Sunday, September 28, 2014


(Above:  Jeana Boyd, my studio assistant, and me under Threads: Gathering My Thoughts.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

I've titled this blog post "Housekeeping" but it has absolutely nothing to do with the traditional sense of the word.  In fact, I consider myself a "wild animal" ... totally incapable of performing any domestic task.  That's my husband Steve's department.  Yet, this blog is in need a bit of "housekeeping".  Why?  Well, I'm behind on my blogging.  I've seen dozens and dozens of photos from last week's art reception on Facebook but I haven't posted the ones on my camera ... including this great shot of Jeana and me!

(Above:  Cindi Boiter of Jasper Magazine, Wade Sellers of Coal Powered Filmworks, and Lee Snelgrove of OneColumbia ... setting up before the opening reception of Operatic Threads.)

I really wanted to share the excitement that went into making this special evening.  The event partnered so many great people and organizations.  Everyone had a place at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios ... a function ... a way to promote arts of all kind ... and allow room for pedestrian traffic because we really had quite a good crowd!

This is Cindi Boiter ... showing off her new edition of Jasper Magazine which launched that evening.

This is Wade Sellers, Jasper's film editor and the man who made the fantastic video that shows off the preparations for my installation, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts ... which played in this hallway, right outside my studio door.  (If you haven't seen this video ... well ... I'm really thrilled with how it showcases the installation but also much about my work and approaches to making art.  CLICK HERE to see it!)

This is the photo booth for OneColumbia's launch of their "Cultural Passport".

Of course I had to have my passport photo taken too!

This is Caitlin Bright, executive director of the Tapps Art Center ... showing her new Cultural Passport.  People collect stamps from various arts events in exchange of gifts and shop discounts, etc.  At least one college class is using these passports as part of general arts courses!

And ... here are the three artists involved in the exhibition!  Tish Lowe, Michael Krajewski, and me!

Tish Lowe's classical, realistic oils filled the main gallery.

Tish did a fantastic job of hanging and lighting her work.

We placed the chairs around the walls ... not wanting to make the seating too confined ...

... for when members of Palmetto Opera performed that night!

Most people stood ... but others simply sat on the floor ...

... and the vast majority congregated just outside in the wide hallway.

I was there in the hallway too ... with Tim McClendon, who played piano for most of the remaining part of the evening.  It was great music accompanying great art!

Steve and I handed my camera back and forth ... snapping all sorts of photos at the reception.  The photo above was one of my favorites because I'm standing with Michael Krajewski whose graffiti based on the opera La Boheme is directly on all four walls surrounding my installation. (I'll be shooting photos of it on Wednesday after my threads and baskets come down.  A professional photographer will be shooting it too because Muddy Ford Press intends to create a book showcasing the work as a 21st century version of the classical, Italian opera!)  I am also standing beside Al Black, a talented poet who recent book was just published by Muddy Ford Press.  He and I are collaborating on an installation that will be on view next February!  The entire evening was a success and  I created a Flickr! album to remember it by.  CLICK HERE to access.

The Flickr! "reception" album includes plenty of "people pictures" ... since the view through my installation just seemed to create fantastic photo ops!  I also created a Flickr! album of all the images I took of the installation and the process of suspending the 130+ baskets and miles of thread.  CLICK HERE to access that photo album.

(Above:  Key to Fearlessness.)

Now ... please don't think that I haven't been making art since this reception!  Far from it!  Hence, a little more "housekeeping" is in order.  First, someone attending the reception took one of the tagged keys off my Wall of Keys (which is in my studio.)  She wanted it framed with some "textiles" like many of my other tagged keys.  This is what I came up with.

Next ... I was accepted into both the wholesale/retail ACC (American Craft Council) show in Baltimore and their retail only show in Atlanta!  That means ... it is time to make more fiber Stained Glass and In Box series pieces!  To get started, however, meant that I needed at least a day doing "prep work" since I used up many essential items for this work.  The photo above shows two bolts of Wonder Under ... after I painted all the yardage with very watery, acrylic paint.

The photo above shows a stack of cut felt.  This felt was once the packaging material for a kayak or canoe being shipping from a North Carolina manufacturer to my local outdoor shop, River Runner.  Guy Jones, the owner, saves it for my work!  Here, I've cut two big pieces into several needed sizes.  The stack includes enough for 3 large stained glass windows, 4 Lunettes, 4 Lancet Windows, 6 small windows, 4 large "In Box" pieces, 6 medium "In Box" pieces and 6 small "In Box" pieces.  On each piece, I've already ironed the first layer of Wonder Under ... the the exact size of the needed piece.  I'm ready to start working!

