Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Three Found Object Mandalas

(Above:  Mandala XCV.  Custom framed: 38" x 38". Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include:  Two clock faces; copper pastry molds; shower curtain hangers; assorted bottle caps; keys; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands and late 1930s/early 1940s Christmas seals; wavy hair curlers; green casino chips; blue and white plastic bottle lids; sewing machine bobbins; buttons; and colorful, vintage Christmas light reflectors.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

The past few weeks have been busy!  Despte having two solo installations open in Sumter, South Carolina and handling Christmas custom picture framing (day job!), I have made time to continue stitching new pieces in my Found Object Mandala Series.  I know that the Smithsonian Craft Show will be here in a matter of a few months.  It's scheduled for April 20 - 24, 2022.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCV.)

I'm very, very happy that this series has been accepted into this prestigious show but I am also well aware that I've happily agreed to having a solo show at Artisans on the Square in Greenville, Georgia.  The show is called Once and Again: Alterations ... and it will include a selection of Found Object MandalasThe nice gallery owner specifically requested "mandalas" for this opportunity that opens on April 23.  Obviously, all the artwork will have to be delivered before the Smithsonian Craft Show.  Thus, I need plenty of work before April!  Mandalas for both places!

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCV.)

Thankfully, I absolutely adore stitching these pieces and I'm lucky enough to have friends contributing to my stash of found objects ... including Dolly Patton, Jinny Cherry, Flavia Lovatelli, Sue Porter Heiney, and Sabrina Corley Lindemann ... and likely others.  Once the items are mixed into the stash, it is hard for me to always remember those who so graciously donated ... but THANK YOU, one and all!

(Above:  Detail of a Christmas Seal from 1938 stitched onto Mandala XCV.)

Most of my stash, however, comes from Bill Mishoe's Tuesday night walk-around auction of used household things.  Recently, I bought a "table lot".  (Imagine a bunch of "stuff" piled onto a card table ... that's a lot ... and the successful bidder is supposed to haul away all of it whether wanted or not!)  I didn't even know that there were old Christmas seals among the things.  While laminating hundreds of Tampa Nugget Cigar bands and grocery store rebate stamps, I laminated them too.  They seemed quite appropriate on a Found Object Mandala featuring Christmas light reflectors.  It was fun to stitch this piece while listening to my favorite Pandora radio station ... Classical Christmas.

(Above:  Mandala XCIV.  Custom framed. 39 1/4" x 39 1/4" when hung as a diamond; 27 3/4" x 27 3/4" when hung as a square.  Found objects hand-stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include a copper pastry cutter; a clear glass lamp part over an inlaid backgammon piece; two sets of olive forks; laminated grocery rebate stamps; purple and gold coffee K-pods; wavy hair curlers; two 2-part stainless tea infusers; palmetto tree charms; and buttons.)

One of the reasons that stitching these Found Object Mandalas is so much fun is that I'm often confronted with a new challenge.  Every time I cut up an old quilt, I am faced with new fabrics, new colors, and a new background pattern.  The sizes of my work are also determined by how the quilt is dissected.  Then, some objects seem to disappear and others seem to shine ... depending on the background.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCIV.)

Each piece is like a puzzle.  For this one, I had to figure out how to best use the olive forks.  I thought they were all the same, but they weren't!  Some were longer; some were shorter.  The copper pastry cutter, however, provided the perfect solution!

(Above:  Mandala XCIII.  Custom framed. 26 1/4" x 26 1/4" when hung as a diamond; 18 1/2" x 18 1/2" when hung as a square. Found objects hand-stitched to a block of a vintage quilt. Found objects include a gold-toned bracelet; a stainless steel lamp part on which an Arizona flag beer cap is stitched; galvanized washers; white plastic bottle caps; red, plastic protective corners for a mirror being delivered to our frame shop; screw eyes; Bud Light beer caps; insulin needles; Smirnoff bottle caps; flat, red vinyl African export beads; D-ring buckles; and buttons.)
I have several more blocks from this bright red, Dresden plate quilt. Designing on it is always a challenge especially since it was so poorly stitched!  The blanket stitches are sloppy.  The center circle really isn't circular. Yet, the piece really seems to have been loved and used a lot.  I enjoy giving it a "second life".

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCIII.)

