Sunday, February 26, 2012

Charity, Part Two

(Above: Death of Desire. 12" x 12". SAQA Benefit Auction donation. Crayon on silk grave rubbing from the tombstone of Mrs. Desire Peronneau who died in 1740. Free motion embroidered with hand stitched blanket binding. Click on image to enlarge.)

This will be my second year donating to the annual SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Benefit auction. All the pieces are to be 12" x 12". I knew exactly what I wanted to do ... my current favorite gravestone! During a recent trip to Charleston, I stopped by the Circular Churchyard with my silk, crayons, and the permission slip from congregation member Carolyn Thiedke (who said I could use it for return visits!) I used my favorite King Tut thread ... a subtle variegated, slightly heavier weight brown ... perfect.

(Above: Death of Desire, reverse. Vintage napkin with an overlay tatted doily. Click on image to enlarge.)

In all my stash of vintage and antique household linens, I couldn't find a single one that measured 12" x 12". (That's not quite true. There actually were several ... just none with a scalloped or interesting edge that I liked.) I used a larger napkin, slicing and stitching it in both directions to achieve the needed size. I did find, however, a gorgeous tatted doily that was the perfect size ... and used it as an overlay. The doily also provided spaces for my name, the title, and additional information.

(Above: The tombstone of Mrs. Desire Peronneau who died on Dec. 30, 1740. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Unique art quilt for an upcoming "Quilt Bomb". Click on image to enlarge.)

I spent a little less than an hour on this next piece. It really isn't "for charity" but the event does serve a really good cause. A fellow fiber artist and Facebook friend, Carol Warner Mesimer in Richmond, is planning a "quilt bomb". The idea comes from other media ... especially knitters who have anonymously left pieces of knitting in public locations. So ... at some future date, Richmond will be learning about art quilts! Carol created an "open group" on Facebook to promote her idea. It is HERE.

My donation is three layers of chiffon, including a colorful, center layer that came from my Grandma Baker's stash of fabric. She once made a fancy dress with a sheer chiffon overlay ... a popular style in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It was perfect, cheerful, and springlike. On this "sandwich of chiffon" I used a nice, heavy weight teal variegated thread from Oliver Twist in the UK and free motion stitched the SAQA's new definition of "Art Quilt":

The art quilt is a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.

All this charity work does seem to have more than "feel good" benefits. I received a beautiful ceramic bird from one of the people who got my "fiber bonus" in Virginia Spiegel's Foto/Fiber fundraiser and my friend Margaret dropped off a collection of old keys for my artistic use! I'm so thankful!

(Above: New ceramic bird from Kirsten! Below: Keys from Margaret!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Charity, Part One

(Above: Ancient Mysteries. Artist decorated plate for Dining With Friends 2012, an AIDS Benefit Foundation fund raiser. Fiber piece from my Archeology Project and buttons from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital. Click on image to enlarge.)

Artists everywhere are asked to participate in charity events. There are hundreds of opinions for doing it and for not doing it. Both sides have very good reasons, and I respect them all. Yet, it is not my intention to expound here the merits either way.

Years ago, Steve and I decided that we would "give" to just about any non-profit ... just not cash! So, Mouse House, Inc., our business, donates to dozens of school auctions, church bazaars, social causes, and arts organizations for their annual fund-raisers. Generally, we give a framed print. As an artist, I try to say "YES" to organizations that return a portion of the sale back to the artists who created the work. I also try to say "YES" for other events too. All these causes really are so very worthy!

So ... I've recently, I've been working for charity.

(Above: The reverse side of the fiber piece used for my Dining With Friends, AIDS Benefit plate ... never to be seen again! It's now glued to the plate! Click on image to enlarge.)

For years I've decorated a platter or plate (depending on who you ask!) for the annual Artists Against Aids/Dining With Friends, AIDS Benefit. This year the silent auction will be held on March 24, 2012. My work features a fiber piece with a carved Oriental wooden dragon. Originally, this little piece was part of my Archeology Project. I reworked the Archeology Project into The Collector which was accepted into Craftforms 2007, an international juried fine crafts show. Since then, all the parts were simply "in storage". (To see both the Archeology Project and the Collector, click HERE.)

