Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Mandala LVI and LVII

(Above:  Mandala LVI. Framed: 40" x 40" as a diamond; 28 1/4" x 28 1/4" as a square.  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of an old, bow-tie quilt. Found objects include: Pewter animals with musical instruments; beer caps; blue plastic toy gears; metal picture frame hangers; external tooth lock washers; white plastic bottle caps, buttons; insulin needle caps; keys; a snowflake shaped ornament; and long needle-like parts of a prostate radioactive seed implant device.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Several months ago Steve told me that if my mandala series was accepted into this November's Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, I was to make a piece using his mother's collection of pewter animals.  My mother-in-law Judy adored these "dust catchers".  (Steve's reference ... because he's the person who dust things in our house!) For the most part, Steve is very sentimental.  When Judy died (1998), he wanted this band of musicians. So when my application was successful, I wasn't sure Steve really meant for me to use them ... but he insisted.

(Above:  Mandala LVI, detail.)

Steve and I remember Judy for her infectious laughter, silly earrings, her collection of California Raisins and trolls, and for painting her perfect fingernails different colors, even neon shades and glow-in-the-dark polishes.  For years, Judy and her friend Peggy were volunteers for the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.  The two went into Norfolk's public schools and conducted eye tests.  One year, they received the Governor of Virginia's award for individual volunteerism.  Judy knew that crazy earrings, hilarious t-shirts, and especially colorful fingernails with stickers put students at ease and entertained them while in line.  Besides, these things gave Judy a reason to laugh.

(Above:  The bass drum playing monkey.)

Judy thought a musical group of pewter animals was silly and fun.  Hudson Pewter offered them one-at-a-time.  This gave my father-in-law something to purchase for Judy's birthday and Christmas, their anniversary, and even Mother's Day. She eventually had the entire set.  Both Steve and I know that Judy would get a kick out of the fact that her little collection became ART.  She'd also think it amazing that this piece will be going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and might sell to a total stranger.  (She'd probably hope they had lots of kids!)    

(Above:  Mandala LVI, detail.)

Steve and I had many great conversations about Judy while I was stitching this piece.  We know Judy would approve ... and applaud ... and laugh, laugh, laugh!  Steve helped with the arrangement of animals, insisting that the penguin conductor and his stand were at the top ...

(Above:  Mandala LVI, hung as a diamond.)

... even though the piece can hang as a diamond.

(Ernie the Cat helping with Mandala LVI.)

Ernie the Cat seemed to be very protective of these figurines too!

(Above:  The back side of Mandala LVI before going into its floater-styled frame.) 

Drilling through pewter might be possible but I didn't try it.  Each figurine is hand stitched in its place on the quilt.  Yet these pieces really do have some weight to them.  To mount this work, I first removed it from the wooden stretcher bar to which it was initially stapled.  I glued acid-free foam-centered board to the face of the stretcher bar and re-stapled the piece. Using a strong nylon monofilament (like a heavy-duty fishing line), I stitched through the acid-free foam-centered board and the quilt.  This is how my mandalas are generally presented, but this time I stitched six to eight more stitches around each animal.  Basically, the animals are totally secured to both the quilt and the foam-centered board.  Not one animal moves!  The weight is evenly distributed so that no part of the quilt is supporting more than a small section.

(Above:  Mandala LVII.  Framed: 20" x 20". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of an old, bow-tie quilt. Found objects include a Viewmaster disk; keys; buttons; white, plastic rings; heart shaped pins; and African vinyl record beads.)  

