Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Freiheit X, XI, XII, and XIII

 (Above:  Me with Freiheit X, XI, XII, and XIII. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Since December 2005, the four square frames against the yellow painted wall have hung with embroideries stitched in response to my very first art residency.  They are still very nice and maybe one day they will find a permanent home; but in the meantime, it was time for new work and my new Freiheit series seemed like a perfect replacement. 

(Above  Freiheit X.  Framed:  20" x 20"; unframed: 16" x 16".  Polyester stretch velvet and metallic foil with self-guided, free-motion stitching and covered in two layers of epoxy.)

Over the past two weeks, I created these four pieces.  Today, they went into the frames and hung back on the same wall.

 (Above:  The temporary set-up for photographing the four pieces.)

Today I also tried a new approach to photographing the work.  Black curtains were hung on my installation of doors and two large pieces of 96" x 48" foam-centered board blocked any direct light from the outside world without totally darkening the room. A black wind breaker jacket was wrapped around the tripod and I covered myself in the black velvet cape I usually wear to evening performances.  This set-up seemed to work!  There is still a hint of reflection, indicating the epoxy surface, but without the glare or a discernible objects that happen to be in front of the work.

 (Above:  Freiheit XIII, detail.)

The detail shots are particularly nice!  I'm pleased!  Below are the other pieces and also another picture for my Anonymous Ancestors installation.  I just can't help rescuing old photos of forgotten people even though I don't have another solo show scheduled after the current one at the Gadsden Museum of Art comes down late next month.  As an artist, it's my job to CREATE even when it doesn't make sense! LOL!

 (Above:  Freiheit XI.)

 (Above:  Freiheit XII.)

 (Above:  Freiheit XIII.)

(Above:  Wall of Ancestors, Life Kept Me Down.  16" x 13". Vintage frame with convex glass and antique photo altered with letters clipped from vintage ephemera.)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Freiheit VI, VIII, and IX

(Above from left to right: Me, Freiheit VII, Freiheit VIII, and Freiheit IX.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Although I haven't written a blog post in over a week, I have been busy! Constructing these pieces took less time than the process of preparing them for not one but TWO pours of epoxy.  It was worth it!

 (Above:  Freiheit VIII on the left and a sliver of Freiheit IX on the right.)

Taking photographs of artwork covered in two layers of epoxy is tricky!  I haven't figured it out but I'm trying.  Inside, there is absolutely no place where I'm not getting reflections of overhead light or the tripod and camera, or myself ... as can be seen in the photo above.

(Above:  Freiheit VII.  Framed: 41 1/2" x 32 1/2".  Layers of fused polyester stretch velvet, metallic foil, and epoxy with self-guided, free-motion stitching.  The work is wrapped around and stapled to wooden stretcher bars.  The stretcher bars included a piece of foam centered board for support.)

To snap the individual photos, I set up a contraption on my shaded front porch.  It included black curtains hanging in front of the piece.  Even so, the curtains were quite wide enough.  My husband Steve held up large pieces of black foam-centered board.  These are the best images we got!

(Above:  Freiheit VIII.  Framed: 41 1/2" x 32 1/2".)

I know that I need some "hot spots" of white reflection ... in order to indicate the epoxy ... but the lighting is still quite uneven.  The picture at the top of this blog post is actually the best representation of how the appear in person.  At an angle, I can eliminate most of the glare, but I really do need images that are taken straight-on and squarely.  Perhaps I'll try again!

 (Above:  Freiheit IX.  Framed: 41 1/2" x 32 1/2".)

Below are some of the detail shots ... which were just as difficult to capture as the larger image.  Thank goodness that I make work because I love it, not because I'm most interested in a good picture of the result!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Class of 1949

(Above:  Sierra Hampton modeling The Class of 1949, a garment made from vintage yearbook photos for upcoming opportunities with ecoFAB Trash Couture.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm very excited about my inclusion in a unique collective of artists known as ecoFAB Trash Couture.  It was founded by my friend Flavia Lovatelli who encourages participants to create unique garments made from material headed to landfills and other recyclables. For the most part, Flavia discourages the use of ordinary fabric/discarded clothing despite the fact that more than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in just the USA. The challenge is to make something WONDERFUL from more unusual materials ... like the photos from a 1949 yearbook!  Take a look at the ecoFAB link.  There are so many fantastical dresses made from used CDs, bicycle tires, dryer sheets, coffee k-cups, and so much more! 

