Sunday, June 17, 2018

Finishing up the first week at the Rensing Center

 (Above:  The Cocoon, in progress.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

My installation, The Cocoon, is progressing very nicely here at the Rensing Center outside Pickens, SC.  During this first of five weeks as as an "artist-in-residence," I have figured out several ways to overlap the odd shaped and often damaged pieces of vintage linens.  Several poorly constructed quilt tops have been taken apart and put back together into panels for the pipe assemblage that I was able to purchase with a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission.

With each panel, I'm learning something new. Mostly, I'm imagining the Thanksgiving dinners served on some of the stained tablecloths and the birthdays, anniversaries, and many Mother's Days that meant these linens were "gifts".  Lots of the napkins still have little paper stickers reading "Made in Japan" or "Irish linen".  Though never used, these pieces show the inevitable foxing of age and permanent discoloration on the folds.  It is wonderful to finally fashion them into "something"  ... even if it wasn't their intended use. 

In my TEDx talk, I tried so hard to impress listeners to USE THEIR PRECIOUS POSSESSIONS!  Even as I said these words, I knew that no one would really use "Grandma's doilies".  I talk about "Grandma's doilies" a lot in that talk.  (CLICK HERE to see the entire video.)  In a very real sense, this installation is meant as a personal response to my own, collected stash.  It was high time for me to USE these things.  The installation will hopefully become a physical place for the public to donate a doily, stitch on a button, and USE all these things to remember and honor the past women who embellished their homes with the handmade.

Part of my stash was already donated to me.  In fact, many people have given me their family's doilies and household linens because they don't want to use them and can't bear to sell them at a yard sale.  They tell me, "Here, Susan, you make art with them".  So, I am.

Undoubtedly, the most beautiful donation came from printmaker Steven Chapp.  He sent me his mother's 1948 wedding gown.  Now, I knew it was lovely when I opened the box, but until ironing it, I didn't truly appreciate the gorgeous, heavy white satin.  I love the back with its tiny covered buttons, bow bustle, and long train even more than the princess styled front.  I would have worn this at my wedding.  (In fact, I like it a lot more than the dress I wore!)  There's no way for me to cut it!  Yet, it occurred to me that I could just suspend it from the pipe assemblage.  Conceptually, the wedding dress puts the suggestion of a woman into the enclosure.  As it is now, it is too high ... but I'm really liking this way of incorporating such a special garment into the installation.

I am, however, incorporating other garments, especially some of the dozens of infant clothing, into some of the panels.

This is the back of the newest panel.  The entire installation is meant to be experienced both as an interior and an exterior.  Because of the flexibility of the telescoping upper pipes, I will be able to erect this enclosure in a variety of sizes.

I have used most of the linen calendar towels.  I have an entire stack left over.  They are duplicates of the same scene.  I have also started adding a few buttons and other things by hand stitching.  More detail shots are further below.  Just keep scrolling down!

 (Above:  Ellen Kochansky, noted fiber artist and Rensing Center executive director, filleting a baked red snapper.)

Of course most of my time finds me in my studio space stitching, but not all the time!  Every week there is a potluck dinner at Ellen Kochansky's on-site home.  I am a little like this red snapper, a "fish out of water".  Everyone brings some exotic, generally locally sourced or hand-picked, delicacy.  Before dining, each person gets a few moments to explain their culinary choices.  One person brought a roadkill deer tenderloin prepared according to a recipe found in The Sioux Chef cookbook. 

Ellen prepared a fresh red snapper with a salted meringue, a coating that allowed the scales to simply peel away with the meringue once baked.

The conversations are always enlightening and generally very scholarly in the area of the arts.

Anyone knowing me is aware that I pride myself on my lack of domesticity.  At home, I don't cook, grocery shop, do laundry, dust, scrub toilets, sweep, vacuum, or work in the backyard ... at all.  (Thank goodness for Steve ... and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!)

So, what did I bring?  Deviled eggs.  The only thing I can say on my behalf is that I was creative with a serving container!  Now, scroll down for detail images of what I actually can do ... create an installation from mismatched, odd shaped, much loved and also neglected old linens!

1 comment:

NM_Creatrix said...

Whenever my grandmother would gift someone with a quilt or crochet or knitting or... she would Always say: "No this is supposed to be used, not stored away!" and we as her kin, knew she meant it. I have outlived all my childhood quilts that she made me, but the memories are still strong.
I made a beautiful baby quilt and at the shower someone said "Oh, that will look great hanging over the crib (on the wall) an I immediately channeled my grandmother and said, Oh no that is for that baby to love, spit up on and maybe even pee on! It is a gift of love and meant to be used. Guess that is why I do not have any old linens!