Generally, I start looking for pieces for the next mandala while framing the one just completed.  I auditioned several things for the next piece but rejected most of them.  One of the rejected pieces was a Viewmaster disk.  It was just too small for a piece similar in size to Mandala LVI but it seemed perfectly right for a scrap of the blue-and-red bow tied quilt that almost went into the trash.  The more I looked at it, the more I knew it had to be stitched ... and it got done in just one day!  The next mandala will take considerably more time!  I've already started it.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Mandala Series is Going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show

(Above:  Mandala LII.  Framed as a diamond: 15 1/2" x 15 1/2"; as a square: 11 3/4" x 11 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a single block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: spark plugs; white, plastic bottle lids; syringe caps; copper pieces from some random device; four, gold discs from disassembled trophies; some sort of circular gear in the center; and buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Before I left to install two solo shows and to be at the Rensing Center for my two-week art residency, I finished Mandala LII but didn't get it framed or photographed.  While I was away, Steve built the frame.  It is a "new-to-us" picture frame moulding, a "floater" ... which is to say that the moulding never lips over the edge of the artwork.  Floaters are L-shaped. Typically, they are screwed to the back of stretched canvases and hide the edges (frequently where the canvas is stapled to the stretcher bar).  Floaters aren't new to Steve and me.  In fact, almost all my mandalas are framed in floater frames.  What is new is the finish.  This one is white.  It gives a more contemporary look to these pieces.  It also means that I'm not thinking about how a black line will look around the found objects I'm stitching.  Yes ... I am always thinking about balance in the final presentation, especially the contrast between the artwork and the framing.  I guess that's the picture framer in me!

(Above:  Mandala LIII.  Framed as a diamond: 36 1/4" x 36 1/4"; as a square: 25 3/4" x 25 3/4".  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects included: a yellow, plastic lemon juicer; plastic salt shaker tops; shower curtain hooks; orange hair curlers; keys; cabinet fasteners; bread closures; brass screw eyes; galvanized washers; white, plastic bottle caps; insulin syringes; buttons; and hearing aid batteries still in their packaging.)

As soon as I returned home, I was anxious to start the next mandala because I had acquired so many cool items for it. In a Pickens' thrift store, I found a bonanza of things.  I'm sure the nice woman at the counter thought I was nuts when selecting hair curlers.  There's no way that anyone looking at my naturally curly hair would think I needed them!  I got the lemon juicer, shower curtain hooks, and packages of hearing aid batteries there too!

(Above:  Mandala LIII, detail.)

While stitching this piece, I knew I wanted the black floater frame used for many of my earlier mandalas.  I made sure to include rings with black buttons to balance the framing.  This series has my mind totally occupied ... from scavenging for unique items to placement of them to a well-composed finished artwork.  Each one is a challenge.

(Above:  Mandala LIII, detail.)

I would be continuing this series even if they weren't accepted into the 2021 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show this November, but now ... I'm SO EXCITED to know they will be seen by a large audience.  This is my sixth time in a row to successfully jury into this prestigious show.  It was a risk to apply with a new body of artwork but I also felt it was time to "switch things up".  After all, those coming do expect to see "new work", not just variations on the style and approach they've seen show after show.  So now ... full speed ahead with the mandalas!

(Above:  Mandala LIV.  Framed as a diamond: 21 3/4" x 21 3/4"; as a square: 15 1/2" x 15 1/2". Found objects hand-stitched to a vintage quilt block. Found objects include: a metal sugar shaker top; corn-on-the-cob holders; New Castle beer caps; glass chandelier prisms; white dairy pull-tabs; brass jingle bells; needle threaders; brass screw eyes; keys; four, plastic gears from a child's toy set; buttons; a plastic bracelet; and safety pins.)

As soon as I finished Mandala LIII, I started on this piece.  The corn-on-the-cob holders also came from the Pickens' thrift store.  I planned this piece specifically for the new, white floater frame ... intentionally spreading white objects for a balanced look.

(Above:  Mandala LIV, detail.)

I am also trying to pay attention to the perle cotton used for the stitching.  In the beginning, I had a blue-on-blue vintage quilt and only used blue perle cotton.  Now, I'm trying new shades.

