blog stating how much I appreciate photos that include something for scale, a quarter or a background on a stone path. I hereby resolve to include measurements on all further posts!

By the way, thanks for all the nice comments about my recently finished books. Comments mean the world to me!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Good Girl

Quite some time ago I saved the cover of this Godey's Ladies Book from 1864 and gathered all sorts of clippings; but I didn't actually start the project until earlier this week. I hadn't quite figured out how the pages were going to stay in the frame work I'd made. Then, while stitching on the Mask Book, it came to me. Everything else just fell into place. This altered book is now titled The Good Girl.

There are twelve individual pages with collages on both sides. The images are from the original 1864 book, several late 1890s books, a 1919 newspaper, a couple early embroidery transfer patterns, World Book Encyclopedia Year Books from the late 1960s and early 70s, and several issues of London Illustrated News from the 50s and 60s. I stitched on each page are various times...sometimes free motion and sometimes a pattern. Collecting the adages and rules of etiquette was a blast.

(PS...I've been receiving several readers from a "closed" blog called Expressive Books...if anyone can let me know what's been said, I'd appreciate it....hoping it is positive!)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Elements in Blue, Savior

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I spent a glorious day in my studio...totally alone and very productively working on a project I'd set aside months ago. I thought I'd be working on a new altered book...instead I'm finishing an old altered book. With any luck, it will be completed during another glorious day...all my studio, tomorrow!

In the meantime, Elements in Blue: Saviour got done. It is headed, along with the rest of the series to my solo show in the Pickens Museum this summer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book of Masks

Tags, postcards, ATCs, "inchies", journal quilts, challenges, on-line tutorials, Esty, distant learning programs, swaps of any kind, and fabric books are some of the many, mysterious but utterly fascinating things to which I've been exposed through blogging. Most are very, very tempting. I've tried rusting material and even written a tutorial. I've finally put some of this newfound knowledge to use. I made a fabric book....and thanks to those of you who offered suggestions and lead me to further investigations!

Mostly, Doreen G's formerly lost fabric that turned into two beautiful postcard inspired all the snippets of embellished fabric leftover after cutting up backgrounds to make Christmas ornaments. It all seemed a shame to waste. Doreen stitched strips of material to a background and created a beautiful, colorful I followed her lead. I went on and embellished it from both sides and decided it was a book cover.

At first, I made paper pages using the leftover text. It isn't any ordinary text. It had been the printed pages of a 1957 French publication featuring chromolithographs after the earlier sugar-lift aquatints by Picasso...all to illustrate a modern look at the mid-18th c. naturalist, Georges Buffon. A framing client/book dealer had me dismantle the volume and mat and shrink wrap the images for resale. He said I could keep the rest...the few pages of text...enlarged reproductions of Picasso's handwriting with a few linear drawings. I knew I would use this "paper" one day. (By the way, this dealer is also an art client...he and his wife own one of the large African series pieces, Warrior.)

Something was wrong. The pages just weren't "right" for the cover. The cover was colorful, textural, and needed something more "straight forward". I set these aside and am now making another book, Buffon, Picasso, and Me. (Images will come later!)

I don't know why I remembered the masks I had transfered onto muslin and the stiff, heavy "stuff" I bought. I think the "stiff" material might be a type of Lutradur. I'm not really sure. I bought it at Hancock Fabrics...I think. Of course I didn't make a note of it. I painted it with silk paints and embellished it with a fine layer of wool rovings.

WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web) was ironed to the reverse of each mask but I stitched around each one too. I thought I was done, but something was missing. It was a pretty little picture book without any words or reason. Since I've done so many other African inspired work, I have a file of research....including the names of some tribal masks (most are simply called by the tribe had created it but others are named for mythological beings.)

It took all day on Saturday to stitch the names on the pages...burying the stitch within the thickness of the page...never going all the way through. Now, it's done. Thanks Doreen for the inspiration...the start of my first fabric book. Again, thanks to everyone else who offered much needed advice!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Festival of the Trees 2007

(Additional photos on my Family Blog.)

(Above: Alex and his girlfriend Erica at Festival of the Trees, an annual charity event benefiting Children's Hospital.)

(Above: The event is spread throughout the spacious lobby, atrium, and ballrooms at the South Carolina State above is a bar under a Fiberglas replica of a pre-historic giant white shark.)

