Saturday, September 30, 2017

Large Stained Glass LXXXI

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXXI, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This past week has been very productive!  There are two major reasons.  First, I'm getting ready for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in November.  Second, my "day job" hasn't needed much work from me.  My husband Steve and I own a business called Mouse House.  We do limited custom picture framing.  The past two weeks were SLOW ... very, very slow ... which meant I had plenty of time in my studio.  Of course, there is a draw back to this scenario.  We aren't making much money.  It is scary but it also an opportunity. 

(Above:  Stained Glass LXXXI.  Framed with crystal clear, anti-reflective glass:  63" x 23". Inventory # 4088. $1300.)

Many of the artists exhibiting in high-end fine craft shows live in hopes that sales will be good.  Many don't have a "day job".  It is a risky life style.  Time is spent differently.  These artists often have more time to explore new ideas and designs.  So, that's what I've been doing too!  I've really enjoyed consulting my 1868 copy of Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament.  For this piece, I spent quite a bit of time really LOOKING at the details and motifs on this page featuring an Indian pattern.

 (Above:  Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament, page featuring Indian designs.)

Obviously, I did not sketch out the exact design.  The vase shape is much the same but the rest simply borrows ideas, shapes, and the way curves and angles work together.  I'm very pleased how the finished piece turned out.

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXXI beside the front door at Mouse House.)

In my last blog post, I mentioned photographing my work after it is mounted.  This is how it looks.  The fiber art has been stitched to a piece of over-sized mat board measuring 58" x 18".  That mat board it secured in a black linen liner ... as shown above.  I then position the work on the front porch ... as erect as possible ... sort of clamped to a nearby window jamb. (Not shown above!) My camera is on a tripod.  I work really hard to get the camera's view finder to be centered and square on the artwork.  I take various exposures, hoping one looks best. 

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXXI, detail of top.)

After taking the "full view", I take several detail shots ... like this one of the top ...

... and this one of the middle section ...

... or this one of most of the vase.

Unfortunately, I have no good way to get a better image of the bottom.  It is impossible to keep the camera on the tripod when the bottom supported by the porch!  For smaller pieces, I can position the work on the actual window sill.  Yet ... these less-than-perfect pictures do give an accurate view of how large these pieces really are and also the texture, dimension, and physicality of the work.

By the way, the outer dimensions of the black linen liner are 60" x 20".  This was intentionally done so that an over-sized piece of glass (60" x 40") could be cut into two ... one side for each of two artworks.  The glass is put into an outer frame ... and the linen liner goes in next.  The liner and the frame create a narrow space so that the artwork never comes in contact with the glass.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Large Stained Glass LXXX

 (Above:  Detail of Large Stained Glass LXXX.  Click on either image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Happily, I'm ahead of schedule for the work I want to make for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show!  Plenty more pieces are in various states of progression.  Thus, there will be more blog posts in the coming days.  Today I finished mounting Large Stained Glass LXXX.  Once a piece is mounted to acid-free mat board, I am able to photograph and frame it.

(Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXX.  Inventory # 4087.  63" x 23" framed with crystal-clear, anti-reflective glass.  $1300.)

Once a piece is framed, I make a label for the reverse and enter the work into my inventory book.  When I did this, I realized that LXXX is Roman numerals for EIGHTY!  That's eighty pieces in this very large series.

I couldn't help but to think of the first four.  I remember them very, very well ... from my very first museum show at the Sumter Gallery of Art, Sumter, SC.  That was eleven years ago.  The show was called Blues Chapel.  I started this blog in order "to hold on to some of the wonderful, artistic things that have happened to me".  Back in August 2006, my second blog post included that phrase and a single image from this installation ... showing the first four "Large Stained Glass" pieces.  (Click HERE to read that short post.)

At the time, I knew I'd tied up quite a bit of money framing those first four pieces.  I never thought they'd actually sell.  Selling wasn't the point.  Creating a the sacred feeling of a real chapel was my only intention, but later they did sell.  Even later, I got other shows for Blues Chapel and needed additional "Large Stained Glass" pieces ... depending on the venue, I sometimes needed eight.  Eventually, they were picked up at the Grovewood Gallery and are now important works in my Pro Panel booth at high end craft shows.  Sort of amazing!

Yet, when I realized that I've made eighty pieces in this series over the past eleven years, I also started thinking about time and documentation and writing ... whether on a publicly available platform or in the privacy of my house.  That's when I realized another, important milestone.  I've been writing "Morning Pages" for the past ten years ... since September 25, 2007.

