Sunday, September 30, 2018

Last Words at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts

 (Above:  Last Words, a solo installation at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The last few solo shows I've installed have challenged me to create giant environments in which viewers can experience the artwork.  Last Thursday, the challenge was different.  The provided space is quite intimate. It is also the first thing one will see upon entering the Greenville Center for Creative Arts.  I knew I needed to sculpt a great "first impression" and it was really fun transforming this area.

Last Words is now on view and will enjoy a reception during the city's "First Friday" on October 5, 2018.   Because I easily have twice the amount of artwork, I could approach this show a little differently.  I had to select work to be hung in "salon style," covering the walls from top to bottom. Size, orientation, color & contract figured into the way each grouping was put together.  My favorite part, however, was spreading the artificial flowers around the perimeter.  Every petal was collected from a cemetery dumpster, dissected, washed and dried.  They really give the area the sensation of walking through a landscape ... a particular one ... a cemetery.  Only six of my sheer chiffon epitaph banners could be hung in order to both facilitate walking traffic through the space but also leaving 18" from every sprinkler-system head attached to the ceiling!  These are just a couple of the interesting ways an installation artist must work!

The two moveable walls also meant that I had to carefully select artwork that left open the gap between them.  This was truly a great experience for me.  Personally, I think the show looks fabulous and that I was very successful in meeting the unique challenges!  Steve and I can't wait to return for the opening reception!

Coinciding with my solo installation is a a group show called Textiles: A History of Expression in which work by artists Alice Schlein (Greenville, SC), Sasha de Koninck (Santa Monica, CA), Beth Andrews (Greer, SC), Kristy Bishop (Charleston, SC), and Meredith Piper (Greenville, SC).

Textiles are obviously the focus for these two shows.  That's why I left all the altered Victorian photo albums, the entire "Angels in Mourning" series, and other works at home.  Yet, the title of my installation is "Last Words", so I brought the Book of the Dead for the centerpiece even though it isn't a textile creation.

 (Above:  The Book of the Dead, an altered 696-page sketch book filled with over 1,200 handwritten epitaphs on watercolored pages.)

Ordinarily, I keep the altered Victorian photo albums on the shelves of the old Victorola that functions as the book's pedestal.

For this show, however, I put eight small Grave Rubbing Art Quilts inside.  I do allow visitors to handle these small pieces and flip the pages in The Book of the Dead.

Even before we left, visitors were engaged!  Thursday was a really good day!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

This and That

(Above:  Rapunzel.  Framed: 35" x 25". Red wig, artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters, marbleized paper, gold ink, and letters clipped from vintage ephemera.   Click on any image to enlarge.)

This past week has been a busy one with various projects in the works and all sorts of art in progress.  The most important thing happened on Thursday.  I installed my solo show, Last Words, at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts.  To accomplish this, I had to gather all the art quilts, epitaph banners, and the bags of artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.  In one of the bags, I found the red wig I once wore for a performance art event called Ophelia.  I'd been looking for it.   I knew it would be PERFECT for my alternative fairy tale about Rapunzel.  Once I had the wig in my hands, the piece simply flowed into existence!  Other pieces were finished during the week too ... just keep reading!  More about Rapunzel is further below too.

 (Above:  Last Words at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts.)

All the rest of my artificial flowers went to the Greenville Center for the Creative Arts.  The show will enjoy a reception next Friday evening, and Steve and I are going.  I don't always attend my own out-of-town receptions.  It's a lot of driving and time away from my studio.  I enjoy receptions but they are not always possible.

(Above:  Stephen Chesley and gallerist Sandy Rupp at Stephen's solo show opening at Hampton III Gallery in Taylors, just outside Greenville.)

Steve and I were lucky last Thursday!  We were able to attend my mentor's solo show opening at Hampton III Gallery.  It just happened to be in the evening on the same day as my installation was scheduled!  As usual, Stephen's gallery talk was insightful and profound. His artist spirit is a lifestyle and mindset that will always inspire me.  For years, Stephen Chesley has advised me to work at being "more myself", comfortable in my own solitude, and follow my instincts without regarding what others think I ought to be doing/making/caring about.  I always fall short of this goal but keep trying.

