Saturday, August 28, 2010

Youngest Child, Decision Portrait....and tagging keys!

(Above: Youngest Child, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I took over the family business. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stain muslin. Hand stitched. 25" x 31" unframed; 31" x 37" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

Family businesses have been around...well...forever! Yet, it is a known fact that the transition from one generation to the next is a very, very difficult one. Traditionally, a family business is past from father to eldest son....after years of apprenticeship and a very gradual process of "letting go" and "taking over". When the eldest son is unable or unwilling, the next son has an opportunity. When there are no sons, a daughter might get a chance. Rarely does the youngest child figure prominently, especially a girl!

(Above: Youngest Child, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

That isn't the case here! Let me introduce my father and my youngest sister Sonya. The Cultural Studies Academy was founded in 1963. It was initially a college credit summer program teaching the German language. It grew to include other subjects and courses that weren't "for academic credit". Along the way, Lenz Travel Services was established as a full service travel agency. Specialty tours were conducted to exotic places all over the world. Airport Orbit, Inc. was added....a shuttle and car service in western Pennsylvania. Property was bought too. There are several rental houses and offices that fall under the umbrella of this "family business".

(Above: Youngest Child, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Once upon a time, I was a part time secretary for The Cultural Studies Academy....long before it grew into such a conglomerate. I went off to Ohio State University, got married, and started my own business. I never considered "taking over the family business" and it didn't consider me for the job either! The next daughter, as there are no sons, did work full time in the business for a few years. She had another calling. The third daughter also worked full time in the business for a few years but left as well. The job sort of became Sonya's....whether she wanted it or not! She didn't intend to move back to Slippery Rock and take over but gradually, gently and with love and attention the transition came.

Sonya is a terrific business woman. My parents are both quite happy that the business that developed is in such capable hands. Please visit Sonya's website....she's got places for you to go!

Okay.....the post above has been planned for day. Yes...I email each participant(s) (in this case, both my youngest sister Sonya and my Dad) and wait for their response. Then I edit, upload images, and "publish". This particular post, however, was also coordinated with my artistic efforts this week and today. I knew I would post Youngest Child along with some very special photos..... taken in my studio....the final artwork being completed for the upcoming exhibition at City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston.

This show is called "Personal Grounds". It has a very, very simple statement:


Obviously, the 107 portraits illustrate the "decisions" made. There will be two unique sculptural units.....old doors covered in peeling paint, various keys, nails, and other symbols for human life. There will be keys.....LOTS OF KEYS!

The keys are tagged:
The Key to Happiness
The Key to Knowledge
The Key to Wisdom
The Key to Success
The Key to Hell
The Key to Fame
The Key to Fortune
The Key to the City
The Key to Diligence
The Key to Forgiveness
The Key to My Heart
The Key to the World
The Key to Evil
The Key to Compassion
The Key to Understanding....etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

(Above: Keys being created in my studio. Click on image to enlarge.)

There are HUNDRED OF KEYS! They will occupy a installation unto themselves...the physical notion of human if a real key could really exist....really unlock the way to a desired reality. This past week I've been creating all these keys.

(Above: Keys from DEA Bathroom Machineries...above... and from my Dad....below...along with a pile of free motion embroidered cording on the right. Click on image to enlarge.)

First, I create the unique cording....zig zag stitching over three different yarns. Then, I created the tags. (In a former life I must have been a kidnapper....I LOVE clipped letters....and the entire process of making words and sentences as if a "ransom note"! I actually have envelopes organized by letter....A, B, C, D, .....X, Y, Z.....which I regularly file with clipped letter from early 20th century advertisement clipping or late 19th c. art book text.) Finally, I attached the keys and took all day....hundreds of keys were created!

So... from where did all these unique keys come? Well, a great many were ordered from DEA Bathroom Machineries in Murphys, California. I found this place when I had a show at Ironstone Vineyards in California. It is WONDERFUL...and they have mail order! Yet, the other half of the keys came from my Dad.....the man who, along with my mother, founded the Cultural Studies Academy.

My Dad saved all sorts of keys....from his days as a teaching and/or research assistant at The Ohio State University, from his fledgling business in Europe, from the first investment properties, from his first car. He had them in a coffee his garage. I saw them over a year ago and ask to "have them for art".......Well, Dad, THEY'RE ART NOW!

(Above: Tagged keys in the process of being created. Click on image to enlarge.)