Morning Pages are a daily exercise from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a twelve step program for creative discovery.  Julia Cameron advised writing three pages of long-hand, stream-of-consciousness thoughts as a way to tap into one's truest, creative self.  I wrote long hand the first time I went through the program (summer 2004).  Then, I stopped writing for a while.  In 2007 I joined another group.  The group didn't last but I knew something good would come from it ... because I started writing Morning Pages again.  This time, however, I cheated and I'm still cheating! LOL!  I type them.

My laptop sits on my dining room table.  After breakfast, I type.  (By the way, I learned to properly type in high school.  I didn't take the one-semester class for college bound kids.  I took two years of daily, executive typing like business students took.  Back in high school, I regularly typed 100 words per minute ... five minute drills ... no more than five errors.)  For me, typing is the easiest and best way to tip into my self conscious.

There's another benefit to typing Morning Pages.  It is easy to dip back into myself because the entries are nicely organized.  There's a folder for every year.  At least once a month, I read about what I've done the year before, two years before, five, seven, and now a decade.  It is amazing to me to read about my own inspirations, doubts, and the many, many things that have happened in my life.  I have an accurate description of my own thoughts and feelings.  I am constantly amazed to read about art ideas that really did come into existence ... sometimes months or even a year after I first started thinking/writing about them.  I know what I thought of the art shows I've seen and the opinions I heard.  I know I never thought the day would come when I'd finish the eightieth Large Stained Glass piece!  Simply amazing!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Four New Windows for Philadelphia

 (Above:  Window CXXXIX, Inventory # 4083.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)

I'm on a roll ... working hard to have plenty of new pieces for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show in November.  Today I finished four new "Window Series" pieces.  This first one is based on my background, Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  I don't need to research the design.  I know it's a Romanesque arch with a lunette supported by two columns.  I don't sketch out a pattern.  I just take sharp scissors to my stash of polyester stretch velvet and start constructing in my designated area, 12" x 10".

(Above:  Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament, 1868 ... turned to the page with the first of several Arabian designs.)

Just because I have knowledge of Gothic and Romanesque architectural elements doesn't mean I always want to use these designs.  That would get boring!  Earlier this month I consulted my copy of Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament and made a really unique piece based on early Greek motifs from ancient red-and-black painted pottery.  (Click here for that post.) So, I opened the book ... almost randomly ... and browsed through Arabian patterns.  Most of the designs in Grammar of Ornament are for friezes or borders, repetitive patterns ... not "stand alone" imagery.  It was a challenge to lift elements from this page but I managed to create three totally new pieces!  It was fun! They are below.

  (Above:  Window CXL, Inventory # 4084.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)

Over the weekend, I finished another Large Stained Glass Window.  It isn't mounted or photographed.  I'll shall share it later.  Since then, I also started the fourth Large Stained Glass Window that will go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show.  For it, I used a lovely Indian design from Owen Jones.  I'll share that work when it is complete too!  

   (Above:  Window CXLI, Inventory # 4085.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)

  (Above:  Window CXLII, Inventory # 4086.  Framed: 17" x 15".  $265.)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Large Stained Glass LXXIX

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Another piece finished this past week is Large Stained Glass LXXIX.  Framed, it measures 63" x 23," and it has crystal-clear, anti-reflective glass ... so that there is absolutely no reflection when standing in front of it or even snapping a photo!  Amazing! 

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX.  Framed: 63" x 23". Inventory # 4080. $1300.)

It will be heading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 9 - 12.  This is the second piece in this series made during September.  My plan is to create two more before the big show.  I generally show three in my booth and to have one in reserve.  All my other "Large Stained Glass" series pieces are hanging in Waterworks Visual Arts Center until January 3rd.

  (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX, detail.)

Thus far, I'm on schedule.  Thus far, I have other work under construction, under the needle of my sewing machine, and in the garage awaiting the final melting steps.

 (Above:  Large Stained Glass LXXIX, detail.)

I'm also working on Christmas ornaments.  These are made from my wrapped-and-stitched wooden thread spools combined with buttons and ribbon.  They are a perfect project for evenings in front of the television.  I'll share some during the coming week.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Full time artist

 (Above:  In Box CCXCVII, detail.  Click on any image for an enlargement.)

Once upon a time ... and not that long ago ... somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen years ... I dreamed of becoming an artist, a "real" artist with respect from friends, family, and my local community. 

(Above:  Vista Guild's reception for artists whose work was included in a recent project to wrap local electrical and utility boxes with images of artwork.)

Back then, I used to go to art receptions just to rub elbows and hear words of wisdom from talented creative-types.  I'd admire work I thought I couldn't produce and applaud in all the right places.  Becoming "an artist" was a fantasy.  Then, I started ... slowly ... after getting a studio in "The Vista", a section of downtown Columbia that was becoming the arts and cultural district.  I cherished the few moments when I got to "play artist".  This generally happened during two annual "art walks" in The Vista. In a very real sense, I "grew up" in my Vista studio. 

