Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grid of Photos ... hanging and now in search of a title

(Above:  The Grid of Photos, a "working title".  6' x 15 1/2'.  Assorted, anonymous snapshots fused to fabric and stitched into a giant grid using tear-away material ... suspended on dowels from five wooden brackets.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

The idea for this large piece has been rolling around in my head for over a year.  Experimentation began in early May and I wrote about it HERE.  That experiment went well.  So, I started working on the piece shortly thereafter.  My June10th blog post follows the work while in progress.  Actually, by this date the work was finished.  Only the "hanging" remained.  I had several plans for suspending it in front of the wall, but a trip to the local hardware store cemented my decision to use wooden brackets and dowels.    

 (Above:  The grid of photos and tools in front of the wall ... ready to hang!)

I had to wait until there were no other exhibitions scheduled for the atrium at Gallery 80808, the public/rented art space outside my studio door.  Summers are hot and slow in Columbia, South Carolina ... and thus "the dog days of August" became a perfect time to install the piece ... after returning from Birmingham, UK's Festival of Quilts.  I would have done this the weekend before last ... but our beloved cat Shadow's trip to the emergency clinic and ensuing death delayed my plans.

 (Above:  Perle cotton dyed with watery black silk paints.)

I did, however, manage to dye some strong perle cotton thread with black silk paints to roughly match the slate gray cotton thread used to stitch the grid.  I dyed the thread in my typical, sloppy fashion.  The result is perfect, almost variegated ... a little distressed, time worn, and able to blend into both the wall and the grid of photos.  I actually used very little of it for the installation.  The rest is now being "over-stitched" into one of my antique crazy quilt sections.  It is perfect.

First, I mounted the center bracket.  My dowels were cut to 46".  I inserted a dowel halfway into the hole drilled into the bracket.  Then I mounted the next bracket ... just so that the other end of the dowel fit halfway into it.  Basically, the ends of the dowel "share" half the interior space of the holes drilled into the brackets.  I hope that makes sense.  The dowels are flexible enough to be gently bent out of the brackets. Once they were all up, I took the dowels out and went down on the floor ... placing the dowels in a row at the top of the grid of photos.  Using my dyed perle cotton, I stitched long loops at the corner of a few photos (only about ten photos total).  I inserted one of the dowels through the coordinating section of loops.  Unbelievably, I didn't require any help in getting the first dowel back up and into the brackets.  This grid is really, really strong.  While the grid was sort of semi-hanging from one section, I inserted the next dowel through some of the loops and put the dowel into place ... continuing until the whole thing was up.  Of course, it looked lousy but it was UP! 

(Above:  Grid of photos suspended in front of the wall.  View from a side angle.)

Standing on a six-foot ladder and using my dyed perle cotton, I created a stitched loop to the corners of approximately every other photo.  I adjusted the threads on the photos initially used to hang the work.  It took much less time than I anticipated ... and fewer "loops".  Originally, I thought I'd need every corner of every photo to be attached ... but this wasn't the case.    

(Above:  Grid of photos casting a shadow onto the wall.)

I know that I could have easily stapled the grid to a wall or used decorative nails, but I wanted the piece to be suspended.  There's a physical difference between "on the wall" and "in front of the wall". Conceptually, this is an important part of the work.  For me, the grid of photos is like a semi-transparent curtain, something between the present and the past ... and it casts a shadow which is indicative of the fading memories that these images represent.  I don't know who any of the people are.  The memory of these once special occasions is all but gone ... like our ever fading memories ... like time slipping into oblivion.

(Above:  The grid of photos, detail.)

All during this time I tried to settle on an appropriate title.  I've called this piece "The Grid of Photos" from the beginning but never as an official title, just a working definition.  Now I'm stuck.  I've considered:

Fading Memories
Snapshots from the Past
In the Blink of the Eye
Once Special Moments
Slipping into Oblivion
As We Once Were

I'm more than happy to hear other ideas, other suggestions, other possible titles.  I think I'm too close to my own concepts and thoughts right now.  I don't really want to put a negative spin on the piece or even a title too suggestive of the bittersweet nature of memory slipping away ... but that's where my mind goes.  Suggestion?  PLEASE!

 (Above: Two people in the atrium ... taken from my studio door.)