Some of my keys are large. Some of my keys are tiny. Some of my keys are labeled with "Do not duplicate". All of the keys for this installation have a handmade tag. Yet, it is still quite remarkable to think about all the keys I've ever had...the keys we've all had....the keys issued to former employees, the keys that no longer work, the lost keys, the forgotten keys, the stupid keys to carry-on luggage, the diary keys, the keys that no longer work, the keys to cars that no longer run, the keys to apartment building that no longer exist, the keys to safe deposit boxes and post office accounts, the keys to bicycle locks and high school gym lockers, the keys to so many secret, supposedly safe places....trusted havens. We all have such memories. I've been swimming in these memories and their keys while transforming my Dad's key collection into art.

(Above: The Key to Love.....very, very small. The Key to Forgiveness....quite large. This is not necessarily how one finds these special qualities in life!) Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Looking into a box of tagged keys. Click on image to enlarge.)

Almost all of the text is vintage....from the first three decades of the 20th century to the waning years of the nineteenth century. Even the "complete words" generally date from a 1909 edition of Howard Chandler Christy's illustrated American Beauties by Harrison Fisher and other books that glorified the "Gibson Girl". Okay....I confess...the colored papers and letters were from Art Business News, Dance Europe, and Legends Magazine (a publication about South Carolina's Kiawah don't subscribe. I frame for the editor.) There's something rare and wonderful about turning the past into a piece of accessible artwork for the future! I LOVE TAGGING KEYS! Thank you, Dad, for such a wonderful day.....touching all those keys that once opened so many doors for you, for Mom, for all of us!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sister Support, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Sister Support, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: We jumped out of a celebrate reaching our weight goals! Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched. 25" x 31" unframed; 31" x 37" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

When I was thinking up "decisions" for my "wish list", I tried to imagine choices I've made in life.....and choices I would NEVER make....unless someone had a gun at my head....and even then, maybe not. Jumping out of an airplane is something I WOULD NEVER DO. Yet, plenty of people pay for just this sort of thrilling opportunity and I even knew one such person....DORIS!

(Above: Sister Support, detail of Doris. Click on image to enlarge.)

Once upon a time I was a full time custom picture framer running a very busy shop of my own with about ten people on pay roll and in sore need of more help. I prayed....literally to GOD...for "someone" with experience to apply for a job. Doris just happened to live in my neighborhood and just happened to drop in to my shop asking for part time work. She was a graduate student in Art History and arts management with a BFA in Art & Design who had worked in a frame shop back in Iowa. She was the answer to my prayer and was hired on the spot.

Years later, Doris is back in Iowa, a quilter (neither of us were quilting when we worked together), and a blogger (I'm not sure there were blogs back then!). She shared with me some photos....jumping out of a plane! I wrote to Doris about sharing this decision and learned that her decision was deeper and more meaningful than a simple rush of excitement while plummeting to the earth.

(Detail shot)
(Above: Sister Support, detail.)

Thus, the portrait went from a daredevil decision to a story embracing several options. Doris and her sister decided to lose go on a finally achieve a healthy figure. They decided to support one another through these weeks and weeks of calorie counting. It is important to have such encouragement and accountability. Once they reached their goal, they decided to jump out of a plane to celebrate. This portrait is about all these decisions.

I hope people seeing the work think about their support systems, about how they support others and how they celebrate their accomplishments. I hope they think about their diets and the daredevil things they might or might not do! I loved stitching this piece and included "heart shaped" buttons in all four represent the love and support that sisters often share. I know. I have three myself.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

State of the Economy, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: State of the Economy, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I never thought I would apply for food stamps; Trying to make ends meet; Work, work, work; College Grad; Just getting by; Poor; Bills, bills, bills; Single Mom; No Cash; No insurance; Below Poverty level; Broke; This wasn't suppose to be my life. Xylene Photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Found nails. Hand beaded and stitched. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

Every day the news includes an item about "the state of the economy". Things are "bad" and often getting worse. People are losing their homes. Unemployment figures are on the rise. There are cut backs in government, industry, and in all types of funding. The arts are suffering. I wanted to stitch a portrait that addresses these changes and how decisions are being made in order to cope with the reality that few could adequate envision only a decade or so ago. I needed, however, someone willing to share such a decision, a brave individual who faced a dismal future and made a difficult personal choice.

