Friday, July 30, 2010

Gun Owner, Decision Portrait

(Above: Gun Owner, Decision Portrait Series. Hand embroidery and beading. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

Some Decision Portraits require lots of stitched words. Some need none at all. This one is totally self explanatory. I first saw Bobby at Bill Mishoe's auction months ago. He was wearing this t-shirt. I thought to myself, "This would make a GREAT decision portrait! There's a clear option...a selection...a decision.....right there in the words!" There was a slight problem though. The words appeared on the back of the t-shirt. So, I didn't approach him. Yet, he came to the next auction wearing the same t-shirt. I couldn't resist. I introduced myself saying, "Hi, I'm a local artist creating pieces called Decision Portraits. I'd like to make one of you in that t-shirt ... if you'll wear it backwards."

(Above: Gun Owner, Decision Portrait, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Fortunately, Bobby didn't think I was a total lunatic. We later met at his house. I explained the concept and we browsed through the Decision Portrait series blog. He put on his t-shirt, backwards and I snapped the photos.

I selected the various shell beads because they sort of reminded me of miniature "targets". The only other stitching needed was a running stitch outline around Bobby and a back-stitched red thread around the check mark. Personally, I'll NEVER own a gun. This is part of the beauty of the Decision Portrait Series ... no one decision is "right" for everyone!

I had to snap a photo of his bumper sticker!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Homeless, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Homeless, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: No fixed address. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched with name tag. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

There have been several Decision Portrait Series pieces that were emotionally difficult for me to stitch. Many decisions depicted in this series are heart-wrenching. Some, I don't understand on a personal level but I've tried to remain nonjudgmental, faithful to the "model", true to the concept behind the series.

This piece, however, has been the most difficult. I'm fairly sure that I didn't succeed in one respect. I can't help myself. I attached a little "value judgment".... in the form of a "name tag".

(Above: Homeless, Decision Portrait series. Detail with name tag. Click on image to enlarge.)

Why? Why did I allow my personal opinion on this man's decision to interfere with my stitching, my work, my concept?

I wanted a HOMELESS person.....someone who CHOSE to live without the responsibilities of an ordinary, tax-paying citizen. I didn't want an individual who was in such circumstances because of forces beyond his or her control. I didn't want someone who'd lost a house due to the economy or gambling problems or a broken marriage or some other hardship. I didn't want someone whose mental facilities weren't capable of another lifestyle. I wanted someone who CHOSE to live this way, HOMELESS. That's exactly who I found.

We met at Gallery 80808/Vista my studio. At the time, there was an art exhibition in the gallery. The people mounting the show were giving a portion of any proceeds to this man's "homeless ministry". There was a box for donations too. This man is the "pastor" of the "homeless ministry". He is tall, clean, articulate, educated through high school, and in good health. He has a cell phone. He has a mail box at a rental storage facility. These are paid for through the donations to the "ministry".

He wanted to know if I was selling my portraits...would he get a percentage? He wanted to know if I'd pay him to pose. He wanted to know if there was an admission to the upcoming exhibition. He was very, very interested in money. He talked about all the things he does as the "pastor" of his "ministry".... like going to the hospital with other homeless men who need medical attention, raising awareness in the community about the plight of the homeless, and witnessing for God. He never mentioned getting a homeless person into a home.

I asked why he was homeless. He chose this lifestyle...exactly what I wanted for this piece. We talked about the Decision Portrait Series concept, about my respect for the decisions made by showing a straight-forward depiction of a real individual who had made each decision....about the title and words for this piece in particular.

Then, it was back to talking about money. How would my piece benefit his "ministry" and him? I said it would raise awareness (one of the things he stressed as his "job"). I said people would come face-to-face with a homeless person, with him, as a work of art. I also said that I would rather NOT create the piece if it meant any sort of financial relationship was part of the deal. I thanked him for his conversation and returned to my work....stitching on another portrait.

When it became obvious that there wasn't going to be any money being exchanged and that I was no longer interested, he relented....with a condition. I had to included the word "pastor". So....I had him sign a model's release and snapped his photo.