As a result, I've got this Lunette already stitched ... and ready to be melted.  It is a "first refusal" for a client at Iago Gallery in Blowing Rock, NC where I'm represented.

And ... I've got this large Stained Glass Window under construction as a "first refusal" for a local client!  I've got other work in progress too ... but I'll share that later this week!  So much for "housekeeping"! LOL!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s

(Above:  Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, and Ethel Waters.)

Several months ago I was contacted by Robert Philipson of Shoga Films in Oakland, CA.  He wanted to use four of my Blues Chapel portraits in his film T' Ain't Nobody's Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s.  We agreed on a price, signed a copyright licensing agreement, and exchanged high resolution images for a check.  Yesterday, my copy of the film arrived.  My work is included in the film an on the DVD cover.  I am so excited and happy to have been part of this project.  The film has already won "Best Short Documentary" at the Out in the Desert Film Festival and was "Runner Up" for LGBT film at the San Francisco Black Film Festival, both 2013.  It has an impressive line up of other film festivals in which it is to appear.  I'm so glad "my girls" got to be in this great production!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stitching Together

 (Above:  Stitching Together, a sculpture art quilt.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I've blogged about this piece a couple times during the past two months.  It was created in response to a very specific call-for-entry from the McKissick Museum here in Columbia, SC.  The upcoming exhibition is called Crafting Civil (War) Conversations.  The information includes this paragraph:

Seeking entries from artists working in what historically have been regarded as craft-based media (clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood), our exhibit will be a juried art exhibition that symbolically re-enacts the Civil War’s end as a scene of reconciliation—not between the North and the South—but between former slaves and former slave owners. The Museum ask artists to imagine and give visual and sculptural form to this scene, perhaps giving form to what Martin Luther King conjured when he dreamt of a day when “the sons of former slaves and the sons of slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

I generally don't make work for specific calls-for-entry.  I already have more than enough ideas to last three or four lifetimes ... but reading this entry was different.  Immediately, I saw the completed piece in my mind.  Rarely does this happen.  Instead, I generally have a "foggy vision" that develops more organically.  Equipped with this full-blown image, I knew I had to make the work.  Of course, it depended on getting an antique quilting frame.  Making this piece has been an adventure and I loved every minute.

I first blogged about the grave rubbings HERE.  The brown crayon rubbings were from Elmwood Cemetery's unknown Confederate graves.  The black crayon rubbings were of doves, olive branches, lambs, praying and joined hands, and other decorative motifs found in nearby Randolph Cemetery, the historic African-American resting place.

Later I blogged about the stitching and making the two chairs from another quilting frame acquired from Kathleen Loomis.  That post is HERE.  Now ... the piece is finished.  I took the photos in the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios ... just outside my studio door ... right before installing my current installation, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts.  It is wonderful to have such a spacious, white gallery space under four illuminating skylights for taking submission photos.  Last Thursday, everything for the installation's opening was ready.  I was just nervously waiting for 5:00 PM ... so I submitted my entry!  I'll blog around it later ... when I learn if it has been accepted or not.  One way or the other, it doesn't matter.  I loved the process.  I love the piece ... and certainly the "daughters of slaves and slave owners can sit down together at a table of sisterhood ... and stitch our country back together in peace".

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

Tunnel to Tower 5K

 (Above:  Me before last Friday night's Tunnel to Tower 5K race.)

I've never been in a race.  I don't jog.  In fact, I would never consider running unless something terrible was chasing me.  But ... I can walk pretty darn fast ... at least I can on my treadmill.

So, at last month's Congaree Vista Guild meeting a representative from the Stephen Stiller Tunnels to Tower 5K race gave a brief talk.  He was encouraging the neighborhood to participate while informing everyone about the street closings for Friday, September 19th. The event honors our military and first responders who have sacrificed in the line of duty.  It was an impressive presentation, the sort that brings tears to the eyes. My friend Mary Langston and I challenged one another to sign up.  Neither of us had ever been in a race. Thus, we considered ourselves "virgins"(at least that's what we told our husbands! LOL!)

 (Above:  Andrea manning her tailgate vendor's booth outside the Ohio State game!)

Of course, I needed a new outfit!  There's no way on earth I want anyone to see me in public wearing the rags I wear on my treadmill!  No problem!  A couple of weeks ago while visiting Columbus, Ohio, I bought a pair of Ohio State shorts and then found the PERFECT BLOCK "O" t-shirt from Cool Tie Dye!

