I have always loved driving or walking at night and seeing frames vignettes formed by light and window panes. There is a serenity in those light portals, bright against the dark of the night. Often the hues emanating give me a hint of the activity within; The cold blue light of a computer screen, the fast flicker of the TV, maybe twinkles of some Christmas lights someone couldn’t put away yet. No, I am not a peeping tom, just an admirer of the human condition!
Being in the heart of the city, I have found it so easy to go out and explore under the golden glow of whatever lights illuminate the streets. The contrast of that warmth and the neon or fluorescent lights of the businesses are a play of color that never ceases to entertain me. It is also the chance to see much of the “back of the house” work that I don’t see in the daylight. The kitchens of the restaurants become visible at night.
The other thing about windows is I see three dimensions at once: what is inside the portal; the window glass itself; and then what is outside the window in the reflection or environment. The view changes when I change my focus or that of my camera.
So it is much the same as the multi dimensions of my fiber art.
I expose the hidden layer of fabric through slashing, I have the base layer and then layer with fabric or stitch over that. Some of my work is about the previously hidden layer, some about the photo layer, and some about those layers of transparency with stitch added on top.
This week, my photo class assignment is “windows”. So I dutifully have been haunting the streets - day and night - to fulfill this assignment. Here is a slide show of some of my favorites:
And then today, there were the windows at the car wash!!
"A line in the sand."
"The line starts/ends here."
"Stay in line"
"Don't cross that line"
"Read between the lines"
"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line"
Lines are an integral part of our visual and verbal languages; they are everywhere. They are also the subject of last week's challenge in my photography class. This challenge sent me on a quest to see and record the lines around me; nature lines: man-made lines; perceived lines; lines made from light; lines made from groupings.
Thematic quests have always been a kick for me, just like I love thematic art shows. To take a subject - the more mundane the better - and make it a focus is a great way to see the variety that exists in existence, expression and perception. I would love to tell every artist in the world to make an apple and see the myriad of creations that would inspire. One of my favorite museum shows was that of the paintings done by VanGogh and Gaugin when they lived together. To see the same model or landscape painted by each at the same time, in the same place, was just wonderful. I am so enjoying my life drawing sessions now for the same reason. The uniqueness of each person's art is just fascinating to me.
I have always loved creativity with limits. In Graphic Design, my life for 40 some years, limitations were the norm. I always had limits of time, budget, production, and message. I loved pushing creativity as far as I could within those parameters. The lack of those requirements was one of the hardest things for me to get used to when I moved into fine art. Creating limits for myself was one of the reasons that I started entering shows. There I found size limits, construction requirements, and often a required theme. That was comfortable territory.
It is interesting now to look back on five years of making fiber art, and seeing what I have done. I am starting to recognize a voice of my own. In creating my own boundaries I am also defining myself and my art. I am sure many people find self and then make, but for me, it has worked in reverse. I let the make come out and then, in retrospect, I recognize an internal familiarity. Perhaps that is what ‘voice’ is; just how we each approach and record this universal subject called "life"!
I look at work that I did many years ago - paintings, prints, drawings, and even design - and see a direct line to what I am doing now. I notice a repetitive use of a preferred color way. I recognize my joy of details and texture. The compositions then and now have a similar resonance. Even the subject matter is often consistent. This retrospective recognition of voice is an unanticipated benefit of age.
But, enough of this tangent (see what I did there), back to my photo class… Here is a slide show of some of the lines I found this week.
Last night chaos reigned in D.C. This morning angst reigned on Facebook. This afternoon I had to get away from it all. I headed up to Skyline Drive and started snapping, I hope you enjoy this respite from politics.
I have taken photos forever (the joke at home is that “if mom didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen”). I have used all types of photo equipment. I started with a point and shoot (remember flash cubes!) and moved to a Minolta in college when we shot film and used the darkroom to do any dodging and burning. This required carrying many lenses in a camera case that weighed about 40 pounds! Then on to a Fujifilm Finepix digital, with a built-in zoom, followed by a Sony mirrorless with a couple of lenses. I actually had worn out my little Fuji! Now I have an Olympus mirrorless.
This would seem to suggest I know something about the hardware side of cameras, but that is not the case. I know the three main adjustments; ISO, shutter speed and aperture, but still rely on “auto” - especially with my newest camera. Like my sewing machine, this camera is capable of doing so many things that I will never want it to do! When do you really need to take photos with all those filters? The digital menus are ridiculous in their options and layers.
Like with my sewing implements and processes, I have had little patience for the learning curve, or the progressive consistency required to master the machine or technique. I tend to welcome “happy accidents” more than planned successes! But this can only get one so far.
My photography has always been dependent on my eye more than my technique. As a graphic designer who hired photographers and someone who was a photo director (“do as I say, not as I do”) on many shoots, I recognize my limitations because I have seen what those who really know what they are doing can do!
I have had little interest in really delving into the intricacies of what could push my own photography ahead, but I decided it was time to try! I have signed up for a weekly photography class and expect it to be both wonderful and humbling. Already I have been emboldened to try some of the magical buttons on my camera. I am learning to use the correct software for storing my files, and this is just week one.
This means, over the next few months, you will be subjected to images and chronicles of my adventures. Hang in there!
Now, I present these images of a park in Charlottesville, VA. I was there earlier in the week and snapped a photo with my phone. When I woke up the following morning the weather was about the same, so I decided to go back with my “big girl” camera and panties and shoot again. I am glad I did. Here is the result.
It was a few months before “The summer of love” when I saw the headline “6,700 hippies expected this summer” in San Francisco. My older, wiser, and worldly sister had sent me a ticket for my 16th birthday to come visit her. It was my first time traveling on my own, my first airplane ride, and my first time in a place where 95% of the people were not birthed from either a Scandinavian or German heritage!
She worked as a nurse during the day, so I was free to explore the city. She gave me directions to the art museum, and off I went. I come from a wonderful family, but our art was TV; literature was the Encyclopedia Britannica and Reader’s Digest; music was the local AM station and Lawrence Welk.
I already knew I wanted to be an artist. I had sought out some of the art being done locally in the fantastic print department of the University of WI (Dean Meeker, Warrington Colescott, Walter Hamady, Ray Gloekler, et. al.). I had purchased a well-worn copy of Janson’s History of Art from the UW bookstore. But short of that I had never been exposed to “real art”.
