Sunday, January 29, 2017

Roman Numerals

 (Above:  Detail of In Box CCLXXXVI.  Click on any image for an enlargement.)

I didn't admit my secret desire to "become an artist when I grew up" until 2001.  I was forty-two years old at the time.  I worried that it was just a pipe-dream, that I started too late, and that my lack of an academic background would prevent me from being taken seriously.  None of those things impacted my creative endeavors ... amazingly ... not in the least.

 (Above:  In Box CCLXXXVI.  Inventory # 3950. Framed: 33" x 21". $550 plus tax and shipping.)

Back in 2001 I was wonderfully mentored by impressionistic landscape oil painter Stephen Chesley and other well established, professional artists.  I was told that storage would become an issue.  I didn't believe it.  Well ... guess what?  Storage has become a significant issue.  My husband jokes that I need at least one solo show at all times.  Otherwise, all my finished artwork will not fit into the nearly 4000 square feet that is our home/business.  Right now, I have twenty-four pieces on loan for a show at Benedict College.  (I'll blog about this later!)  I delivered the work five days before I had to pick up the vast majority of artwork from my solo show at City Art.  Thus, I found places for all the returning work.   

 (Above:  Another detail of In Box CCLXXXVI.)

Back in 2001 I was also told that most serious, professional artists spend as much time on "the business of artwork" as in their studios actively engaged in the process of making the work.  I didn't believe it.  Well ... guess what?  It's true.  Between writing exhibition proposals and various artist statements, articles, and researching residencies, juried exhibitions, and other opportunities ... blogging and website maintenance ... photographing and cataloging the work ... sharing images to social media ... and keeping equipment and materials in order ... well ... I spend as much or even more time on these activities as I do in my studio.  Art is HARD!  In 2001, I had no idea.

 (Above:  Lunette XXVI.  Inventory # 3949. Framed:  22" x 28". $495 plus tax and shipping.)

There was one thing, however, that I wasn't told in 2001.  I wish someone had mentioned that using Roman numerals is a true pain.  I'm mildly to moderately dyslexic.  IV and VI look very much the same to me!  XI and IX are problematic too.  No computer program sorts file names accurately when Roman numerals are involved.  Some of the numbers are impossibly long.  Others are oddly short.  Forgetting a digit is easy too.
 (Above:  Lancet XCI.  Inventory # 3944.  Framed: 31" x 11". $395 plus tax and shipping.)

It's too late to undone my system.  So, I will continue despite the many issues.  To date, I have four sizes of "Stained Glass Windows" with Roman numerals:  Windows, Lancet Windows, Lunettes, and Large Stained Glass Windows.  I have my "In Box Series" which is now number over two-hundred-fifty and there are "Relics" and "Artifacts" too.  They all have Roman numerals. 

 (Above:  Lancet Window XCII.  Inventory # 3945.  Framed:  31" x 11". $395 plus tax and shipping.)

If I had to do it all over again, I would NEVER have started with Roman numerals!  (Okay ... I kind of like them.  They seem so steeped in history and remind me of elementary school days and the tales of the ancient world. LOL!)  Still, if I have one piece of advise for an artist just starting out:  DON'T USE ROMAN NUMERALS!  They'll drive you crazy!

 (Above:  Lancet Window XCIII.  Inventory # 3946.  Framed:  31" x 11". $395 plus tax and shipping.)

This blog post includes the work that was finished during last week and over this weekend.  I'm already making other pieces.  Everything is headed to either my solo show at the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, NC, February 17 - March 26, 2017 or to the American Craft Council Baltimore Show, February 24 - 26.  I'll be at the Grovewood Gallery doing demonstrations on both February 17and 18 from 11 - 4.  I'm excited!

 (Above:  In Box CCLXXXIV. Inventory # 3947. Framed:  21 3/4" x 17 3/4". $325 plus tax and shipping.)

 (Above:  In Box CCLXXXV. Inventory # 3948. Framed:  21 3/4" x 17 3/4". $325 plus tax and shipping.)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Some ideas stew for quite a while!

 (Above:  Detail of In Box CCLXXXIII.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Many people know that my entire "In Box" series was inspired by Friedenreich Hundertwasser, the Austrian painter and architect whose fixed income condominium complex in Vienna was on my "bucket list" for years.  Hundertwasser's eco-friendly ideas, recycled tile mosaics, and colorful palette are central to the concepts in my work.  More importantly, Hundretwasser's philosophy stressed individualism.  He disdained straight lines in favor of more organic forms.  He stressed individualism and the reconciliation of humans within nature.  He thought that if people had to live in "boxes" (and we all do!) that the structures ought to reflect the unique people inside.  He advocated for the facade around every window to be decorated accordingly ... so that each unit was recognizable/individual from the outside.   My "In Box Series" represents an aerial view to an imaginary Hundretwasser city ... where the streets aren't neatly planned, the boxes don't have uniform 90-degree angles, and all the motifs express the unique inhabitants of each box.