 (Above:  The Class of 1949 on a dress form.)

There will be two runway shows for ecoFAB Trash Couture.  One will be during Charleston Fashion Week, Friday, June 14 and the other will be here in Columbia on August 31st.  More than just one-night-only events, Flavia organizes ways to showcase these recycled garments in artistic vignettes with related 2D and 3D artwork.  In anticipation of this, I've already finished my 3D piece for this garment.  It is my Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen.  (CLICK HERE for a blog post featuring this work.)  My idea for a 2D piece is still rolling around in my head ... but it will include more photos.

 (Above:  Constructing The Class of 1949.)

Making a recycled garment generally takes a bit of ingenuity, some explorations with regards to the approach, and some experimentation.  For me, however, I knew this would work!  This garment was made exactly like my Grid of Photos and part of the skirt in my first Anonymous Ancestors Sculptural Garments ... both of which are currently in my solo show at the Gadsden Museum of Art in Alabama.  In fact, I will be devising a way to temporarily turn the skirt into a cape for this new dress.

 (Above:  The Class of 1949 being stitched on my Babylock Tiara.)

The make The Class of 1949, I first fused all the pages of class photos from a vintage yearbook to some unbleached muslin donated to my stash years ago.  Then I cut all the pictures apart.  The cover of the yearbook was already gone because I used it on the Alternative Storytellers pedestal made last month.

Then, I glued the individual images to a piece of Pellon's 806 Stitch-and-Tear. The Stitch-and-Tear was already cut into a basic shape/pattern for the garment.  I even stitched two darts on the front side.  I am thankful to have a Babylock Tiara sewing machine because it made it easy to keep the fragile piece together and flat during the free-motion stitching.  Every photo was linked to its neighbors on every side.

 (Above:  The Class of 1949, stitched.)

It really didn't take long to stitch the work, but it took two days to carefully tear all the pieces of Stitch-and-Tear away from the photos! My living room looked like a confetti bomb had exploded and everywhere I went seemed to leave a little trail of tiny paper squares.  It was worth it!

 (Above:  Detail of the stitching from the back, before removing all the Stitch-and-Tear. The little blobs/discoloration in the middle of each photo shows the tab of glue that held the photo in place for the stitching.)

Every square, no matter how small, was torn away.  Then, I had to address the side closures.

A garment like this is fairly adjustable in size.  This is a good thing because I really don't know who will be modeling the garment for the runway shows.  Siena would like to do it but it is not up to me!

 (Above:  Stitching cording from strips of plastic.)

At first I thought I would create closure ties from strips of plastic.  It worked well enough but the resulting cord was too stiff.  I ended up making cording from strands of neglected yarn.

There are four ties on each side.

I had fun arranging the larger senior class photos with the rest of the school portraits.

Sierra works two doors away for my state representative Todd Rutherford.  I asked her to model for these pictures and she came this morning dressed perfectly in black.  I think the outfit looks amazing and can't wait to start my next one!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Another Year

 (Above:  Another Year, a Grave Rubbing Art Quilt. 11 1/2" x 21 1/2". Crayon grave rubbing on silk with vintage doily.  Free-motion and hand stitching.)

At one point in my life, I had numerous grave rubbing art quilts in production. Taking a crayon and a length of silk into a cemetery was an obsession.  I haunted burial grounds, collecting unique epitaphs and photographing sculptural angels.  The work was my "rock", a firm anchor. I reveled in it. Although, I'm still drawn to final resting places, only occasionally do I make a new rubbing.  The sad fact is, I don't need more of them.  Last Words, the solo installation that grew from this obsession, only has one future exhibition ... next October at the Caldwell Arts Council in Lenoir, North Carolina. 

 (Above:  Detail of Another Year.)