I approached the museum with no idea what to expect. I walked in the door and was stopped dead in my tracks. If I had been older, I might have dropped to my knees, or fainted, but at sixteen I turned and ran, tears streaming down my face. Inside the door was one of Monet’s waterlily paintings - about 6-foot square. My mind was quite literally blown. I had looked at his work so many times in that dog-eared Janson book. Some black and white; some very small reproductions. I guess the measurements were there, but they had never sunk in.
I did go back, in a day or two, and tour the museum. Had tea in the tea garden. Road the trolley cars. Ate seafood on the wharf. All were great I suppose, but I have never forgotten, and still tear, up at that Monet.
Last week I was reading a book by John Berger “Ways of Seeing”. It is an old book (1972) that I have read before but wanted to revisit. He talks about the difference of seeing art in situ, vs reproductions.
“The uniqueness of every painting was once part of the uniqueness of the place where it resided. Sometimes the painting was transportable, but it could never be seen in two places at the same time. When a camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image. As a result, its meaning changes. Or, more exactly, its meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings…. Having seen this reproduction, one can go to the National Gallery to look at the original and there discover what the reproduction lacks. Alternatively, one can forget about the quality of the reproduction and simply be reminded… that it is a famous painting of which somewhere one has already seen a reproduction. But in either case, the uniqueness of the original now lies in it being the original of a reproduction. It is no longer what its image shows that strikes one as unique, its first meaning is no longer to be found in what IT SAYS, but in what IT IS.” (Emphasis added)
Considering these words were written before the proliferation of many of the t-shirts and coffee mugs now sold in art museum gift shops, memes made from art works, Pinterest, and Google, he is only talking about the tip of the iceberg! What made me now think about this were the many virtual events and exhibits that are now seeing us through the pandemic. I cannot say enough about how I appreciate what many galleries and exhibits are doing to keep art sales and artist exposure alive and well during social distancing. Personally, McGuffey, SAQA and Visions Art Museum are notable in this, and are appreciated, but they have also raised some concerns.
Before COVID, many artists, myself included, expressed concern for show and exhibit jurying being done electronically vs in person. The efficiency of doing so is obvious, and the history of judging via slides is long, but it does present questions. Those questions have been validated by the number of times I have heard the exclamation “your work is so much better/different/more intricate in person than online or in print.” But nonetheless I totally understand the need to jury hundreds of entries electronically rather than the logistics of gathering/storing/returning the actual artwork at that stage, as it is being done by professionals who also use and understand the realities.
However, that platform is now being embraced for the next step; the final show for the general public. Again, during COVID restrictions, that is both understandable and appreciated, but will it continue into “after”, and if so, will it have an effect on the artwork produced? Will it become a normal adjunct to a show to have an online component? Or will the virtual completely displace the actual in some venues. Could this actually change what artists will make/enter in the future, or at least who would be juried in? Will it change the public’s idea of art? We are getting more and more comfortable with buying products on-line. Will we get comfortable in viewing our art that way? Will the actual experiences of shopping or gallery viewing become obsolete?
I have been chastised in virtually every art museum I have visited. My nose evidently gets far too close to the canvases when I am trying to discern the brushstrokes or glaze applications. But how else is one to see exactly how that glint of eye was accomplished? The same in fiber shows. It is not possible to see the intricacies of stitch, the loft of bat, the layers or types of fabric in the majority of virtual or print reproductions. Thus, the subject matter and the gross (impact not quality) forms of the composition become paramount to the viewer rather than the smaller, but possibly more significant, elements of the piece.
Even when “detail images” are included they are at a pre-chosen distance from a pre-chosen area, perhaps not one of the viewer’s choosing !
This morning, on Facebook I saw an announcement for “The Sistine Chapel in St. Louis”. A full “life sized” reproduction will be installed in St. Louis for tours at America’s Ballroom on the second floor of America’s Center. Here is their description:
“Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition recreates the awe and wonder of arguably one of mankind’s greatest artistic achievements while allowing its visitors to experience this art from a new perspective.
With special expertise and care, the ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel have been reproduced using state of the art technology. In order for the observer to fully engage and comprehend the artwork, the paintings have been reproduced in their original sizes. The overwhelming impression for the observer will be the dimensions of the art, the closeness to the picture and the modern style of the exhibition. [I am not sure those were Michelangelo’s hopes for the “overwhelming impression”] As a result, the visitor can explore the artwork up close at a distance impossible to achieve in the Sistine Chapel.”
My question is how do you replicate the “awe and wonder” when you have also made the images accessible, and taken out of the sacred edifice and in a convention center?
They go on to say:
“Visitors who have never seen the originals will be intrigued and inspired to visit the Sistine Chapel at some time in the future. Guests who have already visited the Sistine Chapel will find a new way of observing the art.”
And that, dear reader, brings us right back to Berger’s statement, “... its first meaning is no longer to be found in what IT SAYS, but in what IT IS.” [Emphasis added]
Recently I posted this photo of a pepper on Facebook. It was sitting on the counter after Jon had finished making our salads... just sitting there staring at me. Yes, I am familiar with the phenomena of pareidolia, but I just found this humorous.
When I posted this, one of the comments that appeared was "You see art in everything". That statement took me back for a moment and made me think for a couple of days. Yes. Yes, I do see art in everything. It takes my breath away when I look around. I am amazed that that a brick and weed and the sun light can compose the perfect still life. I think the cigarette butt on the sidewalk is both a statement and a story - as well as an interesting composition. I am easily amused and impressed. The edge of that brick building against that blue sky is the perfection of complementary color. The fog that shrouds that parking structure, while letting the dried weed be in extreme focus, is more than I can comprehend replicating.
On the way home from my studio tonight, I saw this image in a bank drive through. Eat your heart out all you abstract expressionists. Frame it, put it in the east wing of the National Gallery and let the critics opine.
They can write a missive on the tension between the lines vs the splashes, the contrast of the darks and lights. The significance of the shapes, or maybe they would discourse over the need for a pop of color. They would check the title for political or social significance. And contextualize it based on the culture from which the artist came.
Was it art before or does it take validation or reproduction to be so?
As I thought more about this, I thought about the very real discomfort I feel when some says, or asks if, I am an artist. Okay. Whatever. If I need to be qualified or quantified, you can call me that.