Alex and I have been donating to the annual Children's Hospital charity event, Festival of the Trees, for six or more years. It is very special because Mathias had skull surgery when he was only six months old at Children's Hospital. He was released on Christmas Day. At the time, there were only four beds in ICU. Now there are 18. The event raised over $216,000 last, the gala is tie (expect for handsome teenagers!). St. Joseph's choir serenades guests into the event. There a mimes, harpist, two bands, excellent food and drinks, photo ops with Santa Claus, and plenty of wreathes and trees available by silent auction. The evening truly ushers in Christmas for us.

By the end of the gala, my tree had a $250 bid...not bad. I valued it at $400...which is one of the least expensive ones in the event. Yet, I don't go out and solicit businesses for hundreds of dollars of gift certificates. I had 40 fiber ornaments valued at $10 each. The bidding actually stops on Sunday at 4 PM. People attending the gala can "guarantee" their bid at 75% (or thereabout) of the value. So, someone had to bid at least $300 at the gala in order purchase my tree/end the bidding/prevent the bidding from going until Sunday. Alex's tabletop had a "gala take-home" price of $110. It sold that night for $130. Steve returned to the museum on Sunday to check the prices. Unfortunately, whoever bid that night had withdrawn their bid. My poor tree only had $100 on it. Steve bought back the tree for $125. Shadow, our cat, is thrilled to have it back in our living room. I'll likely sell the ornaments at the Artisan Center or maybe trade them with people who understand the value of something that isn't "made in China" and bought in Atlanta at the wholesale Merchandise Center. I can reuse the tree and some of the ornaments again next year. (I've got a new idea already...lots of tulle and pointe shoes...a very "ballet" themed tree.) Don't get me wrong. I'm not the least bit disappointed. There were over 250 items available. It is a very good cause, a fabulous evening, and a tax deduction!

(Above: Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade chain with a retail outlet here in Columbia. They donated a unique tree made of baskets each year...accompanied by dozens of gift certificates for additional purchases.)

(Above: A row of "table top" decorations...Alex's Blues piece is just visible.)

(Above: The strangest theme...Pirates of the Caribbean Christmas tree!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thinking Positive

Sharing good news on my blog is a wonderful thing. There is always such nice, supportive feedback. Thanks to everyone who has sent congratulations for my recent successes. At the same time, I don't want to give the impression that "everything" goes well all of the time. It doesn't. In fact, in real life, I tend to focus on the negative and discount the positive. This is an attitude I'm trying to address.

I've returned to writing Morning Pages...from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I went through this process during the summer of 2005. It changed my life, let me believe in myself and taught me to say, "I'm an artist". So, I recently picked up the book and serendipitously turned to a chapter on dealing with criticism. This happened within a week of finding a blog post about my solo show at Francis Marion, one in which the author suggested I was bored with my own work. While I acknowledged her many compliments, I fixated on the one, inaccurate offending sentence. This is not how I want to react in the future. This is not how I want to accept the negative...especially when it is covered in so much goodness.

I wasn't accepted into Center of the Earth Gallery...

The email came very quickly after mailing the material! I've applied to only two other galleries. The first application was months ago and I didn't even get a message that the materials were received...not a word. The email message was very complimentary and suggested galleries in the Charlotte area that might be interested.

I think I'll focus on the positive. There's been so much of it lately that it would be a shame not to enjoy it; and, I think I'll follow up with the new lead!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Materials: Hard and Soft

Strata XI was accepted into Materials: Hard and Soft, a national juried fine craft exhibition to be held in Denton, Texas. In past years I was rejected. I kept trying though because the juror(s) are different every year and are always top-notch...and they print a catalog! Hurrah!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy!


My friend and fellow artist Ellen Yaghjian took this photo of me last Friday night in my studio. I was all dressed up in order to attend the first anniversary party at if ART Gallery but I was getting a little work done first...wrapping rusted nails with variegated yarns and tagging keys. Ellen insisted on taking the picture; she said the view captured me perfectly!

