Friday, May 31, 2013

Works in progress

(Above:  At Quilt National, my piece, Circular churchyard, and me.  Photo by Rhoda Taylor.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

A week ago today Steve and I drove to Athens, Ohio for the opening of Quilt National 2013.  I blogged about it after our return, HERE, mentioning that I'd totally forgotten to snap a photo of my piece, Circular Churchyard, and didn't remember to get one of me in front of it either.  Well, my friend, Rhoda Taylor, took the photo above!  Thank you Rhoda!  It was a WONDERFUL exhibition and I am so proud to have work in this show.
(Above:  Storm by Dianne Firth of Australia.  Photo by Linda Teufel.)

I also wrote that I didn't snap a photo of one of my favorite pieces hanging in Quilt National 2013, Storm by Dianne Firth of Australia.  Yet, Linda Teufel did take just the photo I wanted.  It shows the unique shadow cast by the two layers of netting with encapsulated red felt "raindrops".  I'm "into" the notion of shadows ... working on a grid of anonymous, vintage photos.  Just scroll down to see what I'm talking about!  

(By the way, Linda Teufel is the founder of Dragon Threads, the company who published the beautiful, hardbound Quilt National 2013 catalog ... which can be ordered from the website.  Linda's blog post about Quilt National includes great images from the show!  Click HERE to read it!)

Of course, my blog post prior to the one about Quilt National is about my solo show, Decision Portraits, at Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona.  So, one might think that I'm just flitting around the country and not stitching anything.  Far from the truth!  I'm WORKING ... A LOT!

(Above:  Another Grave Rubbing Art Quilt featuring late 18th century motifs from tombstones in Charleston's Circular Churchyard.)

First, while flying out to Arizona and back, I started the seeding stitches surrounding a grave rubbing made on the same day as the ones on my Quilt National accepted piece, Circular Churchyard.  After I made the one, giant whole cloth rubbing, I made several others ... including this one.  I finished the self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery around all the brown crayon rubbing months ago.  The entire background will be covered in dense seeding stitch ... a perfect thing to do on a plane ... and also during the car ride to and from Athens, Ohio.

(Above:  Detail of the work in progress.)

I absolutely love the texture and glow when stitching on silk!  I still have hours to go.  This is also a perfect piece to stitch upon while attending my favorite local auction house or in front of the television.

(Above: Stained Glass XXXVIII, first layer of polyester stretch velvet with WonderUnder on recycled, black acrylic felt.)

As soon as I returned from Athens, I had to get into my studio ... because I got a commission!  The last, large "Stained Glass" piece I made was sold during my show at Ellen Taylor Interiors earlier this month.  The client who bought it needed a companion.  Hence, a commission.  Above is the first layer of polyester stretch velvet fused with WonderUnder (Bond-a-Web) to a large piece of recycled, black acrylic felt.

(Above:  Stained Glass XXXVIII in progress ... ready for self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery.)

By Wednesday, I had added several more layers of cut shapes and a multi-colored overlay of chiffon scarves.  It was ready to stitch ... using only black, 100% cotton thread.

 (Above:  Stained Glass XXXVIII, ready to melt.)

By Thursday, I finished the stitching and stapled the work to a wooden stretcher bar.  Wearing my ventilator, I was ready to be banished to the garage for the "melting phase".  Out there, I poke holes with two sizes of soldering irons and will ... later today ... melt it out with a heat gun.  Next will come the framing and the client should have delivery by this time next week!

 (Above:  Unbelievable polyester stretch velvet ... tiger stripes!)

I use A LOT of polyester stretch velvet.  A year ago, I limited myself to whatever I could find in thrift stores and commercial fabric shops.  Now, however, I found some really wonderful/hideous patterns and colors on-line.  My color selection has increased ... and we've had a great laugh wondering what other people actually do with some of these dreadful fabrics!  (Okay ... here in South Carolina, I can actually imagine some young Clemson fan wearing an 80s-style pantsuit made from this tiger print ... but I'd still laugh!)

(Above:  Charity, my last studio assistant pointing to a portrait Pete Holland painted of her.)

I also use A LOT of painted WonderUnder.  All my "In Box" and "Stained Glass" pieces require yards and yards of it.  Some needs to be painted with light washes of very watered down acrylic paint.  This is a task I generally have a studio assistant do.  Unfortunately, my last studio assistant, Charity, got a job in Virginia and is moving.  Charity regularly posed for the life drawing and portrait painting group that meets in the Columbia Museum of Art.  She worked for me four hours a week.  The last thing I had her do was paint two bolts of WonderUnder.  I hope it lasts until I find and train a replacement!