A year-and-a-half ago, I gave up that studio.  I needed more room and had it at Mouse House, my home/business.  Leaving The Vista was hard.  I'd practically made everything in that studio.  It was my sacred space, a security net, my artistic haven.  I worried that my local community would forget me, but that didn't happen.  Instead, I was one of the first artists selected by The Vista Guild to have an image of my work wrapped on a utility box.  Fifteen total boxes have been completed.  Friday night was the artist reception.  It really was special.  It reminded me of how far I've come in fifteen years of making.

(Above:  Reception for Anonymous Ancestors at the University of South Carolina Upstate's Gallery on Main with Jane Nodine providing my introduction.)

The next night (and in the same dress, LOL!), I was in my solo installation at USC Upstate's Gallery on Main for another reception. The talented Jane Nodine, art professor and assistant department chair, introduced me to students, facility, and the public.

This time, I was the one expected to deliver words of wisdom and encouragement.  Artists and art students from USC Upstate, Converse College, and Limestone College were in attendance.  I talked about installation art as a media, a way to use physical space for a temporary, site-specific expression of conceptual intentions.  I talked about collecting old photos and giving them a new life.  It was really wonderful and reminded me once again that I've really come far.  Most days, I tend to focus on how much further I want to go, forgetting the journey I've already managed.

After speaking, questions were asked and answered.  There are two typical questions that seem always to be asked:  1) How did you start? and 2) Do you ever sleep?  To me, they are totally related.  When one starts as late in life as I did (age 42), one is filled with more ideas than is humanly possible.  I'm acutely aware that I'll never get to most of my plans.  Constantly, I feel "behind the eight ball".  Time is limited ... which is why I work, work, work!  I don't waste time.  It is my most precious commodity!

 (Above:  In Box CCXCVII.  Framed 33" x 21". $550.)

The only way to really enjoy art receptions is to "keep them coming".  The only way to manage that is to constantly be making more and more work ... which is how I spent most of the week.  I finished two Large In Box series pieces.  These are headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in November.

 (Above:  In Box CCXCVIII, detail.)

Fifteen years ago I dreamed of becoming "a full time artist" ... one that spent approximately 37.5 hours weekly working in the field.  (By the way, 37.5 was my goal as it represents "full time" in most fields, especially any government agency!) It didn't happen quickly (and I am still framing pictures for a financial living) but I've been working "full time" for the last couple of years.  Dreams do come true!

(Above:  In Box CCXCVIII.  Framed:  33" x 21". $550.)

Now ... back to my studio.  It is always time to make art!
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three New Lancet Windows

(Above:  Lancet Window  CCV.  Framed:  31" x 11". $395.)

I've recently finished these three, new Lancet Windows.  They will be headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 9 - 12 ... which seems like a long way off but will undoubtedly be here in the blink of an eye. 

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCIII.  Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

I've got several other pieces in various stages ... being constructed/fused ... being stitched ... being melted ... being mounted and framed.  More work is coming and I'm keeping busy!  

(Above:  Lancet Window CCV. Framed: 31" x 11". $395.)

Later this afternoon my husband Steve and I are attending a reception for all the artist's with work selected as images to cover local electrical boxes.  In Box CCLXXIII is featured at the corner of Gervais and Lincoln Street. (CLICK HERE for a blog post.) Tomorrow is the monthly art walk in Spartanburg, SC which coordinates with the reception for my solo show, Anonymous Ancestors, at the university's Gallery on Main.   Once upon a time, I used to get so excited about art receptions (whether I had work on display or not).  This week, however, I'm conflicted.  I need the time in my studio.  I'd rather be creating than celebrating.  I wonder if other artists feel this way or not? 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Art reception at Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, NC

 (Above:  In Stitches, my solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, a regional museum in Salisbury, NC through January 3, 2018.)

Friday was a busy, busy day.  After installing Threads: Gathering My Thoughts at the South Carolina State Library (blog post HERE), Steve and I drove to Salisbury, North Carolina for the art reception at Waterworks Visual Arts Center.  This regional museum hosts really great exhibitions.

Right this very moment, my work hangs in a space beside a retrospective of Ben Martin's photos.  Ben Martin's images are iconic.  He died this past February but his work will live on forever ... images like Richard M. Nixon’s haggard 5 o’clock shadow, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march to Montgomery, Ala., and John F. Kennedy’s grieving widow and children.  These evocative images defined the 1960s.  I am humbled to be showing work in the same space.

 (Above:  Two ladies closely inspecting my installation, Celestial Orbs.)