(Above: Mandala LV. Framed: 14 3/4" x 14 3/4". Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: embroidery scissors; wooden clothespins; crystal chandelier prisms; metal garment closure hooks; vintage capacitors; clock gears; paper fasteners; brass screw eyes; beer caps; brass jingle bells; buttons; and four, plastic protective corners for mirrors.)

Another consideration is the final orientation.  Many of my mandalas are meant to have an option.  They can hang as a diamond or a square.  Some, however, have a specific orientation.  As soon as I put the embroidery scissors in the center of Mandala LV, it became a square. 

(Above:  Mandala LV, detail.)

Thankfully, I have people helping me with the quest for unusual found objects.  One of them is Steve!  When building the frames for my solo show The Big Day, we ordered three, large mirrors.  They came with plastic protective corners.  Ordinarily, these would have gone into the trash, but Steve saved them saying, "Look honey!  You can use these on a mandala!"  He was right!

(Above:  Mandala LV, detail.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Mandala L and LI (as in Roman numerals 50 and 51)

(Above:  Mandala L.  Framed: 23" x 23" on point; 16 1/2" x 16 1/2" as a square.  Found objects hand-stitched to a vintage quilt block. Found objects include: pet tags donated to my stash by Linda Whittenburg; belt and overall buckles (also from Linda); copper washers from Sue Porter Heiney; decorative wire squares from Margaret Blank; Starbucks coffee stoppers; old keys; toy truck tires; screw eyes; buttons; bolts; an antique gold drawer pull back plate; and some sort of metal circle that might be plumbing hardware.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

As promised yesterday, I'm blogging the two, smaller mandalas that were finished before my two weeks of solo show installations and an art residency.  These two were inspired by Linda Whittenburg's generosity.  She left a nice comment on Mandala XXXII  regarding the pet tags on that piece.  She mentioned having some and perhaps sending them to me.  Well ... she did!  She also sent a note saying that she might be interested in a small mandala using these pet tags.

(Above:  Mandala L, detail.)

I love this sort of "non-commission".  I was under no obligation to actually use the items she sent or to discuss a design, arrangement, size, price, or anything else.  Linda was under no obligation to purchase anything.  Of course, I used the pet tags and buckles she sent.  Of course I sent her images before I left ... as a "first refusal".  She got to see the two finished pieces before anyone else.  Well, she liked them and bought Mandala L.  I am always so very, very happy when one of my pieces finds a permanent home!  THANK YOU LINDA!

(Above:  Mandala LI.  Framed: 23" x 23" on point; 16 1/2" x 16 1/2" as a square.  Found objects hand-stitched to a vintage quilt block. Found objects include: pet tags and buckles donated to my stash by Linda Whittenburg; Cosby whiskey stirrers from Scot Hockman; gold discs from recently dismantled trophies; plastic eyelashes from Marti Ornish; keys; shower curtain rings; metal picture frame hangers; earring parts shaped like a ships' helms; washers; an ornate pin; and a metal circle that looks like it might have been part of a camera lens.)

I decided to stitch two, small mandalas with the pet tags because I simply didn't like any arrangement that used all of them.  The shapes and colors just refused to cooperate!  I couldn't find a quilt block that seemed to work with all the tags.  Yet, I found two different quilt blocks from the same vintage quilt that each looked great with half the tags.  It is fun to figure out what found objects go together and what looks good on the vintage quilt blocks in my stash. 

(Above:  Mandala LI, detail.)

I am also very, very happy to announce that these mandalas were accepted into the 2021 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show! My fiber vessels were also accepted!  This makes six times in a row!  It is, however, the first time I applied with different work in the category of "decorative fibers".  I was nervous.  Now I'm really thrilled!

(Above:  Ernie the Cat supervising the photography for these mandalas!)