 I am already working on a couple more pieces and will soon be sharing them too!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Behold the Wonder at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Sumter, SC

(Above:  The Canopy inside Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Sumter, SC.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I am truly honored to have my artwork as the inaugural exhibition for a new program called "Art in the Sanctuary".  This solo show, called Susan Lenz: Behold the Wonder, was organized by Harriett Green, an art consultant whose experience in South Carolina goes back decades. For the show, she selected The Canopy and a selection of other, spiritually charged fiber arts from my "Stained Glass Series" and my "Elements in Blue".

(Above:  The entrance and planned reception area for Behold the Wonder.)

Harriett Green wrote an amazing essay to accompany the exhibit, organized a most lovely reception, and even provided helpers for the actual installation of the artwork.  Unfortunately, the weather yesterday (Sunday, December 19th) was windy.  It rained intermittently too.  The reception was quickly moved next door, into the Parish House.  Despite the move, the reception was quite wonderful.

(Above:  Installation shot.)

The installation was on Saturday.  Cole Miller, the curator at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, and his life partner Eric were so instrumental in getting The Canopy raised and then hanging the other artwork.  For me, this was most amazing. Cole had already installed my solo show, Last Words, earlier in the week at the museum. Both shows look totally amazing.

(Above:  The entrance to Good Shepherd and my solo show.)

As an event planner, Harriett Green sees to every detail ... including fresh, green wreaths and interior floral arrangements.  

(Above:  Under The Canopy in the nave of Good Shepherd.)

Once inside, one is quickly under The Canopy.  (My wide angle sort of skewed the view.  The Canopy is not actually lopsided! LOL!)

(Above:  Two of the four Large Stained Glass pieces.)

Four of my Large Stained Glass fiber pieces were hung to give the illusion that they were part of the architecture ... just like the real stained glass windows.

(Above:  Looking back toward the front door to the sanctuary.)

The view looking back toward the front door is amazing.  Four of my "Windows" are on the back walls, and the church's cross-shaped window is visible through The Canopy

(Above:  Two of my matted "Window Series" pieces, hanging on the back wall of the church.)

Yesterday's reception was from 1 - 3 PM.  During this time, Landon Osteen, a classical guitarist currently pursuing his DMA (Doctorate of Musical Arts) degree at the University of South Carolina, played various, traditional Christmas music.  It was quite lovely.


Friday, December 17, 2021

Last Words at the Sumter County Gallery of Art

(Above:  Last Words, my solo installation at the Sumter County Gallery of Art.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last night was the opening reception for my solo installation Last Words at the Sumter County Gallery of Art.  For me, this is a special place and always will be.  My very first museum show was here in 2006.  In fact, I started this blog in order to " to hold on to some of the wonderful, artistic things that have happened to me." (Click HERE for one of my first blog entries about Blues Chapel!)  Fifteen years later and I'm just as honored to be back!

(Above:  Last Words ... a view to the sheer chiffon epitaph banners.)

I'm honored by the fact that Cole Miller, the museum's curator, picked up the selected artwork and installed the show. This gave me a way to see my work through the eyes of an expert. It allowed me to see different possibilities too.  Take, for example, the sheer chiffon epitaph banners.  When I've installed this show, I hung them randomly and in ways that allowed visitors to walk through them.  Installed in rows, however, actually encouraged people to stop for a few moments and read the touching "last words" left on a gravestone and stitched to the fabric.  When I've installed these banners, I always rolled up the longer ones ... but there is something quite wonderful about those pieces puddling on the floor.  They seem to suggest the continuation of epitaphs ... a longer and on-going list ... just like walking through a real cemetery.  The words of remembrance are everywhere and go on and on and on.

(Above:  Karen Watson, executive director of the Sumter Gallery of Art and Cole Miller, curator, with me at the reception.)

I am equally grateful to Karen Watson for arranging great press for this show.  The local newspaper, The Sumter Item carried this article about the two exhibits that opened last night.  Plus, there was another reporter at the opening collecting information and impressions for a future review!  I'm excited!

(Above:  During the reception for Last Words.)

The Sumter Gallery of Art opened its doors on February 23, 2003 in the science wing of the former Edmunds High School.  The 24,000 square foot space has two, large exhibition galleries.  Across the wide hallway from Last Words was the Sumter Artists' Guild Winners Show.  In the hallway was an excellent selection of reception food.  Lots of people mingled from one show to the other.