(Above:  In Box CCLXXXIII.  Inventory # 3943. Unframed: 33" x 12"; framed: 41" x 22".  $700.)

The Hundertwasserhaus was built between 1983-85 and was featured in a Smithsonian Magazine article at around the same time.  I read it.  I really wanted to see this unique building that includes fifty-three apartments, four offices, sixteen private terraces, three communal terraces, and a total of two hundred and fifty trees and bushes.  In 1986 I was a staff person for my parents' summer studies program to Salzburg.  (The Cultural Studies Academy was started in 1963 ... and there's a nice history HERE which include family photos from a long, long time ago!)  One weekend trip went to Budapest.  Visas were needed for the group.  Visas were acquired from the embassy in Vienna.  Dad and I drove to get them.  Dad ALWAYS got lost in Vienna.  (Swearing was involved ... a lot! LOL!)  Of course, we got lost ... and accidentally drove right by the Hundertwasserhaus with me begging to stop.  We didn't stop.  Eventually, we got the visas.  Dad calmed down.  I told him about the Hundertwasserhaus but we had no time to return.

(Above:  Me holding the framed piece.)

By the next year, Steve and I had moved to South Carolina.  I started my custom picture framing business and could no longer travel to Austria ... but the rest of my family was still going.  On the weekend trip to Vienna, my Dad had the bus driver take the entire group to the Hundertwasserhaus.  I got a postcard.  For several years, the group visited.  I got a Hundertwasser calendar every Christmas ... being the only person in the family NOT to have been there.

It wasn't until somewhere around 2002 or 2003 that I finally got to the Hundertwasserhaus with Steve and our younger son.  It was wonderful, of course.  During that trip, I finally got inside Schloss Belvedere and saw Klimt's The Kiss and the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (before it became the subject of an international law suit and moved to NYC ... and long before the movie The Woman in Gold.) Shortly after that trip, I started making pieces that I called my "In Box Series".  They were originally based on BOTH Hundertwasser and Klimt ... but I sort of forgot about Klimt somewhere along the timeline.

By 2009, my "In Box Series" had evolved and I was excited to return to Vienna with fiber friends from Sweden.  (I blogged about it HERE.)  During this trip, I finally went to the Hundertwasser Museum and the resulting work reflected even more of Hundertwasser ... getting more and more colorful.  Klimt was forgotten until a couple of weeks ago.

 (Above:  In Box CCLXXXIII hanging in the sales room at Mouse House.)

Steve and I were invited to a friend's New Year's party.  They purchased one of my very early In Box Series pieces.  I haven't seen it in years.  Steve remarked, "Susan, it looks more like Klimt than Hundertwasser!"  He was right!  I was stunned and my mind has churned with ideas ever since.  In the meantime, Steve built me a wide, black fabric liner.  He found the sticks while doing year-end inventory.  It came from a company that went under years ago.  I looked at it for over two weeks, allowing ideas to brew about my original "In Boxes" and about Klimt.  I finally decided to act on a new idea ... eliminate the "space" between the "boxes" ... don't get too detailed inside the boxes ... and don't melt anything with a soldering iron.  When I finished, Steve said, "You're channeling Klimt again!"  I think I might continue down this path!  Some ideas are worth revisiting ... or perhaps they just have to stew for a while until surfacing again!

 (Above:  Forever, a commissioned piece for very special keys ... for very special friends.)

Recently, I finished a very special piece.  Stephanie has been to Salzburg with the Cultural Studies Academy.  My youngest sister Sonya has owned the business for several years.  She and Stephanie are quite close ... and Sonya made arrangements for Stephanie to marry Russell one summer in Salzburg!  These keys are "forever" and include the July date in Austria when they said, "I do." 

This is Steve holding up the finished piece ... and below is Steve holding up another special project.  This one is a gift. It is a photo from Facebook of a note written by local poet Cassie Premo Steele who went to Saturday's Women's March in DC.  She asked for names of anyone who couldn't attend but would like to be "in her pocket".  Steve and I submitted our names.  Hilariously, we are listed as "Susan and Steve Lenz".  (Lenz is my maiden name.)  Steve said, "For such an occasion, I'll take your name!"

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

Friday, January 20, 2017


 (Above:  Detail of brooches.  Click on either of the images in this blog post for an enlargement.)

During every evening over the past week or two, I've been beading and backing seventeen new brooches.  They are fun to make while watching television.  They are headed to the ACC (American Craft Council) Shows in Baltimore (Feb. 24 -26) and Atlanta (Mar. 17 - 19).  Each one is just $50 plus tax and shipping.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to capture the highly reflective gold metallic surface behind the holes in the layers of fabric.  They are even prettier in person.