This next morning I headed to St. Helena's Island, a sea island near Beaufort, South the southern part of our state. I had been accepted into a juried art show that was part of the 25th Heritage Celebration, an event focusing on Gullah and Geechee culture. There were three categories: 2D (painting, pastels, drawings, etc.); 3D (sculpture); and mixed media (basicall anything else). I won the first prize in mixed media for Black God XXIII.

There's only one road to St. Helena's and it was closed from 9 - 10 AM for the Heritage Day parade. I had to park about a mile away and hike in...but my parking place was beside Ease Chapel, a structure built in the 17th c. that burnt down in the late 19th c. and is simply preserved as a ruin of oyster shell stucco surrounded by Spanish moss covered live oaks and magnolia trees.

Today Alex and I set up both my tree and his table top decoration at the annual Festival of the Trees, a charity event that raises over $200,000 for the local Children's Hospital. (My elder son, Mathias, had skull surgery at Children's Hospital at six months of age and was released from their care on his first Christmas Day.) There is a black tie gala on Friday night...the night after a major downtown art event called Vista Lights. For Vista Lights, all the galleries and studios throw parties and art openings...including the artist cooperative in which my studio is located. I'm fairly ready for this. Today, we got ready for the gala. Both our donations centered around my Blues Chapel art installation about early, female Blues singers.

The other, major event in our lives is NUTCRACKER. Alex has been part of the local, civic company for seven years. He doesn't even dance...but he's in the opening party scene wearing a tuxedo and waltzing, a rat, and Mother Ginger. He helps move sets, props, costumes, and "stuff" into the theater next weekend. He helps with the "little boys" and he spent the rest of the afternoon rehearsing.

This last picture is of internationally renowned artist Jonathan Green, the keynote speaker at the 25th Heritage Day Celebration juried art show. He signed autographs for over an hour...on his calendars, posters, Gullah Images book, and just about everything else.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Key to Success

The Key to Success!
This piece is 5" x 4", including the box like frame. It is a scrap of embroidery coated with house paint, bleach, and sepia ink onto which a handmade tag, key, and stitching was added. This was stitched to an embellished background, wool rovings worked into wool from the reverse. The plexi is held in place by gild headed brads. The back includes a recessed collage.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Key to Happiness

(Above: The Key to Happiness, front)

(Above: The Key to Happiness, back)

About seven years ago I decided to "become" an artist, specifically, a fiber artist...a creative embroiderer. I had no education, no experience, and had produced no art. I was, however, a picture framer. I framed for lots of artists, went to lots of art openings, and was familiar with some of the "professional" aspects of being an artist. Thus, no matter how ridiculous it seemed for me to embark upon a career without any background in the field, I did have some significant a business license, a retail license, wholesale framing, a strong work ethic, a mailing list, etc. I didn't have a resume....just my name, address, and telephone information. This had to change.

I started entering juried exhibitions. The first one I ever tried was the annual miniature show at the Florence Museum in Florence, South Carolina. Only my husband knew I was doing this. It was scary and exciting...potentially embarrassing. I got in! I was awarded an honorable mention! I had my first line on my resume. I've always loved this show as a result.

Now, I rarely create art for a specific opportunity...instead, I look for juried shows into which I might submit my art. Yet, there are always the Florence miniature show. The maximum size is 5" x 4". The framing can be larger....but this year, my framing is part of the The Key to Happiness is 5" x 4" overall.

I'm working on The Key to Success, but I cracked the plexi when installing one of the gilt headed brads....not quite "success" yet! The best part of this is, however, the fact that I've used scraps from my "month of backgrounds" with a concept (Key to....) that I plan to continue with! The background is a piece of fabric/paper...made according to Nikki's tutorial. The fabric is a piece of vintage Chinese silk embellished onto acrylic, craft felt and then burnt (with a few hand stitches worked with a single thread...obviously, I've gone nuts!) The back is a collage that is recessed so that the required "wire" will still allow the small work to hang flat against the wall. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll have "Success".

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Elements in Blue, The Dove

I've posted several entries about other art and artists; but, I was working too! In fact, I finished Elements in Blue, The Dove. I also transferred new designs for several more pieces in this series....all to head to Pickens for next summer's solo show.