(Above: State of the Economy, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

I found this brave lady through a series of Internet messages. She's struggling to make ends meet as a single mother who never thought she'd be in this situation. She's an Ivy league college graduate who once lived comfortably with a bright, happy future ahead for her family.

(Above: State of the Economy, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

A divorce is often a financial set back but in this economy it is doubly bad. Her ex-husband does pay alimony and child support....but it is simply not enough. Jobs are hard to come by and she'd not actually "qualified" for those that might cover the rest of her expenses. She's working for less, trying to find a better paying job, and back in school. Her schedule is a juggling act of work, study, and two boys. She's downsized and moved. She skimps and does without. She has no insurance. All the while, she's hopeful and determined to "figure it all out" and "improve" the current dilemma. One of the important decisions she made was apply for food stamps....something she never thought she'd have to do.

(Above: State of the Economy, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

This is a portrait of a brave individual struggling with the current economic hardships that now mark life in the USA. Although it is one person, the artwork is meant as a reflection of all those coping with the "state of the economy". It is meant to confront all those at the exhibition with a smiling, happy face of the "working poor" who have had to make decisions that weren't suppose to be in their futures.

(Above: State of the Economy, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

I hope people seeing this portrait reflect on the real people that are struggling, coping, and facing overwhelming odds they are powerless to change. I hope people ask themselves, "What if this were me? How would I act? What would I do? What can I do for others?"

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Special Gift!

(Above....a box from the process of being unpacked! Click on image to investigate all the vintage linens she donated to my fiber arts!)

When my show, "Blues Chapel", was at the Greater Denton Arts Council's Gough Gallery, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting some wonderful people....including Connie Akers. Connie sent me a box of vintage linens soon afterward. All the material....the fantastic log cabin patchwork and even the doll dress....that became Only Child, a Grave Rubbing Art Quilt ( is now on view in Groton, NY in a national, miniature art quilt exhibit!), fell out onto my work table.

(Above: Only Child, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. 16" x 16". Hand stitched. Click on image to enlarge.) can imagine how excited I was last week when another box arrived from Connie. I took it to my studio. I started unpacking it on my floor (see photo above). I just knew there was something very, very special inside.....AND THERE WAS! More than just a great collection of old household items lovingly stitched by some anonymous female maker, a back for the newest Grave Rubbing Art Quilt (stitched mainly on the plane to Hungary and back again) fell out. Yet, most importantly.....a fabulous blouse and skirt made of vintage lines also fell out....AND THEY FIT ME PERFECTLY. I'm going to wear them on Friday, September 10 to the opening of "Personal Grounds", my solo show in Charleston that features my Decision Portraits.

(Above: Blouse and skirt from box! Click on image to see what I'm wearing to my opening on September 10!)

THANK YOU CONNIE! You are wonderful!

Also....I placed the final stitch on the last Decision Portrait for this exhibition just yesterday evening. There's now 106 or 107 (I'm a little sketchy on my own counting!). I'll be working this week on a wall installation of "tagged keys", on my final exhibition list, on creating the last pages for a book on the Decision Portrait Series, etc. TOO MUCH TO DO. I'll be posting the remaining Decision Portraits as soon as I hear from the "models". Coming up are:

No Meat
Sister Support
Youngest Child
State of the Economy

One more thing. I got censored. I'm in good company.....after all, plenty of international, well respected artists have been censored. Their work was deemed by others to be "too sophisticated" or "too avante-garde"or "too outrageous" or "too controversial" or "too obscene" or some such thing. Knight Riders is now out of the show. It is "too controversial". The gallery knew about this portrait for MONTHS but the email came last week. I'm not sure how to feel about this....and fortunately I'm too busy to worry about it now....maybe later.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Last Thursday my Decision Portrait Series and I were featured on South Carolina's Etv, educational television, in a program called "The Big Picture". Two older profiles of local artists were also on the show. HERE is a link to the broadcast. My segment starts at the 5:19 minute mark and ends at the 13:59 minute mark!

A Very Busy Week!

(Above: One of the streets in Udvari, Hungary as seen from one of the many field above the town. Click on image to enlarge.)

I arrived home from a week in rural Hungary last Monday at nearly midnight. Since then the days have rushed by in a hurried pace. There was custom picture framing to do, correspondence to write, pictures to download, preparations for the upcoming exhibition to accomplish, and a "to do" list that just wouldn't go away....probably because I keep adding new items faster than I check off the older ones!

