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.


epocktextiles said...

"thread nests" - coined by Jude Hill to describe those tangles of threads that seem to eventuate no matter how careful you are

Wanda said...

Your Installation goes way beyond what I had imagined! It is completely, 100% wonderful!!! I love the fact that you had so much thread. So many People donated and it certainly paid off. I couldn't imagine having enough tangled thread to fill so many baskets! But you did and not one single part of it Looks like there was not enough thread. I don't know if I'm describing this thought very well. It is full and breath-taking and thought provoking. You know I love thread..all organized and inventoried. This Installation is sort of like my "wild side"....letting it all out...being FREE. Absolutely stunning. Have fun and good luck tonight!

Teresa Duryea Wong said...

Your patience and talent just shines in the beauty of this installation. Words cannot describe how cool it looks . Wish I was there!

Margaret said...

I enjoyed the video -- a delight to hear your voice! And to learn the rationale behind this installation...colourful, thoughtful, intriguing, fun! Wish I could be there to walk through it.

Wanda said...

I just looked through These Images again and see things I didn't see before. What an awesome Installation!