Center of the Earth Gallery in Charlotte, NC

(Above Kathleen Holmes' Landfall West)

Last Thursday night Bus Stop, a converted house that hosts seasonal art exhibits, had a reception. I popped in for a few minutes, chatted with a few artists, and met Sharon Dowell. She's a very talented painter. Her architectural images are created in unique layers and are very, very good. She is also the assistant director of Center of the Earth Gallery in Charlotte. She described the location as an "urban paradise": a converted main street of a former mill village, a once abandoned furniture store housing three galleries, a historic arts district with a bohemian touch. I had to go.

Steve and I went after visiting the Craft Council show. It was everything Sharon had described and more. I loved the the feel of the place, the lighting, the high ceilings, the way in which older beams met new construction, and how carefully the floor incorporated poured concrete around existing tile. The art on the walls was equally wonderful. The atmosphere was professional but laid back, friendly without being intrusive.

There were no fiber artists represented, but Kathleen Holmes does incorporate vintage crochet into her paintings in a most unique manner. I doubt if I'll be accepted, but I'm going to try. The gallery receives submissions for representation during the months of October and NOVEMBER! I'm sending my package today!

The American Craft Show: Craft Now in Charlotte

Steve and I made Saturday a real "art" experience. Not only did we attend the ballet, we went to the American Craft Council show in the Charlotte Convention Center. As always, this is a dazzling experience. Walking from booth to booth, I was overcome with by quality craftsmanship and very friendly artists who were happy to discuss their work whether one was in a purchasing mood or not.

We did buy a few things, of course; but there seemed to be fewer exhibitors. There were definitely fewer non-wearable fibers. One of the best was Dinah Smiley from Louisville, Kentucky. Her ability to blend digital images on fabric with beads, oriental knots, sequins, and fine embroidery were beautiful. She supplements her major works with pillows, note cards, and photography.

Ruth Walker is an amazing feltmaker but it was her "Great Balls of Felt" ornaments that tickled me most. I was honored to listen to Mary Jackson talk about her internationally collected sweetgrass baskets. I've admired the one in the Renwick Museum. Diane Leshin's free form crocheted purses were so much fun but I loved the combination with a men's necktie for a strap...which isn't on her website. I briefly looked at the futuristic garments by designer Shu Juan Lu and the organic scarves and accessories by Jeung-Hwa Park. (She can control shrinkage, shibori dying, felting, and free form knitting, and her colors were to DIE/DYE for! Unfortunately, no website.)

One of the most unique and individual fashion designers was Akiba Miiesmira's Spirit Culture Collection. I likely her flair and urban feel but would have loved it to go a bit further...wilder...more "urban tribal". It all looked a bit "safe" to me. Each piece, however, would have looked smashing with a purse by Jenae Michelle. Her bags were impeccably constructed and totally "cool". Her business name is Range of Emotion.

The work that I found most amazing, however, were Deborah Smiths' sculptural baskets. She only had these incredible works of art on display...gutsy! None of the "bread and butter" baskets featured on her website were there....and they were outstanding.

The most creative fibers were from Handmade Chenille. Yet, it wasn't their vests and scarves in their signature chenille that caught my eye. Unfortunately, I can't find images of the garments made on water solubles. These were unique, lacy, shabby-chic vests, scarves, and long flowing jackets that used scraps from the chenille pieces on a loose gird of heavy, black thread. Each had a sense of urban deconstruction with a hint of the patterns and fabrics used.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Ballet Season has started

When I started blogging, I never thought anyone would ever read anything I ever wrote. Writing was a natural outlet for self expression, a way to record my thoughts and experiences. I wrote for myself; I still do. At the time, I wasn't reading anyone else's blogs. In fact, I didn't know others were blogging at all. I was, however, reading a public forum called Ballet Talk for Dancers. I posted impressions of the international ballet competition in Jackson on this forum as well as on my blog. Lots of people read.

Later in the summer, we were in Varna, Bulgaria at another international ballet competition, the oldest one. Very little information flows out of Varna. The competition officials know that all the major ballet publications have reporters there. Eventually, results will trickle into print; but, I was blogging in an Internet cafe. Within three days, I had thousands of hits from all over the world. Lots of people were reading...waiting...wanting me to write. It was all very exciting. Mathias won the junior gold medal. My blog had a ballet following. No one knew or cared about me, embroidery, or the artistic journey I meant for my blog.

