Sunday, May 28, 2023

Trip to DC and NYC

(Above:  Selfie with Steve inside the 360-degree video enclosure (think, an aluminum igloo!) by Stan VanDerBeek called Movie-Drome (1964–65).  Part of Signals: How Video Transformed the World at MoMA.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Steve and I just returned from a most wonderful trip to Washington DC and NYC.  For some reason, I didn't take many pictures while in DC.  Perhaps that's because we had a very good reason for going!

(Above:  Sims and Dolly just after the George Washington University graduation for those receiving their Masters degree from the College of Arts and Sciences.  Sims will continue her studies of primates and we hope to return to see her get her PhD!)

It was so rewarding to see Sims Patton get her masters degree!  We went to lunch afterwards ... and also had dinner together the next day.  Otherwise, Steve and I visited the Smithsonian American Museum of Art and Portrait Gallery and browsed through both the Eastern Market and the Tephra ICA Arts Festival, an outdoor show featuring many of the artists we know from past Philadelphia and Smithsonian Craft Shows. Amazingly, we got entry tickets to the Smithsonian African-American Museum and spent five hours there (without even getting to two of the seven levels!)  We highly recommend this experience! It was far better than either of us dared to imagine, and we will return!

(Above:  Nari Ward's Vertical Hold, 1996, at MoMA.)

From DC, we took an early morning Amtrak train into NYC for a five night stay!  Although we've been to New York City several times (including last August!), neither of us had ever been to MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art.  This was a first.  We were among the first wave of people to enter last Tuesday and the last to be ushered out!  Sure ... we stopped for lunch in the terrace cafe ... but otherwise, we were never tired.  It was fabulous! 

(Above:  Natsuyuki Nakanishi's Compact Object, 1962.)

I snapped a fair amount of images.  I've included several in this blog post, but mostly I was entranced with the wide range of artwork, the arrangement inside the spacious galleries, and the maze of rooms. It would be easy to get happily lost on any of the floors!

(Above:  Manolo Millares, Composition 9, 1957.)

Some of the works that fascinated me most were ones done around the time I was born.  I like thinking about "modern" being sixty+ years old.  It is also challenging to view unique approaches to artwork that are still being explored as if "brand new". 

(Above:  Ana Mendieta's Nile Born, 1984.)

Seeing a work by Ana Mendieta was special too.  I've long admired her pioneering spirit and mourned her untimely death.

(Above:  Detail of Arman's I Still Use Brushes, 1969.)

MoMA has a comprehensive, on-line listing of its artwork.  Yet, there's no comparison to standing in front of these pieces.  The depth, color, and artist's hand just doesn't come across well enough when just seeing a photo!  Still ... I've linked the pieces I've included in this blog post.  It is wonderful to have this resource.

(Above:  Erol's Glory of the Kings, 1959?)

Often "modern art" is viewed as a very American driven, mid-20th century era.  I was happy to see so many other influences ... like Erol's Turkish inspired calligraphic marks ... and ...

(Above:  Detail of Gustav Klimt's Hope II, 1907-08.)

... the lush, early 20th century colors of Klimt!

(Above:  Selfie with Steve outside the VanCortlandt Historic House.)

Steve and I love museums, but we don't spend all our time inside!  We also visited Van Cortlandt Park, toured the 18th century VanCortlandt House Museum ...

(Above:  Patricia Cronin's Memorial to a Marriage.)

... and went to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx to see Patricia Cronin's Memorial to a Marriage, the first and only Marriage Equality monument in the world and future, final resting place for the artist and her wife, Deborah Cass.  This 400+ acre cemetery also has graves for suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Herman Melville, Dorothy Parker, Irving Berlin, and too many others to list.  The landscaping is magnificent.

(Above:  One of the mausoleums at Green-wood Cemetery.)

We also went to Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  This place has an art residency program but it is without housing and lasts for nine months.  Ah ... to dream of such an opportunity!

(Above:  Bisa Butler's show, The World is Yours, at Jeffrey Deitch's gallery in Soho.)

Another highlight of this trip was going to Jeffrey Deitch's New York Gallery in Soho to see Bisa Butler's The World is Yours art quilt exhibit.  The space was filled with people and at least one or two of the included works were listed as in a private collection.   