I could do this work forever but it doesn't make sense.  There are so many related area for me to explore ... like suggesting narratives for the anonymous people staring out of forgotten photographs.  Truly, my current solo installation, Anonymous Ancestors, grew out of my passion for "all things funereal".  Other avenues exist too, and yet I can't quite give up the relaxation found in the running stitches that cover most of my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts.

 (Above:  Detail of Another Year.)

I adore this series.  The concept comes from the very heart of my desire to express myself.  So, it really isn't any wonder that I return to it upon occasion.  Cemeteries remind me of the passage of time.  2019 is another year and this is another piece in my ongoing love affair with final words and the motifs of death. For me, none of this is morbid.  I am not so concerned with the "last day" but how I intend to use all the days leading up to it.

(Above:  Another Year, reverse.)

I also have a great desire to give vintage household linens a "second life" as art ... even if they are used only for the reverse side of my work.  Every piece on the reverse was donated by my friend Valerie Summers.  Thank you, Valerie for rescuing them!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Things Kept, Five New Pieces

 (Above:  An assortment of beautiful, vintage buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

One might say that I collect buttons but truly that's an understatement.  I amass buttons!  At auction, I can't help myself.  I bid even though I don't need more, even if the selection is ordinary, even if I have seemingly run out of room to store them. One way or the other, I find a way to sort and keep them ... all of them.  I love buttons!  There's a old wooden box in which I've stashed my very favorite ones ... like those in this picture.  But recently I had to ask myself, "What are you keeping them for?  When are you finally going to use them?"

(Above:  Things Kept I.  Framed 38" x 30".  Decorative paper, fabric, buttons, vintage fans on heavy watercolor paper.)

Many of the buttons I've bought at auction were kept in neat cookie tins or glass mason jars. Without knowing the original owners, I am quite familiar with the reasoning behind keeping buttons:  One day I will need them ... One day I will use them ... One day will come!  Yet, it didn't come.  I got them instead and applied the exact same rationalization.  

(Above:  Things Kept II.  Framed 38" x 30".  Antique bookend paper, fabric, trim, buttons, vintage beads and ephemera on heavy watercolor paper.)

It is sort of pathetic to know that my enormous stash, and especially the "favorite buttons", had gone from one rationalization to another rationalization.  So, this New Year, I had to DO SOMETHING.  The day had come to finally use some of the most precious buttons.  These are the five pieces made inspired by my best-of-the-best.  

(Above:  Things Kept III.  Framed 38" x 30".  Decorative paper, fabric from an antique Chinese folding screen, thread, vintage print of ancient ceramics, buttons, beaded purse on heavy watercolor paper.)

I also dove into my stash of decorative papers and another box in which I've stored small previous keepsakes ... like a damaged, beaded handbag from the early 20th century, Sunday school gloves, antique lace and shells, and scraps of hand embroidered silk.  These are all THINGS KEPT, which became the title for the new work.  These are all things I intended to use "one day" and the day finally came.

(Above:  Things Kept IV.  Framed 38" x 30".  Decorative paper, embroidered Chinese fabric, buttons, glove, shell and beads on heavy watercolor paper.)

One of the things that prompted the work is an upcoming opportunity to have my artwork at a popular, fine dining restaurant called Motor Supply Co. Bistro (because the original use of the historic, brick building was as a motor supply store!).  In my mind, these pieces will look fabulous on the walls and appropriate to the classy decor.  The opportunity came from a friend, Bohumila Augustinova.  She curates a rotating schedule of artwork for the restaurant, changing it every three or four months.  Bohumila is originally from the Czech Republic ... the place where most of my favorite buttons were made.  It was in her honor that I decided, once and for all, to use these precious possessions instead of just keeping them hidden in the little, wooden box. 

  (Above:  Things Kept V.  Framed 38" x 30".  Antique paper with xylene photo transfer of a cemetery angel, water soluble crayon, epoxy, and buttons on heavy watercolor paper.)