(Above: My "fiber bonuses" for Foto/Fiber. Click on image to enlarge.)

I got into the suitcases about two months or so ago ... for yet another charity event: Virginia Spiegel's Fiber Arts for a Cause: Foto/Fiber. Virginia raised over $7500 for the American Cancer Society. People donating received one of her photos and a "fiber bonus" from an artist like me. The three pieces above from the Archeology Project/Collector became my donations.

I also pulled out the green piece with the wooden dragon. I glued it on my brown painted plate ... so the reverse side will never be seen again! That's alright with me. At least it isn't in storage any longer. The buttons along the edge came from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital.

(Beginning, Not an End Table. Donation for MIRCI's upcoming fundraiser. Click on image to enlarge.)

I have LOTS of buttons from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital. It was my privilege to be granted access and permission to carry away items from the now vacant laundry and alterations building. The buttons sure came in handy for this next donation artwork!

(Beginning, Not an End Table. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Mental Illness Recovery Center, Inc.) is holding an event called 52 Windows, An Evening of Art to Benefit MIRCI on May 10th. The organization distributed 52 old windows from a board members house (she was renovating). I turned mine into an end table.

I really didn't do anything to the window. It is simply under a piece of beveled glass. Under the window is a mosaic of buttons from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital. Fortunately, my new studio assistant really helped with this project. She primed all the wood and helped glue down all the buttons! (Thanks Eli!)

The end table is now called Beginning, Not an End Table. The drawer includes nine index cards for the former State Mental Hospital.

Each index card is collaged with words that keep patient names confidential but also serve to remind people that mental patients are fathers, sons, daughters, neighbors, friends, etc. Across the middle I used my stash of vintage clipped letters to read: There But By the Grace of God Go I.

(Above: Photo from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital's laundry/alterations building showing a floor covered with buttons!)

Above is a photo I took when I first entered the room with all the buttons. The colorful buttons were further to the back of the space. The building has sat empty since 1989. There are no words to describe how dirty and dusty everything was. I washed them earlier in the year ... but not so cleanly that they don't still look "used". I like that. All the white buttons were sorted from the colorful ones. I used the white ones in my storefront window installation at S&S Art Supplies last December ... called "Hung By the Chimney with Care". I will be using them in my upcoming entry for Runaway Runway, a fashion show of recycled materials. (That's in April!)

(Above: Buttons from the former South Carolina State Mental Hospital after having been washed!)

I am working on two more charity projects right now! Gotta get them done before I leave next Wednesday at dawn! I'm headed to Key West for a month as an artist-in-residence at The Studios of Key West! Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Bluegrass Roots

(My Bluegrass Roots. 45 1/2" x 35". Image transfer on vintage quilt with buttons. Hand stitched. Click on image to enlarge.)

My Dad and his parents, my Grandma and Grandpa Lenz, came to America sixty years ago this month. Originally from rural Hungary, they'd lived for three years in a DP Camp in Hessen before boarding a ship in Brennen harbor. They came through Ellis Island within two years of its closure and settled in Columbus, Ohio where a great uncle lived. So ... I'm the daughter of German immigrants.

But, that's only half of the story!
My mother's family is from Wild and Wonderful West Virginia! ( ...and the "rest of the story" is at the bottom of this post!)

This fact came in handy recently. Why? Well, my studio is located at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, a cooperative artist group in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. The location is an anchor for the two annual art crawls: Vista Lights in November and Artista Vista in the spring. This year, the group selected a title for our spring exhibition: O Brother, Where ART Thou? with a Bluegrass theme.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of Bluegrass music. My husband Steve, however, loves it ... plays it on the iPod when we've traveling through West Virginia. (I ignore it and stitch in the car.) I wasn't thrilled with this theme ... not even a little bit ... until I had this outlandish idea: Why not create a photo transfer on a quilt? Why not use one of the photos scanned from my great grandma's album, a photo from West Virginia, land of Bluegrass ... My Bluegrass Roots?