(Above:  Sojourner Truth by Bisa Butler.)

We saw our first Bisa Butler art quilt at the Smithsonian African-American Museum in DC.  CLICK HERE to see it, I Go To Prepare a Place For You, featuring Harriett Tubman.  The size of these pieces is enormous. The fabrics dazzle.  The use of transparent tulle is brilliant.  There is no wonder why Bisa Butler's work now commands six figures and that museums across the country are lining up to add one to their collection.

(Above:  Selfie at the Bisa Butler show.)

Of course I snapped a selfie from the loft area inside the gallery.  I took other selfies too ...

(Above:  Selfie with a detail of the Nick Cave Soundsuit mosaic."

... including this one!  The Nick Cave Soundsuit mosaics at the Times Square/42nd Street subway station is the largest and most ambition mosaic in the entire subway system.  The installation covers 4,200 square feet and is called Each One, Every One, All Equal

(Above:  Waiting for the Roosevelt Island tram.)

Steve and I are really good at navigating the NYC subway system.  Steve even has a senior pass.  I bought a week of unlimited rides for $33.  Best buy in the city!  Knowing that our transportation needs were as easy as swiping our cards, we ventured to Roosevelt Island.  While there we walked to the southern tip to see the The Ruins, the former smallpox hospital that has sat abandoned since closing in the 1950s.  This unique site is possibly going to be the meaningful site for a COVID-19 memorial.

(Above:  Panorama shot of NYC from Roosevelt Island.)

From here, we took the metro system's suspended tram across the East River and into Manhattan.

(Above:  The High Line.)

We really hope to return to The Ruins after the permanent memorial is created.  We like the way significant places from the past are transformed into new spaces ... like The High Line.  In the past, we walked from north to south.  This time, we walked in the opposite direction and continued to remark how different the views were.

(Above:  Detail of one of the many Van Gogh paintings in The Met's new show.)

Another important thing happened last August when we last visited NYC.  We purchased an annual senior pass to The Met.  This pass cost only $110 and allowed "a friend" to accompany the senior member!  Last August, we went to The Met every single day ... five days in a row. Since our pass was still valid, we visited The Met three times!  The "big day" was last Thursday.  Members can enter a full hour before the general public.  We went in with several hundred others ... but far fewer than were lined up outside.  This allowed us to visit the special Van Gogh's Cypress exhibit without hordes of people in the space.  It was awesome.

(Above:  Inside Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty exhibit.)

By the time we left the Van Gogh area, we were first in line to visit the Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty ... though lots and lots of people were coming into the museum at that time.)

Anyone who knows me knows that keeping up with fashion is NOT something important in my life.  I own (and wore during the trip) clothes purchased from thrift stores and t-shirts that have been in my possession for at least a decade.  That said, I adored this exhibit.  What's not to like about fields of seed beads ...

... and loosely crocheted mohair yarns being interspersed with delicate artificial floral units ... all over nearly invisible silk tulle ...

... or clear and opaque futuristic materials made into easily wearable garments?  From hand-painted caftans dresses to oversized wedding gowns covered in ostrich feathers, the exhibit was eye-popping.

We also visited Lauren Halsey's new rooftop installation, a full scale architectural piece drawing on an Egyptian framework covered in African-American tagging ... with a fantastic view of the city.  The photo above came from another temporary show about the life and artistic achievements of seventeenth-century Afro-Hispanic painter Juan de Pareja (ca. 1608–1670).  The words included the manumission documentation.  We'd never heard of this word.  It means "release from slavery".

 Included in this exhibit was a piece of 15th Spanish lusterware. 

Steve and I wandered through other areas of The Met, including the Islamic art section, Cecily Brown's enormous and "messy" paintings in Death and a Maiden, and Berenice Abbott's New York Album ... photographs from 1929.  There's no way to really see The Met in a single day ... or even three days ... or even a week.  Yet, every visit is unique, insightful, and beautifully displaced.

We stayed in a TownePlace Inn ... on hotel points.  Our upgraded room (because Steve is "special"! LOL!) had a balcony.  It was a great place for pizza dinners!