(Above:  Last Words ... with CRAZY (In the Millennial Age) on the wall facing the other entrance to the gallery.)

There are two entrances into the Ackerman Gallery and Last Words.  One of the doors opens to a view of CRAZY (In the Millennial Age).  This is yet another way that a curated show differs from what I might have done.  Until recently, I didn't see that I compartmentalize my own work.  Although I see the common thread (pardon the pun!) that runs through everything I make, I have always sculpted my installation in very specific ways.  I finished the altered crazy quilt two years ago and automatically put it in my newer installation, Once and Again: Alterations.  It never occurred to me that it could belong with my Grave Rubbing Art Quilts in Last Words or my solo installation Anonymous Ancestors ... but it does!  All those anonymous faces stitched to the surface speak to my older work, my current work, and also to the future shows for Once and Again: Alterations.  It is very humbling to see how a qualified curator puts different things together.  Also, Cole Miller beautifully sprinkled color throughout the show that I generally approach more monotonously.  He has a very good eye!

(Above:  The signage in the wide hallway for Last Words.)

The show is up through February 18, 2022.  I hope it touches many ... because this experience certainly has touched me!  Below are additional images taken during the evening reception.


Thursday, December 09, 2021

Behold the Wonder, a solo show at Good Shepherd Episcopal in Sumter, SC

(Above:  Window CCII.  Framed: 26" x 22"; unframed 15 1/2" x 11 1/2".  Polyester stretch velvet on recycled, black synthetic felt. Free-motion machine stitched with 100% black cotton thread. Melting techniques.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The curatorial team at the Sumter Gallery of Art is currently installing my solo show, Last Words.  It opens on the 16th. This is the first time that I haven't been the one driving the exhibit to the venue, installing the work, and creating the inventory list.  I'm honored that a real curator is doing this, and I can't wait to see my own work through his discerning eyes.

Part of the arrangements for this show included a "studio visit".  Another part was a Drop Box folder of images for available works.  One of the pieces was The Canopy.  The curator really, really wanted to include it.  There was a problem.  The ceilings at the Sumter Gallery of Art aren't high enough.  So, he reached out to Good Shepherd Episcopal for a partnership.  The result is Behold the Wonder, a separate solo show that will be jointly promoted!  The Canopy is going to be install over the entire nave.  The small church interior is entirely paneled in wood.  It is intimate and absolutely perfect.  They will also be hanging several pieces from the Stained Glass Series.  I'm totally honored and truly excited that The Canopy will be hanging in such a sacred place.

Of course, something went slightly wrong ... or right ... depending on how one looks at the situation.  One of the selected images was purchased last Saturday ... by someone else ... for a corporate gift that would be presented before the show in Sumter.  What is an artist supposed to do?

(Above:  Window CLXXXVIII.)

Well, I'm not sure how any other artist would handle such a situation but I knew exactly what I was going to do: Make a replacement!  Window CCII is the replacement for Window CLXXXVIII.  At first, I wasn't going to say anything about this.  I planned to attach a label with the earlier title and inventory number ... just pass off the replacement for the original.  Yet, there was a nagging voice coming from the back of my mind.  It told me "to confess".  After all, this is a show in a church!  Why lie?  So I did inform the curator for this show.  Thankfully, it is all okay.  Everything is forgiven so to speak! LOL!  

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Mandala XCII

(Above:  Mandala XCII. Custom framed and hung as a diamond: 52 1/2" x 52 1/2"; hung as a square: 37" x 37". Found objects hand stitched to a section of a vintage quilt. Found objects include: a silver-plated trivet; felt piano hammers; laminated, vintage grocery reward stamps; cafe curtain rings; coffee K-pods; View Master reels; four aluminum coasters; garter hooks; wooden textile perns; white plastic dairy pull tabs; shower curtain hangers; bottle caps; wavy hair curlers; laminated Tampa Nugget cigar bands; red casino chips; four, brass Chinese locks; white, plastic water bottle lids; William Heil cocktail stirrers; four, yellow, plastic dinosaurs; eight, brass bracelets; large, aluminum can pull tabs; keys; tree motif charms; and assorted buttons.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I've finished another Found Object Mandala.  This one has all sorts of things on it including items generously donated to my stash by cyber friends.  (Thanks, Jinny Cherry, Dolly Patton, Maggie Hugie; Sabrina Lindenmann; Karen of Needles and Shovels; and others!)  If I missed anyone, I'm sorry.  It is hard for me to remember who gave me what after I add the items to my stash.