I am also indebted to CMFA (Columbia Music Festival Association) for providing temporary wall space all summer long.  The opportunity to stand back and gauge size, number, and spacing for a 24' wall filled with fiber orbs and a giant comet made the back wall of my show possible!  THANK YOU, John Whitehead, the CMFA board, and all those who went to see this installation-in-progress.

The art reception was very, very well attended and included time for an "artist's talk".  I was able to thank so many people but also had the time to speak about my materials, inspirations, and my general approach to making art.

So many people were really interested in polyester stretch velvet ... and couldn't believe that pouring epoxy over it created such vibrancy and sheen.

The entire show looks just wonderful and is hung perfectly.  This was one of the rare occasions that I didn't have to do this work.  I provided sketches of the wall placement  ... and it was done PERFECTLY!  Thank you, Waterworks Visual Arts Center.

In addition to my solo show and the Ben Martin's retrospective, Carolyn Ford's work hung in another gallery across the hallway.  This was the space in which a selection of my Decision Portraits hung almost six years ago.  (CLICK HERE to see that exhibit.)

Carolyn Ford is a tenured associate art professor and head of the art department at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina.  Her work is wonderful!

The reception was wonderful too.  This is Carolyn and me with Salisbury's major, Karen Alexander.

All this was possible because Executive Director Anne Scott Alexander it GREAT ... and even knew to position us beside the Wells Fargo logo, sponsor for these three solo shows!  THANK YOU, Anne Scott ... you've taught me so much.  I will be eternally grateful!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Threads at the SC State Library

(Above: Detail from Threads: Gathering My Thoughts, an installation at the South Carolina State Library.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Yesterday was a busy, busy day!  It started at 8:30 in the lobby of the South Carolina State Library and ended in Salisbury, North Carolina at the art reception for my solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center.  This blog post covers the installation.  I'll blog about the wonderful evening sometime tomorrow!

 (Above:  Threads: Gathering My Thoughts at the SC State Library.)

A little over a month ago, I started corresponding with Andersen Cook, Statewide Initiatives Coordinator, about an installation for the library focusing on the state's textile history and incorporating reproduction historic images from mill life and industry.  A wonderful collaboration resulted.  Yesterday was "installation day".  It was GREAT!

I showed up with my three, giant leaf bags full of unraveled thread and a bag of supplies.  Andersen Cook had twenty-seven images already mounted on foam-centered board.  We used the library's nine mess-and-aluminum display screens to create three triangular units.

Then, I went to work!

In order to attach the photographs to the screens, I cut small pieces of foam-centered board and stitched a length of heavy-duty thread through each one.

These were hot-glued to the back of each image.

Then, I piled thread onto the screens ...

... and stitched three images onto each individual panel ... straight through the fabric mess ... tied off on all four corners. 

Installing was lots of fun and an excellent example as to how my former incarnations with all this thread were translated into a new, site-specific installation.  (I've had several solo shows called Threads: Gathering My Thoughts ... but no two have ever been alike.  Mostly, I've suspended baskets and had the unraveled thread cascading through them.  This time, no baskets.  This time ... the threads represent more than just the millions of thoughts running through one's mind but the actual material in the historic mill photos!)

All the images were taken in South Carolina and are part of the Library of Congress.  Later, Andersen will be adding descriptions to each one.

This installation officially opens on Monday but is already on the State Library's website.  The write-up reads:

The textile industry had an enormous impact on South Carolina.  From the late nineteenth century through most of the twentieth century, the textile industry dominated the state’s manufacturing.  In the SC State Library’s exhibit “Threads: Gathering My Thoughts” historical images are used to honor South Carolina’s rich textile legacy and teach how the textile industry shaped cultures, demographics and economics in our state. This exhibit includes the artwork of professional studio artist, Susan Lenz, whose work has been juried into numerous national and international exhibits, featured in solo shows all over the United States, and shown on television and in print. 
By combining historical SC textile images with the creativity of Ms. Lenz, thread is used to symbolize the former abundance in Southern textile mills and a physical manifestation of millions of thoughts running through anyone’s brain.  This exhibit explores an ongoing engagement - and entanglement - with fibers. 

I wish I could take credit for the unique use of the clip-on clothes hangers, but this was Andersen's idea!  Additional images and information about South Carolina's textile history are on this nice, wood paneled wall opposite the three, triangular units.

(Above:  The view to the exhibition area from immediately inside the SC Library's main entrance.)

I'm honored to have this opportunity and especially to work with such a professional staff.  This exhibit is open to the public from September 18th through October 27th, weekdays from 8:30 - 5:00.  Artists interested in submitting to exhibit at the South Carolina State Library can find information and an application HERE