(Above:  Anonymous, vintage photographs being attached to Stitch-and-Tear.)

I was particularly sad to see Charity go because I had another "big project" in mind for her help.  I've been thinking about it for months ... writing about it on my "Morning Pages" (an exercise from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way ... which I still faithfully do nearly every morning) ... and even dreaming about the shadows I intend to cast by creating a giant grid of old photos to be suspended/hung about six or so inches in front of a wall.  I finally did a "trial" piece and blogged about it on May 13th.  

All these old photos were first fused to fabric.  Next, Charity and I cut all the photos out ... basically leaving each photo with an unseen fabric backing.  The photos were then attached to Pellon's Stitch-and-Tear ... using just a dab of glue.  Finally, all the paper Stitch-and-Tear was removed ... leaving a grid of photos.  The experiment so a total success ... so I started making more.  These small "grids of photos" will later by attached to one another, but, for now, I'm left tearing away all the paper.  It is tedious.  This process takes a long, long time.  I really wanted another studio assistant!

(Above:  Steve, the new and very "happy" studio assistant ... removing Stitch-and-Tear from the back of a grid of photos.)

So ... I recruited my husband Steve!  He's always been my biggest fan, best supporter, and constant companion.  He's never been a studio assistant though ... but he agreed to help pull the Stitch-and-Tear from the grids of photos and ...

...sweep up all the tiny pieces of paper every morning.  This is how we've been spending our evenings in front of the television.  I think there are about 25 to 30 small girds of photos.  This might take awhile but I can't wait to turn them into one, giant piece ... and hang it so that it cast a shadow on a wall behind them!

I still believe what I wrote on May 13th:  I envision this future piece being at least 5' in height and 10' in length.  The large size will create a sense of impact, a subtle suggestion of all the many people whose images are unknown.  The space between the future piece and the wall is important.  It will allow the grid of photos to physically occupy an area "in front of" the wall ... as opposed to the area "on the wall".  The grid of photos will be like a transparent curtain, something between the present and the past ... casting a shadow.  It is going to be GREAT!  (Okay ... very labor intensive but GREAT!  At least in my mind!)

(Above:  A stack of sized mat boards waiting for me to cut them.)

It would be great just to work on my art all day, every day ... but I also have "work work" to do ... and this is the stack of mat boards waiting for my attention.

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", an Internet site for sharing fiber artworks. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quilt National and Circular Churchyard

(Above:  Circular Churchyard, detail.  86" x 53". Crayon grave rubbings on silk.  Self-guided, free motion machine embroidery with blanket stitch edge on by hand.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

I finished Circular Churchyard, my largest grave rubbing art quilt, last April.  It is a whole cloth art quilt made from a collection of rubbings from the historic Circular Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina.  I made the rubbings one Saturday on Halloween weekend ... with special permission from the congregation.  It took over four hours of running from tombstone to tombstone, switching from the brown crayon to the black crayon and back again, until the large surface was covered.   

(Above:  Circular Churchyard, full image.)

I couldn't blog a full image until now.  Why?  Well, I planned on entering this piece into the prestigious Quilt National 2013 biennial.  This exhibition has a "photo ban" rule which means no image of the work can be on a website or blog other than the artist's.  Of course, there is no way to prevent people from "grabbing" images and posting them without permission.  The only way to avoid unintentionally breaking this (in my opinion) silly and counter-productive rule is NOT TO POST.  So I didn't.  When the work was accepted, I was thrilled of course ... but still couldn't post any images.  I had to wait for the opening reception at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio ... which was this past weekend!  So now ... ta-da! ... drum roll, please ... HERE IT IS!
(Above: Carolyn Thiedke, the Circular Churchyard, and grave rubbing supplies on Halloween weekend, 2011.)

I am indebted to Carolyn Thiedke and the congregation of Congregational Circular Church for granting me permission to make the rubbings.  The churchyard is otherwise posted "NO RUBBINGS".

(Above:  The Dairy Barn Art Center, Athens, Ohio.)

So ... off Steve and I went for the opening reception of Quilt National 2013.  My parents and my sister Wanda (who was visiting them from Munich) came from Slippery Rock.  They were en route to St. Albans and Huntington, WV and back through Columbus, Ohio for a traditional Memorial Day ... tending family graves.  It was so much fun to share this experience and the world's very best art quilts with them.