(Above: Homeless, Decision Portrait. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

So, I had my piece ready to go. I had a signed model's release, a title and words for stitching, and a photo. I also had a problem. I had agreed to include the word "pastor". Of course, I'd done my "homework" before we met. I knew this man was never officially ordained by any religious organization. I knew his "ministry" isn't a non-profit or religious entity or registered anywhere in the city, county, state, etc. I subtly asked about his faith, his position, his "organization". I knew the truth. I knew that the money being raised in the next room, in the gallery space just outside my studio door, was going to maintain a certain lifestyle.....HOMELESS. There isn't a plan to change this lifestyle!

In this Decision Portrait Series piece, there isn't a real "pastor" and there isn't a real "ministry"... but there is a real HOMELESS MAN. I honored my promise. The word "pastor" is on the name tag, right under the true words "self proclaimed". Of course, by adding this truth I also added my personal value judgment. I didn't know how else to stitch the keep my promise but also to tell the truth. I didn't contribute to his "ministry" either.

Since then I've transferred several upcoming Decision Series Portraits. None of these will be as difficult to stitch. (The adorable dog Nugget posed for a sense of scale. He belongs to my friend Jeff Donovan who also has a studio at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. Talking to Jeff about my "homeless" issue really helped me. Thanks Jeff!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sign Language Interpreter, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Sign Language Interpreter, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Communicating with the deaf. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

The ability to express oneself, to communicate, is at the core of artistic expression. It is also a most basic human need. Most of us simply speak in order to relay our thoughts to others. Yet, talking relies on listening. Not everyone can hear.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing generally learn sign language. They learn to read lips too....but that requires face-to-face interaction. What happens in a crowd? At a meeting? At the theater? Well, Charlotte Toothman can tell two different languages.....spoken and as a sign language interpreter. She learned to communicate with the deaf. She learned to listen for those who cannot hear and to translate oral words into a language of understanding.

(Above: Sign Language Interpreter, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Charlotte is also one of the co-founders of Stage Hands of the Bay Area in California. Stage Hands utilizes a team approach to interpreting theatrical performances and is proud that their efforts allow deaf audience members to enjoy the universality of theater, its nuances of character, its emotional pulse, and the sheer fun of it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Volunteer, Decision Portrait Series

(Above:  Volunteer, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  Stitch identification; 4 to 5 hours a week for 31 years at the Henry Art Gallery.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed.  Stitches used:  straight, running, couching!  Click on image to enlarge.)

The Decision Portrait Series has been networking itself all over the Internet.  Jo Reimer, a mixed media blogger in Portland, sent information to her friend Pat Albiston in Seattle.  I got the following message from Pat in my "in box":

"I gave my time to the University of Washington Henry Art Gallery for 31 years (4 to 5 hours once a week during the academic year) to work with a committee to identify the stitches in the Henry Gallery's Textile Collection and to standardize the stitch names. The index includes all the stitch names we found cross referenced to the most commonly used name which leads to additional information.  The committee membership varied over the years but I was there for the entire 31 years.   It was a fabulous experience and friendships developed until we were also a support group for each other.  We were allowed to handle all but the most fragile pieces in the collection.  What an opportunity!

The work is now on the internet.  To see our finished project called The Embroidery Stitch Identification Guide, Google Henry Art Gallery Textiles and Costumes, click on Textiles and Costumes, Resources, and Visit Resource.   We also diagrammed stitches which were not found in publications,  Click on Buttonhole and Vandyke Edge (Variation 1) and on (Variation 2) to see a couple of my diagrams.   The site is self explanatory.  Just for fun you could also explore the Collection Search which includes all textiles in the collection.  Most have photos which can be enlarged."

(Above:  Volunteer, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Of course I wanted this important decision!  That's tireless dedication to a most cherished subject!  What a perfect "volunteer" for an embroidery series!  Then I followed the instructions:  I googled the Henry Art Gallery and found the most incredible stitch identification resource.  Don't google yourself....JUST CLICK HERE!  This is what all those hours added up amazing, gloriously photographed, user friendly, extensive, well researched, and wonderfully FREE resource.