 (Above:  Rapunzel, detail.)

I guess that's why I continue to make more and more pieces based on fairy tales.  I'm simply enjoying the process, the humor, and the unusual materials.  It really doesn't matter if these works are part of the upcoming Alternative Storytellers exhibit or not.  I already have more than enough for my share of the group show, but I'm inspired to make more ... regardless of whether it makes sense to do it or not!  It's fun!  I like doing it.

 (Above:  Rapunzel without glass, sitting by the back door for a photo op.)

Taking pictures of this piece presented a problem.  It is a rather deep "shadowbox" (a full 1 3/4").  The reflection off the glass would make a terrible image.  So, I snapped a few shots without the glass.  The work is pushed to the front of the frame but it does give a fairly accurate result ...

... just without the sense of space created inside the frame.  The story is written in letters clipped from vintage ephemera and reads:  What kind of idiot believes the story of Rapunzel? They truth is that I cut my long locks and made myself an escape route.  I saved the clueless prince from the evil witch.  As a reward, he offered anything in his kingdom.  I took the hand of his beautiful, older sister and together we reigned over a land free from gender inequality.  Now that's a real fairy tale!

 (Above:  She Loves Me/She Loves Me Not, Voodoo Doll.)

Last week I started transforming a collection of donated, antique dolls and dolls parts.  I continued this week with She Loves Me/She Loves Me Not, Voodoo Doll.  The original doll had no hands.  I removed an arm from another doll and shoved it up the one, empty sleeve.  The other arm was there but didn't have a hand.  I cut a plastic hand off another doll and attached it with red embroidery floss.  The heart charm was added and all the pins. 

 (Above:  She Loves Me/She Loves Me Not, Voodoo Doll, detail.)

This piece is small, just 15 1/2" x 10" x 3".  I'm having a great time using leftover pieces of picture frame moulding and marbleized papers, mixing my custom framing with art.

 (Above:  Frozen Charlotte.)

Frozen Charlotte was almost entirely driven by the presentation materials.  The outer shadowbox pieces have been collecting dust in my garage for at least fifteen years.  They were too small for anything else.  This piece measures just 10" x 10 3/4" x 4".  I'd never heard the cautionary tale of "Frozen Charlotte" before.  Nor had I ever heard of the early 19th c. humorist Seba Smith and his poem "A Corpse Going to a Ball."

 (Above:  Detail of Frozen Charlotte.)

Apparently, this tale warned young girls about dressing for inclement weather.  In the story, little Charlotte didn't want to cover her pretty party dress and froze to death during the sleigh-ride to the ball.  Of course, most of the little porcelain dolls no longer have any clothing at all.  They were mainly made in Germany from 1850 - 1920 and are figured naked on eBay.  For these antiques, dressing warmly isn't much of an option nowadays.

 (Above:  Don't Take My Picture, The Wall of Ancestors.)

In keeping with the artist spirit lifestyle that prompts me to make things regardless of common sense, future opportunity, and public opinion, I continue to create more and more pieces for my Wall of Ancestors.  I don't need more.  Storage is a real issue.  On Sunday, I am to dismantle the installation currently hanging at USC-Aiken and I don't have another show scheduled ... but I'm still making more work.  The images just seem to call out to me, "Use me!  Make me into art!"  How could I resist this picture?  As soon as I saw the frown, I knew the phrase to add:  Don't Take My Picture. 

(Above:  Shards of broken pottery fused together with epoxy.)