(Above:  One of the doors to the Dairy Barn Art Center, Athens, Ohio.)

There was a lovely "artists only" reception from 3:30 - 5:00 before the 5:00 - 7:00 public opening.  Each artist was handed a name tag with an image of his/her art quilt and a bag of "goodies" including the gorgeous, hardbound catalog.

(Above:  Quilt National 2013:  The Best of Contemporary Quilts.)

In one sense, it felt sort of like high school.  Everyone was exchanging catalogs and signing their page ... as if a senior year book!  The name tags were invaluable.  They proved to be instant recognition of the "who's who" art quilters and which pieces in the spacious exhibition area were theirs! 

(Above:  The Dairy Barn staff inside the entrance to the Dairy Barn ... welcoming Sheila Frampton-Cooper.)

I admit that I was more than a little nervous about this entire evening ... wondering if my work really could hold its own in such a show ... worried that I'd some how say the wrong thing due to the short amount of time I've been producing art quilts ... afraid that I'd open my mouth and insert my foot because I'd not recognize all the "big name" artists ... you know, the same old insecurities that I've always had!  Well ... no problem.  It all felt like a dream.  The hour-and-a-half private reception passed quickly.

(Above:  Announcing the prize winners during the public opening reception at Quilt National.)

One of the funny things, however, is that I never suspected we'd be allowed to snap photos of the accepted pieces ... even detail shots.  I assumed this was a "no photography" show.  With all "image free" anticipation, the "super-secret" hype, and the "photo ban", I figured that photography would be strictly prohibited ... except maybe a snapshot of the artist in front of her own piece.

(Above:  Sheila Frampton-Cooper talking about her accepted work, From the Seed.)

At first, I was simply blown away by the "big name" artists and totally honored to be exchanging signatures inside our catalogs.  Then, I saw people taking photos ... full shots, detail shots, and not even their own art!  I expected the staff to come quickly, in an anxious rush, quietly but frantically begging people NOT to take photos.  Nothing happened.  Everyone was depressing their camera's buttons, their cell phones, even iPads!  Wow!  

(Above:  No One But You by Susan Polansky.)

Finally, I decided to take out my camera ... and timidly took a photo of No One But You because the artist Susan Polansky was in the field of vision. (We had just signed one another's catalog.)  No one stopped me.  It was okay!

(Above:  Susan Shie with Dragon Sushi: 9 of Pyrex Cups in the Kitchen Tarot.)

So ... I took a photo of the legendary SUSAN SHIE with her piece.

(Above:  During the "artist only" private reception.)

Well, by this time, it was almost 5:00 PM ... time when the public, including Steve and my family, would be coming in.  Several artists knew to "take it easy" ... as it would be a long night.  I sat on the floor with several and enjoyed their conversation.  Then ... a really, really fun "mob scene" ensued when the doors swung open and the crowds entered in excitement.  In all this activity and because I'd just figured out that I was allowed to take photos, important photos got forgotten.  I took not a single shot of my parents and sister.  I totally forgot to have an image made of me standing with Circular Churchyard.  In fact, I didn't take a photo of my piece there in Athens at all.  Steve (Thank Goodness!) remembered to take the photos of The Dairy Barn which I've posted here.  Oh well!

(Above:  Saturday morning breakfast at Quilt National.)

There was a banquet that night but I didn't attend.  Instead, Steve and I went to a lovely dinner with my parents and sister.  The next morning started with breakfast among the art quilts!  This was likely the best part of the opening.  Each artist was handed a fancy gadget that looked sort of like a microphone.  It wasn't a microphone though; it was a specialized recording device.  A camera man was stationed nearby.  He captured each art quilter giving their "two-minute" speech in front of their work.  Nothing could be better than listening to the words of inspiration from the artists themselves.  I took lots of photos ...

... like Kevin Womack.  He and Eleanor McCain each spoke about their collaboration Swaddling to Shroud - Birthing Bed. (Above.)

... like The Pixeladies, Deb Cashatt and Kris Sazaki, who both spoke about their collaboration American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation. (Above.)

... like Nelda Warkentin and her piece (above left) Bella Woods.  (The famous collector Del Thomas is in the yellow in front of Katherine Knauer's Solar City ... and Arle Sklar-Wenstein is standing beside Ms. Thomas.)