Monday, May 17, 2021

Mandala XLIX, The Trophy Mandala

(Above:  Mandala XLIX, The Trophy Mandala.  Framed:  37 1/2" x 37 1/2" on point; 26 1/2"  26 1/2" as a square.  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of an old bow tie quilt.  Found objects include: shiny gold plastic trophies and discs from their stands, a baking cooling rack, screw eyes, buttons, salt shaker tops, plastic water bottle lids, and long needle-like parts of a prostate radioactive seed implant device.  Click on any image to enlarge.) 

Before going off on a whirlwind adventure that included installing two museum shows and an outdoor project during a two-week art residency, I finished this mandala ... and two others that will be blogged tomorrow!  It all started with a conversation about an annual church bazaar.  A friend told me about it.  She insisted that I go because she was sure I'd find things for my mandalas.  She was absolutely right!

(Above:  Mandala XLIX, detail.)

I found the baking cooling rack right away.  I found several other things too.  Then I looked into a box that was under one of the tables.  It was filled with trophies from some shop that had either gone out of business or discarded these examples.  Not one included a brass plate with a name. On the box was written the price:  10-cents each.  Well, that's my kind of shopping!  I scooped them up at once ... even though I wasn't sure exactly how they might work on a flat, quilted surface. 


(Above:  The trophies on my mat cutter.)

It was fun taking the trophies apart.  I played around with them on my mat cutter and determined that I probably could stitch them to the quilt.  Several of them included gold discs as part of the trophy stand.  I used these too.

(Above:  Mandala XLIX, detail.)

These trophies look like they weigh plenty but they are actually hollow plastic.  Just to make sure each was firmly attached to the finished mandala, I added plenty additional stitches when mounting the work to the acid-free foam-centered board.  (To learn how I mount these pieces, please visit this blog post that explains the process and how spark plugs were firmly attached.)

(Above:  Ernie helping with this mandala.)

Of course Ernie the Cat is still helping with this work ... even though it couldn't be particularly comfortable to sit on plastic trophies!  Tomorrow I'll blog the other two, smaller pieces that were finished before my art residency!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Clothesline at the Rensing Center

(Above:  The Clothesline Installation at the Rensing Center, an art residency program just outside Pickens, SC.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The Clothesline Installation started with a proposal sent to the Enos Park Art Residency Program with the Springfield Art Association in Illinois.  The proposal called for a "creative clothesline" made from vintage and found textiles that would draw attention to the benefits of line drying, the need for household energy conservation, and the beauty of doing things BY HAND!  I started cutting, fusing, and zigzag stitching hand prints in January 2020.  Little did I know at the time that COVID-19 was already spreading its way across the globe and about to change everything.  

Shortly after returning home, the cancellations, indefinite postponements, and business shutdowns started.  Phrases like "social distancing" and "contact tracing" and "flattening the curve" became commonplace.  Mouse House, the limited custom picture framing business I have with my husband Steve, was deemed "non-essential" and forced to close.  This gave me time to continue making more and more items for The Clothesline.  (Plus ... lots of nice people were spending time "downsizing" and "cleaning out their attics and garages" ... which meant they were donating their vintage household linens to me too!  THANK YOU!)  Basically, I made a lot of pieces for the "future installation", and my project even spoke to the pandemic ... as in ... "Wash your hands"!  By the end of the year it was clear:  I needed a place to experiment.  I needed a place to attempt putting up a temporary, non-invasive clothesline.  I needed a BIG patch of "green" and time to work!  I applied for another art residency at the Rensing Center and got it!
My action plan seemed simple enough.  I was going to use a sledgehammer to pound half-inch wide, ten-feet long, galvanized electrical conduit two or more feet into the ground.  I was going to zip-tie a large screw eye into a previously drilled hole in the top of each conduit.  I was going to string a clothesline through the screw eyes, safety pin the items to the line, and add clothespins "for a proper look".  Like many of my plans, this was hilariously flawed but good enough to make a start!
I learned many things.  I learned that at no point in my entire life (even when young and fit) could I ever wield a sledgehammer ... not with one hand while the other held the conduit ... not when on a six foot ladder attempting to hit a ten foot pole ... not if it meant the darn thing needed to be swung higher than my own waist.  What on earth was I thinking when I put the sledgehammer into my cargo van?  Thankfully, a regular hammer worked. I learned that one can't drive an electrical conduit into the ground deeper than top soil.  If one hits solid rock, that's it.  Solid rock at the Rensing Center is approximate twelve inches under the grass.  I learned that fire ants bite ... so look down often.  I learned that wind is a real factor and had to be addressed almost immediately.  I learned that keeping a straight line doesn't matter.  In fact, a meandering line looks even nicer.