It is in my nature to make new things from old ones.  That's why last summer I collected the shards of broken pottery after an accident at the Rensing Center.  I knew I could fuse the pieces into something new. During this week, Steve and I poured epoxy over another work.  (It's on Sleeping Beauty!) My artist spirit drives me to use materials that had a life before they came into my possession.  I am happiest when working with things that have already had a life.  Suggesting a narrative is part of my soul and my artwork almost always has a story!  Steve and I delivered this refigured ceramic piece to Ellen Kochansky at the Rensing Center after installing my show.  It is home again, recycled and telling that tale of what was and what will be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


(Above:  Minutes. Digital images on fabric with hand and machine embroidery and found clock gears.  Framed: 29 1/4" x 20 1/2". Inventory # 4347. $300.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The work I create to fill my booth at the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show (November 2 - 4) is entirely stitched on my machine.  I think I'd go crazy if I didn't also have a project needing at least some hand stitching!  Having a small piece at the ready is important to me, and recently these three fit the bill.

(Above:  The top third of Minutes.)

There are several lines of machine stitching but mostly there are sections of dense seeding stitch done by hand.  Also, each section has several real clock gears attached using clear monofilament.  Because of the extra depth these gears added, I framed them using a deep, foam-centered behind the top mat.  The foam-centered board's beveled edge is covered with marbleized tape.

(Above:  The middle third of Minutes.)

The images came from a unique auction selling clocks, watches, and all sorts of parts and machinery for clock repair.  I was an unsuccessful bidder but got great snapshots!  Spoonflower printed the selection.  My gears came from other auctions.  Now, I'm hand-stitching on another picture.  This one is from Santa Fe.  It might take another month before I finish but it will be posted when complete!

(Above:  The bottom third of Minutes.)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Four New "Window" Series Pieces

 (Above:  Window CLII. Inventory # 4343. Framed: 17" x 15". $265.)

This is a very busy week!  On Thursday, I will be installing my solo show Last Words at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts.  One of the infant garments from my Loss Installation is to be mailed to the Cloyde Snook Gallery at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado for a show called Suspend.  It's also State Fair time and I have two pieces to deliver for that.  I'm working on several long-term projects too.

  (Above:  Window CLIII. Inventory # 4344. Framed: 17" x 15". $265.)

So ... time, as ever, is moving fast.  November 2 - 4 will be here quickly.  That's the dates for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  I'm in booth 119.  Even though there's easily enough work for me to fill the booth, new work is always a good idea!  This weekend found me making these four new "Window Series" pieces.

  (Above:  Window CLIV. Inventory # 4345. Framed: 17" x 15". $265.)

Every night after dinner I'm busy making more Christmas ornaments from old wooden thread spools. These will also go to the show in Philadelphia.  The selection is growing beautifully.  I'm excited!
 (Above:  Window CLV. Inventory # 4346. Framed: 17" x 15". $265.)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Four New Lancet Windows

(Above:  Four New Lancet Windows.  Each one measures 31" x 11" framed. $395 each.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Four new Lancet Window series pieces are now ready for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, November 2 - 4.  I'm working on all sorts of other work too.  Some of it is for this great opportunity.  Some of it is for other opportunities and some of it is just for fun.  I'm frequently asked how I remain so productive.  This is my answer: I work on several things at once.  Art fuels art!  The more I work, the more work I want to make! 

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCVIII. Inventory # 4337.)

The basic design for some of these Lancet Windows is not new.  I'm constantly challenged to divide up the foundations in new and different ways with other colors and motifs. 

 (Above:  Detail of Lancet Window CCXIII.)

Soon, I'll be sharing four new "Window" series pieces because they are already constructed, stitched, melted, and ready to be framed.  This weekend will find me back in my studio making several "In Box" series pieces. 

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCXV with a descending dove motif.  Inventory # 4339.)

Making "In Box" series pieces often happens after I've cut up so much material for work resembling stained glass.  All the scraps get cut into squares.  They get used pretty quickly.

  (Above:  Lancet Window CCXIV. Inventory # 4338.)

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

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCVI. Inventory # 4337.)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ask and You Shall Receive!

