Monday, November 16, 2015

PLAYA Series and what I've been up to recently

(Above:  Five of the ten pieces in my PLAYA SERIES ... framed and on the wall at Mouse House.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

Being at PLAYA, an art residency in remote Oregon, was quiet, emotionally happy, and quite productive.  I wish I was still there, but I've returned to Columbia, South Carolina and all the deadlines, custom picture framing, and busy-ness/business that is otherwise my normal life. Blogging, like several other things, has been pushed further and further back on my "to do" list.  Thus, this is going to be a long post because much of what I've been doing is art related!

(Above:  Playa I.  Four soil samples from PLAYA mixed with pond water, "painted" onto Wonder Under, ironed onto cotton rag paper, fused to fabric, free motion stitched and hand embroidered.  Unframed: 8" x 22 1/2". Framed: 15 1/4"x 29 1/4". $250 framed.)

During last week I finished a series started during the residency ... and totally about the experience of being there in nature, walking across the dried lake bed, and falling in love with the very soil of the place.

(Above:  Four soil samples from PLAYA.)

I started by collecting four different types of soil ... One of the samples came from the mowed grass paths.  One came from the salty crust of the playa.  One came from the grey sand that blows into eddy in the late autumn heat, and the final sample of cinnamon brown soil was dug up from just under the cracked, sere lake bed in areas that are able to sustain some plant growth.

(Above:  Soil samples painted on Wonder Under in my studio at PLAYA.)

I mixed each sample with pond water and "painted" each "color" onto the only piece of Wonder Under I had.  This was done using a wadded up piece of paper because I had no paint brush. Each color was allowed to dry before the next was added. This prevented the samples from becoming "mud" ... literally.  When totally dry, I brushed off most of the dirt ... allowing only a thin layer/color to remain.  This was then ironed onto 100% cotton rag paper.  I had enough to create eight, long pieces and two smaller ones.  I shipped them home with my sewing machine.

(Above:  The ten pieces on top of my dry mount press ... after being coated with matte medium.)

Last week I applied matte medium to each piece.  This was done to seal the soil and Wonder Under to the cotton paper. 

Once dry, I fused the paper to pieces of vintage damask.  Why vintage damask?  Well, that's what I have on hand.  My "stash" of fabric is almost entirely old, household linens!  I use a custom picture framing product called Fusion 4000.  It looks like ordinary plastic wrap but under heat and pressure, it fuses fabric to a substrata.  In this case, it fused the damask to the reverse of my artwork.  Later, I carefully cut away all the excess fabric. 

(Above:  Playa II.)

Next, I free motion stitched long, running lines on the lower third of almost every piece.  This was done to suggest a horizon line ... to give the impression of PLAYA.  It went quickly, but I was less than satisfied with the results.  Something was missing. The top and bottom wasn't balanced.  For two days I thought about the problem before coming up with a solution. 

(Above: Playa IV.)

The top needed "something" to balance out the free-motion stitching and to suggest the vast sky above the dried lake bed.  The solution became scattered cross-stitches ... almost like the twinkling stars that made each night at PLAYA so fantastic.  I used my favorite, subtly variegated King Tut cotton thread ... shades of brown.

(Above:  Playa V.)

Finally, I mounted each piece on a piece of mat board.  How?  Well, I stitched straight through the mat board and the piece ... at least four cross-stitches across the top!

(Above:  Playa VI.)

At first, I wasn't going to frame them.  In a sense, these are only the results of a successful experiment.  Most artists (even those who own custom picture framing businesses!) can't frame everything.  Yet, these pieces are special.  They really do reflect the landscape, the strong horizon line, and the very soil of a truly special place ... PLAYA.

(Above:  Playa VII.)

Steve selected the frame.  It's a nice, rustic styled white wood with enough depth to keep the glass from coming into contact with the artwork. 

(Above:  Playa VIII.)

I rearranged several walls at Mouse House in order to hang the work in close proximity to each other.  I really like looking at them.  They remind me of such a wonderful month and such a magical place. I have no other plans for showing these fine pieces.  It is a hard problem. So much of my work is now in storage, sitting on shelves, never seen by anyone or seen only by a few people who happen to come by Mouse House.

(Above:  Playa III.  This is the only one without the free-motion machine horizon line.  While at PLAYA I added a few stems of the high desert plant life.)

I've asked a couple professional artist how this situation affects them.  One honestly said that this reality is depressing and undermines his self esteem.  I quite agree.  Like him, it makes me doubt my talent ... doubt my creativity, craftsmanship, originality, and value ... until there's almost no confidence left.  We both admitted certain insecurities due to our prolific output.  We both have more art than we will ever show or sell.  We both work full-time jobs to make ends meet, and neither of us (no matter what) is going to stop the creative process.  It is an obsession.  The joy is in the making.  The sadness is in the issue of "storage".  We will deal with it ... one potential masterpiece at a time.

(Above:  Playa IX.  The two last pieces are smaller.  Unframed: 8" x 11"; Framed: 13 1/4" x 17 1/4". Each $175.)