But, as I have said before, I prefer "maker". I make stuff. It wasn't there. It didn't exist and I birthed it. I used my intellect, my heart and, occasionally, serendipity to do so. I made it.
As I thought more about this, I decided that, perhaps, the real aim of an "artist" is not the product they make, but the continued attempt to make others see the art that already exists around us. I make for my own sake. Maybe we are - or should be - translators. I do believe people called artists see and appreciate differently; just as scientists, or mathematicians, or musicians, or chefs view their world differently. Then we attempt to use our human talents, venues, media, and connections to try to get others to see what and how we saw (or tasted or figured). It is how we write. It is how we solve equations. It is how we bake.
Some of this we learn through academics. We spend hours and years in drawing classes not drawing the cube we know exists, but instead, the cube as we see it. Then we move to foreshortening in life drawing and still life compositions where we talk about the space between not just the objects. We learn to see with our eyes, not our head. Once we can do that, we start to understand how what we see exists for only a moment: a tilt of the head or the cloud momentarily over the sun can change the reality. How our specific moment and object of focus is a reality that no one else experiences in the same way.
We are constantly saying "CAN'T YOU SEE THIS TOO?" and "OH YOU MUST SEE THIS". The landscape painter tries to capture and explain the moment of clarity they had when looking out on nature. The portrait artist doesn't paint just the resemblance, but the inner person as they saw or felt it. The photographer captures a moment that perhaps only they had the acumen/patience/luck to witness. The abstracters capture essence or movement or the core of something that needs no subject.
I am about to stop my studio work for a period of six months. Part of this is because I have been having one of those "what does it all mean? Why do I do this? Who cares?" periods we all go through. I still have the compulsion to make, but at this time of my life, I am not trying to monetize, I am not trying make statements, I have no great affinity for mastering a specific craft or media, so what to do with this compulsion, and where is it best directed. I am thinking this chunk of driveway might be a clue.
My life and heart are full and amazed just walking down the street; nature or concrete or people or whatever is before me surpasses most of what I could ever make. I often feel that trying to make art is futile and the real goal I am striving for is just to see what is already out there.
So now to figure out how or if I can or should just improve my seeing, or if I also try to translate to others.
And if so, how.
Of course, Degas figured this our long before I had my own "ah ha" moment:
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
That has to be one of the most discussed and least settled on questions ever asked. I know I have made art, been called an artist, enjoyed art, bought art, sold art, and even taught art, but still can not define the slippery beast!
For many years I worked in the corporate world making “commercial” art (aka Graphic Design). It paid my grocery bills and car payments, it allowed me to use all those elements of design I had learned in school. My art satisfied a need. It helped some people get rich(er), it helped make people aware of products and services they needed (or didn’t know they did!). It was problem solving and satisfying for the most part. Was it art? Who knows.
When abandoned by the corporate world due to economy and age, I turned to what many would define as craft, not art. For seven plus years I bought hundreds of thrift store sweaters, then surgically removed the arms, the necks, and strategically cut the rest to make hats, sweater coats, scarves, gloves, etc etc. It was satisfying. People responded to them and bought this “art” to incorporate into their daily lives.
It was so fun to take my wares across the country and see people try on one after another. Some people had saved up their money to buy that one special art-to-wear garment. Others bought two or three, just as they would buy at Macy’s! I am sure the painters and sculptors in the booths around me (often waiting far longer for a sale) often though that my work was not real art. But people were choosing and noticing the colors, the textures, the technique and the overall uniqueness… isn’t that art? And it was so personal compared to the corporate art. It was personal to both me as I would drape a sweater over their back, and to them as they twirled in front of the mirror. Something aesthetically pleasing was giving them joy: Isn’t that art?
Now I am doing fiber art. Some are still slow to consider that an art media, but I will leave that discussion for another day. I have painted and made prints. I can honestly say that working with fiber has every bit of the same demand for aesthetic choice and technical knowledge that they did. But my audience and the “raison d'etre”has changed.
The corporate work was done primarily to meet the demand and needs of the client (within my own design voice and choices) and were by their nature both timely and ephemeral. The garments were made with a general demographic in mind and the cost/profit ratio, as well as the artistic merit, was important with each thing I made. They were meant to be used and used up. My fiber art is self-directed and I am, in many ways, the only audience considered during creation. I do not do commissions, and will do themed shows only when the theme speaks to me. It is the kind of art that is somehow deemed precious because it goes on walls with no apparent use other than aesthetics.
People do respond to my fiber work, and for that I am grateful, but it is always both a bit of a surprise and causes a bit of anxiety. Their response is so unplanned by me; I was working on something personal, and for them to respond is almost unnervingly intimate.
I want people to see my work and, as I have said, the stitching and fabric help to show “how I as an artist see” - but I have no preconception of what they will see, or if they see what I saw. Some respond to the subject matter. Some respond to the color choice. Some respond to the intricacy. Those are all valid, but all dependent on their history, aesthetic taste, knowledge of process - all things I do not control or anticipate. It is a strange thing, this thing we call fine art. The art that is not marketing, not utilitarian, not commissioned. It has been a hard concept for me to embrace.
I have been asked to give workshops, or presented with other opportunities. That is also something I tried a couple times, but haven’t gotten my head around. When I was a Graphic Designer, I also taught. I taught design concepts, color theory, printing processes, etc. the nuts and bolts. When I was making sweaters, I was fine with sharing my technical knowledge about how to serge knitted fabrics, or my process. It was not proprietary and the construction was, in many ways, the idea of it all. It had no internal value to me. That was all knowledge I gladly shared without any problem.
But now? What would I share? I use my design concepts, etc. but that is not what makes my work unique, nor my expertise any greater than many. I use a machine and various cutting and sewing processes, but that is not my interest or focus, they are merely a means to an end. I don’t even know what brand thread I use (or should use!). My process is “whatever it takes”!
How would I convey that intimate sound my heart makes when I know something is right. How do I explain that shiver that goes up my spine when the right stitch makes the right texture. How do I communicate how after looking at twenty five of my photos, that one says “I am the one you need”. That is all good and fine, and I am loving that is what I am able to do now - with little thought to profit or demographic appeal, but in many ways, it is very ego-centric and almost art masturbation. But it can be seen for some reason, as some higher level of art, but I don’t think it is.
