Friday, September 28, 2012

A Difficult Decision

(Above:  A Difficult Decision.  Plastic models of brain and heart, rat trap, chain with collaged tag, fibers.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I envisioned this piece over two years ago and toyed with the idea of creating organs from fabric.  Even in my mind, it didn't look right.  Some sort of tactile difference was necessary.  Plastic models of the brain and the heart would simply look better, contrast more with the fibers, and fulfill my mental image.  But, where to get a brain and a heart?

(Above:  A Therm-O-Chill Overnite shippers Styrofoam container.)

Last August during my first week with Studios Midwest's art residency program, I saw the work of Steve Carlson at the Galesburg Civic Art Center.  Some of his 3D assemblages included more than one style of artificial tongue.  Now this guy just had to have a brain and a heart!  I emailed him.  HE DID!  I made arrangements to purchase these artificial organs and pick them up at Outsider Gallery, a shop Steve has with his wife Marsha in Bishop Hill, Illinois.  They were packaged in a Styrofoam container as if "real" body parts headed for a transplant!

(Above:  A Difficult Decision in progress.)

I already had two thicknesses of upholstery cord.  The thinner was dyed red inside a Ziploc bag.  Next, I pulled out all sorts of yarn.  Please note, I don't buy yarn.  I don't even knit or crochet but I seem to acquire lots of yarn from various estate sales and auctions.  Using my sewing machine, I zigzagged cord from several different types ... both reds and blues ... arteries and veins.

(Above:  A Difficult Decision ... with an old, rusted 110 conibear trap.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I already had an old, rusted 110 conibear trap.  My Dad found it on his property.  U Tube videos taught me how it worked to catch muskrats.  I collaged the title of the piece on the tag and took the photo above.  But, there was a problem.  The other artists at Gallery 80808 weren't familiar with the trap.  They didn't recognize it or its function.  Without an understanding of the trap, how was this piece going to make sense?  Sure ... the fibers attaching the brain and the heart sort of make sense with the title ... but ... the trap is symbolic of the feeling one gets when caught up with matters of the heart, when struggling to "do the right thing" when your heart wants to do just the opposite, when wrestling with common sense when passion is involved.  The trap is important.  My artistic mentor, Stephen Chesley, suggested a rat trap.  He gave me the one that's pictured at the top of this post.  I removed the rusty chain and tag from the conibear trap and put it on the rat trap.  I think the piece is a perfect illustration of a feeling we've all had from time to time.

(Above:  Volumes: Women Bound By Art's reception ... woman looking at my piece in the show.)

Words are very important to my art.  I think it is one of the reasons I frequently make book art.  Last Thursday was the opening reception of Volumes: Women Bound by Art at Portfolio Gallery here in Columbia.

(Above: Ball Bearings thru Cables, an altered book. 14" x 9" x 2 3/4". Discarded library tome, old cables and ball bearings, clipped letters from vintage sheet music, found paper, engraved plates, wood, plexiglass, screws. Click on image to enlarge.)

This invitational book art show featured altered volumes from the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers Products and Services.  My book covered ball bearings through cable.  I kept the title, obviously.  To read more about this piece, CLICK HERE

(Above:  Volumes: Women Bound by Art reception photo.)

There were some organizational problems with this local show but the results were great.  In fact, the problems led to two shows in two locations.  Volumes 2 opened the same night in conjunction with the first book art show.  Several of the same artists were involved.  I went to this exhibit later in the week.

(Above:  Volumes 2 at Gallery V.)

The second book art show featured all sorts of different types of books ... altered books, sculptural books, and handmade books.

(Above:  Wasted Words: Global Warnings ... my piece on the far left.)

My piece is above.  This was the one that was in the show Green: A Color and a Cause at the National Textile Museum in Washington, DC.  I'd never really shown it in Columbia until now!

(Above:  Studio in the state of being cleaned!)

Going to art openings and playing with artificial human organs, however, weren't the most important thing I've done all week.  
I cleaned my studio!

(Above:  Four boxes of material donated to a new fiber friend.  The studio has been purged.)

The catalyst for the cleaning was a new shelving unit donated by my friend Jeff Donovan.  The new unit is taller and deeper than the old, bedroom book shelf that sort of "came with" my studio eight years ago.  It was time to remove the old one, make room for the new one, and face a few facts.  Fact number one:  I'm not getting any younger and I'll never get to any of the projects that might use the collected material in my numerous bins.  These were the "fabrics of my life" ... old cloth that had been my grandmothers, old dresses, old curtains, yards of material from auction, samples from interior design shops, etc.  Fact number two:  There are people who would really would love this material and use it.  It was time to give half my studio's textiles away.

I met "Seamstress Krys" on "First Thursday" on Main Street.  She was set up at a table in the Tapp Art Center selling totes and purses.  She was advertising her alterations and costume making services.  I took her card and "friended" her on Facebook.  It was like playing Santa Claus when she hauled away all these boxes.

Now my studio has a new energy and wide open, tidy space.  There are more square inches of flat table surfaces on which to work and lots less dust.  I even mixed up a pail of ammonia and water and scrubbed the blue painted floor.  Everything is ripe for the work I'm meant to make.  It was a bittersweet process of purging my studio but the results are promising.

Lastly, I'm linking this post to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays" blog that shares "WIPs", works in progress.  It's a cool way to share work in a new way. 


Nina Marie said...

Oh my Miss Susan - you have been busy!! What a great post! Its almost 3 posts in one! So 3 comments - 1 - When you have an idea like the organ one - once you finally get the piece done - do you want to carry something like that into series? 2 - To start a text/word quilt has been in my mind for a while but I want to study a bit more on Typography and work more in the series already here - but its really important to me too! - 3 - I create and feel so much better after a purge - plus what a lucky friend you have to get the pressies!! Bet they'll feel like its Christmas!

Wanda said...

Wow...'A Difficult Decision' is so bold and basic. So grimmly true and almost like a bucket of cold water! Amazing piece. It will make me think now for a long time. Your 'purge' is awesome. I know it must have hurt but you did it and it's like a new beginning. No, not really...more like a new chapter.