(Above:  A choral concert at St. Patrick's Cathedral.)

We intended to see a Broadway show and had tickets to the Fosse revival, Dancin' but it closed early.  The refund was instantaneous.  Several other shows were investigated but we happily settled for a free choral concert with the brass instruments and organ at St. Patrick's Cathedral.  It was a late Easter selection of divine music.

(Above:  Detail from Carl Klewicke's 1907 quilt.)

On our last full day in NYC, we spent the late afternoon at the American Folk Art Museum.  This totally free museum had two shows running, including thirty-five quilts in What That Quilt Knows About Me.

(Above:  Quilt from 1790-1810 with a center panel by John Hewson.)

The works were not arranged thematically or chronologically but in spaces that truly showcased each one.  The pieces included works by enslaved sisters in antebellum Kentucky, a British soldier during his convalescence in the Crimean War, living artists, anonymous makers, and even a 1935 charity quilt made by the Ladies' Aid Society of the McKinley Community Church ...

... with hundreds of finely stitched names!

(Above:  Detail of the Littlejohn sisters dense quilting and trapunto, 1850).

What's not to like when comparing two entirely different approaches to hand-stitching?  Perfect tiny running lines and trapunto ...

(Above:  Detail of Susan Arrowood's Sacret Bibel, 1875-95.)

... or the freedom of expression in hand-cut applique figures?  I could only wish for more!

(Above and below:  Sunset views while riding on the Staten Island ferry.) 

On our last evening, Steve and rode the Staten Island ferry.  The weather was perfect.  The sunset illuminated the Statue of Liberty magnificently.  The skyline lit up as if to bid us "good-bye" ... until the next time ... and there will be a next time!

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Mandala CLXI

(Above:  Mandala CLXI. Custom framed:  12" x 12".  Found objects hand-stitched to a quilt block.  Objects include:  A pink pin container; miniature scissors; a quilt show button; needle threaders; three seam rippers; one miniature tube turner; safety pins; sewing machine bobbins; and buttons.  Click on either image to enlarge.)

Every autumn SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) has an on-line benefit auction featuring 12" x 12" art quilts.  I've donated for several years.  The upcoming dates are September 15 - October 9, 2022.  After having been one of the organization's speakers at their annual conference in Toronto, I wanted to donate something really special ... a miniature Found Object Mandala.  I also wanted it to be a themed piece ... using only objects associated with stitching and quilting.  There's even a quilt show pin inside the pink pin case.  It reads:  Paducah, the location of one of the big quilt shows and the home of the National Quilt Museum.

(Above:  Mandala CLXI in progress.)

Ordinarily, I've used sections of vintage and antique quilts that are beyond repair.  This time, I used a single block that couldn't be very old.  It was given to me by one of my friends from Bill Mishoe's auction.  This lonely block was the only one of its kind.  I could have incorporated it into my new Patchwork Installation but I just couldn't seem to find a way to make it look right among all the older, faded, "less white" scraps.  It was perfect, however, for this little piece.  

Steve built the frame first, making sure the outer dimensions were exactly the required size: 12" x 12".  With a thick, blue crochet thread, I marked the section of the quilt block that would fit into the frame and stitched a button outline.  Then, the other objects were arranged inside and stitched down.  The last thing I did was to add decorative upholstery tacks to the frame's perimeter.  I hope this piece earns SAQA a good sum!

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Mandala CLX, the COVID-19 Rapid Test Mandala

(Above:  Mandala CLX. Custom picture framed:  35 1/2" x 35 1/2" when hung as a square; 50 1/2" x 5- 1/2" when hung as a diamond.  Expired COVID-19 Rapid tests hand-stitched to a section of a vintage crib quilt.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

When I received a very large bag of expired COVID-19 Rapid Tests, I was stunned.  I didn't know these things even had expiration dates.  I didn't know that there were various parts and steps to testing or that each piece was individually wrapped in air-tight foil pouches.  Frankly, Steve and I are among the very lucky people who have never had the virus, never needed to test for the virus, and were never knowingly exposed to it.  We've had all our vaccinations too.  Removing all the plastic testing devices from their foil pouches took a couple of hours.  I couldn't help but to think of all the people who were once so desperate for a rapid test.  Once upon a time ... in the not-so-distant past ... these were rare items in high demand.  Now, more than three hundred were past their expiration date and delivered to me as "art supplies".