Generally, I write about my trips. They are artistic sources of inspiration. Putting words to my impressions always cements the memories.....but.....I'm too short on time. Let's just say: The trip was a mixture of thought-provoking ideas, emotional encounters, rustic beauty, and a chance of a lifetime to walk down the village streets of my Dad's childhood home while listening to his stories.

Since returning, I have managed to sort through the nearly 900 images I snapped. I deleted approximately 45%. The remainder have been "corrected", "sized", labeled, and put into neat "albums" on Flickr! Here is a list:

General photos taken in Hungary
The Former Lenz House in Udvari
Udvari, general photos and festival
Udvari, Church and Cemetery
Belecska and Keszohidegut
The Fish Park
General Photos of the Gyonk Heitmatmuseum
Embroideries in the Gyonk Heitmatmuseum

I do have an absolutely FAVORITE photo from the trip:

(Above: The remains of the organ in the ruins of the protestant church in Udvari. Click on image to enlarge.)

This building had been the center of life for the Swabian Germans who populated the town until being deported in 1945-47. My Dad was fourteen when he and my grandmother were forced onto a railway cattle car with each carrying just 50 kilos of their worldly possessions. They were trained to East Germany. Yet, they were lucky. They escaped to a DP....Displaced Persons...Camp in Kassel, West Germany and found passage to the United States three years later (1952).

In the guest books at the private Heitmatmuseums (local cultural history museums), my Dad wrote entries that said (translated and paraphrased!): For some, deportation was a great tragedy. For others, it was an opportunity and a liberation.

This is so very, very true! The week in rural Hungary was amazing. It was beautiful, hot (upper 90s), humid (nothing ever really dried), festive, happy, colorful, joyous, and a walk into my family's past, to culture and tradition that became real and reachable. It was also a week without a newspaper, a television, a radio, Internet connection, and air-conditioning. (I missed the air-conditioning even more than my email!) Most of all, the trip connected past with present and suggested a deeper appreciation of everything for the future. I'm still mentally processing all the visual stimulation and making notes for artistic expressions that will undoubtedly result.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creationist, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Creationist, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Darwin is wrong. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand embroidery and beading. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

Controversy is an inherent part of the Decision Portrait Series. The artwork, as a whole, addresses various issues to which most individuals respond with emotional, traumatic, and adamant feelings. The series presents many decisions in a straight-forward way, without value judgment. These decisions are often confrontational. These decisions seem to jump off the fabric and ask the viewer questions: What would you do? How would you react to someone who made a decision that you wouldn't make? This is intentional. After all, what is "right" for one person isn't necessarily "right" for another. What one person elects to do is a personal choice. How one person reacts is also a personal choice.

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

The personal choice in this portrait deals with Darwin's theory of evolution. Laurel Siler has weighed the evidence, educated herself with the facts and the theories, and decided that DARWIN IS WRONG. Laurel is a creationist. That isn't to say that she believes in the Biblical "seven day" period....a week of twenty-four hour planet the time line for the entire creation of the universe. She simply doesn't believe in Darwin's theory of evolution. For Laurel, there's a sentence that runs through her mind every time this issue arises: "It's no accident".

While stitching this piece, I thought about my own education. Sure, I was taught that evolution was a THEORY. I was also taught the definition of a THEORY. Yet, I was presented the evolution material in a convincing if a FACT, not a THEORY. I've never doubted its accuracy. I cannot imagine what I might think if "theory" was really stressed in grade school while evolution was being taught.

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

I admire Laurel's examination of these ideas and her willingness to share her believes. I admire her strength of character and the many insightful probes her convictions have provided. I hope those seeing the portrait in the upcoming exhibition are mentally challenged by the diversity of decisions portrayed. This portrait is most assuredly thought-provoking...which is exactly what I hoped the entire series would do!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Off to Hungary!

Tomorrow morning I'm flying to Budapest via Atlanta and JFK and while stitching on a Grave Rubbing Art quilt. I have no idea whether or not I'll have Internet access....but I will be with family and friends attending a town reunion for all those Germans (and their descendants) who were deported from the area after World War II. It promises to be a very special excursion full of folklore, memories, and a goulash party celebration!