Yesterday this girl came into my studio. At the gift giving season, I revert to the selling mode of my garment making days and make some earrings, gloves, and this year, holiday themed masks! The girl looked at my table of goods and picked out a soft cashmere pair of gloves. She didn’t care about the “fine art” hanging in my studio, she wanted those gloves in her life. She got them. I can honestly say that no one who has bought any of my “fine art” ever has expressed the pure joy of having it in their life, that she did for these gloves. Isn’t that art?
Most of us who have had any Art training have spent time in life drawing sessions. I have taken them both as an undergrad and graduate student. I have taught them ( I am not confident in my capabilities there) and have enjoyed various models and instructors. Now I am trying something new. Not a Student. Nothing at stake. No required media. No critique. Just an immeasurable amount of self-directed experimentation and a copious amount of freedom.
Today we reconvened after a two week hiatus. One of the benefits of moving from Wisconsin to Virginia that I had never imagined was to be able to do life drawing outside in mid-November! So take that Covid, you haven't stopped us!
Like any exercise, there is both a natural roller coaster of the feeling of competency and joy. Like any exercise, a couple of weeks off also make you stiff! Today was like that. I had felt pretty good the last few sessions; Fluid, confident, focused. But not today. I struggled with which media to use, what to focus on and to avoid the trap of "making something good" .
We had a great model. People do not realize how much difference that makes. When you are getting so intimately connected with a model visually, you can't also avoid getting vibes. Some models are uncomfortable, and it is impossible to draw. Some are just twitchy or itchy and don't realize that when you are striving to get the foreshortening correct and they stretch their leg and reposition it three inches over, it makes a huge difference. But today we had a model who nailed every pose. My props to Katie.
Still, I was very disappointed with my work. I never felt that "artgasm moment" that makes it all worthwhile. But when I went back and looked at my work I realized that while the final picture may not have been "frame-worthy" I had actually been alive and aware after all.
As I mentioned the other day, my piece "6' of Chaos" was just invited to show in Quilt National 2021. Here is some info about how it was created. There are three main stages, with many small stages in between.
First there is the photography. I take photos a lot. I have thousands in my computer. Only a few of these will become fiber works. If the photo speaks on its own, it doesn't need more, but some photos are just a recording of WHAT I saw, and not really HOW I saw it. Those photos need the textures and layer of fiber to complete their story.
Secondly is photo manipulation. Sometimes a photo just needs some edits of contrast, or cropping or some minor color adjustments, but sometimes, like in this case, many images are merged together to form a new image. Each is manipulated with my editing program, then merged into one image. The finished file is then sent to be printed on fabric. The photo becomes the starting point; sometimes just an underlying sketch for my finished piece. It is an important step because it is where I make my base color, contrast, and composition decisions.
Finally is the layered construction of the process. This can include layers of additional fabrics either above or below the photo fabric, hand and machine stitching, couching of yarns, fabric paint, or whatever it takes to create the colors or textures that I need for the piece. On some pieces non-fiber items like found objects or produce netting is added.
Together these stages create a unique image and surface for my work;
one that neither photography or fiber could create on their own.
The photo manipulation
After the fabric is returned with the photo printed on it, I start to add the layers of additional colors and textures. I have used some of the same techniques I show on the DEMONSTRATION page, but also some additional ones that are unique to this piece. Below are some detail shots and information about the process(es) used in that area.
I have been waiting for today. This is notification day for the Quilt National show. This show is held ever two years, and the show host a variety of contemporary and international art quilts. As with all juried shows, the exhibit slants differently every year, due to the subjective nature of jurying. I have no doubt that each jurist tries their hardest to be fair and that is appreciated, but when compiling a "best of" grouping, it is impossible not to have your own opinions. I say this to recognize the difficulty of being a jurist (I have done so in the advertising world, so I empathize), to console the makers of pieces that may not have been juried in, and to explain my anticipation for the day, because it is always an unknown.
I submitted three pieces to the judging. The first one "Dystopia in the time of Covid" (34wx60h) is based on the "doom and gloom" of the dystopia that is 2020. The dog toy is an image that I had, and the first time I saw a picture of the virus, that is exactly what I thought it looked like. The collage image is printed on chiffon, and behind the chiffon is a grid made from the remnants of the masks I made for the protection of family and friends.
The second piece I submitted was this self portrait, "Just Thinking" (50wx36h). The background of this one is woven fabrics, and the weaving blends into the image via some painting and the stitching. The image itself was printed black and white on a linen-like canvas. It was then hand 'colorized' with fabric paint.
The third piece, "6' of Chaos" (52wx36h) is also influenced by the Covid world we are all now a part of. Our world seems a bit surreal right now, and I wanted to make this piece feel that way. It is a combination of three photos, with stenciled figures and paint as well as layers of fabric, yarns and stitching. It was my hope that this is the one that would be chosen if I was successful with my entry. I tried so many processes to get the textures and images I wanted. I thought the concept was strong, and the quilt techniques were unique in their use, if not their process!
Happily the judges agreed. This will be appearing in the 2021 Quilt National next June through September in Athens, Ohio at the Dairy Barn. Tomorrow, I will write another blog entry about the processes I used to make this one. So if you want to know more, stay tuned!
*"Fat envelope is a carry over from when you were notified be snail mail, not email. The "skinny envelope" contained only a rejection letter, while the "fat envelope" contained the acceptance, show information, and contracts.
I have written before and often pontificated about how we need only to look around for ideas. We do not have to go to exotic places, or view wide vistas; I spent a month photographing only thing on my block ( for more about that CLICK HERE , or HERE). my search continues, and is probably even more focused since none of us are wondering far these days.
There is a quote from Mary Oliver that addresses this: "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." I love that and if I have a mantra in life, that is it. Today after that debacle of a debate last night, we must continue to be vigilant and proactive, but maybe today, you need a little "pay attention and be astonished" to remember the beauty that is still all around us even in these times of pandemic and politics.
I thought I would just post a lot of my latest "details of life". Some from walks around the 'hood, some from a boring ride in the car, etc...
The McGuffey Art Center, where my studio is housed, has been closed since March. This means the galleries have been empty, the classes unattended, the life drawing sessions called off, and visitors to our studios non-existent. Itis the right thing to do. It is understandable, and in fact, the solitude (we artists are allowed in our private studios) has been better than I thought it would be. It has been a productive, if not solitary time for me.