 (Above:  Volunteer, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I had to think long and hard about my approach to this piece.  I knew it needed something to embellish the work with handwork.....something with a little age and someone else's stitches.....something to suggest the work Pat did in handling historic and antique textiles.  So, I snipped out fragments of handwork from several, badly damaged, vintage doilies to create a unique border.

I highly recommend that those involved and in love with fabrics and material check out the Henry Art Gallery's website.  Not only is the embroidery stitch identification guide excellent, but the gallery itself boasts a most impressive textile collection including Jack Lenor Larsen's collection of ethic costumes, the James D. and Stephanie Burns' collection of central Asian rugs, the Elizabeth Bayley Willis' collection of Indian textiles, the Blanche Payne and Margaret Hood collection of Eastern European costumes, the Harriet Tidwell weaving collection, and the Thomas and Francis Blakemore collection of Japanese folk textiles. 

Mother's Milk, Decision Portrait.

(Above:  Mother's Milk, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  Breast Feeding.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand stitched.  25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The Internet is a wonderful thing.  It has provided so many exciting adventures for me....without me ever leaving home!  This is a portrait taken by Celina, who is on an extensive camping trip through the mountains of the western United States after time in Spain.  It is of her friend Marija in Norway.  Both are mothers to decided to breast feed....even in public.

When I first started looking for someone to pose for Mother's Milk, I suggested potential stitched words reading:  Breast feeding...even in public.  I hoped for a PERFECT photo.  Celina sent what is undoubtedly PERFECT.  Yet, when I went to stitch it, I realized that the decision shouldn't be limited to the location and surroundings for breast feeding.  It should incorporate all sorts of breast feeding decisions. 

 (Above:  Mother's Milk, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Not all mothers chose to breast feed.  Those who do also have lots of other decisions to, how often, timed intervals, whether to pump milk or not, what to eat and drink while nursing, and when to ween the child.  By simplifying my stitched words to just "Breast Feeding", all these decisions are suggested.  The photo really is PERFECT for all these choices that are made by mothers all over the world, throughout all of history.

For more information about breast feeding, please visit the La Leche League International. Also, the website recommended by Celina is Kelly Mom....check it out!

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Love, Decision Portrait Series.

(Above:  First Love, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I married my high school sweetheart; Ditto; May 25, 1979.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand beaded and stitched.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Cindi and Bob went on their very first date the week before she turned sixteen years old.  They got married when she was twenty and celebrated their 30th anniversary just last year.  They have two beautiful, college educated, talented daughters.  They're a great couple.  Steve and I have known them for over a decade.

(Above:  First Love, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

One of the "secrets" to a successful marriage is the ability to be both a "couple" as well as "two individuals".  These are two special people, with their own special lives! Cindi is a feminist, an award winning professional writer, an adjunct professor in the Women's and Gender Studies department at the University of South Carolina, and a co-owner of the arts magazine undefined.  Bob is a very busy emergency room physician.  He's also a home brewer and beer connoisseur/
expert/aficionado....with impeccable taste (even if he insists the dark beer is good!) 

(Above:  First Love, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Together, Cindi and Bob love to travel.  They research food and beverages. There was the "year of wine" and the "year of beer" and years for various international cuisines.  They support visual arts, literary arts, and dance.  Time together is enriched by time involved with all sorts of other people, interests, and through trust.   

Since I, too, married my "first love" (though I met Steve during my very first week at The Ohio State University), I can safely say that Cindi and Bob "grew up together".  Steve and I grew up together too.  We celebrated every step we took, apart and together, into the world of adulthood.  There was never a "his" and "hers".  There has only ever been an "ours".  Undoubtedly, one of the best decisions we all made was who to love forever!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bald is Beautiful, Decision Portrait

(Above: Bald is Beautiful, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Shaved for Charity. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched and beaded. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Jillian Owens created a most amazing recycled garment from ex-boyfriends' shirts for Runaway Runway last April. I was impressed with the concept and the craftsmanship. We became Facebook friends right after the event.

Her Facebook posts her counting the days until her head was going to be shaved for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a group dedicated to raising funds for kids with cancer. Jillian doesn't even know one of these suffering children; she's just generous....and BRAVE. I had to witness this decision! I had to secure it for the Decision Portrait Series. We exchanged messages. Jillian was happy to participate in my art!

