Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Night of Terror, installation and a trip to McKissick Museum

(Above:  Night of Terror, installation, alcoves one through three. Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Had anyone asked me a year ago whether the sesquicentennial commemorating General William T. Sherman's Civil War burning of Columbia would prove fruitful and inspiring for art, I would have laughed. Yet, this invitational exhibition has been most exciting. This is likely due to the four summer lectures provided by Jasper Magazine and Muddy Ford Press, the sponsors of the show.  Artwork has simply been pouring out of me.  This opportunity also took a hair-brained idea for rusting and staining vintage garments with dye concoctions using plant life from my own backyard into the realm of reality.  Knowing the Tapp's Art Center well (from two previous solo shows), I knew I wanted to fill the front six alcoves with these garments in order to express the fears experienced by women, children, and other marginalized citizens on February 17th, 1865.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove one.)

I blogged about my experiments with rusting and natural dyes HERE and HERE.  I created a Flickr! album with photographs of thirteen of the garments.  Yet, until last night the actually installation was just an image in my head.

 (Above:  Night of Terror, alcove one, bottom ledge.)

On Sunday and Monday I installed Cotton and Nails in a Coffin, two other installation for the same show, Art from the Ashes.  Yesterday, I got to PLAY with the collection of garments, rusted nails, wire, and other items in the actual alcoves ... making my vision come to life ... my third installation.  It was SO MUCH FUN and very rewarding.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove two.)

Deciding which garments went well together, which should be nailed to the wall, which would be suspended, and what would sit on the bottom ledge was like having a conversation with my raw materials.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove two, bottom ledge.)

I started around 3:30 PM and finished by 7:00.  By that time, I was alone in the space with all the lights on and snapping photos.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove three.)

A detail shot of the sleeping gown suspended on the left is featured on the cover of Art from the Ashes, a book featuring short prose and poetry reflecting on the sesquicentennial.  The opening and book launch is this coming Sunday, February first from 5 - 7.  I can't wait!

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove three, detail.)

I didn't snap a ton of detail shots. Why? Well, I didn't have my tripod and the interior was a bit dark due to the late hour, but I couldn't resist this shot.

(Above: Night of Terror, alcove three, detail.)

A month or so ago my cyber friend Dale Rollerson shared a bit of knitting that inspired me. I don't knit (even though I learned on two different occasions). I'm not good with counting or tension or any of the other skills that are highly valued for quality knitting ... but ... what Dale was doing was different!  She used two extremely different sized needles for a wonky result. She made a small sample and fused it into other fiber work. This technique seemed promising.  I used a large wooden dowel with a sharpened end and a Chinese chopstick, didn't count a thing, dropped stitches, went off in different directions and then stapled the thing to the wall.  It sort of reminds me of military mesh but also the ways so many textiles unravel, deteriorate, and fall to pieces when exposed to elements that distress them ... like the city on fire!  Thanks Dale, for this idea!  (By the way, Dale is the owner of my very favorite contemporary embroidery supply site, The Thread Studio in Perth, Australia.)

(Above:  Looking from in front of alcoves 1 - 3 toward alcoves 4 - 6 on the opposite side of the Main Street entrance into the Tapp's Art Center.)

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcoves 4 - 6.)

Alcoves 4 - 6 are on the opposite side of the Main Street entrance into the Tapp's Art Center.  I enjoyed creating these vignettes just as much as the first three.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove four.)

Alcove four includes a garment that isn't rusted or naturally stained.  This central sleeping gown was "flower pounded".  I call it Antebellum and consider it representational of the times before the Civil War.  I blogged about it HERE.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove four's bottom ledge.)

I used one of the tablecloths I rusted.  I have two other tablecloths with rust and natural staining but didn't use them.  Sometimes I don't need everything I gather together for an installation.  I think I might free motion stitch one of the tablecloths into its own art quilt ... if I can find the time! LOL!

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove five.)

One of the last things I tried was using acorns and seed pods from wintering crepe myrtle.  It worked well ... even on the garment sent by another cyber friend, Martha Ginn.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove five's bottom ledge.)

The pods and acorns produced a strong enough black dye that even the polyester content in this garment was affected.  I loved using it on the bottom ledge ... almost like it was "dead" or run over by war.  Thank you, Martha!

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove six.)

This is the last of the six alcoves.  It includes one of the children's garments that seemed to fall apart during the rusting and natural dyeing experiments.

(Above:  Night of Terror, alcove six's bottom ledge.)

I started trying to add stitches in an off-white thread ... obvious patch marks ... but never finished.  Yet, it looks great on the bottom ledge, another totally damaged work suggestive of ruin, fear, and the horrors of war.

(Above:  Exhibition signage at the McKissick Museum.)

I look back on yesterday and marvel. It was a very good day. Installing Night of Terror was great but it wasn't the only artistic thing I did.

(Above:  Me putting the quilting stitches on Stitching Together, my piece in the juried museum show Crafting Civil (War) Conversations.)

In the morning I went to the McKissick Museum to put the first quilting stitches on my work Stitching Together.  This sculptural art quilt includes brown crayon grave rubbings from unknown Confederate soldiers' markers in Elmwood Cemetery here in Columbia as well as black crayon grave rubbings of lambs, praying hands, doves, olive branches and other symbols of peace from the nearby, historic African-American Randolph Cemetery.  The rubbings are on a vintage tablecloth and free motion stitched to recycled, white acrylic felt that was once packaging material for a canoe being shipped to my local outdoors shop.  These two layers were next basted to another vintage tablecloth and put onto the mid-19th antique, wooden quilting frame.  Thus, the three layers are ready to be quilted.  I made the chairs as well from pieces of a newer quilting frame donated by Kathleen Loomis.

While I stitched, one of the McKissick's curators and staff person were hanging other work in the exhibition.  This show asked artists to submit work in response to a Martin Luther King quotation in which he looked forward to a day when sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners could sit down to a table together.

For me, I see my piece as a place for daughters of former slaves and daughters of former slave owners might sit down and mend our country's racial differences.  Below is the signage that accompanies my piece.

I could have stitched all day ... but then I won't have gotten to play with my installation!  I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.


Martha said...

These are lovely pieces. I too love rust dyeing. One of my favorite tools is a rusty blade from a weed whacker that I found in the street. And I love the look of the nails too.

Sandy said...

The garment displays are very beautiful. I love the different degrees of disintegration. The dark one really looks like it has been through a fire.

You should submit a proposal for this exhibition to be at the Knitting and Stitching show (am I repeating myself? LOL)

PJ Howard said...

The garment displays are both beautiful and scary! And I really like the verbiage that accompanies your Stitching Together piece. Who would have guessed that carnage could be so beautifully inspirational?

Martha Ginn said...

I had forgotten that I had sent you the little pink lace dress. Much more purposeful and powerful in your display than in my closet. I'm glad these once beautiful things can take on a new identity and pay tribute to those lost in the horrors of war.

Heather Pregger said...

What an amazing exhibit!

Debbie said...

Amazing and powerful, what talent. I love rusting and natural dyeing but have never taken it to this level, very inspiring.

Kaja said...

Your garment groupings are very beautiful and I always find your work thought-provoking and emotionally charged.

Wanda said...

Perfectly displayed. And yes...thought provoking and powerful. Your quilting frame is awesome! I love the last picture of you sitting there, sewing away, with no one around. I think you would be very happy to do that for hours and probably days on end!