This older blog was hosted by Blogstream. It is located here. There are very few pictures. Blogstream really isn't set up as a place for images. It didn't seem right for a visual artist. By this time, however, I had been introduced to other blogs. I started blogging on "blogspot" about a month after Varna. Little by little, the ballet world fell it should...this is not my world but my son's. He was moving to England, starting his professional career. I wanted a place for me, my art, and my life. Still, ballet is part of my world and I've written many, many posts about the performances I see and about how ballet is still a factor in my life and family.

Of course, I had a site meter on both blogs but I never looked beyond the weekly summary (if I bothered to look at all!) until about three months ago. Now, I am shocked to know how many dozens of ballet people actually are still lurking, dropping by from time to time after googling something "ballet" related or coming via Ballet Talk for Dancers. Local dancer's names have been "googled" for the past week or so...seemingly "looking" for my "reviews". So, here it is.

Over the past three weekends, I've seen this season's opening productions for both Columbia Classical Ballet (Snow White) and Columbia City Ballet (Dracula); "Innovative Works" by North Carolina Dance Theater in Charlotte; and a mixed repertory show presented for the fall semester by the Dance Department at the University of South Carolina. That's three professional companies and one college program.

I actually wrote a bit about Dracula on my family's blog. Alex and I really enjoy going to Dracula. It is the show that really inspired Mathias to dance. This is not a fact he is thrilled about...but it's true. There's very little "classical" dancing in the production but plenty of sex appeal, Gothic touches, smoke and lighting effects, and very little material in the costuming. Tom Semanski's (1959-2007) original score sounds like an 80s disco, and this year's production was dedicated to his memory. It is campy and fun.

Over the years, we've watched the choreographer, Artistic Director William Starrett go from the male lead, Jonathan Harker to Count Dracula and then onto retirement. We miss Mariclare Miranda as Lucy; no one could ever dance the role as well. Alex's classmate Amanda Summey was seven or eight when she first appeared as a village child. She was a tambourine gypsy this year.

Yet, this was the first time we'd seen Katherine Irwin in a professional role, one of the barely clad "undead" vampires. We've watched Katherine since she was about eight years old. Her road has been a difficult one, full of snags and troubles. There's all sorts of problems in being a child grows up....others catch up...efforts count more and more...natural talents count less and less. Yet, she looked good, promising. Another dancer we've followed is Willie Moore, who also looked good. There really isn't much more to say about Dracula. It's fun. It lives up to being fun.

So, that's one of the two professional companies in our town. The other, Columbia Classical Ballet presented Snow White on Friday, October 19. There was an "out reach" school show in the day followed by a single evening show. That's it. One night only. Their season ends with Robin Hood, another single evening production. In fact, the entire season has only five nights of ballet and three student shows. Yet, the company has grown to sixteen professionals and five apprentices. Sure, there are probably a few out-of-town shows or "gigs" for local charity/arts events...but it's not much of a season.

These dancers come from all over the world. It appears obvious that one of the best reasons to dance for Artistic Director Radenko Pavlovich is the help with obtaining legal passage into the United States. Over the years, we've seen several very talented dancers....for a season, maybe two. Then, they move on. I wouldn't be surprised if Priscilla Yokoi is gone next year. Dancing the lead, she was lovely, turns like a top. The dwarfs were all fun too. Like Dracula, these are not really "classical" parts...comedy with footsteps, something to enjoy.

Had Oliver Beres been able to handle the role of the prince, I could say that the show lived up to its own expectations. However, he couldn't all. According to the program, he's in his third season with the company. Unfortunately, he didn't look like he had three years of any training whatsoever. He's from Hungary, a place that is currently training some very fine dancers. (Three Hungarians entered the international competition in Helsinki in 2005...likely the toughest one in which Mathias ever danced...and all three received medals or an award.)

I couldn't help but to inspect the program more closely. Most of the dancers have won awards in competitions I've never heard of and never seen reviewed in the three major publications to which we subscribe. Then I noticed another guy from Hungary, Balazs Krajczar. The program said he won a third prize in the 2004 Vienna Competition. That was odd. That year, Mathias won gold; Ian Lindemann silver; Kenya Nakamura won bronze...all Anatoli Kuckeruk's students at the Kirov Academy of Ballet (called Universal Ballet Academy that year). I had to look it up. (He won a third prize in some category other than "junior" or "senior". This is great. The program just suggests that it was one of the main medals.)

