Monday, March 31, 2008

Blues Bible is Under Way and Collage Mania II

(Click on image to enlarge. Saint. Created for Collage Mania II. 10" x 8". Xylene transfer with gray fabric marker on pale green moire colored with heat transfer paints. Collaged with snippets of distressed vintage material. Adhered to mat board with Golden Acrylic's GAC 100.)

Some projects take a long, long time. Last September I started pages for The Blues Bible. I also started a computer file of images and a pile of paper material, clippings, and quotations. The work must be completed before June 21, installation day for "Blues Chapel" at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History. Over the weekend, the studio was totally rearranged. The project is underway despite the fact that I'm leaving for England later today. I got two full days of work done this weekend.

Almost as a "warm up", I collaged four quick pieces for Virginia Spiegel's Collage Mania II....right under the deadline. I really wanted to participate...especially since a local artist, Lynne Burgess, lost her battle against breast cancer last month. The collages are shown here.

I'm a little nervous about the trip to England because I've decided not to take a hand stitching project along. I'm only taking an "idea sketchbook". I've been thinking quite a bit about new work, combining unusual material with embroidery...more installations and ways in which to use my three dimensional vision for self expression...thinking about rusty bits and pieces, thinking about "eco-friendly" statements, thinking about concept before stitch.

Thus, I'll be away a week with my thoughts and Swan Lake. I'm also grateful to several people who sent messages about Bradford's wonderful shopping opportunity at Texera Mills (my Wednesday day trip) and about the textiles at Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery (Saturday). I'll be in York on Thursday and Chester on Friday. My camera batteries are charged...all four sets!

Oh, one more thing....CYBER FYBER has now been pitched to the South Carolina Arts Commission and to Time Warner Cable! I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed for funding!

(Click on image to enlarge. Mask I. 10" x 8". Created for Collage Mania II. Digital image transfer of African mask on unbleached muslin with ink adhered to silk, chiffon, and heat transfer painted polyester with metallic foiling. All attached to mat board using Golden's gel medium.)

(Click on image to enlarge. Mask II. Created for Collage Mania II. 10" x 8". Digital image transfer of West African mask on unbleached muslin stitched to synthetic felt, handmade paper, and African inspired cloth with beading. All adhered to an acrylic painted mat board using Golden gel medium.)

(Click on image to enlarge. Remains of a Quilt. 10" x 8". Created for Collage Mania II. Strips of a former quilt cut to make CYBER FYBER postcards stitched to a thick, textural pink paper. Piece adhered to mat board using Golden's gel medium.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bottle Tree

(Click on image to enlarge.)

In January I received an invitation to participate in The Sumter County Cultural Commission's exhibition Roots, Memories and the Southern Bottle Tree. I knew immediately that I wanted to create something unique. The opportunity continues my interest in West African art. The exhibit opens with a public reception on April 12...the same evening as Alvin Alley II's dance performance. Participating artists receive complimentary tickets to the show and the post-production cast party. Wow! My two passions, art and dance, together!

I thought and thought about how I'd build an entire tree. I happen to have several cases of empty blue mineral water bottles (for another idea!). Blue bottles seem to be the most frequently seen in bottle trees. Nothing seemed "right" until I stumbled upon the idea of creating the safe haven, the protected little house beside.....what else...a blue bottle tree! Everything fell into of my tree stumps, the felt leaves, zigzagged cording, a dried flowering stem of our palmetto tree, and the "cottage", an ideal "home". The cottage is made of embellished natural and synthetic felt, cheesecloth, and wool rovings that were free motion machine stitched to resemble stones. The embroidery was cut from an old Hungarian felt vest worn by both my infant sons. The base is foam-centered board. The roof was "thatched" by stitching pine straw to brown painted foam-centered board. The windows were cut from plastic plates with lace and rickrack hung behind it. I cut and painted balsa wood for the the door and pieces of "fillet" (from the frame shop) for shutters. I drill tiny holes and stitched these into place. The piece will be delivered after my return from England!

(Above: View of the back of the house.)