... like Robin Schwalb and her Jive Boss Sweat. (Above.)

... like Kate Sturman Gorman and her piece Bernadette In Artichokes. (Above.)  I don't know what will be done with the brief segments that were captured on film.  I hope they go to UTube or some other site.  They would be the best way to experience what I was honored to have lived on Saturday morning.  (I hope I looked good and sounded better myself! LOL!)

I even took a few random shots of the attentive crowd ... like this one in front of Lisa Kijak's El Cortez, Las Vegas.  The crowds were quite large for these brief statements.  It really was an honor ... totally exciting.

Here is one of my very favorite pieces ... Arle Sklar-Weinstein's Truth of Consequences.  This piece won the Cathy Rasmussen Emerging Artist Memorial Award.

Finally, I took only three photos of works without "people".  Above is Shin-hee Chin's Florence Nightingale, the winner of the Most Innovative Use of the Medium award.  This piece is seriously WONDERFUL ... and reminds me a lot of how I create fiber vessels.  The catalog includes this description:  Recycled and commercial fabrics, hemp, organza, pearl cotton, ramie; coiled, dyed, fabric painted, hand stitched. (I appropriated Ji-Seung Korean paperthread making technique to the fabric and made fabric tubing and combined basketry technique.)

This is the other shot I took without "people".  It is a detail of Sara Impry's Bitter Pills ... a whole cloth art quilt that is amazingly all machine quilted.  Great concept and excellent execution!

(Above:  Blossoms by Beatrice Lanter.)

One of my favorite pieces was Blossoms by Beatrice Lanter.  It almost needed a person in the shot in order to show the lacy affect and the double-sided hanging.

(Above:  Blossoms, detail.)

Yet, this is my only other "non-people" shot from Quilt National!  I wish I would have attempted a photo of Dianne Firth's McCarthy Memorial Award winning work, Storm.  It was undoubtedly my favorite piece in the show.  Perhaps this is because I've got "shadows" on my mind.  This one cast THE BEST shadow ever ... but was also conceptually wonderful and expertly crafted.  No photo would do this work justice!  Yet, the catalog does make a very, very serious effort to highlight each work perfectly.  The images weren't the ones submitted by the artists.  Instead, all the work was sent to the Dairy Barn last autumn and photographed by a skilled group working for Dragon Threads  It can be ordered directly from the Dairy Barn's site or directly from Dragon Threads. (Just $29.95 ... either location!)

(Above:  The Dairy Barn as seen from the Ridges Cemeteries on the grounds of the historic State Mental Hospital.)

Of course no out-of-town trip is complete if there's no cemetery on the travel agenda!  Since starting my Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series, I've visited plenty.  That's how I'm so deeply connected to my work.  Below are more detail photos of Circular Churchyard.  Now ... back to working on the hundreds of photos I took the weekend before this exciting one ... from Arizona.  I'll post these images soon!

(Above and below:  Details of Circular Churchyard.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

(Above:  The reverse of Circular Churchyard ... a recycled painter's drop cloth quilted with buttons collected from the historic South Carolina State Mental Hospital.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Decision Portraits at Vision Gallery, Chandler, Arizona

(Above:  Decision Portraits at Vision Gallery, Chandler, Arizona.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

Steve and I returned last Tuesday afternoon from a long weekend in Arizona where we attended the opening reception of my Decision Portraits at Vision Gallery in Chandler.  We arrived early in order to get photos of the show ... especially since many of the series' participants aren't able to come to any of the exhibits.  The people who shared their very private choices live all over the world.  Thus, I wanted to snap as many shots as I could to share the experience of being in a space facing all these very real decisions.  It is truly an honor to have my work in this prestigious space.  

(Above:  Some of the Vision Gallery staff before the reception.)

I am totally in Eric Faulhaber's debt. (Standing on left.)  His trust in my work made this exhibition possible.  He's been with Vision Gallery for over twenty-four years.  He's absolutely wonderful ... as is the new member of the Vision Gallery group, Justin Sanchez, (standing on right) who handled much of the email correspondence leading up to the show.

(Above:  Youngest Child, Decision Portrait Series.)

Although I did not have any family members physically present, it felt like several were watching ... like both my youngest sister Sonya and my Dad!

(Above:  Volunteer, Cheater, On Fighting Cancer I, and Unplugged.)