Thankfully, I had a back-up plan (or a place that I knew that would rescue me!)  Bivens Hardware store is awesome!  Family owned since 1923, Bivens' staff really HELP people and they sure helped me.  I came with just five electrical conduits.  I planned on purchasing more at Bivens.  After precariously pounding my five electrical conduits into the ground, I learned that eight-foot lengths would be better.  I can't cut electrical conduit.  Bivens can and did.  Bivens also drilled the holes on the ones I purchased there.  What took me an hour, took them minutes.  They also had plenty of rope and tent pegs to stake the poles against the wind.  With this help and the "gift of time and space" provided by the Rensing Center, I learned how to install a temporary clothesline.  Next time (and hopefully I'll get a "next time"), it will be easier and quicker.

I had hoped to install ALL the pieces made for this installation and accurately measure the yardage.  That didn't happen but that's okay.  Bivens ran out of electrical conduit.  Only a little more than half the individual pieces made in onto the clothesline.  Yet, I can now claim "more than seventy yards" ... because that's what's hanging now!  I also learned that my Clothesline Installation can withstand strong winds when the poles are staked using tent pegs and rope.  I learned that my Clothesline Installation can withstand an entire night of rain!  It dried again in the sunshine ... just like any other clothesline!  I also learned that cows seem to enjoy art installations!

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Clothesline Installation by Susan Lenz

I started installing The Clothesline last Saturday, the day after I finished putting up my solo show, The Big Day, at the nearby Pickens County Museum of Art and History.  A trip to Bivens Hardware store provided much needed equipment but more was needed. In spite of this, the installation survived last night's rain.  I returned to Bivens today, Monday, and bought tent pegs, rope, and more upright electrical conduits.  This is the result. The installation is doing quite well even in the strong winds!  I'm so pleased! 

Sunday, May 09, 2021

The Big Day, a solo installation

(Above:  The entrance into The Big Day, my solo installation at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Thursday and Friday were wonderful days!  I installed The Big Day at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History. Because the museum is only open Tuesday through Friday from 9 - 5, the show officially opens this coming Tuesday, May 11th and runs through July 23rd.  The museum used to have weekend hours, but that was before the pandemic, before the staff was cut, before social distancing, before ... like when art shows were scheduled years in advance. Getting this opportunity is like a "silver lining" after all the closures, cancellations, and indefinite postponements of 2020.  I'm so happy to have had this chance to work with my found and donated wedding dresses and to sculpt this installation.

(Above:  The exhibition signage and one of the two altered guest books.)

Although I got lucky in finding this venue, I was fortunate in many other, much more important ways because I started this venture well in advance of the pandemic!  I've been planning for two years!  Why?  Well, 2021 marks Steve's and my 40th wedding anniversary.  I wanted to mark the occasion as an art installation.  After all, I did something for our 30th.  Why not do something even more significant for this big event? (To see I Do / I Don't, the solo installation created for our 30th anniversary, CLICK HERE.  Yes, I've been blogging long enough that I have posts going back to 2011 ... even as far as 2006!)  So ... special thanks goes to all those wonderful people who donated their wedding dresses to this exhibit.  The pandemic could not hold me back due to your generosity! 

(Above:  One of two altered, vintage photo albums functioning as a guest book for the installation.)