I should have stuck my head out my studio door earlier ... while this couple was pointing out fashions and car styles in many of the images.  They were enjoying the work without dwelling on the passage of time.  Unfortunately, they didn't have a title suggestion!

Now ... below is a brief recap of how this grid of photos came into being!

I started by fusing hundred of collected, anonymous old photos to fabric.  I used Fusion 4000 in my 36" x 48" Seal press.  The fabric came from a local auction house ... just ordinary poly/cotton from some unknown woman's stash.  The Fusion 4000 and heat press are part of my custom-picture framing business.

Then, with the help of a former studio assistant, we cut all the photos out.  This took days.

Next, I dabbed a drop of acrylic medium on the back of each photo and glued them to pieces of Stitch-and-Tear.  Then, I stitched around each photo ... while stitching little "connecting bridges" between them ... making a grid.


 With my my husband Steve's help, we spent several evenings removing all the Stitch-and-Tear.  (It really isn't a difficult job! LOL!)

In order to create a giant grid, I arranged all the smaller grids on more Stitch-and-Tear ... back in the atrium outside my studio wall ... in front of the wall on which they now hang!

This photo is a detail shot.  By enlarging it, you can see that the spaces between the smaller grids are not stitched.  Occasionally, small photos were inserted into these voids in order to make the spaces more uniform.

The most difficult part of this project was stitching those spaces between the smaller sections.  I was on the floor with the gird partly rolled.  It was quite an experience trying to "get to the middle"!

Finally, I spent a couple evenings removing the Stitch-and-Tear that was used to attach all the smaller grids into one, giant grid ... back at home.  After this ... I only had to hang it ... and now THAT'S DONE!

In the past, I've often only had a single blog post to link weekly on Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber art works.  This week I had three from which to select!  This one, however, with its request for potential titles, is the winner!


deanna7trees said...

amazing and beautiful. love the idea.

Maggi said...

I'm so glad that you decided to hang it in front of the wall, the shadows become so important. That's a thought, how about using shadows in the title?

Julie said...

I like it hanging away from the wall too. You mentioned 'connecting' in its construction so maybe 'Connections' or similar. Maybe that's a bit obvious on second thoughts.

Lynn Cohen said...

You don't do small do you?!
You never cease to amaze!
I will have to read this at least ten more times before I fully understand its construction.
How you got it into the machine boggles the mind.

I'd just call it "Life!"

Again, YOU are AMAZING!

Unknown said...

love it. A wall of a thousand stories! You always amaze me Susan!

Wanda said...

Oh boy...a name for this is going to be tricky. It is such a 'deep' piece. I mean, I feel so many different ways when I look at it. Some sad, some happy, some longing, some completely satisfied. Depending on my mood, the 'perfect' name seems to change. It's an outstanding piece though. Everyone is connected and yet, no one is. I also love it hanging in front of the wall. It makes it sort of eerie and lost but at the same time, completely normal and right. It is really very 'multi-fold'

Mosaic Magpie said...

I agree about you not doing anything in a small way! The places your mind travels always intrigues me. Hanging away from the wall, allows passage. The photos represent souls and the threads bind them loosely to one another. A, that is a tough one.
Thanks for changing back the way to leave a comment.

Jamie Fingal said...

The Space between the Borders
One Day in a Life
One Dimension of Life
a Thousand Stories
The Story of our Lives
Who We Are

Anonymous said...

Eu adoro as suas "loucuras"!!!!! São sempre surpreendentes!
Um abraço!

I love their "crazy"!!! Are always amazing!

Regina B Dunn said...

An amazing display. How about "We All Leave a Shadow"?

Sylvia said...

"Every Family has a Story"

I love this piece! Well done!

Norma Schlager said...

Absolutely amazing.You should have saved it for Quilt National. I like the title that Regina suggested,, "We All Leave a Shadow". Whatever you decide it is one stunning piece! Thanks for sharing your process and progress.

janice pd said...

Lives between the Shadows

Interesting piece!

Unknown said...


Unknown said...


Aussie Jo said...

I will just list some words, perhaps one will resonate with you, great piece by the way:
Lest we forget (oops, sorry that one's because we are coming up to ANZAC Day here)
We are one but we are many
Relate this
Memories are forever
Preserving memory
Good Luck with the naming!