Graffiti Artist, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Graffiti Artist, Decision Portrait Series. No stitched words. Reproduction "tag". Hand stitched and beaded. Spray paint and found objects. 25" x 19" unframed"; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

I came into contact with Julaine Lofquist-Birch's blog from the moment I started posting. We've corresponded about embroidery, admired one another's art, and left positive blog comments of support. One day, however, I received a message from Juliane suggesting her son Jason for my Decision Portrait Series.

She wrote, " (My son) has developed into quite the stencil artist, and last year, he decided to share a "doodle" and some of his tags with the city. Oops, got into a little trouble and did some community service and paid a fine."

(Graffiti Artist, Decision Portrait Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

For this Decision Portrait, I had suggested using stitched words with the piece....something like "tagging, caught, fined".

Later, however, I decided to just use a reproduction of one of Jason's tags. Not all graffiti artist illegally deface public and private property. Jason doesn't do this anymore either; yet, he's still working in this new, exciting art genre. It is an artistic decision to use spray paint, incorporate text and symbols, and reflect an urban consciousness. It is a decision where and on what to create these artworks too!

(Graffiti Artist, Decision Portrait Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

Personally, I find graffiti totally mesmerizing. There's a special place in Columbia that I've photographed....just full of graffiti. (I wrote about it, with images, HERE!) I'm totally against it on most buildings but think "there a time and place for everything", including graffiti. I love the bright colors, the spontaneous combustion of energy, the gestural marks, and the way graffiti takes into account the found elements of the walls on which it is placed.

(Graffiti Artist, In Process image. Portrait with selection of rayon threads. Click on image to enlarge.)

So, to stitch this decision, I wanted to add a few found objects that suggested an industrial area, a little "grunge" and urban "dirt", but especially the spectrum of color available in spray paint. Years ago I was given dozens of rayon threads....bright, shiny, liquid looking. I decided to use these. I stitched and stitched. The result looked a childhood whimsy of color or a gay pride rainbow. (Neither of these things are "bad".... just totally inappropriate for my vision!)

I stood back for a minute and then knew exactly what to do. ADD BLACK SPRAY PAINT. I took a deep breathe and sprayed directly onto my artwork, right on the stitches, over the nuts and bolts. IT WAS FUN! The results were great! I added the reproduction of on of Jason's tags....and the portrait was finished.

For a moment, I felt a little of the exuberance and youthful thrill of having a spray paint can in my hands. It was awesome....and scary....spraying on my own work.

(Image above: Jason spraying....We wear the same sort of ventilation mask!)

Yes, I wore my ventilation mask. Jason wears one too. He's still creating works of art....stencil and spray....just legally now! He's an artist making his mark!

(Above: Image by Jason. Click to enlarge.)

I hope those seeing the portrait will think about graffiti and see a "real face" behind the "tags". I hope those who are illegally "tagging" think about getting caught. I hope those who hate graffiti come to realize that it can be done legally. There's a lot to consider about this spray or not to deface public property or wear proper equipment or risk one's health....plenty of decisions!

Expatriate, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Expatriate, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I left the USA to pursue artistic opportunities; Ballet Dancer. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched and beaded. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

This is my elder son Mathias Lenz Dingman. He recently finished his fourth year with Birmingham Royal Ballet with a promotion to "First Artist". He is a citizen of the United States of America, files annual income tax here, uses our address as his "permanent" place of residency for US government documents, and returns "home" to visit us....and his dentist and his eye doctor. His entire professional career, however, has been danced in a foreign England. That makes him an "expatriate".

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

At first, Mathias was concerned about the title. Instantly, he (like many people) assumed that the word included a dislike for one's country, something lacking patriotism and respect. That isn't the case! Here's a definition from Wikipedia:

An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin term expatriātus from ex ("out of") and patriā the ablative case of patria ("country, fatherland").

Wikipedia goes on to say: In its broadest sense, an expatriate is any person living in a different country from where he or she is a citizen. In common usage, the term is often used in the context of professionals sent abroad by their companies, as opposed to locally hired staff (who can also be foreigners). The differentiation found in common usage usually comes down to socio-economic factors, so skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual labourer who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labelled an 'immigrant'. There is no set definition and usage does vary depending on context and individual preferences and prejudices.

This is definitely Mathias! He's a highly skilled professional living and working in a different country. He loves both places. So why did he accept a job in England? Well, the opportunity with Birmingham Royal Ballet offered more performances per season, better pay, better benefits, and a chance to advance with one of the world's very best companies. He became an expatriate for artistic opportunities.