This month two alternatives have been found. The life drawing sessions have resumed the last two weeks. We are outside and we are masked, but we are drawing again! This is also the best time of year (IMHO) for weather in Virginia. The sun is bright, the humidity is down, and the breezes are refreshing. All this makes for well attended and productive sessions! Here are some of my drawings from the recent sessions:
A while ago I posted a series of photos on Facebook. They were photos I have taken over time, many if not most before Covid. I was struck at how many pictures I had taken of solitude ... or as we now think of it "social Distancing. I though I should add them here on my blog too.
Generally, I am an extrovert. I actually find it easier to address large crowds more than I do small intimate settings. I guess that would be whatever the opposite of Stage Fright is. Knowing this about myself, I really figured that this whole "Shelter in Place" idea would get to me quickly and harshly. Much to my surprise, I have quite enjoyed the solitude, lack of urgency and freedom to take each day as it comes.
I miss my grandkids, and being with my friends - especially those who have experience life crisis or celebrations during this time. I especially miss the hugs and laughter, but for the most part, I have allowed myself exploration time and even some video game time! (Animal crossing if you are wondering!)
So, back tot he photography... here they are. hope some of them speak to you.
It is good to be reminded that the true talent of an artist is in their eyes, not their hand.
The facility of the hand is just hard work.
As a kid, I remember thinking that I so wished I could just take a picture with my eyes, because then I could show people what I saw, but instead I had to figure out to use a medium to record it. If I could have any object from my past restored to me, it would be my moose. At the age of five, I drew a moose that was then confiscated by my teacher for a school art show, and never to be seen again. In my mind's eye it was a perfect rendering. I would love to see what my 5 year old self thought said "moose" so perfectly.
I have drawn and rendered thousands of things since that time, but a few life drawing examples still stand out; A gestural life drawing of a 5 second pose, that still gives me an "artgasm" when I think of it, because it perfectly captured the move I saw for just an instant. And the life drawing, where my teacher finally got me to understand that looking at the negative space was equal to looking at the positive space. There are many more, and many more that were just practice! A third was when, after weeks of short poses, the model was told to pose in one pose for the entire 1 hour class. We were ecstatic. We spent the hour working hard to make the best drawings we ever did. On our way out the door the instructor took our drawings and ripped them up. Then asked, what we had seen and learned during the past hour that would last longer than the drawing. That was a particularly hard and strong lesson. We were to see, learn and grow; not just produce.
Seeing has always been the highlight for me. I have never understood boredom. No matter where you are there are things around you to be astonished by. A photo group that I am in had people lamenting that they had no great vistas or interesting things to shoot. So for the next month, I only took pictures within a one block radius of my home. They are some of my favorites. Here are three from that month.
I have drawn waiting for the dentist, DMV and prescriptions to be filled. Now I draw at outdoor cafes a lot. These are all observations; to train first my eye, then my hand. Photography is the media I choose most for observing. One has to think about the focus, the composition, the lighting and everything else in a very short time. I like that. My photos may eventually become fiber work, but that is a whole other round of sifting and winnowing through the observations to find one that will then go on to speak to others as the layering and textures get added.
Last week I was drawing with my grandson. We were drawing a coffee cup and other household items. I tried to explain that he is not drawing a cup. He is not drawing the circle that he knows is the top of the cup. He is drawing the oval that he sees as the top of the cup. He is not drawing the hosta flower, he is drawing a unique shape (that happens to be a flower) and he is drawing the shape of the space between the edge of the flower and the edge of the vase!
I love seeing. I love drawing. What the eyes sees the hand can draw.
I was reading a book on Wayne Theibaud's work last night. And a quote really struck me.
"What sort of Medium fits your image. Is there a more legitimate medium for that?"
His question was directed to choosing a drawing media, and it is a legitimate one, but many of us have chosen a singular medium to work with, so I think there is slightly different question that should be asked:
Does your image NEED your medium?
Looking at Theibaud's Gumballs, it is evident the paint brought something a photo wouldn't; enhanced lighting, composition, graphic-ness, and juicy texture all taking them beyond reality to a unique statement and intent!
I take a lot of pictures. Maybe one in 100+ ever get made into art quilts. When I search for the photo that will be the basis for my next piece, it can not feel "complete" already! It has to NEED fabric (surface or layers) and stitching to be complete. It can not be an image that can stand alone without being pierced by my needle! I am not always successful at this, but that is my goal.
I love using fiber as a media. It has qualities that no other media does, and I try very hard to remember those when picking my imagery. FOR ME (and it might be different for others) The image chosen, photo or not, must not be complete without the addition of the fiber and stitch, and the fiber and stitch needs the image for them to be complete.
This is also why the National Portrait Gallery is one of my favorite museums. to see the same basic imagery (human being) expressed through so many media and artists, is a wonderful schooling on how art is not replication, but is something beyond that; it must be a symbiotic relationship between the image and the media.
Above is an example of my original photo (left) and my finished piece (right)
"Where the Sidewalk Starts"
I just watched a Netflix show "Empire of Scents". As I watched it it dawned on me that maybe there is something disappearing from our world, and we haven't thought much about it.
I was a graphic designer back in the dark ages.
I remember when cut and paste required sharp and sticky things. Back when you would construct mock-ups using what ever materials you needed to simulate the finished product. When you often had to open the windows or turn on the fans because of the vapors!
My mind reels when I remember those smells. Then sweet vanilla of Rubylith and Amberlith. The warm smell of the hot wax. The difference between the smell of newsprint, coated stock, and Bienfang marker papers. There was something between fear and potential in the smell of the markers as you started rendering. There is not a graphics person around who couldn't identify the smell of rubber cement from a room or two away. And even the metallic smell of the rapidograph ink pens was a daily incense in our studio. Those are only a few of the odors that rose - for good or for ill - from our tools.
When computers came so did sterility. There is no smell to the keyboard (well there shouldn't be anyway!!) you can not smell the marker or glue residue on your fingertips. We lost the touch of the paper and the physicality of the construction. But until now, I hadn't thought about the loss of smell and how devoid of that sense the computer process. For me (insert "Ok Boomer" here) much was lost. The visual aspect of design was still there; The process was, in many ways, freer; Efficiency was enhanced. But it was like moving into a new building - shiny and beautifully functional, but without historic memory.
Now I sew.