The last two in the series are smaller.  They were from the end of the Wonder Under and reflect the creases and wrinkles in this surface ... which ended up looking like skeletal leaves!

(Above:  Playa X.)

Of course, working with this series wasn't the only thing I did last week.  I was able to attend the Ladies Luncheon at the Columbia Museum of Art where my piece, Ready for Burial, hangs in the show called Independent Spirits.  This show coordinates with the show Georgia O'Keeffe: Her Carolina Story.  In fact, the two shows flow easily one into the other ... basically as if one exhibit!  Imagine!  I'm hanging with Georgia O'Keeffe! 

(Above:  Ready for Burial, a grave rubbing art quilt now hanging in Independent Spirits at the Columbia Museum of Art.  69" x 42". Crayon on fabric grave rubbings, heat set; vintage dress and bed covering; hand and free motion embroidery.)

There are lots of activities and lectures associated with the exhibit including a "Salon Talk" at noon on December 11 when I'll share the podium with Kathleen Robbins and Mary Robinson.  There's a catalog and an audio tour too!  It is super cool to watch a complete stranger walk up to my work, push 211 (the number for the audio tour), and stand listening to Wim Roefs, owner of if Art Gallery, talk about my work ethic. (The audio clips are also on the museum's website ... HERE!)  There is also a great video made by Drew Baron, the museum's media staff person, that shows me making grave rubbings in Randolf Cemetery while talking about my process and concepts!  (The video is also on U Tube ... HERE!)

(Above:  Terry Jarrard-Dimond and her piece, Joy and Sorrow, in the Independent Spirits exhibit.)

The luncheon was a wonderful event.  Wil South, the Columbia Museum of Art's chief curator, gave a brief lecture on Georgia O'Keeffe's year at Columbia College and how influential that time in isolation was toward the development of her mature style.  There was time to walk through the show with professional women and with several of the other artists ... including Terry Jarrard-Dimond whose art quilts I've always admired.

(Above:  Five Points Pavement V.  Digital image transfer on fabric with both free-motion and hand embroidery.  Unframed:  9 1/4" x 12 1/2". Framed:  21" x 25". $300 Framed or $200 just matted.)

During the week I finished several of the "extra" images of Five Points pavement.  Five Points is a popular area of Columbia ... a place with independent restaurants and unique shops and plenty of bars frequented by college students.  The Five Points Association commissioned a piece of mine for an upcoming charity event (which will be held on December 3rd).  I created a diptych ... but I also had several smaller images transferred to fabric.  I've been stitching them up ever since.

(Above:  Five Points Pavement VI.  Image: 12" x 9. Matted and shrink-wrapped, 20" x 16" for $200.)

It's been fun bringing out the colors and textures of the pavement by both hand and machine embroidery.

(Above:  Five Points Pavement VII.  Image 9 1/4" x 12 1/2". Matted and shrink-wrapped, 16" x 20" for $200.)

Until this project, I never really paid attention to sidewalks, crosswalks, man-hole covers, and other surfaces underfoot!

(Above:  Five Point Pavement VIII.  Image: 8 1/2" x 11 3/8". Matted and shrink-wrapped, 16" x 20" for $200.)

I have one more, larger piece to finish.  I'm enjoying it in the evening while watching television.  I have one more artsy event to share.  It happened just over a week ago ... on a Saturday afternoon ... just outside my studio door.  In fact, I stayed in my studio!  I stood on my work table and watched from over the top of the wall separating my space from the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. 

A large crowd gathered.  It was time for two Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery of Atlanta, Georgia to sweep away the sand mandela they'd created earlier in the week.  It was awesome to watch the complicated patterns swept into a swirl of sand ... a lesson on the impermanence of this world, even our art!  Powerful, spiritual, and hopefully something I can mentally add to my own sadness when putting more and more artwork into storage.  Maybe ... it just doesn't matter.  Maybe ... it is all about process and nothing about produce.

(Above:  The swirls of colored sand that once were a mandela.)

I made a video of the dispersal.  It is HERE on U Tube.


Sherrie Spangler said...

Your PLAYA pieces are quietly beautiful. Thanks for sharing your creativity.

Wanda said...

I hate that...I wrote my comment but it got "wiped out" and now, I can't word my comment the way I did before. I love the Playa pieces. I agree with Sherrie....quietly beautiful. I don't think I remember you ever saying you actually miss a place. But you miss Playa. I think Playa was incredibly good for you. I believe we will be seeing what you brought back for a long time to come. And I don't necessarily mean materials etc. The pieces are quiet and powerful. They are almost hypnotic. I also really like the Five Points pieces. They seem to be quite different. Along a different line, so to speak. But I love the boldness, the simplicity and the statement they make.

Wanda said...

Ok, I just watched the monks and the sand swirling. Really incredible. It sent shivers down my spine even though there was a crowd of people. I mean, it was almost like such a moving and almost intimate ceremony should be done all alone. It was stunning to see what became of the sand mosaic, how it changed. I can almost "get" the meaning. I'm working on it!