(Above: Immigrants, Decision Portrait Series. To read more about this portrait, CLICK HERE!)

The words on his portrait are intentionally similar to the words on the Decision Portrait called Immigrants (above). These two people are Mathias' friends. They live here in Columbia, South Carolina. They came to the USA for artistic opportunities.

All three made the same leave their homeland for a chance to dance more often, for more money, and for all the other factors that figure into "artistic opportunities". The titles are different only from point of view....from which country the decision is considered!

Illegal Immigrant, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Illegal Immigrant, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Looking for the American Dream. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

When I started this series I didn't think I'd find an undocumented worker willing to pose for this decision. It would be a risky thing for someone in this position to do. Through the help of others, this brave man came forth. His face is partially covered. He agreed to pose. Others signed the "model's release" as "witnesses" to our agreement. Thus, he is protected and I have the legal right to use the image.

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

There's quite a lot of controversy about our "southern neighbors" coming to this country without work permits, having children within our borders, working in unsafe environments, being paid "under the table", and all sorts of other things. There are solid arguments on both sides of these issues. Fortunately, this series isn't about the controversy. I have no intention to suggest a "right" or a "wrong". My aim is simply to present a real person who made this decision with no value judgment attached. This is it.

The decision this man made was to come to a place where he could work for more money than he could make in this own country. He is looking and working and hoping for THE AMERICAN DREAM.

(Above: Illegal Immigrant, Detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

This is a theme that has fascinated me in the past and will be on my mind in the coming week while traveling with my parents and sister Wanda to Hungary. My Dad and his family came to this country in 1952. They were immigrants. They, too, were looking for the AMERICAN DREAM. (They came legally but after being deported from Hungary and living for three years in a displace persons camp in West Germany.) As a result, I grew up believing that the USA is undoubtedly the land of opportunity. I understand the desire to any means.

To view a video of an altered book I created called American Dream (2007), CLICK HERE.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Stained Glass XXI and going to Asheville

(Above: Stained Glass XXI, detail of the top. Click on image to enlarge.)

With a show just opened in Florence, SC and a major exhibition coming up in Charleston next month, I'm happily very, very busy.....but not so busy that a call from the Grovewood Gallery isn't exciting! They called to say that one of my earlier faux-stained glass fiber pieces recently SOLD! Naturally, I made another one to replace it.

(Above: Stained Glass XXI, full view. Click on image to enlarge.)

I created most of it over last weekend. I finished it after installing my show, "Last Words", in Florence. I almost forgot to snap photos. Thus, the "full view" depicts the piece stitched to an over-sized piece of Edelweiss linen mat board fitting into a black linen liner....leaning against the side of our house....with grass in front of the bottom edge....right before putting it into the outer frame with Plexi-Glass. Not the best way to photograph artwork but better than no image at all!

(Above: Stained Glass XXI, detail from the middle. Click on image to enlarge.)

Later this afternoon we are headed to Asheville to deliver the work and to browse through the downtown galleries for the city's "First Friday" art crawl. Should be fun especially since I'm not driving. I'll be stitching on a grave rubbing art quilt and looking out the favorite way to travel. Speaking of "travel", I'm about to head out of the country next Monday. I'll be flying to Budapest! My sister Wanda, my Mom and Dad, and my Dad's first cousin's wife Ann will meet me at the airport. We're headed to a "town reunion" in Udvari, the rural farm community where my Dad's family lived before being forced to leave after World War II. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit, hear stories from the past, collect inspiration for future artwork, enjoy family, and have a goulash party to remember!

(Above: Stained Glass XXI, detail from the bottom. Click on image to enlarge.)

Florence Reception

(Above: Mathias, Steve, and I at "Last Words", my solo show at Gallery 412 in the Florence Regional Arts Alliance, Florence, SC.)

The reception last night was fun. Everyone loved my artificial flower dress. To see images of the show, CLICK HERE!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"Last Words" opens TONIGHT and Quilt National '11 submission

My solo show, "Last Words", at Gallery 412 in the Florence Regional Arts Alliance, 412 Dargan Street in Florence, SC opens tonight with a reception from 6 - 8. Scroll down for lots of photos. Today I also submitted two new Grave Rubbing Art Quilts to Quilt National '11. I've never submitted for this show. I followed the rules EXACTLY....and to make doubly sure that these entries are not on any other person's blog or website....I've shown neither to anybody outside my immediate family, on-line or otherwise! They aren't in my "Last Words" show either. As soon as I'm most likely "rejected", I'll post them!