Below is a bit about the Bottle Tree tradition:
In Africa the kongo tree altar is a tradition of honoring deceased relatives with graveside memorials. Plates were hung from branches as token of love and to repel evil spirits. This tradition migrated to the southern United States where slaves would place bottles in trees in hopes that the evil spirits would be attracted by the shiny, colored glass. Once inside, the evil spirits would be trapped. Homes would be safe. The tradition endures all over the South.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two more containers of wrapped, rusted nails

I went to my first estate auction over twenty years ago. It was a Saturday. I planned to find a blender at a yard sale because ours had just broken. Steve was in graduate school. We couldn't afford a brand new one. I stumbled upon the auction site, never got a blender, but the day changed the course of our lives. Over the years, we've attended hundreds, probably over a thousand auctions. It introduced us to antiquarian prints...which got me into framing...and the rest is "history". The first thing I bought was the Mumma's Fruit Farm basket. It was full of tools. I bid a dollar. It was old when I got it; it was in pieces a few days ago. I lined it with a wavy corrugated, stitched it back together, and added the metal strap. I'm so pleased to have it in Decisions, my installation...full of wrapped, rusted nails.

The installation needed one more container of wrapped rusted nails. I found it in my garage along with the fruit basket. It had been my father-in-laws. I'm pleased to have a sense of family added to the work. It is pictured with a cord I made...zigzagging over assorted yarns using two different variegated machine threads. I love making cord and used plenty of it to tag all the keys. I don't think I'll keep the cord in the installation though....still thinking about it.

Though I'm still dabbling with the installation, I've otherwise moved on to another little project which I'll post soon. Yesterday, I walked down the street outside the studio with my mentor, oil painter Stephen Chesley. Only a few years ago this had been the location of Cline Steel Company. We scavenged for rusted bits. Stephen also does some welding and was looking for unidentifiable chunks. I was looking for flat pieces and interesting shapes. I can almost see the rusted fabric that might come of this arrangement!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm Going to England....NEXT WEEK!

Steve recently went to England...flew in and out of Edinburgh, Scotland. He visited Durham, York, Edinburgh, and Sunderland....a whirlwind of sight-seeing and watching our elder son Mathias, a second year member of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Mathias is dancing the second male principal role in Swan Lake....okay, he's in the sixth cast...but he got to perform and will be doing so again on the evening of April 2 in Manchester. (Casting is listed here.) Steve said that we'd just have to frame a bunch more pictures because I had to go too! Steve is a real "wiz" on the airline websites. I'm leaving here on March 31st. I'm planning day trips to York and Chester. I return the following Sunday.

So....any other suggestions...great places for fibers? Anyone live anywhere near these places? Want to meet?

(For those who'd like to see Mathias his Corsaire variation performed in Varna at the IBC...International Ballet Competition...during the summer of 2006. He won the Junior Gold medal.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Decisions, An Installation in the Making, Part 3

(All images can be clicked on for closer inspection!)

This past week I've been working on the last of the framed keys. Although I often fight personal artistic demons of doubt about the quality of my artwork, I've got no issues with my confidence in framing. Presentation is definitely a forte! These last pieces have the moulding cut on its sides, exposing the lip. I painted the interior (which is generally the back of the frame when cut ordinarily) and cut plexi for the front.

I then drilled holes in the plexi and attached it to the frame with copper weather striping nails or with brads and "decorative" washers or brass nuts. I'm really pleased at how unique each one is.

I've also managed to tag about 200 keys. These are now being attached to the doors with hooks, half of which I distress with rust and/or copper patinas.

I'm really please and, of course, now getting a little nervous about exhibiting the installation. The show isn't until next month...but, of course, the publicity, statements, etc. are all due now. Thankfully, I should be "finished" tomorrow...though I might tinker with it during the coming month! The title of the show is PERSONAL GROUNDS. I'm keeping my statement short:

Mixed Media Installation, 2008
Susan Lenz

Personal Grounds is a location in life. It is the place in which one exists as a result of doors opened, keys turned, and options exercised.

(Above: Key to Sucess, 2)

(Above: Untitled Key on Lace.)

(Above: Untitled Key on Kilim.)

(Above: Key to Peace and Quietness.)

(Above: Key to Potential.)

(Above: Key to Sanity.)

(Above: Key to Favor.)

(Above: Key to the Unknown.)

(Above: Key to Mystery.)

(Above: Key to Dreams.)

(Above: Back of Key to Dreams. Some of these keys have collaged backs. This image also shows the off-set strip of metal that I'm using to attach the frames to the doors. There's another piece screwed to the doors into which this strip fits. Should one of these keys sell, I'll simply attach a wire for ordinary hanging...but, as part of the installation, everything hangs perfectly flat against the doors and completely level!)

(Above: Untitled Key with Leather Pouch.)
I've also selected the final two containers for the rest of the wrapped, rusted nails. I found them in my own garage! I'll post photos later...once they're filled and placed in the installation.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tagging Keys

(Click on all images to enlarge.)