In IBC International Ballet Competitions there are generally two categories: Juniors (approximately 15 to 17 or 18) and Seniors (approximately 17 or 18 to 26). There is no difference between professionals and amateurs. Most competitions no do have categories for Groups or Schools or Younger Dancers. Vienna does. Generally, an award in one of these "other" categories is not listed as a major medal/ do so is misleading.

This isn't the first time Columbia Classical Ballet's program included misleading information. Two years ago, a dancer's biography included a silver medal at Youth American Grand Prix, an international event. Yes, the program said it was an "international event"...but the dancer actually earned the medal in a local, Greenville regional competition that led to the international venue...not in the finals. Very misleading...and it makes me wonder about all the rest of the information printed in the program. It is too easy to use the Internet to check all the facts and figures...but not while one is sitting in the audience thinking that the caliber of dancing ought to fit the wording.

Of course, turning two pages in the program reveals an advertisement for Pavlovich Dance School featuring Lyn Tally and Brooklyn Mack. The bold caption reads: Two medalists/One School. Yet, the Prix de Lausanne doesn't award "medals". They actually award "prizes" in the form of scholarships; they are not numbered or come in metallic colors. Brooklyn might have rehearsed at the school for the last month before Jackson and Radenko "coached" him....but let's face it...Brooklyn had been away from the school for YEARS before the win in Jackson. What's wrong with the TRUTH. Brooklyn STARTED with Radenko. Isn't that fact good enough? Why does the ad need to read as if the school "produced" him? Pathetic.

Frankly, the truth is impressive enough as it is. In fact, I think the TRUTH is great! It doesn't need to "read" like something "more". All this got me thinking about QUALITY. Quality is the truly impressive factor. Snow White didn't have quality casting. The unfortunate dancer should never have been put into the prince's role.

I remember all too well going with Radenko Pavlovich and his entourage of faithful supporters to Dianne's, a local restaurant, after William Starrett's return to the stage following double hip replacement. I believed in Radenko then and everything he said about bringing QUALITY to the Koger Center stage. He criticized Columbia City Ballet for presenting poor artistic efforts and suggesting that these productions equaled good ballet elsewhere. He criticized the teaching at their school. He wanted to expose their lies with QUALITY.

Years later, Columbia has two professional companies and more lies than ever before. Both seek funding from the same sources. Both pay their dancers poorly. I've said it before; I'll say it again...and again...and again. Columbia could have a very good professional ballet company....if there was but one with fewer dancers being paid a bit better. It's never going to happen. There are too many egos in the way. It is a shame.

As for me, I've been thinking a lot about the word QUALITY...trying to apply the lessons presented here to my own art work, my personal approach, and in how to aim for and work toward higher goals...with wider audiences...QUALITY, a worthwhile effort. All art isn't of good quality. One must know what to show and what to simply learn from. I need to remind myself of that often and look at my own work with a high standard and fresh, discerning eyes. I want to avoid pretending that something I made is good just because I made it...I want to show lies.

So, North Carolina Dance Theater. Here's quality. It's a small company with seventeen professional dancers and six paid "apprentices"...and lots of opportunities to see each show. Steve and I really like the annual November "Innovative Works" . It is always fresh, new, contemporary, and well done in the intimate setting of the Booth Theater. Nacho Duato's Na Floresta opened the evening. Everything about it was wonderful.

After a brief intermission we saw Mark Diamond's Endless Now set to Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #2, 1st Movement and Uri Sands' The Neighbors set to Tom Waits' "music". I'm not generally a fan of Mark Diamond's choreography and this piece didn't change my mind; but, the music made the unpolished sections quite tolerable.

I HATE TOM WAITS but was totally blown away by the piece. In fact, the music was perfect for this world premier in five movements about the "dark nature of family dysfunction." It was riveting and I was so glad to see Mathias' classmate Seia Rassenti in the work. She did very, very well.

