Monday, May 25, 2009

Amazingly artistic Memorial Day Weekend

(Above: Never Accurate But Never Dull, Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. 24" x 18". Crayon on silk grave rubbing collaged with vintage lace on severely light damaged curtains. Hand and free-motion machine embroidery. Click on image to enlarge.)

While my youngest sister Sonya and my parents went to Huntington, West Virginia to escort our Great Aunt Janet (age 95) with flowers to various family graves, Steve and I ventured to Washington, DC. (We made the family Memorial Day trip two years ago.)

Looking back, cemeteries have always been a fascination. Chiseled gravestones, flags and flowers, and a place for remembrances have always been important to me. Now, however, I'm deeply involved in an art series using grave rubbings, epitaphs, and photos from these sacred places. It just happened to be Memorial Day weekend when this creative adventure took us to our nation's capital. We actually planned the trip in order to attend a Thursday night book auction and did manage to purchase two shelf lots of gardening a great deal too!

(Above: Arlington National Cemetery.)

So, on Friday I ended up at Arlington National cemetery....walking in behind a large group of Harley riders all wearing jackets with their former Vietnam ranks and other insignia. Numerous school groups nodded and whispered "thank you" to them. It was nice to see the respect. It was a special weekend and there were several funerals taking place.

(Above: Funeral procession at Arlington National Cemetery. Click on image to enlarge.)

Quickly I wandered off by It just seemed right. This is often how I walk through cemeteries. I've had some comments/emails about "respect" with regards to grave rubbings. Please note, I don't use any of the names; I pick up litter as I go; I pray; I step quietly and barefoot...though, yes, upon the grave site. This artistic work is being made and collected with my utmost respect.

Later in the day Steve and I went to the National Gallery of Art (East building) to see an incredible exhibition of Medieval illuminated manuscripts called "Heaven on Earth". My university degree isn't in studio art but in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I love these rare images, the texture of vellum, the symbolism, the brilliant colors and gilding, and the attention to the most minute detail.

From there, we went to the National Gallery of Women in the Arts to see the Hungarian Women's Photography exhibit, which didn't blow us away at all.....but Mary McFadden's Goddesses was absolutely stunning. I generally don't "go" for fashion shows....but the historic inspiration and the beading were awesome. McFadden's haute couture designs were shown alongside her personal, historic textiles and jewelry. I found myself scribbling down ideas for sequins. The video interview was very, very good too!

Our final destination was the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery to see Jean Shin's Common Thread. I've seen several articles about this Korean-born/American installation artist....Fiberarts and Crafts Magazine. The show lived up to and beyond my wildest dreams. Jean Shin's work can be enjoyed on any and every level. Each piece was both serious and amusing; easy to comprehend while also being deeply profound; well crafted and included sensible opposed to high-brow "art speak" addressing only the culturally elite. I admire her labor-intensive processes....something every embroiderer understands very, very well! All I wanted to do after viewing this exhibition was to STITCH!

(Above and below: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Click on images to enlarge.)

(Above and below: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Click on images to enlarge.)

So, I stitched! Of course, I stitched in the car....on the way to DC and then on the way to Richmond, Virginia where we visited Hollywood Cemetery, another spiritual place of great beauty and lots of angel sculptures. I gathered more epitaphs and did several rubbings. It was another fitting place for Memorial Day, especially around the stone pyramid that is the Confederate Memorial.

(Above: Confederate Memorial in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Click on image to enlarge.)

Then, I stitched the entire way home....on another Grave Rubbing Quilt....Never Accurate But Never Dull. (Full view above, details below.)

(Above and below: Details of Never Accurate But Never Dull, Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. Click on images to enlarge.)

This one is called....obviously....Never Accurate But Never Dull (above). While this isn't the sort of thing I might want left said of my life, the words spoke volumes to me. These appeared to be words left by a husband for his cherished wife. The vintage lace and crocheted glove just seemed perfect for it.

(Above: Vintage pillowcase and apron used to create a unique reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

Once home, I received a telephone call from the parents of a young Marine who was killed in 2005. I contacted them for my Decision Portrait Series. We met sign the standard Model's release and scan the military photo. I can think of no better way to spend Memorial Day than working on this future piece.


lindacreates said...

Oh Susan! This piece touches my soul. What a gift God has given you for all of us to enjoy. Your week-end sounded absolutely wonderful. The pictures of the cemeteries were so perfect for this day of remembrance. After meeting you and getting to know you I would never think you disrespectful of those that have passed or their remaining family members. On the contrary, I believe you are stitching these epitahs for all of us to remember and respect those that have passed. Please don't stop! Thank you for sharing your Memorial Day week-end and through your links I too was able to enjoy it.

Wanda said...

Such love said in those awkward words. Maybe it was a farmer who didn't really know how to express his love any other way. I don't know. But I do know that I would go through the cemeteries as you do..praying, respecting, barefoot. Your trip sound great. I know you guys love the DC area, with reason. Roaring Thunder always leaves me choked up and I spent any Memorial Day weekends in DC just crying. Surprise surprise. How strong and powerful that the parents of a marine KIA are going to be part of the Decisions Portrait. I am really interested in seeing this. I have my own strong opinions of such things.