(Above:  Jillian before her head was shaved posing with the St. Baldrick's Foundation event sign.  Click on image to enlarge.)

On May 29, 2010 I went to a chic hair salon in Chapin, South Carolina where I finally met Jillian, her boyfriend Marty, Ivan (from the St. Baldrick's Foundation), Jon Osbourne (the "stylist"), and others willing to have their heads shaved for charity. IT WAS AMAZING!

(Above:  Jillian having her head shaved by Jon Osbourne.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm not vain about much in my life. I own no make-up, don't dye my hair, buy my clothes at local thrift shops, and my nails are a mess....but THERE'S NO WAY I could do this! Watching Jillian's thick black hair fall to the ground, section by section, was eye-opening...stunning. Watching the combination of emotions on Jillian's face was inspiring. What courage! What generosity! Jillian signed my "model's release". She posed for both "before" and "after" photos....including ones in which she was holding up a blank piece of paper. Videos were shot.
(Above:  Bald is Beautiful, Decision Portrait.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.  Jillian Owens, bald, holding a "before" photo of herself with hair.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I used a photo of Jillian holding the blank paper and superimposed a "before" photo during the transfer process. Jillian agreed to donate her "Ask Me Why I'm Bald" and "St. Baldrick's Foundation" pins to the portrait.
(Photo by Joshua beard of www.jbeardfoto.com Click on image to enlarge.)

Later, she posed for more professional photos, like this one by Joshua bald really is BEAUTIFUL.

(Above:  Bald is Beautiful, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail of St. Baldrick's buttons.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I contacted Jillian when the portrait was finished. She came by my studio and attached the two buttons.....

.....and posed holding the portrait....

...and we discussed me "future" plans for the rest of her hair! (I'll be getting to it after my show opens in September!)

(Above:  Bald is Beautiful, Decision Portrait.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I collected Jillian's hair after the "shaving" and made unique "attachments" for the portrait using a tab of gel medium and a short length of perle cotton. The green glass, jewel-like bauble beads were ones I'd wanted to use for ages but no beading needle would slip through the impossibly small hole. In Washington, DC I found #15 beading needles....smaller than those generally found in a 4-pack at fabric shops. These little gems must have been waiting for "something special".....for THIS PIECE. It really is unique. Jillian's decision can be seen in a video I made HERE.

Going to Asheville!

 (Above: Window VII and below: Window VIII.  Click on images to enlarge.)

I'm going to Asheville tomorrow!  I can hardly wait.  I know I probably should stay in my studio and free-motion machine stitch more two-story chiffon banners for my upcoming show.....but....I've never been to the Southern Highland Craft Fair.  Plus, I'm delivering more work to the Grovewood Gallery!  I created these pieces earlier in the week.  It is so exciting to have representation from a place truly dedicated to SELLING fine art craft....especially pieces made by me!

(Above:  Window IX and below: Window X.  Click on images to enlarge.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Work, work, work! Stitch, stitch, stitch! And some fun!

Sometimes I wish I had one of those big, fancy digital cameras with detachable lens.  They don't fit in my purse though!  My friend Ashleigh Burke took this photo of my studio with her wide angle lens.  It makes it look much larger than it is....more spacious.  Believe me.  My studio is small and getting smaller as the work piles up in anticipation of my solo show in Charleston this September.  (Photos can all be enlarged!)

To add to the excitement, I was recently offered a solo show at the Florence Regional Arts Alliance!  (That's Florence, SOUTH CAROLINA, of course!)  "Last Words" will be on view at 412 South Dargan Street from August 5 - 26, 2010.  There's even a reception on the evening of the fifth!  Below is another photo taken by Ashleigh Burke.  It is "Last Words".....from my show this past February.  It will be quite challenging to create a quite, sacred place in this new setting because I've never actually been there!  My son Mathias doesn't know it yet....but he's helping me!  He'll be visiting for two weeks.  He was also recently promoted to "First Artist" at Birmingham Royal Ballet!  (That's a link to the "official" company announcement!)