Of course, I'd never done a photo transfer on a quilt. In fact, I don't know that anyone ever has! I did know, however, that Denise Furnish works with acrylic medium on antique quilts. Her Nine Patch won one of the awards at Art Quilt Elements 2010. (This piece is pictured opposite my Father and Mother in the exhibition catalog.) The piece fascinated me. Immediately, I wanted to "try this new technique" but resisted. I generally don't jump on a new product, book, or approach to art-making unless I've got a strong, concept driven reason for it. Now, I had a reason ... and about a gallon of matte medium! (Denise paints on her old quilts. She planted a seed in my brain and it finally took root!)

The antique quilt came from Bill Mishoes' auction. There were three old, damaged quilts sold together, and I was successful with a $60 bid. I cut the blue-and-white one to a workable size ... something under 48" x 36", the size of my frame shop's dry mount press. Using matte medium, I attached the back of the quilt section to a piece of heavy, canvas-like upholstery material (also purchased at Bill Mishoes ... years ago ... an entire bolt.) A day later the two were mostly attached but I secured them with a few rows of straight stitching along the lines of the quilt blocks. For several days, I added layer after layer of matte medium to the quilt surface ... at least seven or eight layers.

In the meantime, I was also working with the scanned images from my Great Grandma's photo album ... looking for one with good contrast, clarity, and a bit of charm. Using Photoshop, the selected image was enlarged and the contrast was increased. (Generally, I would "flip" the image for proper orientation after transferring ... but I liked the reverse better when envisioning it on the quilt ... better placement of the faces against the quilt!) I burned a CD and had FedEx Kinkos print an over-sized photo copy.

Two layers of matte medium were applied to the photo copy. Finally, I brushed on yet another layer of matte medium on both the quilt and the photo copy and placed them wet-on-wet together. Using a brayer, I applied pressure, eliminating all air bubbles ... and then allowed it all to dry. Finally, I put the quilt into my dry mount machine. Knowing that acrylics adhere to one another when exposed to heat, my intention was to definitely fuse the acrylic covered quilt to the acrylic covered photo copy ... firmly embedding the photo copy ink and its "carrying film" to the "substrata", the quilt. (My dry mount was set to 185 degrees with 28 pounds per square inch for five minutes. Love this machine!)

Next step ... my new studio assistant and I rubbed off the paper. The first layer was easy! With a dampened scrap of terry cloth and a little "elbow grease", the image was exposed. Unfortunately, more abrasion was needed. The surface dried with what looked like a film of "white" over the entire surface. This was just "more paper" which required lots more gentle but firm rubbing ... and my fingertips seemed to be the best thing for it. This took about four more hours ... and, yes, I got one little blister ... but it was worth it!

Frankly, rubbing the paper off was the most difficult part of the process. This is only because my fingers are really, really strong! I decided to stitch buttons around the edge. My collection of mostly vintage buttons is large enough that I could use only ones 3/4" or larger ... in both whites and blacks. I used a chenille needle and button hole thread.

(Above: Detail of edge ... black and white buttons. Click on image to enlarge.)

The piece needed one more thing ... two lines of running stitch, above and below the transferred image. This was pretty hard to do considering all the layers of quilt, upholstery material and at least ten to twelve layers of matte medium ... but it worked! I'm really please with the piece and am already working on two, smaller companions.


Of course I knew that the photo came from my Great Grandma's photo album. It is owned by my 93 year old Grandmother and is located in the attic over my Dad's workshop. I scanned it a couple years ago. What I didn't know, however, was the identity of many of the people in the photographs! Earlier this week I wrote to "my genealogy studio assistant", aka my mother. Who were these people? They were in a lot of the pictures. Some of the other photos identified the woman as Mary Rollings. Unfortunately, my mother didn't know who this woman was. She had to visit my Grandma.