I have long thought that I chose this medium because of the physicality and how it echoed those "good old days" of design. I fondle my cloth as I choose it and push it through its paces. I cut, slice, slash, poke, and iron my cloth, just as I did paper in "the good old days". That is where I though my joy came from.
But now I think maybe it is also the smells. There is a distinct difference in the smell of cotton vs. poly vs. linen. I realize that I am smelling the fabric as I fold it or rummage through my stash. The mixture of fear and potential is back every time I open a package from Spoonflower and smell that newly printed fabric. My bag of yarn scraps smell of sheep and hemp, and cotton, and mustiness. The slight oil smell that my sewing machine emits. When my iron hits the damp fabric there is a vaporous aroma that is sweeter than any perfume. The glue scents are there in the fabric spray and the glue stick. Once in a while the marker smells enter with the fabric markers or when I am addressing a box for shipping.
I often am jealous of my dog when we are on walk.
Her world is a completely different one than mine is. Mine is one of sight and I am thankful for that, but hers is one of scent. Sights can confuse her, distract her and even scare her, but scent is her reality. I would love to have a moment of that reality to see what I am missing.
I wonder, as we become more and more technological, if we are forgetting how much that sense of smell has meant to humankind. Will we remember video games in the way I remember the smell of Monoply money or the metal of the pieces. Shopping on line is efficient and I embrace it, but it has been a long time since I took an olfactory lap around the perfume counter at Macy's. Our quest for clean sanitized surrounding and concern for the environment has eliminated the smell of leaves burning in the fall. I am no Luddite. I am happy with the advances in technology, but this was just one of those things that (as Arsenio Hall used to say) make you go "hmmmmmm?!"
Just came home from the whirlwind weekend at the Quilt National Show. This was my first time entering and first time accepted and for that I am honored and grateful. It turns out that about 30% of the entrants were first timers. I would love to know the reason for this (even I like statistics now and then!) Is that normal? Did the more experienced not enter? Is there that much of a surge in new art quilters? A fluke? Judging criteria? Just one of those things that makes you go "hhmmmmmmm"
I must admit that after seeing the show I kinda wondered how my piece [stylistically] got/fit in! I think in the whole show of 90+ pieces there were about five "figurative" pieces, surrounded by colorful (and beautifully done) abstracts. There was one 3-d piece. Again, please understand I am not disparaging either the judging or the accepted entries, but I am confused about the ongoing intent of the show. There are so many wonderful directions that Art Quilting has taken recently that I was a bit confused about the lack of diversity in styles, medium and content. Is it a showcase for the trends that happened in Art Quilting, or is it an inspiring showcase for possibilities! Each show venue lives with a reputation and expectations. QN is grandmother of them all, and as such has both a history to live up to and laurels to ride on.
Now for the good part! My absolute favorite of the show was Jean Wells Keenan's No Stone Unturned. It was the epitome of that which could not be done in any other media. The colors are cloth colors. The textures are stitched textures (both hand and machine), The concept is both universal and intimate. It hit every tick box for me!
Betty Busby continues to be an innovative and positive force for the Art Quilt world. Never resting on a style or technique, she pushes ahead with obvious joy and skill! One year a quilt, one year a vessel, this year a wall sculpture. BUT all recognizable on some level (color? whimsy? craft?) as a "Betty".This year it was Coloratura. A piece inspired by Opera. Thanks for all you do, Betty!
Of the prize winners, I was so happy to see Dinah Sargeant's Riverstrong get recognized. This was another piece that took joy in fabric. Each surface considered. Each stitch meaningful. One of those pieces that is not "Art Quilting". It is simply "Art".
Here are a few details of some of the other award winners. Best in Show, Karen Schultz. Upper left: Emerging Artist, Irene Roderick. Upper Right: Heartland Award, Daren Redman. Middle left: Persistance Pays, Gabrielle Paquin. Middle Right: Quilt Award Japan, Dana Ziesemer. Bottom Left: McCarthy Award: Valerie Maserr-Flanagan. Bottom Right: Outstanding Machine pieced, Pamela Loewen
You know from the minute you see the gleaming mosaics on the outside and then the giant Icarus flying in the stairwell (shown on the left) , that this is not your usual museum. The exhibits right now were themed "Parenting" and the stories told were from all sides of the coin - parent and child. Recounts of childhoods spent in danger or isolation were seen in all media. From a man who spent 30 years sculpting a "family" and then making detail costumes for each doll, to harshly scratched out drawings of a life spent hiding from addicted parents. An imprisoned father's depictions of life were shown in detailed embroideries made from the unraveled socks he could get. So many lives told.
Here are just two of her images with the accompanying texts that were embroidered at the bottom:
One of my other favorite displays ran along the spiral staircase. It was a ten yard machine sewn illustration of scenes sewn by a man at the suggestion of those who stopped by.
Here is his story, idea of what it looked like, and some details.
It was a heart-wrenching visit, saved from being overly emotional by the gift shop at the end. What a place of wonder! Every trinket, accessory and fun things you could want for yourself or to give as gifts... will definitely be back there for the holidays!
I just spent two wonderful days seeing, talking about, and walking through art! I went to several museums with two of my fiber buddies, and we then talked art over good food, and while sitting in various transportation vehicles!
Monday we went to Washington DC. We decided to try out two of the smaller museums, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Renwick Gallery, before we hit the National Gallery.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
As is often the case, we were too optimistic about how much time we would have, so it was a quick visit to the National Gallery. I decided to head over to the East Wing, and just say "hi" to the I.M.Pei building, and not worry about deciding what art to savor in only an hour. My next post will be about our next day at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.... stay tuned.
in the meantime, here is a slide show are some of my shots from the national gallery, the Metro, and one from the wonderful deli/restaurant we stopped at for lunch.
After a few months of intensive "Get 'er done" pace getting ready for my show in Colorado, the upcoming show in Houston, and getting a couple pieces done to submit to Quilt National, I have been having a few weeks of "putzing" around. There is a real adrenaline drop off after FedEx sweeps away my work, and I need something different to regain my mojo. So it has been play time!
One of the fun things I do between projects is make earrings (and sometimes other things) from the little left over pieces of fabric and yarns. They are light, affordable, and fun and I have sold many through the McGuffey Art Center Gift shop. Now they are also available in the gift shop of the Visions Art Museum in San Jose, CA. So I have made a bunch of new ones for the upcoming Holiday gift-giving season!