 (Above:  Me, ready for the 5K ... in my studio making a fiber vessel.)

The race fell on the day after my installation, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts opened.  Thus, I was manning the exhibit on Friday, changed into my new outfit inside my studio, and tried to calm my nerves by making a fiber vessel.


This is Mary Langston and me before the race.  We did not walk together.  Although nervous about walking outside, on pavement, in front of people, etc., I knew I wanted to walk fast ... as fast as I could.


Steve took my camera up to the top of a nearby parking garage and shot a few photos.  Mary and I are down in the crowd below.  In the foreground is one of the army units from Fort Jackson.  There were over 3000 soldiers participating in this race ... making it the second largest race in the organization, right after the race in New York City.


Before the race started, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter and several other dignitaries spoke to the crowd.  Then ... off went the runners.  Next went the 3000 soldiers.

I waited ...

... until the signal went off for the walkers.  Lots of walkers started before the signal.  Many tried walking, then jogging, and walking again.  Dozens of firefighters were attempting the 5K in full gear.  I passed most of them.  I told people I wanted to finish in under an hour.  Secretly, I was hoping for 45 minutes!

Part of the reason I was excited was the chance to walk over both the Blossom Street and Gervais Street bridges.  I've lived in Columbia for over 26 years.  I've driven over both countless times.  They are both within two or so miles of my house, but I've never walked over either.  Steve waited ... staring down Gervais Street toward the bridge.

The runners and the army came after the sunset.

But I was among the first of the walkers to arrive! Forty-two minutes!  I my never do this again but I'm glad I did it on Friday!  Super exciting!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thread: Gathering My Thoughts ... fiber art installation

(Above: My fiber art installation, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts, at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

First and foremost, THANK YOU to all those who answered my call for old, neglected threads and sent them for me to unravel and use in this installation.  Second, THANK YOU to Wade Seller's and his company Coal Powered Filmworks for creating an amazing, three minute video about my work and me!  Finally, (drum roll, please!) ... It's up!  It took all weekend and most of Monday.  This blog post shares the experience!

IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ ... please just scroll down through the photos!  Threads are truly lovely!

(Above:  The baskets and thread.)

On Saturday morning my husband Steve and I hauled all the baskets (over 130 of them) and three, large, black leaf bags of unraveled thread to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  This is where my studio is located.  Part of my rental agreement is the right to use the gallery space for two weeks each year.  I knew I wanted to create this installation but also knew I didn't want to have a solo show.  I wanted to partner with other organizations and artists.

Please notice the start of Michael Krajewski's stream-of-consciousness pencil graffiti based on the opera La Boheme.  It is directly on the gallery walls ... an 18' x 18' atrium with four skylights overhead.  Our work is part of a larger art event that I'm hosting ... called Operatic Threads.  From my idea for this organic fiber installation, several partnerships grew! 

(Above:  Atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios with the 130+ baskets suspended.)

The reception is tomorrow evening, September 18th from 5 - 9 PM.  I partnered with  Jasper Magazine, a free area arts print publication.  They are launching their Sept/Oct. issue at the reception.  Jasper is featuring an article on Palmetto Opera and their upcoming performance of La Boheme.  So ... I partnered with Palmetto Opera and their talented vice-president Tish Lowe.  There will be singers in the main gallery ... surrounded by Tish's classical, realistic oil paintings.

(Above:  The atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios after several hours on the 12' ladder suspending the 130+ baskets.)

The event is also partnered with the city's One Columbia arts and history agency for the launch of their "Cultural Passport" project.  Plus, the reception is part of the Columbia Vista Guild's "Vista Nights" initiative, a "third Thursday" art and restaurant crawl in our part of town.  In order to bring a touch of "opera" into my fiber art installation, I asked local graffiti artist Michael Krajewski to draw directly on the atrium walls ... stream-of-consciousness pencil marks that might go through the head of an opera fan watching La Boheme.  So ... there's a wall for all four acts following Rodolfo and Mimi and the bohemian lives of Paris in 1830 ... in graffiti!  It is unbelievably COOL and I will blog about it after my installation comes down ... when I can photograph it before painting over it with Kilz.  

(Above:  The contents of three, large leaf bags ... unraveled threads!)

It took most of Saturday to suspend the baskets and dump all the threads onto the floor.

The baskets looked awesome, especially from the top of the ladder.

I did, however, start filling them with thread ... at first sparsely.

I left Gallery 80808/Vista Studios with half the baskets ... half filled.