(Above: A collection of vintage and antique dolls and parts.  Donations from Flavia Isabella Lovatelli and Suzanne Spryn Smith, and two dealers from Bill Mishoe's auction.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Hurricane Florence didn't cause much damage here in South Carolina's Midlands but it certainly disrupted the flow of life, emptied grocery store shelves, and kept everyone waiting safe inside their homes.  For me, this meant STUDIO TIME.  I've finished four "Lancet Windows" and am about to melt four smaller "Window Series" pieces intended for the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in early November.  Pictures are coming!  Yet, my mind was still on the Doll Stories Series which I blogged last week.

 (Above:  She Loves Me/She Loves Me Not. Broken vintage doll, letters clipped from antique ephemera. Shadowbox framed. 15 1/2" x 9 1/2". $100.)

While constructing and stitching new work, I continued to think about what dolls might have to say about their lives as playthings.  I mused about the movie Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the scene when Santa's sleigh stops at the Island of Misfit Toys. It always made me cry. I thought about all the creepy sock puppets featured on DIY videos, stuffed dolls with big cross-stitches for eyes, the suggestion of abuse.
 (Above:  She Loves Me/She Loves Me Not, detail.)

While I never really played with dolls as a child, I did have a large dirty yellow and seriously off-white stuffed rabbit with button eyes.  I must have been about three or four when my mother caught me flicking the eyes off the creature using a bobby pin.  I'd done it before, cried about the eyes, and watched my mother sew them back in place.

  (Above:  She Loves Me/She Loves Me Not, detail.)

When caught torturing my rabbit a second time, my mother wisely refused to reattach the eyes.  For as long as I can remember, the rabbit remained blind.  I was sad about that but still loved my bunny.  So, last week I thought about why I took the bobby pin to its eyes.  Was I a horrible, cruel child?  Was this a sign of future bullying or aggressive behavior or lack of moral consciousness?  NO! Far from it! I was just curious to see what would happen.  I loved my bunny ... but did my bunny love me?

Soon I had a phrase to exploit:  She loves me/She loves me not.  All I needed was the vintage and antique dolls, preferably in pieces.  I asked on Facebook and I went to Bill Mishoe's auction.  Sure enough, I asked and I received.  This is the first piece.  A few more are coming.

The detached doll's head was thicker than the shadow box's depth.  So, I decided to use my dremel and cut off most of the back of the head.  I nearly ruined the dremel when all the blonde hair got caught and rotated into a massive tangle.  It took a half hour to get the dremel back in working order.  Fortunately, I had another, similar head with red hair.  I pulled off the hair, cut away most of the back, and glued it on the other head.  Talk about torturing a doll!  The original doll had only one, unbroken arm.  I pulled another arm off another doll.  Do check back to this blog ... because I'm currently working on a doll with the porcelain head.  You wouldn't believe what I'm doing to it! Whether these toys love me or not, I am certainly loving the creative process.
(Above:  Me holding the current SAQA [Studio Art Quilt Associates] Journal open to the spread with my article, "Navigating High End Craft Shows".)

I'm also thrilled to share the fact that my article, "Navigating High End Craft Shows", is in the current SAQA Journal issue.  Best of all, I've been asked to write another article! 

 (Above:  Box Relic CCVII.  Framed 12 1/2" x 10". $60.)

During an earlier blog post, I promised to share images of the two pieces created while conducting my HOT workshop for the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild.  I always finish my demonstrations.  Above is (Box) Relic CCVII and below is Relic CCVI.

(Above:  Relic CCVI.  Framed 12 1/4" x 9 1/2". $100.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Doll Stories, updating an older series

 (Above:  Doll Stories IX.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I finished this new series before leaving for my teaching gig outside Washington, DC but didn't have time to blog them.  They are "new work" but they are also "old work".  I took the photos in May 2012 while visiting Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Click HERE for the blog post about this amazing trip.) I printed, matted, and framed thirty-five images in order to hang them that summer in Galesburg, Illinois ... in the provided studio space for an art residency where I made The Canopy.

(Above:  All thirty-five images from 2012.)