Mary Rollings isn't a relative at all! She never did marry into the family but the man in the photo is Frank Haeberle, the sixth child of my Great Grandpa's eldest sister. Frank was born in 1897 and was supposed to have been madly in love with his first cousin, Elma. Elma was my Great Grandpa and Grandma's eldest child. She was born in 1908. From the looks of LOTS of the other photos, she was also madly in love with Frank! Unfortunately, she died right before her sixteenth birthday of spinal meningitis (1923). My grandma, Elma's baby sister, was the last to see her alive. Grandma was only six. Grandma vaguely remembers Mary Rollings. She's in lots of the pictures, especially with Frank in the mid-to late 1920s. Frank Haeberle, however, never married.

When I think about Bluegrass, lost love is a recurring theme. A wild and beautiful landscape is also a recurring theme ... that's West Virginia! While Mary Rollings isn't a relative, she's likely the embodiment of my Bluegrass roots. Frank Haeberle would be my third cousin ... I think? (I'm never exactly sure how this works!) My mother remembers him as a handsome man despite having parents that weren't so attractive ... tragic ... also My Bluegrass Roots.
(Thanks Mom!)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jon Eric Riis' "Shimmer" at the Sumter County Gallery of Art

(Jon Eric Riis in front of his Blue-tipped Emu Feather Jacket at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, Sumter, South Carolina.)

Last night Steve and I went to the Sumter County Gallery of Art for the opening reception of Jon Eric Riis' solo show, Shimmer. I wouldn't have missed it for the world and the experience will remain with me as an inspiration on so many different levels.

(Above: Invitation image for the exhibition.)

First, it isn't every day that an artist with a truly international reputation has a solo show in the middle of South Carolina! Jon Eric Riis is arguably the very best contemporary tapestry artist on the entire planet. He excels in every approach to his work: conceptually, spiritually, artistically, technically, creatively, and according to every known "rule" for making quality works. There's been plenty of writing done on his processes, inspirational journey, and on his life and works. I'm not about to try adding to the scholarly writing. Let me just provide this LINK to his website and add ... He's a really, really nice man too!

I first met Jon Eric Riis in October 2009 at "Talking Threads", a one-day fiber and quilt symposium at the Sumter County Gallery of Art. I blogged about this experience HERE. The symposium went along with the exhibition on display at the time: Tradition/Innovation. Jon Eric Riis had work in this South Arts sponsored show (which is still touring). He was the keynote speaker at the symposium. He was amazing. Gifted and talented, he took time for every question (not matter how silly or clueless they were). He was gracious, approachable, a good listener, and willing to share his thoughts openly. I'd long admired his work (having seen pieces in the Renwick, the Textile Museum, and at the Met.) After meeting him, he also became a role model ... an inspiration for the best sort of character an artist can be. It is no wonder that Karen Watson, the Sumter County Gallery of Art Executive director, sought him out for a solo show.

So ... Jon Eric Riis is a world class artist. He's a nice man, the sort after whom one might model an artistic character. Yet, the most important reason to travel to Sumter is THE ARTWORK! I'm not sure there are words to adequately describe this work, the luster and shine, the sheer quantity of it, the professional presentation, or the many thoughts and feelings it evokes. I'm not going to try. Instead ... here's a little tour ... in the order I took the photos! (I've posted the exhibition statement and a photo from the reception at the end of this post.)

(From Shimmer, a solo show of work by Jon Eric Riis. Click on any image to enlarge ... which is really worth doing since this is meticulous work done most masterfully!)

(Above: Night Flight Tapestry Coat, 2004, detail. Woven metallic thread and silk, black freshwater pearls and coral.)

(Above: Flight Tapestry Coat, 2004, detail. Woven metallic thread and silk, freshwater pearls and turquoise beads.)

(Above: Exhibition shot.)