Public Servant, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Public Servant, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: I ran for office and won! Mayor 2008 - 10. Hand embroidery and beading. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

I didn't really start quilting until after I picked up Jeanne Williamson's book The Uncommon Quilter while at the MacNamara artist residency program in Maine during the fall of 2008. There was a mention of making a grave rubbing on fabric. I started my Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series then.

Yet, this isn't quite the complete truth.

I was already quilting. I just didn't realize it until I came to Maine. My Decision Portraits ARE quilts....three layers.....held together with stitch. Thankfully, I was told this "art quilt" definition!

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

Little by little, I started learning about art quilts, art quilt organizations like SAQA, and about MECCA, otherwise known as the International Quilt Festival in Houston....and elsewhere. (One
day....I'm going to MECCA!) Along the way, I saw the name: Karey Bresenhan, founder and president of Quilts, Inc. ... the organization that puts on these wildly exciting events.

(Above: Public Servant, Decision Portrait Series. Detail. Click on image to enlarge.) opening my email's "in box" and seeing a message from Karey Bresenhan about my Decision Portrait Series...volunteering for a decision!

Nervously, I typed a reply. Together we worked toward this portrait....with help from Teresa, her personal assistant. Running for office and serving the public is a BIG decision full of serious responsibilities. I wanted a non-career politician, someone who was passionate enough to serve
selflessly. This portrait couldn't be more PERFECT. The best way to articulate this decision is by sharing Karey's email:

I am an example of a public servant. After organizing my very small city
(1200 homes) to fight the secret purchase of one of our beautiful homes to
be converted to a hugely expensive City Hall (next door to me!), I agreed to
run for Mayor in the next election and serve one term. I won this unpaid
position with a big margin and spent the next two years dealing with garbage
and recycling issues, preventing our homes from flooding, managing our
recovery from a massive hurricane that destroyed half our city's trees,
developing a master plan to prioritize new drainage projects, starting
mobility projects to improve our streets and roads, keeping property taxes
stable without increases, re-establishing the concept of open and
transparent government, simplifying permitting procedures for new
construction or remodeling, hiring a new city administrator, mediating staff
disagreements, developing good relations with mayors of neighboring cities
to encourage regional cooperation, and so much more. At the same time, I
also continued to work as the full-time CEO at my own company, Quilts, Inc.,
which runs big quilt shows all over the U.S. Would I do it again? Probably
not, now that I know first-hand how much time is involved in being a public
servant. Do I regret it? Not for a split second!

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

Stitching this piece was easy. What better colors than RED, WHITE, and BLUE. I added sequins and beads for sparkle. I hope Karey likes it! I'm still in awe.....this iconic woman in the quilt world trusted me, only two years into quilting, to stitch her portrait!

(PS.....I share each portrait with the "model" before posting here on my blog....and...KAREY LIKES IT!)

On Personal Appearances II, Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Personal Appearances II, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: Half my size. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand stitched. 25" x 19" unframed; 31" x 25" framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

I met Robert years ago. He was a large man....a very large man....who had trouble just getting around and doing his job. He was too large and looked terrible. He felt terrible too. His health was in jeopardy. He'd tried dieting on more than one occasion, unsuccessfully each time. He had to lose weight and decided on a gastric bypass.

(On Personal Appearances II, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

The procedure is extreme and expensive. Robert flew to his wife's native country, Brazil, for the operation and recuperation period. He came back a different man, a much smaller man. He is half the size he'd been, looks years younger, and is able to participate in an active, full, productive life that now includes an adopted child from Brazil. He's maintained his new figure for a number of years now. The procedure was so successful that Robert sent his older, adult daughter for the same operation. Now, they both look and feel much better and are living happy, healthy, active lives.

Accepted into Will's Creek Survey 2010

(Above: Aegis, Fiber and found objects. 5" x 9" x 9". Click on image to enlarge.)

I've been rejected from lots of shows....including past exhibitions at the Allegany Arts Council in Cumberland, MD....BUT NOT THIS TIME!

Aegis was accepted into the Will's Creek Survey 2010, a national juried show on display from September 11 - October 8, 2010!.