I was also recently offered another opportunity!  Selected Decision Portraits will be on view in the lobby of Warehouse Theater in Greenville, South Carolina from January 21 through February 12, 2011 during the run of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe".  Greenville is quite an artsy town and the play is one of my favorites.  Allen Coleman, the executive director of the Pickens County Museum (and also an accomplished artist) recommended me for this.  Thanks Allen!

It's a busy summer!  Thank goodness I can ZIP around town on my moped!  These were "staged" photos.  I'm generally wearing a helmet!

Parent of an ADHD Child, Decision Portrait Series.

(Above:  Parent of an ADHD Child, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  Embracing the difference by not medicating.  Xylene photo transfer on tea stained muslin.  22" x 28" unframed; 30" x 37" framed.  Hand embroidery.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The Internet is a wonderful thing.  It allows people like me to "throw ideas to the world" with hopes of a response.  Someone saw my blog...connections were made...emails were sent and forwarded and reached Magee Landrum.  Maggie contacted me via email saying, "A friend of a friend sent me a link to your blog and if you are still looking for participants, I'd like to volunteer. ... I was thinking about a decision I made recently.  My son is in the process of being diagnosed with fairly severe ADHD and there is a lot of pressure to put children with this affliction on drugs.  The decision I made was not to medicate - to embrace the difference rather than try to suppress it or normalize it." 

Our exchange of message went on until this portrait resulted.  It was clear that her decision was made after very, very careful consideration from every angle and with loads of love. 

(Above:  Parent of an ADHD Child, Decision Portrait Series.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Being a parent is hard work.  There are plenty of problems along the way.  Decisions must be made.  What is "right" in one situation isn't necessarily "right" in another situation.  All the children are different.  All the parents worry and do the best they possibly can.  When it comes right down to it, this decision is exactly the kind I wanted most for this series.  It is bittersweet and thought-provoking.  It was a hard decision that had to be made.  It was a decision with no "right" answer, one that might apply to every similar circumstance.  It was a decision made with knowledge and love.  It was a decision willingly shared through this series.  I am grateful to this family for their trust.  Most importantly, it is a very, very beautiful mother and child.  The love shines through.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Leukemia Decision, Decision Portrait Series

(Above:  Leukemia Decision, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I refused further treatment, 1937 - 2008.  Xylene photo transfer on tea stained muslin.  Hand embroidery and beading.  Unframed:  25" x 19"; framed 31" x 25". Click on image to enlarge.)

Blogging is a wonderful experience.  It connects and touches people in faraway places.  It allows us to share our creations with the entire world.  It brings people together.  Susan Elliott and my sister Wanda were following one another's blogging activities and needlework.  Their Internet friendship put Susan in touch with me.  She found my Decision Portrait Series compelling, especially the decision made by my blogging buddy Linda Lynch.  Linda is winning the war against ovarian cancer.  Linda endured the most aggressive treatment.

Susan Elliott immediately understood my devotion to showing these decisions in a straight-forward, honest way.  There is no value judgment being made, just the depiction of a decision.  She understood that what is "right" for one person isn't necessarily "right" for others.  She knew this because her mother decided NOT to endure the most aggressive treatment for leukemia but to spend the last nine months of her life outside of a hospital.  She decided to be at home with her family.  This decision took courage and bravery.  Susan knew I'd want to stitch this portrait because it brings a unique sense of balance to the series.  It does.

(Above:  Leukemia Decision, Decision Portrait Series.  Detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Susan posted the "original" photo on her blog when recently writing about her mother's participation in the Decision Portrait Series.  That post, with lots more information and family images, is HERE.  I selected the mirror backed, faceted 8 mm and 10 mm beads to surround the portrait.  They sparkle and catch light brilliantly and are meant to reflect the sparkle in Susan's mother's piercing eyes.  It's nearly impossible to capture the sheen and reflection in photography, but these little "gems" really gleam.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Unplugged, Decision Portrait Series

Above:  Unplugged, Decision Portrait Series.  Stitched words:  I haven't owned a TV for 12 years.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand embroidery.  25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25", framed.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Months ago I got a Facebook page.  This was something I resisted until too many people said, "You'll find Decision Portrait models on Facebook".  I intended to only "go on Facebook" to promote this series....but....I admit it.....I like Facebook.  It's been fun.  It has also actually worked to find models and share the series.