Steve has been in England watching Mathias dance the role of Benno in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Swan Lake. Even Mathias was pleased with his performance.

I, however, have been keeping the shop open, making art, and participating in two charity events. I even cooked dinner....a big rarity for me...last Friday night. My parents, my niece, and a friend stopped in Columbia. They were on their way to a spring break at Disney and Epcot in Orlando, Florida. We had a lovely visit.

That evening was also the Sandhills School art auction. I had five pieces in it but couldn't attend. The next evening was the Habitat for Humanities art auction. I had several more pieces there; many sold; the night was wonderful. I also just got a check from the Penn Center....more sales! Yet, the best part of the weekend was spent quietly in my studio.

I was full of gratitude for so many supportive comments and emails after my last post. Thank you to all who wrote, prayed for me, and sent positive energy my way.

Working in my studio was productive. Each key now has a collaged label of torn, heavy watercolor paper. The cords were all zigzagged on my machine and hand stitched...trying very hard to make each one look like it was worn, weathered, and unique...not made one after the other in an almost assemble line procedure. Most are in the photo...but I've got more of them to do!

Above is the Key to Promise. Below is the Key to Trouble. This is how I plan to attach these keys. Currently, I'm rusting and distressing the rest of the hooks. I also created ten more keys on embellished backgrounds for the final, framed pieces. I'll post images when I finish the frames.

Above is a detail shot of the antique ice scoop full of wrapped, rusted nails. I've got several more pounds of nails to wrap. Below is a detail of the two other containers. I was asked for a detail to show how I stitched the antique sewing machine drawer back together after having cut it. I positioned another piece of wood behind the two halves and drilled holes through both wooden layers...then stitched...then wood stained and waxed for an "old" look!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Madonna of the Blues, Probably Finished

(Click on image to enlarge.)

In the beginning of January, I posted a photo of Madonna of the Blues. She's going to be part of my "Blues Chapel" exhibition. It was a "work in progress". Later in the month came "Part Two". She'd turned into a big appliqué and I was thinking about the next steps to take...whether to create a quilt or frame the work. The comments I received gave me much to think about. Pat suggested "silver" and used the word "icon". Rosalind mentioned a "gilded arch window". Both Dianne and Lynda suggested framing. I considered all of this...especially the idea of an "icon" in an architectural setting. When I happened across a liturgical fabric with a silver thread running through it, everything came together.

The fabric and two layers of unbleached muslin were pulled very tightly over stretcher bars and stapled. I started framing....creating the look of an arched window with a curtain...and then came all the stitching, lots and lots of it...and beads. I think she's done. Of course, the obsessive-compulsive tendencies in me see "blank" areas and wonder....should I add more?

The size is down 50" x 44". It weighs A LOT! To photograph it, I leaned it against the side of the house. My cat Shadow helped!

I really do thank everyone for their comments. They mean the world to me and have influenced my thinking and approaches greatly. I've used my blog to record my artistic journey, generally sharing only the positive. When I've complained or "ranted", I've generally regretted doing so. Yet, keeping anything "negative" to myself only presents a skewed view...and isn't totally honest. Life, even a creative life, isn't always wonderful. There are at least as many "downs" as there are "ups".

Yesterday, I reread Chapter Eight: Recovering a Sense of Strength in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. (This should be a title on my profile...I'll have to add it...It's likely been the most influential reading I've ever experienced artistically.) Chapter Eight is about "time" and "acknowledging ones losses" and making positive changes. The whole book is very powerful reading....and, yes, I write "Morning Pages" at least five or six times a week.

Anyway, putting the above two paragraphs together, I've made a decision to share a few things...the "good and the bad"...honestly...acknowledging my pain and my joy...serious and silly.

Yesterday, I got a letter from Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, North Carolina. Months ago I applied for an exhibition...The Blues Chapel...for their upcoming year. It's a fabulous setting. I was secretly very hopeful...building up my expectations. I'd received one letter stating I was still being considered....but no longer. They're not extending an invitation. I shouldn't be unhappy; I know all artists get rejection letters; I'm sad anyway.

Earlier in the week, however, I was accepted for a smaller display of "Blues Chapel" at the Discovery Center in Edgefield, South Carolina. There'll be a reception and everything. I should be so excited, but I'm letting one rejection spoil it. Silly, I know. Maybe by typing this out, I'll be able to "fix" my emotional state.

My emotional state has been raw all month. I learned that I'd been accepted for a six week residency only a few days after one of the worst in my life. That week, it felt like my life had gone bi-polar...and I was just along for the ride.