(Above: Triad Tapestry Coat (from The Black and White Series), 2006. Woven thread and silk)

(Above: Sacred Heart Tapestry Coat, 2005. Eight layers, woven metallic thread, Swarovski crystal beads. If forced to select a favorite in the show ... this is it. I will always think about the seven layers of this piece that were necessary for the whole but are mostly unseen. This is a physical manifestation of "doing it right" ... no matter what!)

(Above: Sacred Heart Tapestry Coat, 2005, detail. Eight layers, woven metallic thread, Swarovski crystal beads.)

(Above: Dialogue, Suite of Twenty Panels, 2009. Woven metallic thread.)

(Above: Dialogue, Suite of Twenty Panels, 2009, detail shot from the side. Woven metallic thread.)

(Above: Golden Boy, after statue of Paris, 1999. Woven metallic thread.)

(Above: Bruised, 2006. Woven metallic thread, black agate beads.)

(Above: Exhibition shot.)

(Above: Blue-tipped Emu Feather Coat, 2009. Woven metallic thread.)

(Above: Blue-tipped Emu Feather Coat, 2009, detail. Woven metallic thread.)

(Above: Icarus II, 2003. Woven silk and metallic thread, Swarovski crystal beads.)

(Above: Icarus II, 2003, detail shot from the side. Woven silk and metallic thread, Swarovski crystal beads.)

(Above: Dancing Couple Tapestry Coat, 2007. Woven metallic thread, Swarovski crystal beads.)

(Above: Exhibition shot.)

(Above: Exhibition statement.)

(Above: Reception!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day ... What's Love 2012

(Above: Sundays Child and Friends, an altered poem with corresponding dolls. Click on image to enlarge.)

Although I'd never been to the annual, non-traditional Valentine's Day bash here in Columbia, I certainly had heard about past year's bawdy fun and board-line pornographic artwork. Called "Whats Love" as in the Tina Turner song "Whats Love Got to Do With It?", the event is widely attended (over 1000!) and Facebook friends post constantly with anticipation leading up to it. This year the new arts publication, Jasper, was sponsoring a room devoted to poetry and suggestive literature of all kinds. The theme for the entire event was "technology". To reflect this theme, the name of the one-night only exhibit became "What's Love: Input/Output".

I had an idea ... one that combined "art" (in a very loose, slightly naughty manner), poetry, and technology. Jasper Magazine sponsored it and Sundays Child and Friends was created. During the week before Valentine's Day, I revealed each doll on its own blog and on Facebook. It was silly fun altering the poem, making the skimpy attire, and uploading the photos onto social media. Last night was the "big event". It, too, was lots of silly, stimulating fun.

Above is how the seven dolls originally looked. They are all some sort of collectible toy from the early 1980s ... complete with labels, storybook names, and metal stands.

Above is how they looked after transformation. Click on the image and the altered poem can also be read. In order to incorporate technology, each doll has displayed with a QR code on the signage above and behind them. (See first photo!) The QR code navigated viewers to the blog post with each doll's "before" photos. The entire blog can be viewed HERE.

There was dirty dancing performances from three different, local groups. Lots of people dressed up for the occasion ... including a married man wearing a jean skirt, fishnet hoses, and heeled black leather boots with his ordinary suit jacket, white shirt and a proper tie. People struck R-rated poses for total strangers to take photos and there were many interactive pieces too.

(Above: Photo installation by Molly Harrell.)

Yes ... there was all sorts of art too. Molly Harrell's photography was among the very best art presented that night. She also conducted a voting for "Sexiest Geek", male and female. She photographed three men and three women who work in the computer industry ... in very fashionable, attractive ways ... cut out the images and mounted them on backgrounds made of colored floppy discs.

(Above: Bohumila Augustinova and Anastasia Chernoff with porcelain penises.)

Some of the work and many of the people aren't particularly appropriate for blogging ... but I was quite taken by Anastasia's concept. She and collaborator Matt Kramer created a fantasy Victorian cabinet of sex toys ... in a very nice antique music stand!