Then it was time for a "remake". Early this year, I was in a show with two other McGuffey artists. We made many collaborative pieces with our three different mediums fiber, clay and wood. You can see the pieces, as they were exhibited here. The large wood and fiber wall piece was separated after the show, but I couldn't "give up" on the fiber part. so I added a few more elements to it to make it a totally fiber piece.
Here is one that I did, not sure it will ever see the light of day as a finished piecee, but I did have fun with all the hand stitching.
Finally, my last dabble, is with upcycling. I walk to the studio everyday, and have noticed a wonderful variety of things in the gutters and sidewalks. Another McGuffey artist, Brielle Duflon has done some fabulous work with trash and inspired me to try. So I am making an ongoing project of recycled work. The backing for each piece is leftover felt or batting from my work, the top "fabric" is various plastic bags. and the found objects are embellished with hand stitching. I hope to make the squares for three months.
O am assembling the rows with embroidery stitches, and have yet to figure out how I will connect the sashing (or what the sashing will be!) between the rows. It is about time to get back to "real" work though!
So it has been about five months since my last feeble effort, but now that fall approaches and life gets a bit slower and more cozy, maybe I can do this blog thing!
The little rascal above has been part of my distraction. This is Kettu, my constant companion for the last two years. For those of you who may have a dog, you realize that those first two years are kind of busy - not unlike the first two years of having a kid! She is wonderful and is with me at my studio, so she will show up in here often I am sure.
Some other things that have kept me busy...
I have been getting ready for a number of shows lately. I had two solo shows and a shared show to send out in the last couple of months.
Jill Jensen, a fellow Virginia fiber artist and print maker had a joint show in Lynchburg . The Academy of Arts is a great venue and our work showed well there.
Then I sent our a couple dozed of my piece to Golden Colorado. Last year I was awarded "Best of Show" in the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum's annual show, and as a consequence I was awarded a solo show there this year. The show was in 3 parts; one wall were pieces from my "Walk in the Park" series, one wall was my "Studio" series, and the third wall was quilts from my "General Gallery".
The museum has two galleries, and in the second gallery was a show of quilts from Russia. (examples below)They were absolutely wonderful and a great counter part to my show. They had all the bright colors and traditional quilting that mine work usually does not, so together, they made a full look at the possibilities of quilting!
While this was happening I also was getting another couple dozen quilts ready to ship to Houston for this fall's Quilt Festival!
They contacted me and asked me to be one of the "Rising Star" artists at this year's show. Of course I said yes. The exciting part, is they didn't want all new quilts. They wanted to make sure that I included a range of quilts that I have done over the years. This means that some of my work that has never been "on the road" before will be in Houston. I have also made a couple of brand spanking new quilts for the show.
This image on the right, is one of the early Excel spreadsheets that I used to try and visualize what the show will look like.
I hope that if you are at the show this November 8-11, that you will stop by and say hello. I would love to talk fiber with you!
Today I visited the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk Virginia. It is a great museum. Small enough to not be daunting, but large enough to have a comprehensive and high quality collection. First, I went back to see the glass collection. It is well curated collection that will give you an overlook of glass through the ages.
I blogged about the glass before click here if you want to see that post and a whole lot of pictures.
Sometimes, at a museum, I want to visit the "old friends" but other times I search out areas with which I am unfamiliar. That was today. These three gentleman were three of the "new friends" I made. I love these three completely different takes on the human form. Artists from a thousand years apart, taking inspiration from the same form.
Down another hallway was a captivating new piece; Daniel Rozin's "Mirror No. 10 (Sketch Mirror). As I walked into the room this framed image changed and redrew me with a zillion lines of shapes and colors. For those of us who don't spend a lot of time in front of Nintendo or other dance programs, seeing yourself on screen is oddly compelling. Renee, who was with me, and I spent way too much time goofing off in front of this!
To see a video of the fun we had, go HERE
All and all a fun day in a great little museum. Great Collection, Free Admission, and a working glass studio with demonstrations (and comfortable bleachers!)
Last week I attended a symposium put on by the PA group of SAQA (Studio Art Quilters Association). It was a well-attended and lively event! It coincided with the opening of the Elements Quilt show at the Wayne Art Center. I was one of the four speakers at the event; here is a synopsis synopsis of my talk .
We moved to Charlottesville about three years ago. When we moved, I left the communities I had built back in Wisconsin. It has been an adventure developing new communities of friends and support here in C'ville! The talk I gave at the symposium was about that search, the many places I have found community, and the different benefits of each of them. The four communities I addressed were the "Remote Communities" I have plugged into through social media or mass communication, the "Community of Self" which I found during my stint as an artist in residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the "Community of (non-fiber) Artists" which I have found at McGuffey Art Center, and the "Community of (local) Fiber Artists".
These are the communities that I first sought out after relocating. They are on the web, in Facebook Groups, on the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble, and in national and international organizations. I found information about shows and exhibits both to enter and to attend in many of the magazines, and artist call websites.
Groups like SAQA and Quilts.com were great places to see names, learn news and generally plug in.
The exhibit entries I first made were to the monthly calls in Quilting Arts magazine. As a graphic designer, I had a forty year history of meeting deadlines and being give a design problem to solve, so this was familiar territory to me. I have entered many of the IQF and SAQA shows because they gave me a stepping off place for a project. It was looking at these artist calls, that I found the art residency that formed my the next community.
Community of Self (or learning to commune with oneself)
During my adult life I have lived alone almost never. So finding myself accepted (very unexpectedly) to a 30 day residency in a national park was both a surprise, and a totally new experience for me.
This experience was valuable on many levels. Obviously it was beautiful - there is nothing quite like the Smokys in October! (and for day-by-day reporting on that experience just click on "Local: Smoky Mountain Residency" on the right of this page), but beyond that, it pushed me to think without structure. It set the foundation for my first work done as a series instead of one off. This is something that I now regularly do. It put me in an unfamiliar situation of total freedom and self reliance. And once you have experienced that, it is hard to put the genie back in the bottle! For a view of the work that came out of this experience click here.
Then it was back home to join my third community. That of a general art community.
As a resident member of MAC I am always under the influence of other artists. We talk about techniques, I see their subject matter, we have group shows and there is that general energy from the camaraderie of fellow creatives!