Well, my parent visited a month or so ago.  My Dad was curious about Facebook.  How did it work?  How can you find people?  So I showed him.  He suggested that I look for my cousin in California.  This was an excellent suggestion.  I can only remember having met her twice in my entire life.  It took almost no time at all.  She had opened a Facebook page only days before this.  Dad and I sent a "friend" request and a message.  The next morning Dad was thrilled to see all her photos.....including some of his brother, my uncle, who also lives there.  I noticed something quite unique.  One of the items listed on her "info" page said that she hadn't owned a television set for 12 years.  Now....that's a decision!  I don't know anyone who doesn't own at least one TV.  My next Facebook message was a request to participate in this series!  This portrait resulted.

(Above:  Unplugged, Decision Portrait Series, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.) I have Facebook to thank for another important, thought-provoking portrait and for putting me in touch with my cousin Monika.  As for the decision, Monika was surprised that I didn't know anyone else who had finally "unplugged" themselves from the "boob tube".  In her real estate office there are approximately three families without television.  They have more time for other forms of amusement, for family, and for other Facebook! 

I could probably live quite easily without television.  I don't actually watch it if Steve is out of town.  I never turn it on; Steve does.  I don't know how to change the stations....which one of the two remote controls operates this function and which changes the volume?  Yet, I do watch when it is on.  I'm generally watching while stitching....but I'm still watching.  This is most assuredly a great portrait in this series.  It really asks viewers, "Could I live without TV?"  I'm not sure most people could!

I shared this portrait with Monika before posting it here.  Her email response included this insightful paragraph:

I find TV disturbing.  The noise, the fast moving pictures, the crazy commercials that are attempting to form the desires and expectations of  viewers, the miss and disinformation by the news media and the bizarre programs that create a surreal picture of our culture are most of the reasons I don't watch it.  For a while I even carried a small electronic device that could remotely turn off a TV set within 25 feet of me!  I used it when I went to a department store to turn off the TV sets in the electronics department so I could browse the music section without that horrible noise around me.  It was fun to see that nobody noticed when the sets were turned off!  TV has become like the air.  We breath it but never think about it.  But that TV air is full of pollution and we need to breath less of it for our mental as well as our cultural health.

Friday, July 09, 2010


I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that I have a brand new, first time ever, real WEBSITE!  I am now the proud owner/operators of the Internet site!  Please visit it!  I will always be a blogger....but....this has the professional look I want to present to museum administrators, non-bloggers, and others who want a quality overview of my work and me!  The site was designed my by friend and neighbor (and artist and website designer) Eileen Blyth!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

DUI, Driving Under the Influence, A trio of Decision Portraits.

(Above:  DUI: Driving Under the Influence, II, I, and IIIDecision Portrait Series.  Stitched words on each portrait:  I made a mistake.  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Hand embroidery and beading.  Xylene Photo transfer on tea-stained muslin.  Each portrait 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed.  Click on image to enlarge.) 

From the very beginning of the Decision Portrait Series I’ve been looking for a brave person willing to share what is undeniably a poor decision…..DUI….Driving Under the Influence.  I asked everyone I knew.  I posted my request on Facebook.  I thought I’d never find anyone compassionate enough to share this experience.  Amazingly, three fearless individuals stepped up with the hope that others might avoid such a situation.  I am honored by their faith in my stitches.

(Above:  DUI (Driving Under the Influence) I.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Please note: the series isn’t about “right” and “wrong”.  That really isn’t the focus here!  After all, we’ve all made mistakes….and most of the people I know could, at one time or the other, have made this particular mistake but not been caught.  The Decision Portrait Series is meant to confront decisions in a straight-forward, honest way… come face-to-face with real people who stare out of the fabric and challenge our concept of stereotypes and prejudices….to provide thought-provoking personal questions.  My hope (and these three people join me) is that people seeing these portraits will THINK before inserting their car keys after drinking. 

(Above:  DUI (Driving Under the Influence) II.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The amount of alcohol, a person’s sex and weight, and even the kind of alcohol can affect one’s BAC (Blood alcohol content).  The legal limit is .08 and the fines vary from state to state and with the number of incidents.  Believe it or not, there’s an on line breathalyzer and an iPhone app called “Drink Tracker”.