(Above:  Ernie the Cat on the vintage, pink crib quilt.)

With such a large supply, I knew I wanted to create a Found Object Mandala on which only these rapid tests would be stitched.  I also knew exactly which vintage quilt would be the substrata.  The vintage pink crib quilt has been in my stash for well over a year.  That is actually "saying something"!  Because the stash of found objects and old quilts is so large, I must periodically sort through it and make hard decisions.  Things that haven't found a use in over a year are generally passed on to a local school or sent to Bill Mishoe's auction or taken to a thrift store.  It's a sad reality but a necessary "thinning" of supplies in order to actually see everything I've got. 

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CLX.)

Yet, the pink crib quilt has been kept for much longer.  There's a reason, of course.  It was given to me by Bert Easter, a friend and fellow "regular" at Bill Mishoe's auction.  It came on a table lot at the auction house.  Bert took it home.  His husband Ed Madden, our city's former poet laureate, hand-washed it and attempted to remove the stains.  How could I then remove it from my stash even though it was never once considered for a mandala? (Personally, I'm not fond of pink!)

(Above:  Detail of Mandala CLX.)

I am now so very, very glad that I did keep it!  Pink is the perfect color for this mandala.  It sort of resembles flesh, an embarrassed blush, a baby's bottom, a trace of blood, a very "human" color.  Plus, it appears as a uniform background.  It took several hours to open each testing device, remove the indicator strip, snap the piece back together, and drill three holes.  Each device has a long red yarn straight stitch through two of the holes and a bead in the other.  I'm very pleased with this piece and sad that after today they are no longer guaranteed to be free to the public. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Toronto !

(Above:  Me ... during my Power Point presentation!)

Months ago, I learned that my presentation was accepted for the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) annual conference.  This international group numbers around 4,000 members and has an annual conference.  Ordinarily, every other year, the conference is a virtual event.  Because of the pandemic, however, there hasn't been an in-person conference since 2018.  Until now, there's not been a conference outside the USA.  So ... basically ... this was a BIG DEAL!  I am really proud to have been selected but I was also rather nervous.

(Above:  Selfie before the presentation!)

The title of my Power Point presentation was "Working as an Installation Artist".  It included defining "art installations" ... as a site specific, temporary, and spatially transformative work of art!  I talked about crowd-sourcing materials, partnering with local organizations and businesses, and promoting the opportunities I've enjoyed.  Mostly, I talked about my own journey in this fascinating medium ... starting with a Sacred Circle in 2005, creating Blues Chapel (which was the reason for starting this blog in 2006), and going on to other installations like Last Words, Anonymous Ancestors, Threads: Gathering My Thoughts, etc.  Obviously, the images would appear in the order I selected.  Thus, I had to really "know my own script" backwards and forward!  After all, I didn't want to come off as "reading from notes".  That would be boring!  I practiced for weeks!  Mark Twain once said, "It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."  Believe me!  I understand! Thankfully, it went very, very well.  I even got a standing ovation!

(Above:  The SAQA conference's banquet and charity auction.)

I met all sorts of talented artists, SAQA staff and board members, and invited guests.  More than 300 small art quilts were available through an on-line/in person auction during Saturday night's banquet.  The event raised over $36,000!  Yes, of course I donated!

(Above:  Some of the talented people I met!)

Despite meeting dozens and dozens of art quilters from Canada, Belgium, Australia, the USA, and all sorts of other places, I was most happy to reconnect with my Canadian cousins!  They've lived outside Toronto for as long as I remember.

I hadn't seen Ann since we went to Hungary in 2010.  She looks the same!  Click here for a blog post and links to photos from this trip.  Ann was married to my Dad's first cousin John (who has passed on).

Herb and Susan are Ann's children.  In the photo above, Herb's wife Janice took the picture.  In the photo below, Susan's partner Mark took the photo.  Until the wonderful lunch at Herb and Janice's house, I'd never met Mark.  The time went too quickly and I hope it isn't such a long time until we see one another again.