It looked promising ...

... but it certainly looked better once I finished on Monday afternoon!

There is a pathway down the center.  People can walk through the maze of tangles and dangling thread.  I hope my concept is clear but that really doesn't matter as long as people enjoy it.  My exhibition signage reads:

Threads:  Gathering My Thoughts
 A site-specific installation by Susan Lenz

For this installation, Susan Lenz turned her attention to the most basic fiber art material: the thread. She unraveled miles scavenged from yard sales and donated by friends across North America. A giant pile of thread accumulated on Lenz’s living room floor.  It resembled the former abundance in Southern textile mills and a physical manifestation of millions of thoughts running through anyone’s brain.  The laborious process gave way to hours of contemplation on the many uses and multiple meanings of this common material.   This work explores an ongoing engagement - and entanglement - with fibers.  The massive accumulation of thread both informs and confounds, acting as a labyrinth of the human mind, logically connected to everyday definitions and irrationally linked to the failures of memory, aging, and a world interwoven with threads.  The installation seeks to both occupy and obstruct space using brightly colored fibers in new ways.  Susan’s work also challenges the way text functions as a visual symbol.  Instead of using the written word to lend meaning, she uses the physical object to broaden the response to narrow, literary definitions.

  1. a long, thin strand of fiber used in sewing or weaving
  2. a thing resembling a thread in length or thinness, like a river in the distance
  3. a group of linked messages on an Internet forum
  4. a helical ridge on the outside of a screw or bolt or on the inside of a coordinating hole
  5. a slangy way to refer to articles of clothing
  6. a tenuous or feeble support, like a spider’s web or as in “hanging by a thread”
  7. a continuing element, as in a melancholy style of writing or a reoccurring symbol in a movie
  1. to pass a thread through the eye of a needle
  2. to pass something long and thin into place, like a rope into a pulley or film into a camera
  3. to move carefully around obstacles, like a waitress in a crowded diner
  4. to interweave an object with others, like a hair threaded with gray
  5. to put small objects together, like a string of beads or cubes of meat on a skewer

This installation was possible by the support, encouragement, services, and attention of many groups and individuals.  It is with sincere thanks that the following are gratefully acknowledged:  Cynthia Boiter and Bob Jolly and Jasper Magazine; Sarah Luadzers Lewis and the Congaree Vista Guild; Tom and Linda Starland and Carolina Arts; Wade Sellers and Coal Powered Filmworks; Charlotte Lindsey and Studio Cellar; Steve Dingman; and those who contributed their old thread and baskets including: BJ Adams; Sandra Baker; Wilma Black; Margaret Blank; Vernon and Anita Bowen; Antoinette Brown; Clay Burnette; Nancy Cook; Susan V. Day; Bert Easter and Ed Madden; Focus on Fibers Retreat; Martha Ginn; Noel Gilliam; Mart Gooch; Goose Track Quilts; Lindsay Hager; Jill Hoddick; Ellen Kochansky; Anne Larson; Gay Lasher; Sylvia Lewis and the quilters from Sanpete, Utah; Sallie Maral;  Paul Moore; Bonnie Ouelette; Norbet Ozark; Nicholl Ranson and friends; Myrtle Robinson; Elaine Tanner; Suzanne Taetzsch; Marilyn Wall; and Nanette Zeller.

I am really looking forward to the opening tomorrow, especially because I'm partnered with so many other artists and organizations.  We've learned so much from one another, especially the many connections that tie us together ... like ... La Boheme's lead female, Mimi, was an embroiderer.  Her famous aria includes the fact that she stitched roses and lilies.  We also are amazed at the opening scene in the four bohemian's Parisian garret.  The musician returns with plenty of food, drink and cigars ... a windfall from a gig playing his violin to a rich, eccentric Englishman's dying parrot.  Dead birds have been painted in classical oils for ages ... including a very favorite of mine by Albert Pinkham Ryder.  It's is owned by the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

(Above:  Albert Pinkham Ryder's Dead Bird ... in a fabulous gilded, antique frame.)

So ... my mentor, Stephen Chesley, painted Dead Parrot to hang by the entryway to the exhibit!  I've also hung a Victorian birdcage nearby ... and let a large handful of unraveled thread drape from its open door.  (Plus, I included a small sign as to WHY we have a dead parrot painting ... and why it is also in the graffiti!)

Now ... the rest of this blog post is just a collection of photos from the installation.  I plan on posting an upcoming blog entry to include images of people walking through the maze at the reception.  Enjoy the photos ... uploaded in no particular order!

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