(Above:  DUI (Driving Under the Influence) III.  Click on image to enlarge.)

So….sure….there’s an overt message in this trio of portraits.  The “newsprint” look of the xylene photo transfer is really great at projecting the image of both an individual and the suggestion of a universal person…  Each portrait could be a reflection of a friend or family member….or even oneself.  “Could this be me?” 

(Above:  DUI (Driving Under the Influence) I, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Yet, there’s also a subtler message because generally it “could be you”.  Each portrait is also meant to ask viewers a personal question, “How would I react if this were my neighbor, co-worker, or relative?  This is a complex decision with complex reactions.  These are brave individuals that have shared a dark, complex choice and are hoping others take the time to contemplate their actions and reactions.

 (Above, left:  DUI II, detail.  Right:  DUI III, detail.  Click on images to enlarge.)

One of these individuals is truly fearless.  As an artist, he understands the artistic concept of this series and knows that my intentions are to display "real people"....multi-faceted human beings who are involved in all sorts of normal activities and pursuing many creative passions.  In order to illustrate this point, he's willing to share more of himself....his name, Brian Pyle, and his incredible artwork.  Take a look HERE!  Thank you Brian!  You're one of a kind, AMAZING!

 (Above:  DUI I, detail of multi-colored beads. Click on image to enlarge.)

All three portraits were designed and stitched as a trio.  They have the same threads and beads and will hang together at the upcoming exhibition at The City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, September 10 - October 10, 2010.  I'm quite sure that this trio will make a lasting impression....and hopefully will removed some of the stigma about "driving under the influence".  If we are open and honest about it, more people would "ask for a ride" or "call a cab" or have the courage to stop a friend from making a terrible mistake.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Spell check for sewing?

In exactly two months from today PERSONAL GROUNDS, my solo exhibition at The City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, will be installed.  It will feature the Decision Portrait Series, several mixed media works, and a collection of two-story chiffon banners with free motion machined "decisions".  I plan on have forty-eight of them.  Currently, 26 are done!  Above is a new studio assistant!  It has become invaluable because my Bernina didn't come with "spell check"! (All photos in this post can be enlarged.)

The "decisions" range from "Should I wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?" to "Should I tell him I'm pregnant?" to "Is a mastectomy my best option for fighting breast cancer?" to "Can I deduct lunch as a business expense?"  Since the chiffon is very transparent, I switch from on side and then the other for each statement.  I stitch on a water soluble stabilizer that is adhesive coated.  Once a banner is stitched, I rinse away the stabilizer.

Almost everything is going very, very well....except that I frequently forget a word, misspell another word, and the grammar is sometimes wrong!  I hate to have things "wrong" I edit as I find errors.....just the way one would correct a handwritten document....with a little arrow up to the correction!

I've had to call my husband at home in order to get the proper spelling of several words.  He finally brought a dictionary to the studio.  I used it for dozens of words, including "counseling"....which I had as "counciling" but thought it "looked funny!"  Fortunately, I caught the error before stitching it in place.  Picking out the threads on such sheer fabric is very, very difficult.

I really enjoy stitching these banners....thinking about other ways to relate both the split second decisions that we all make on a daily basis and those over which we must agonize.  I've thought of decisions I made as a girl, some good and some bad.  I've thought about all the Decision Portraits and the mental dialogues that undoubtedly went through the heads of those depicted.  I'm hoping that the installed banners capture the sense of the human mind with many, many thoughts floating inside.

I carefully picked out the apostrophe in the "decision" above!  I didn't photograph one of my other errors.....I used the word "passed" instead of "past".  That one is just going to stay wrong!

I'm sure the "error" above was the result of my own wandering mind as I thought of my younger son, Alex, who did quit high-school.  It's been nearly two and a half years since he's been estranged from us.  Steve and I, of course, did care....and will always care about Alex and his decisions.  We just couldn't do anything about them.  I, however, can put all these emotions into my artistic output.  The Decision Portrait Series and this upcoming exhibition is my reaction to Alex's decisions.  In the meantime.....more banners to stitch!