After another short intermission we watched company dancer Sasha Janes in his own choreography with Rebecca Carmazzi (my personal favorite NCDT dancer). The work, Lascia la Spina, Cogli la Rosa, was set to the vocals of Cecilia Bartoli. It was simple and beautiful. Next was Dwight Rhoden's Choke, a piece Steve had seen premier in 2006 at the Youth American Grand Prix gala, when Mathias won gold. I didn't care for it much but the themes centered around the contrasting strengths of two dance competitors. I've seen the "real" competition too many times; I've never liked the anxiety of competition.

In truth, I've rarely enjoyed Dwight Rhoden's choreography, but that changed completely with the closing work, Ave Maria. It brought tears to my eyes. I'd love to see it time and time again.

So, the final show we've recently seen is the one presented by the Dance Department of the University of South Carolina on Thursday and Friday, November 2 and 3. We went on Friday night and enjoyed a later party hosted by board member/friends Pamela and Ken Janik. To our surprise, my cousin Jamie Schumacher, a USC freshman, was in the audience, part of the Dance Appreciation class. It was lovely to catch up with her, and our conversation served as a reminder that this show is about education.

The program started with Valse-Fantaisie, a Balanchine work with New York City Ballet soloist Amar Ramasar partnering Bonnie Boiter-Jolley. Four other girls danced in the piece but it was the main couple who commanded the stage. It was fabulous to see our local students exposed to the quality of NYCB. It was better to witness Bonnie, a sophomore, looking like she, too, could grace the big city stage.

Next, Peter Kyle, a guest artist, performed Murray Louis' Frail Demons, which I found rather long and a bit boring. Still, it was an excellent way to show another style of quality dancing. After the intermission, Amar danced the Pas de Trois from Agon with Bonnie Boiter-jolley and Lindsey Shatzer. It was excellent.

Alan Hineline's Twist featured the same two girls along with Carolyn Bolton and Olivia Anderson dancing with Ben Hankinson, McCree O'Kelley, and Norbert Nirewicz. It was fast, energetic and another piece in which the lines of students and professional were blurs to great satisfaction.

The final piece was Act II of Swan Lake. Talin Kenar and Norbert Nirewicz were the two professionals dancing the leads. They were every bit the part. The students danced the "Little Swans", "Big Swans", and the ladies of the corps...all swans. Here, the difference between professionals and students was easy to see but the overall result was quite nice. The program, of course, certainly met its was an excellent mixed repertory meant to expose student dancers and student audience members to quality.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween week in art

Elements in Blue, Doors and Shields was completed this week. It's headed to the Pickens Museum of Art and History this coming summer for Blues Chapel. Everything about this solo exhibition seems to be falling into place. I'm still thinking about Blues Bible, but the pages are all prepared and ready for collaging.

In the meantime, I've made another fifty or so ornaments. The first batch of forty will decorate a tree for a charity event. The next fifty was divided between the South Carolina Artisan Center and to the Sumter Gallery of Art gift shop. I plan to have this group available during Vista Lights, an annual downtown Columbia evening of arts. I probably won't sell many, but maybe later I could trade a few(?).

I've never really understood the trading that I see on-line. Frankly, it scares me. I don't get what the "back" is suppose to look like on an ATC or a postcard. I know the size for an ATC but what's the minimum/maximum size for a postcard? How are they mailed? Does one write on the back? Edging brings up an entire set of questions. Miniature quilts are another subject that I don't get...size, edges, hanging...?

Anyway, I'm now done with the ornaments, having more than I need. It was fun to make them and I enjoyed turning many of my backgrounds into something...anything...since a larger project didn't seem to materialize.

Also included with this post are a few photos from a silent auction/performance by Columbia City Jazz that was held last Sunday afternoon. Mathias once danced for a season with this group. He was nine or ten then. We've always supported them because of the diverse opportunities provided. Many of the students have earned college scholarships in dance. Over the years, the group has traveled to China, Bulgaria, Austria, and Singapore.

Below is Pam Harpootlian, a long time friend whose talented daughter Kate is currently trying to break into a dancing career in New York City, with Artistic Director Dale Lam. Dale's husband is on the sound system. The event was "kid friendly"...a Halloween party with dancing and bargains. Steve and I bought several items....all at very, very good prices.

I remember watching kids this age.....

who are now this age.....Ms. Holden (below) has three semesters left at USC...majoring in mathematics. She's one of the dancers that performed with Mathias when they were both in grade school!