At the same time, I've been so excited about CYBER FYBER...all sorts of trades with fiber artists in 21 countries and 36 States in the USA. In truth, its been my escape. Tonight, when I go to bed, my younger son won't be here. The last time he slept under our roof would have been exactly four weeks ago. There was a fight; it was horrible; he left. Alex is seventeen.

On-line, I've been "pretending" everything is all rosy and wonderful. It isn't....and yet a lot of it is. Every "end" is a new "beginning". My Madonna of the Blues mourns with me as she sparkles in beauty. My installation, Decisions, reflects hours of heart-felt contemplation..every wrapped, rusted nail symbolizes both sacrifice and unity....bittersweet. I've been pouring myself into my art and into my CYBER FYBER project. I've been feeding on the energy and positive feedback.

Thus, I really owe each and every fiber artist who has left a comment recently and/or traded with me at CYBER FYBER a sincere "THANK YOU". Mere words cannot adequately express my gratitude.

To this end, I'm going to DO SOMETHING POSITIVE...TAKE ACTION...and cut up the older piece pictured below. By May, there will be another round of trading at CYBER FYBER for everyone who hasn't yet participated. Truly, doing something beautiful is the best way to metabolize pain into promise.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Decisions, An Installation in the Making, Part 2

(All images can be clicked for enlargement.)

, my installation for the annual spring arts event in downtown Columbia, is progressing nicely. I've attached more keys...framed and unframed...labeled and unlabeled...and added a meandering row of nails and screws down the length of the only wood stained door. I've still got more to do. Then, Steve and I will have to unscrew the doors from one another and move it into the atrium...just on the other side of my studio wall.

Placing these nails and screws really felt like adding French knots to an area of embroidery that needed a little texture and dimension.

The image above was shot from the top of a ladder outside my studio. The walls are really just partitions between my space and the atrium and gallery. I'm not sure much else will fit into my studio! (I've got blue macaw feathers sewn to slats from an old, wooden shutter hanging from the ceiling...I call them "spirit totems".)

I felt compelled to add the row of nails, as if by some African the Nkondi figures in the Congo. These nail fetish figures were meant to dispel evil, prevent illness, and repel bad deeds. Running my fingers down the projections actually creates music...whimsical and high pitched, like a wind chime.

Above is one of three rusted washers stitched to a door.

I also found this assemblage in a box. I'd forgotten it; never finished it; quite a part of the installation.

These containers are not entirely full of wrapped, rusted nails. I cheated; I filled most of the boxes with stryo-foam! The smaller one was once a drawer from a pedal sewing machine cabinet. I sawed it apart, drilled holes in it, and stitched it back together...smaller...fewer nails and more interesting!

Monday, March 10, 2008

In the Process...making art and doing business!

This past weekend was gloriously spent in my studio working on Decisions, my installation. I've attached an old faucet, another rusted pipe vent, more framed keys, lots of unframed keys, and hundred of one section they remind me of decorative French knots because I placed them as if stitching. That likely sounds strange, but the approach was the same for me! (I'll have to take a photo later!) I did stitch on the order to attach several large, rusted washers. I drilled holes and zigzagged right through the door!

I'd post photos...but....I bought a new digital camera! I'm still reading some of the instructions (I rarely finish them though). Steve now has the older camera. He's leaving tomorrow for England where he'll see Mathias in his first principal role as Benno in Birmingham Royal's Swan Lake. The performance will be in Sunderland. Thus, Steve will be flying in and out of Edinburgh and taking the train. He'll be visiting castles and all sorts of places with the old camera.

In the meantime, I've just traded the last of the 163 postcards at CYBER FYBER! I'm preparing for a big meeting this coming Wednesday with all sorts of "heads" of things...with the head of the local Cultural Council, the head of Downtown Columbia Development, and the heads of some corporations and/or businesses that might sponsor CYBER FYBER with funds or in-kind services. I've been working on my budget, creating a packet of material about the exhibition, and created a list of the twenty-one countries and 36 states involved!

I am thinking about doing another round of CYBER FYBER trades in May...with those who haven't traded yet. (Let me know if you think this is a good idea.) I have two more older pieces that can go under the rotary cutter. I'll post photos of them soon...before soon as I figure out the new camera.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

More Keys for the Installation

I've finished some more rusted keys...some with labels....some without....all stitched to embellished scraps of material....some with embroidery and beads...some without. All are "clickable".

(Above: Key to Wealth.)

(Above: Key to Humility.)

(Above: Key to Imagination.)

Above: Key to Mercy.)

(Above: Key to Faith.)

(Above: Key to Hope.)