(Above:  All seventeen brooches.)

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

New Work!

 (Above:  Detail of Lunette XXV.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

Last January I was contemplating a big move!  By February, I gave notice at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios that it would happen; I would move my studio back into my house.  I was worried.  After all, most everything I'd ever made was inside those four, rental walls.  I was worried that the distractions of home would effect my energy, momentum, and especially my productivity.  Happily, that hasn't been the case.  I'm more productive than ever ... stealing a few minutes here, a half hour there, and making the most of the fact that my studio is only a few steps away.  It's a good thing ... especially since I have a solo show coming up at the Grovewood Gallery where I'll be demonstrating my processes February 17 and 18 from 11am – 4pm.  Plus, I'll be in my 10' x 10' ProPanel booth selling work at the ACC (American Craft Council) Baltimore and Atlanta Shows, February 24 - 26 and March 17 - 19 respectively.)  I need A LOT OF WORK and I'm happily making it!  This blog post shows what I've done this past week ... and mounted and framed over the weekend!

(Above:  Lunette XXV. Framed:  22" x 28"; unframed: 15 1/2" x 21". Inventory # 3941. $495.)

I'll be making more work ... and posting the results.  For now, just scroll down! Thanks!

(Above:  Detail of Lunette XXIV.)

(Above:  Lunette XXIV. Framed:  22" x 28"; unframed: 16 1/2" x 22 1/2". Inventory # 3940. $495.)

(Above:  Detail of Lancet Window XC.)

(Above:  Lancet Window XC. Inventory # 3939. Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

(Above:  Lancet Window LXXXVIII. Inventory # 3937. Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

(Above:  Lancet Window LXXXIX. Inventory # 3938. Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

(Above:  In Box CCLXXXII. Framed: 21 1/2" x 17 1/2". Inventory # 3936. $325.)

(Above:  In Box CCLXXXI. Framed:  19" x 15". Inventory # 3935. $235.)

(Above:  In Box CCLXXX. Framed:  19" x 15". Inventory # 3934. $235.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Angels, Flicker, and a new solo show

(Above:  Flicker Feather V.  Image transfer on fabric with self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery. 10" x 43 1/2".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last month I had the privilege of a two-week art residency at PLAYA in the remote Oregon Outback.  I blogged about the experience and most of the work I did (mainly fiber vessels).  Yet, I can't spend twelve to fourteen hours a day doing the same thing ... even in a paradise like PLAYA.  My studio practice definitely involves a little "skipping around" from project to project, and so I brought a few images transferred to fabric with me.  I free-motion stitched each one while enjoying the spectacular view to the frozen lake bed.  They are now finished and framed.

Above is Flicker Feather V.  I was keen to stitch this piece in Oregon because I snapped the photo during my October 2015 residency at PLAYA.  I also brought four small images of sculptural cemetery angels.  Each image was desaturated and otherwise altered in Photoshop before being printed on fabric. 

(Above: Angel I.  Image transfer on fabric with both hand and machine stitching plus beads.  Framed: 17 1.2" x 14 1/2".)

Each was stitched with black thread and further embellished with handwork and beads. Scroll down to see the other pieces.

(Above: Angel II. Image transfer on fabric with both hand and machine stitching plus beads.  Framed: 17 1.2" x 14 1/2".)

 (Above:  Anonymous Ancestors last September at USC-Beaufort's Sea Island Art Center.)

Years ago I was told that a professional studio artist will generally spend as much time with the "paperwork" of a career as in the active engagement of "making art".  I didn't believe it but it happens to be true.  Lately, I've been spending as much time in front of the computer as I've spent at my sewing machine submitting exhibition proposals for my solo show Anonymous Ancestors.

I know that most proposals will never be read.  An email acknowledging receipt of a proposal is rare.  Getting a solo show is like a quest to find the Holy Grail, so I'm beyond thrilled to announce that my exhibit will be at the University of South Carolina Upstate's Gallery on Main from August 31 through November 4th. There will be an Art Walk reception on September 21 from 5 - 8.  Wonderful news!

(Above: Angel IV. Image transfer on fabric with both hand and machine stitching plus beads.  Framed: 17 1.2" x 14 1/2".)

(Above: Angel III. Image transfer on fabric with both hand and machine stitching plus beads.  Framed: 17 1.2" x 14 1/2".)

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

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Flood Clothesline will hang again!

 (Above:  The Flood Clothesline hanging at the Tapps Art Center last October in an invitational exhibition called Marked By the Water, commemorating the first anniversary of the historic flooding here in Columbia, SC. Click on either image to enlarge.)