Ordinarily, I take very little time to actually install a show, but ... ordinarily ... I am already familiar with the individual pieces, the general set up, and have a definite action plan. This was different.  This was the first time!  All I in knew in advance was that I would put my signage and one of two altered guest books near the entrance!  So ... that area was hung first.  (To explore the guest book, please CLICK HERE for an earlier blog post.)

(Above:  Some of the wedding dresses hung near the exhibition signage and guest book.)

After putting the guest book on the pedestal, I was face with nearly forty wedding gowns.  They had been rolled into the room on two, heavy-duty garment racks.  I knew some would need to "go on the walls".  But how?  Which ones?  At what height? These and other questions were answered intuitively.

Quickly, I knew that I needed to address the strapless gowns.  Also, I learned that the more voluptuously full ball gowns could hang in the windows.  I was mindful of the shifting colors, the long fabric trains, and the need to safety pin many to the fifty padded hangers purchased last month.  Also, this first area seemed the perfect place to suspend True Blue, a tiny, shrunken wool wedding bodice which is covered in embroidered wedding vows.  (For more about how I stitched True Blue, CLICK HERE.)
My prior idea was to suspend forty wedding gowns in a giant circle.  That plan was pretty much dashed as I collected the dresses.  Wedding dresses are often heavy, take up a lot of room, and an appropriate circle would have been wider than the room.  As a result, there are only three hanging from the dropped ceiling.  They are surrounded by the eleven veils made for I Do / I Don't, my 30th anniversary show. 
Each one of these veils is free-motion embroidered with statements about marriage and divorce.  I crowd-sourced for these special words.  Lots of people contributed phrases expressing pure joy, absolute anger, fond memories, words of wisdom, good advice, and special stories.  I used a water soluble stabilizer to do the embroidery.  Once stitched and washed, the stitched line is left on the veil.  Even though these statements are perfectly legible, one need to touch the veils ... spread them out in order to see the full lines. 
So, to make the statements more accessible, I created an artist book.  It sits on a small, tilted stand in front of my "selfie wall".  Each statement was collaged, letter by letter, using letters clipped from old books and magazines.  (To see the pages, CLICK HERE for a Flickr album.)
The "selfie wall" was so very much fun to create!  Well over a month ago, I spent an entire day trying on all the wedding gowns that had been donated or purchased at auction.  I snapped selfies in two different "sets" created in the house.  To be honest, it was exhausting ... but hilariously fun.  One set was in front of a very large mirror.  The other set was in front of gold brocade curtains.  Each selfie was printed as a 4" x 6" and hung on doll-clothes hangers that came with clips.  Who knew that doll's need hangers for their skirts and pants?  (To read more about this "selfie day" and see some of the images, CLICK HERE.)
From the moment I secured the Pickens County Museum of Art and History as the venue for this exhibit, I knew that I would transform this circular niche into a place for visitors to take their own selfies.  I envisioned three mirrors, just like a fashionable bridal boutique might have for viewing each gown.  Thankfully, Steve and I are picture framers.  We cut and built the mirrors. 
It was easy to determine the right dress for this location.  One strapless ball gown styled dress was size 28 XXXL. Carefully, the back seam was opened ... all THREE layers.  I turned the edges under and stitched them down.  Loops of elastic went under the arm area.  Heavy, wide lace was folded in thirds and made the hanging device.  Now ... visitors can literally step into this dress, wrap it around themselves, and snap their own selfie.
I know it works!  I did it too!
I couldn't quite get a selfie will all three reflections, but the niche does give that view!
Next to the niche is a wall that speaks to Steve's and my anniversary. I scanned our faded, 8" x 10" wedding portrait and had Spoonflower print it on cotton fabric in a size that fit into this lovely, antique frame.  It is free motion stitched.  (To read more about this process, CLICK HERE.)  Below is another altered, vintage photo album.  It is called Anonymous Brides. To the left is the signage for the selfie niche and the two selfies I took in my own wedding dress.  To the right is the original invitation to our wedding. Above is my wedding dress.  Yes, it is nailed and stapled to the wall. 