My first cousin, Monika, is on the far right in the photo above as Unplugged.  She lives almost close enough for us to have visited this past weekend ... just a bit farther than we really wanted to drive ... but she was there in Vision Gallery.

(Above:  Cheater, On Fighting Cancer I, and Unplugged.  Please note:  The easels on the counter are the "stories" behind each piece.  These stories are all on the Decision Portrait blog ... a blog that really does read like a book!)

I'm providing some of the links to the various pages on the Decision Portrait blog that relate the "behind the scenes" story for each portrait.  As this exhibit, however, no Internet connection is needed.  The Vision Gallery staff selected to professionally print, mount, and display all these narratives beside or under each piece.  I was simply amazed by all the help they opted to do.  In all the other shows featuring this work, none of this detail appeared.  Each show has been wonderful and different ... but this one is especially strong on the conceptual reason for the series.  I really appreciate that!

(Above:  Recycler, Self Portrait, Expatriate, Immigrants, and Psychic.)

Right inside the main gallery door is my Self Portrait ... around the corner from my elder son, Mathias, as Expatriate.  I don't know how I missed snapping a photo of my sister Wanda's portrait, Twenty-Five Year Sober.  It was the first in the entire series which now numbers 108 pieces!

(Above:  Aylah and I Buckled Up.)

The most recently completed portrait, Aylah, was hanging beside I Buckled Up ... and this is exactly how I hoped to see these two portraits ... a powerful reminder, a really good and often daily decision to make.  Side by side, these people confront the realities of the choices we make and the potential consequences.

(Above:  Atheist, Creationist, Buddhist on wall on left.  Center:  Knight Riders. Gift of Life, Mackenzie at 15, Educating at Home, Making a Difference, Poet, and Soul Mates.)

This was the first time Aylah's portrait was hung in a Decision Portrait exhibit.  It was seen in public ... by lots and lots of people ... because I stitched it while sitting with a curated selection of the portraits last November at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Yet, it wasn't the only portrait to have its first occasion on a gallery wall.  Knight Riders has never been selected by a curator for one of the smaller shows and it was censored by the gallery director during the big show in 2010 at City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, South Carolina.  I know it is controversial.  It is a shocking way to personally examine the decisions one makes that other people might really, really hate.  Thankfully, Vision Gallery appreciates the edgy, thought-provoking, and conceptual nature of this series.  I hope these portraits make people THINK!

(Above:  Me and Rita Blockson, the Decision Portrait Series participant for the portrait For Science which is behind us on the wall.)

The highlight of the reception had to be meeting Rita Blockson who posed for a significant decision ... the choice to donate her body to science.  Her story is an amazing one and I was thrilled to chat with this talented art quilter and her husband.

Not all the Decision Portraits are at Vision Gallery.  A few generous people have already purchased their portrait ... which gave me the funds to go to Houston last November.  Fortunately, the Vision Gallery helped get me to Arizona for this show.  Plus, some of the portraits will be hanging in the Chandler Center for the Arts, a performing arts venue about a half mile up the street from Vision Gallery.  This is a BIG PLUS for my work and for me.  The exposure to people who wouldn't generally visit an art gallery but attend live theater, dance, drama, and musical events is wonderful.  About twenty of the portraits will open there later this month!  (So ... if you are a participant in this series and don't see your photo in the images further below, please know that you'll be in the Chandler Center for the Arts' lobby all summer!)  Scroll down for more images from Decision Portraits at Vision Gallery!

After Steve and I got home on Tuesday night, we installed The Canopy at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for a show called Artfields Extended.  It went up like a charm ... which was a good thing because its placement probably needed to be done before the rest of the artwork could most appropriately be situated.

(Above:  Artist Richard Morgan and my husband Steve on Tuesday night after hanging The Canopy.)

By the next day, the show was in place and I think Alexander Wild's two partially nude, female sculptures are exactly PERFECT under my piece.  Together our work suggests everything beautiful, flawed, and ethereal about the fleeting sense of memory, the truths about fairy-tales, and the way cherished people and things become part of the past.  Unfortunately, I will not be at the opening reception tomorrow night.  Fortunately, I'll be in Athens, Ohio at the opening of Quilt National ... which I'll blog about soon ... finally sharing my art quilt accepted into this international show!

(Above:  The Canopy at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios with Alexander Wild's sculptures underneath it.)

(Above and below:  More photos from Decision Portraits at Vision Gallery!  Click on any image to enlarge.)