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCII.)

Many people have asked about my stash, specifically about how I organize it.  The honest answer is that it isn't organized at all.  Every time I attempt such a task, I fail miserably.  The stash is mostly on the living room floor ... as in "all over half of the available floor space".  My living room is tiled.  This means I can easily scrounge around in the collection, shifting things from one place to another, fingering through little boxes that were supposed to help keep similar items together.  Within no time at all, any effort to organize is wiped out.  This system does seem to work for me but it really doesn't help keep straight the origin of any item. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala XCII.)

Although most of the items are on the living room floor, there's another stash in a downstairs back room.  This is where my drill and dremel are located ... and the container of casino chips, two buckets of old keys, and several other items.  The box of beer caps is elsewhere. All of the buttons are in my studio.  Basically, I've got things all over the house.  So far, it is working.  So far, Steve hasn't minded the mess!  (Thank goodness ... because I intend to continue adding to the accumulation!)

(Above:  Mandala XCII when hung as a square.)

Friday, December 03, 2021

If I Shed My Skin, What Color Would I Be?

(Above:  If I Shed My Skin, What Color Would I Be?, 13 3/4" x 9 3/4". Snake skin and letters clipped from vintage ephemera in UV filtering epoxy on a Haviland porcelain platter.  Click on either image to enlarge.)

A couple months ago I read a friend's Facebook post about finding a snake skin atop her nicely trimmed Boxwood shrubs.  She was just horrified to know that a very long snake had been so close.  I left a comment saying I'd love to acquire it.  She brought it in a large bag and said it was her husband who put it there.  She wasn't about to touch it.  I thanked her profusely because I knew exactly what I wanted to it with it.

(Above:  Detail image)

My plan had to go "on hold".  Until Thanksgiving weekend, I had no reason to mix up any epoxy.  Over the weekend, I mixed epoxy on three different days.  Thus, the clipped letters were applied after the first two, thin applications of epoxy went over the snake.  They letters seem to float above the porcelain platter.  On the third day, the final layer of epoxy sealed the letters and any of the snake skin that was still exposed.  I'm very pleased with this work and the question it poses.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

The Protector

(Above:  The Protector, 25 1/2" x 16 1/2". Manipulated digital image printed by Spoonflower on cotton fabric.  Hand and machine stitching, beading, trapunto/stuffing, and custom framed with decorative tacks. Click on any image to enlarge.)

 I'm more than a little behind on my blogging but determined to catch up!  This piece was mostly hand-stitched while riding in the cargo van to and from the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show.  The beading was done after I got home. It was framed the next week and then ended up waiting for almost another week before I managed to photograph it. Why the wait?  Well, I've been busy with several projects and upcoming opportunities.

(Above:  The original image.)

Earlier this morning, the curator at the Sumter Gallery of Art picked up all the artwork for my solo show, Last Words. (December 16, 2021 through February 18, 2022).  This will be the first time that I'm not installing the show.  I can't wait to see what he does with the pieces he selected!  The museum's connections extended to a local church, Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. As a result, The Canopy and several of my Large Stained Glass pieces will be on display every weekend in a collaboration between the two venues.  This is all meant to further engage the community with art!  I'm very honored and totally excited!

(Above:  The Protector, detail.)

I am also deep into an important (and very large) commission for a local hotel currently under construction.  I'll blog about this at some point ... but for now ... I'm pleased to share The Protector.  It started with a photograph given to me by my friend Jinny.  Her grandmother is the child in the image.  No one in Jinny's family remembers the name of the nanny but it might have been Nancy.  At the time, the nanny was very much a part of the family but most of the older members are now gone.  Nameless or not, it is the pose that totally captured my heart.

(Above:  The Protector, detail.)

The touch of the nanny's hand conveys such feeling, the sense of absolute love and protection.  To me, she looks like a guardian angel.  After scanning the image, I worked in Photoshop to eliminate the unnecessary background and add more space above the nanny's head.  The resulting digital image was printed by Spoonflower on cotton.  It was a joy to stitch.