In my stash of decorative papers, I found a xylene photo transfer of a cemetery angel.  I made it years ago.  It was made on an extremely large piece of antique paper that came from a giant-sized book.  I adore the foxing on the paper.  It sings with age.  It became the perfect place for a collection of fine Czechoslovakian jet buttons.  I added shading with water soluble crayon and an epoxy halo. Below are some of the detail shots featuring the buttons that inspired this work. 

 (Above:  Detail of button on Things Kept I.)

 (Above:  Detail of Things Kept II.)

 (Above detail of button on Things Kept IV.)

  (Above detail of button on Things Kept IV.)

  (Above detail of button on Things Kept V.)

 (Above detail of Things Kept V.)

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen

 (Above:  Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen, view of the interior.  Dimensions when standing at a right angle as seen above:  68 1/2" x 36" x 16".  Antique Chinese folding screen, anonymous vintage and antique photographs, decorative upholstery tacks, thread. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Over the past several months I've gotten to know an incredible artist named Flavia Isabella Lovatelli, a multidisciplinary sustainable artist who is known for her award winning, coiled paper sculptures and as the founder of Art Ecologie Group, a collective that annually presents an event called ecoFAB Trash Couture.  More than just a runway show featuring garments made entirely from recycled goods (no fabric!), this event also presents the garments in exhibition vignettes with coordinated 2D and 3D artwork. 

Flavia used a couple of my recycled fashions in a recent exhibition at the Anderson Art Center.  Shortly thereafter, I became a member of the group ... which means I am responsible for creating a perfect TRIFECTA for the upcoming Charleston Fashion Week and the next runway show here in Columbia, August 31.  (Actually, I'm planning two trifectas!)  A "perfect trifecta" includes a 100% recycled garment to be displayed with coordinating 2D and 3D artwork. 

(Above: Two of the vignettes recently seen at the Anderson Art Center in South Carolina.  My Pantyhose Dress and black boa are on the left; His Secrets and Her Secrets hung behind another artist's garment and 3D piece.  For this opportunity, Flavia mixed the artists' work.  My garment was paired with another artist's 2D and 3D pieces, and my 2D pieces were shown with someone else's garment and 3D work,)

 So ... I'm working on a garment made from vintage photos and I've just finished my 3D piece. I'm very pleased with this folding screen, my first trifecta's 3D artwork.  I've actually owned the screen for over a decade.  It had four panels but I've only used the outside two.

 (Above:  Anonymous Ancestors Folding Screen, exterior.)

Flavia and I have had wonderful/serious conversations about our studio art practices, collaborating with other artists, and many of the issues that face any group of people working toward a common goal.  A frequent problem are group members who wait until the last minute.  These are often the artists who claim to "work well under pressure".

Flavia and I both work well under pressure but we choose not to do this!  We are both the sort of people who prefer to be ahead of a deadline.  Flavia said it best.  She said that a successful piece can be made during the "last minutes" but that it is rarely "the best effort".  It takes time and contemplation, the freedom to step back and examine the initial efforts, and the opportunity to make changes that result in an artist's "best work". 

Such is the story with this folding screen.  It only took two days to sand the rough surfaces, apply maple stain to the unfinished wood, and tack the photographs to the screen.  To be honest, it looked WONDERFUL and I was very, very happy.  This could have been the end of it.  This is what I would have made if working under the pressure of a looming deadline.

The next day, however, I stood back and looked at the screen ... really looked at it and wondered about the spaces between the photos.  I thought about the independent layers and had a hair-brained idea about stitching ... about linking the images and the front to the back and how the screen might look even more amazing.

It took quite a lot of time to stitch this piece ... weeks.  I was constantly jumping from one side to the other.  As I worked, I realized that I was creating another layer ... the back side of the photographs.  After all the stitching, I ripped and tore more images and glued them in the spaces behind the threads. 

I wish I had snapped a few pictures before all the stitching ... just as a comparison.  Why?  Well, the screen is so much more successful now than it had been earlier.  Because I had the time, I could truly go that "one more step" from "good to great."

I've really liked my conversations with Flavia and am looking forward to working with her and for the opportunities with ecoFAB couture.  Scroll down for more details from this new 3D piece!