Like many of the donated and found gowns, my wedding dress shows some discoloration, I have no daughter ... and most of these gowns show the style of the era in which they were worn.  Few of these dresses are what any, upcoming bride really wants to wear.  The dress is personal, but it is also a large part of the socioeconomic pressures that come with "the big day".  While I worked, figuring out how to display these garments, I couldn't help but to think about the thousands of dollars in the room.
After forty years, I can easily attest to the fact that the dress wasn't that important.  At least four of the dresses in this show were bought for ten dollars or less at Bill Mishoe's auction.  They were still sealed in acid-free boxes after an expensive cleaning and packaging service.
Some of these gowns are covered with tiny pearl and seed beads. Some of these dresses came with specialty slips with layers of gathered tulle. Some date to the 1940s.  One is likely from the 1920s or earlier.  Most came from the 1950s through 1980s. Some of these dresses aren't quite as elaborate.  A few are down-right ugly.  Yet, trying them on for my selfies did bring feelings of beauty and charm.
One dress was put on a fiberglass dress form.  It is absolutely stunning ... and polyester ... and with 1980s puffy sleeves. It is equally gorgeous and currently unfashionable.   Many of these dresses and all of the I Do / I Don't wedding veils were ironed.  Yes ... I brought an iron and ironing board to install!  I ironed the full skirt of this gown right on the carpeted floor!
When ironing, I couldn't help but to wonder about the marriages each of these dresses started.  From notes received with donations, I knew that a few of the most beautiful dresses were worn for marriages that didn't last and that some of the rather ugly ones were donated by the children whose parents stayed together for more than half a century. 
On the largest wall, I hung my collection of anonymous brides and wedding pictures.  Fifteen of them were created recently.  The rest came from my installation Anonymous Ancestors. I've hung this "wall of ancestors" in several locations.  It is always a puzzle waiting to be solved.  I'm very pleased with the visual effect. Each piece is an original, anonymous photo collaged with individual letters that spell out suggestive narratives like:  Virgins on Our Honeymoon Night; He Cheated on Me; Shot Gun Wedding; I Didn't Tell Him that I Was Already Pregnant; I Lived in the Shadow of His First Wife; Made for Each Other; ... and ... of course ... Married for Forty Years. (To read more about the new additions to this grouping, CLICK HERE.)
As I worked, the number of dresses still on the rolling, heavy-duty garment rack began to shrink.  The atmosphere was developing.  Basically, the stage was set!  But, I had one more wall to transform.
This last wall became the place for ten different dresses.  I had worried over the blue dress.  I know who wore it.  She's happily married and I wanted to include it even though the color was so different from the rest of the room.  Yet, it wasn't the only one!  One satin dress was quite a vanilla color.  It didn't work well in any of the other locations in which I attempted to hang it.  Then, there was the itty-bitty, sparkling taupe strapless dress that looks like it ought to have been going to a disco instead of a church!  One beige dress was probably marketed for the mother-of-the-bride but was worn for a second marriage.  Together, however, they really do show the variety of dresses that once walked down the aisle.  To me, this wall makes a point of saying "the dress really doesn't matter".  On some level, all these dresses are special but it is the days thereafter that define a marriage.
I'm very, very pleased with how this show came together.  I learned a lot about how best to install it.  I have the confidence and images now that will allow me to submit this installation to next year's ArtFields, a competition and exhibition in Lake City, South Carolina.  (This doesn't mean my installation will be accepted ... but I couldn't apply without having this show first!)
I couldn't have done any of this without the generosity of others who sent their wedding dresses or without the staff at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History for the willingness to let me do this, but I definitely couldn't have done with without Steve.  Happy Anniversary ... now and forever.  September 12, 1981.