I'm totally THRILLED! The Flood Clothesline has been accepted into the international H2Oh! juried traveling exhibition.  This is a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) show that will be seen at National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY from June 23 - Sept. 19, 2017; the New England Quilt Museum, Lowell, MA from July 11, 2018 - Sept. 23, 2018; the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ from Dec. 1, 2018 - Feb. 10, 2019; and the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, San Jose, CA from April 19, 2019 - July 14, 2019.  Only 34 works were accepted from a field of 522 entries from 285 artists.  I'm truly honors but I'm also deeply in debt to the many people who shared their images of the flood, including Nancy Gibbes, Lyn Phillips, Dolly Patton, Stephen Chesley, Steve Heweitt, Susan Felleman, Nichool Ranson, Debbie McDaniel Cydney Berry, Cynthia Pierce, Eveleigh Hughey, Elliott Edward Powell, Jim Tothill, Virginia Postic, and others!

(Above:  The Flood Clothesline hanging at the South Carolina State Library during November 2015.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Happy New Year

 (Above:  Two boxes back from my art residency at PLAYA in the remote Oregon Outback.)

It's 2017!  Where has time gone?  I just realized that I passed my tenth blogging anniversary about six months ago. Later this year will mark ten years of writing daily (or at least five times a week) "Morning Pages", an creative exercise developed by Julia Cameron and detailed in her 12-week Artist's Way program.  Writing, whether for myself, on a blog post, or for any of the many requests for "an artist statement" is at the very heart of my creative life.  It is how I remember visions of inspiration, the ideas for artistic exploration, and especially my feelings on any given day.  At this time of year, I also think about the future ... where I want to go, who I want to be around, what I want to say with my artwork, and how to be accountable to the resolutions I put in place.

 (Above:  Thirty new fiber vessels and four remaining balls of cording ... returning from my art residency at PLAYA in the remote Oregon Outback.)

Past years' resolutions have included:  Getting gallery representation, submitting solo show proposals to at least fifteen venues, and exploring 3D found art sculptures.  Last year I wrote:  This year, I plan to change the way I work, my very schedule and the location in which I operate.  With luck and good planning, I might find myself busier, happier, more excited, and working in productive ways with the respect I want most ... my own. (To read the entire blog post, CLICK HERE.)

Well, early last year I moved my studio ... from Gallery 80808/Vista Studios back to my house ... which actually meant I had more space but the challenge of daily interruptions and sharing the building with my husband/business partner Steve.  Fortunately, we work very, very well together.  After a year, I am pleased to say that I am constantly working, happier than before, definitely excited, and more productive than ever.  I'm still working on my issues of low self-esteem but that will likely remain a lifelong battle.

 (Above:  Lancet Window LXXXVI. Inventory # 3926. Framed 31" x 11".  $395.  Available at the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, NC ... because as soon it was framed, it was delivered to this fabulous gallery!)

Yet part of last year's resolution was to WORK BIG.  I'd seen installations at the Renwick in Washington, DC and thought to myself, "Susan, you could do that!  Why don't you?"  I knew my own answer; it is a limiting factor.  I don't work any bigger than I can afford ... in terms of both finances and storage/working space.  I don't trust my own dreams enough to throw them open to the world with an expectation that the needed assistance will be found.  So ... I'm going to keep that part of last year's resolution for this coming year.  I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to tackle this ... but I'll try!

How would you dream up a project that you can't do alone and can't pay for with your own resources?  How would you pitch such an idea to others?  Who are "the others"?  Ah ... these are my questions!

(Above:  Lancet Window LXXXVII.  Inventory # 3927. Framed 31" x 11".  $395.  Available at the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, NC ... because as soon it was framed, it was delivered to this fabulous gallery!)

This blog post also shows the last art created in 2016. I shipped two large, heavy boxes back home after a profound experience at PLAYA, an art residency program in the remote Oregon Outback.  One box contained my Bernina 1008.  It was "dead".  I think I ran it into the ground (or at least wore out one of the internal belts.  I checked. It isn't damaged ... just loose ... as if stretched beyond its limits).  Berninas have superior motors but perhaps this older one didn't really want to run constantly for at least seven to eight hours a day.  Yet, in doing this I managed to create thirty fiber vessels.  They look great.

The two Lancet Windows were made in as many days ... working hard and long hours ... because the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville requested more work!  I'm happy to report that the Grovewood is honoring me with a solo show, Susan Lenz: In Stitches, Feb. 17 - March 26, 2017.  2016 was a very, very good year at the Grovewood and I'm hoping 2017 is even better!  Best of all, the Grovewood will be introducing my fiber vessels to Asheville during this exhibit!  I'm thrilled.

(Above:  Threads: Gathering My Thoughts.)

Today while thinking about my New Year's resolution and the desire to WORK BIG, I got an acceptance from ArtFields, a nine-day art competition and festival in Lake City, SC that happens to award over $100,000 in prize money.  It will be held from April 21 - 29, 2017 ... and it will include my installation Threads: Gathering My Thoughts.  While this installation is "big", I know I can think "bigger".  Here's to 2017!

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