Back in 2012, I saw the dolls as compliments to The Canopy.  They represented the preciousness of a feminine childhood, a concept largely manufactured by an adult society which is all wrapped up in stereotypical gender roles, adult nostalgia, and a parent's vision for an archetype child.  They went hand-in-hand with the impossible and patriarchal ideal of "Happily Ever After".  They were the things of fairy tales.  I saw these pristine, antique dolls as rather creepy ... supposedly beloved but rarely played with ... staring blankly out of porcelain heads.  (It probably wouldn't surprise anyone that I didn't have a favorite doll baby as a little girl!)

(Above: Doll Stories VIII.)

By the autumn of 2012, the entire series was shipped to Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona to be part of the annual Day of the Dead celebration.  On the back of each framed piece was a label reading:

“My name is Talky Tina and you’ll be sorry!”
In November 1963 the popular television show, The Twilight Zone, aired "Living Doll", an episode in which a wind-up, talking doll was featured and eventually caused the death of the overbearing father.  Since then, people exposed to this scary program have rarely seen dolls as innocent play toys but as a "thing that goes bump in the night". 
“Living Doll” was episode 126.  It aired on November 1, 1963 during season five.  It was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, written by  Jerry Sohl (credited to Charles Beaumont), and included an original score by Bernard Herrmann.  The stars included: Telly Savalas as Erich Streator; Mary LaRoche as Annabelle Streator; Tracy Stratford as Christie Streator; and June Foray’s voice for Talky Tina. 

(Above: Doll Stories III.)

The "Talky Tina" labels are still on the reverse of these "updated"  pieces but the second label has been replaced.  The second label included the original title (simply ... Doll I through XXXV) with an inventory number.

(Above: Doll Stories XIV.)

 I made a notation in my inventory book for each of these pieces ... writing "REMOVED from inventory".  I also erased the date penciled on each mat ... switching 2012 to 2018.  Each of these pieces now has a new name, new inventory number, and a new label.

(Above: Doll Stories XIII.)

I never thought I would do anything like this.  In fact, I remember thinking to myself, "Why would an artist change an old piece?  Why would a painter paint over an old canvas?  Why would a quilter cut up an old piece?  Why would a photographer return to an old negative? Wouldn't it be just as easy to start from scratch?

(Above: Doll Stories IV.)

Even in 2012, I never thought I would run out of space for art storage.  I never thought I'd have the amount of artwork just "sitting around collecting dust".  I also never thought about returning to old concepts and naturally wanting to "go further" with an idea, "do it differently", or "change the original". 

(Above: Doll Stories VII.)

I distinctly remember walking through the Dada show at the National Gallery of Art and shaking my head at the many labels listing the works with multiple dates ... explaining that "old broadsides" were used for "new paintings" and that many 3D assemblages were taken apart for gears to go in a newer device.  I thought, "These poor, poor artists.  They didn't have enough money or respect.  I wonder what would have been saved if they didn't have to scavenge through their own collection for materials."

(Above: Doll Stories I.)

While it might be true that many artists, especially those working on the cultural fringe and with little resource, did scavenge through their work for materials ... well ... it also might be true that many artists were just running out of storage.  Perhaps they were like me now ... looking at too many pieces that are several years old, without a permanent home, and seemingly begging to have another chance at being something NEW!

(Above: Doll Stories V.)

I didn't hesitate for a moment about reworking these photographs.  It seemed like the perfect thing to do.  It felt like taking the original concept and making it more obvious and better!

(Above: Doll Stories VI.)

I don't know for sure if any or all of these pieces will end up in the spring exhibition called Alternative Storytellers, but that's my hope.

(Above: Doll Stories II.)

Each piece is my original photograph, matted to 16" x 20" ... now a mixed media creation as each includes suggested narratives from a doll's point of view.  The letters are mostly clipped from vintage ephemera. 

(Above: Doll Stories X.)

(Above: Doll Stories XI.)

(Above: Doll Stories XII.)