This past year, I and two other artists put on a collaborative show... not a show where we each showed out individual work, but a true collaboration of ideas and work on each project. The show was success and the experience an one that has expanded my thinking and will affect my work for sometimes. To see more of the work from this show click here.
This community has helped me to keep me going and strengthened my general artistic muscles, while the fourth community has helped me hone my fiber skills!
Community of Fiber Artists
This last group is my sisterhood! This is a group of six of us fiber artist who gather monthly for general check-in and also show together as a group or as parts of the group. We each have out own styles that are very different from each other, but because of that, we learn a lot from each other. We are all serious about our work, and some teach workshops, we all show regularly on our own, and some also work with other media. One is primarily an eco-dyer who then incorporates her dyed piece into wall and book art, one is a printmaker who incorporates her prints into her fiber art, and one is presently doing 3-d fiber sculptures. But we all use needle and thread and fabric. to see some of our work and bios, click here.
A couple of months ago, we spent a week together in a house on the beaches of North Carolina. It was so good to learn more about each other both personally and artistically. And of course, eat and drink together!
Here is hoping you can find your communities. Step outside your media, Take some time for self reflection. Peruse the magazine sections, and on-line groups, join some organizations, and and find local groups. Grow, interact. have fun!
Wow I haven't contributed to this blog for about two years Lots of reasons. Working very hard. Using Facebook to post most everything. Politics have distracted me. Not taking as many photos. Lots of stuff.
But being a frustrated writer, I kind of missed posting here, so I will try again! Actually, the other reason is that while Facebook is great for immediate posting, it isn't a good "journal" for when I want to refer someone to something, or when I want to reminisce .
I recently joined a (private) Facebook group that has some very thoughtful people in it. One of the activities there is the posting of occasional writing prompts. It was one of those that really made me think about writing here again. The prompt was "what is your comfort food?". The idea is to then respond for 5 minutes to the prompt... no planning, thinking or edits. This was my response.
It got me thinking about sharing, and what an important part of our life it is. How our sharing of information helps intellectual advances happen. Sharing sources and techniques can increase efficiency. Our sharing of thoughts can expand our ideas.
And sharing our hatred can erode our community and humanity.
I love Facebook. Without it I would not have the intimate knowledge of my far-flung family's lives, I would not see artwork from all over the world. I would not have the gaggle of 'friends' who I know but have never met. But sometimes it is just too easy to post and run, There is quite a bit of TMI, knee-jerk sharing, and it can quickly perpetuate misunderstanding and give credence to things that do not deserve it.
So I decided I would go back to this as a primary forum for sharing my thoughts (and just post the links on FB) Sure I may still post my photos and some of Jon's beautiful meals, and even an opinion now and then, but on here I hope to be more thoughtful and share in a way that will be welcome by some and can be easily ignored by others! And posting here makes me think a bit more about what is important to say... or not.
P.S. I have updated most of my pages on this site, so take a walk around!
One of the great things about having my studio at McGuffey, is the chance to meet so many new people. Our studios are open to the public, so people wander in fairly frequently. I have met many other fiber artist from the area. I have met art supporters, and the curious. Meeting the public at my art shows, was one of my favorite things about doing art fairs, so I welcome the personal contact and chance to talk art with both those who are knowledgeable and those who are seeking knowledge.
And of course there are my fellow artists. The sculpture pictured here is by Jim Respess, my studio neighbor. It is a monumental scale public art sculpture in Charlottesville. Jim is both a philosopher and an artist, and we share a love of mid-afternoon tea with a dash of discussion! Another artist and I are talking about offering 'open studio' or 'fiber funday' classes next fall. Michelle is a mixed media and book artist, with a background in printing, so it could be a fun partnership.
Then there are tours!
Last week I had three groups of third graders come tour my studio. They were wonderful! The first group was so attentive and asked great questions. The second was a challenge; all over the studio but enthusiastic. The third group was right in between. A little girl stopped on her way out and said "will you please teach me?" So I said maybe in a few years, but she could come visit anytime, and she immediately looked at me and said "FRIDAY??!!" I really expected her to pull out a Blackberry to book a time!
One of the things the kids wanted to do is touch... I totally get that...it is why I have textured textiles instead of flat photos. So I told them, to never touch in a gallery or a museum, but it was MY studio and MY rules, so go ahead and touch. They did! And really got into the textures. One little guy wanted to know how many beads were on one piece and, when I said I didn't know, so he spent 10 minutes counting them and announced "153"!!
The following day, the touching got better.
Sarah, a confident and out-going young woman came into the studio Thursday. She was looking for part time work or even to volunteer to help in the studios. This is not remarkable in itself, but she was blind so it was pretty remarkable! She was asking many questions about my work, so I invited her to see/feel for herself. Her fingers traveled from stitch to stitch, and found the frayed parts and the smooth parts. She wanted to know the origins of the textures. As an artist, it was wonderful to see my work appreciated on a totally new level.
What are we missing by instituting a "no touch rule"?
The kids and Sarah really made me think about a feeling I have long held about art. I think we make it too precious. Would Rodin or Michelangelo really never have wanted the surfaces of their work to be enjoyed? Didn't they choose their materials for the feel as much as the look? Would we have even more admiration of Amsel Kieffer if we could experience the sharp and rough with our fingers as well as our eyes. Textile art is, in its very essence tactile, so why can we only touch with white gloves? As an artist, I find the term "visual art" a limiting misnomer. Art might be a far deeper experience if enjoyed with as many sense as required.
Okay, I get it, we are preserving our art for the ages. What if we didn't care about that. What if we feel that a few generations ability to experience 100% was better than eons experiencing only a portion? Should artists be able to tell museums and galleries, that [respectful] "hands on" is okay for their art? Almost every artist I know (including myself!) has been chided by guards for getting our noses too close as we struggle to see brush strokes and textures. I bet if you actually touched a Van Gogh, there would be some powerful vibes still in those strokes!
On Monday, in the Shenandoah Skyline Drive, we stuck around until the sky rewarded us! The clear winter sky and the lack of foliage, make the mountains appear even bluer than the Blue Ridge normal look.
The blue just got more and more intense as the sun started to set. Click on any photo to see it larger.
And we saw a couple of animals too!
The deer were out in full force, finding the food, and then we saw the owl.
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !