Friday, September 29, 2017
I was crabby last week trying to do entries where the system seemed eager to block me at every turn. But I'm happy to report that one of the shows has already done its jurying -- perhaps the fastest jurying in modern history -- and one of my flags has gotten in.
The show is the 45th Mid-States Craft Exhibition at the Evansville Museum in Evansville IN. I'm always thrilled to have fiber art accepted into an all-medium show, although this one, being a "craft" show, is more accurately described as almost-all-mediums -- ceramics, metal, textiles, wood, enamel, glass and mixed media, but not painting.
I've been in this show once before and was sadly prevented from attending the opening festivities because I was awaiting emergency surgery the next morning. I've not even been inside the museum, despite having both dropped off and picked up my quilt for that show, because the place was under renovation and I arrived at an off hour and I think some other obstacle as well.
I'm hoping for better luck this time around!
My big question now is whether the museum will let me display the quilt the way I did at Pyro Gallery earlier this year, simply nailed to the wall, or whether I'll have to add a sleeve and supply a rod. I loved it nailed to the wall -- so flat, so smooth -- but we'll see whether the museum staff is up for the challenge.
The show opens December 10.
Monday, September 25, 2017
I've written before about my "daily people," little sculptures made from leftover fabric bits. I started making them as a 30-day project for my art book club, but when the month was over they kept coming. I've tapered off since then, and haven't made any in several weeks, but a new challenge has brought them out of their shoeboxes and on their way to public display.
The occasion is a fundraising dinner honoring Jon Fleischaker, a local attorney who has specialized in First Amendment cases. Artists have been invited to decorate the tables with something related to the First Amendment, and when I was asked to participate last week I thought of my little people. I've thought all along that I wanted to eventually display them in a crowd, and since the First Amendment guarantees the right of the people peaceably to assemble, there you go!
Now to find the appropriate base, and construct some kind of supports so they can stand up. Maybe some of them will carry signs. Maybe I'll need more of them, especially men (since so many of the ones I've already made seem to have skirts -- not that I've deliberately tried to make women, but that it's easier to construct skirts then legs). I'll probably want to hold a casting call and reject some of them who don't seem to play well with the others.
here's a new guy made from the strips I cut off the bottom of Isaac's Cub Scout pants
I'll keep you posted on what happens next! The art has to be installed on October 17 so I have to get going.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
In 1979, I guess, because that's the copyright date, I bought a set of World Book encyclopedias.
Son #1 was seven years old and it seemed like this was a good time to get set up for the inevitable school routine of looking things up for reports. Strangely, I don't remember that we ever used the books all that much. The boys weren't old enough for the Internet to become the school routine of choice, but maybe the style in pedagogy was to downplay looking things up. Or maybe they did it in the school library. Or maybe they just blew off their homework.
You must realize that I was raised to worship books. I thought it was a venial sin to set a book open on the table face down or crack its spine. It was a mortal sin to write in a book, or cut it up. The thought of defacing a whole set of encyclopedias was terrifying.
But I told myself that (A) we hadn't opened the books in decades. (B) this was not a valuable artifact; probably there are 3 million unused sets of World Books lying around in offices, basements, attics and landfills. (C) nobody else could possibly use them; even if paper encyclopedias themselves aren't obsolete, the 1979 version surely is. And (D) if I used them for art it would be better than not using them at all. So I cut out pictures and articles for a series of daily postcards I was sending to various family members.
Since then I've gone into the encyclopedias with gusto. I've cut out pages to use for found haiku; I've cut out pictures for collage; I've cut out words and phrases for my daily text project. Never a week goes by without me consulting the books; surely a lot more than we ever used the books in their first career.
I still haven't reached the point where I'm willing to tear the covers off the books, although I have made art with covers from other people's discarded World Books. I still need mine for "reference" -- if you need a picture of Harry Truman or a fish, it's so easy to just grab the right volume off the shelf, look it up and cut it out.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Having gotten seriously crabby on Thursday doing an entry on CaFE, I am compelled in fairness to report that on Friday I did another entry on CaFE and sailed through it in about five minutes. I am therefore revising my opinion of that system. Namely, it works well if you are extremely familiar with how it works. It works even better if you want to submit an image that you have already used for another show.
That's what happened to me yesterday. I submitted two of the three quilts that I had submitted on Thursday, so there they were, already uploaded and their thumbnails right there for me to click on. The titles, dimensions and materials had been typed in on Thursday so I didn't have to do it again. I remembered what happens under each of the tabs in the website, and with only one misstep got through the process with only a few clicks.
It worked because I had spent an hour wrestling with the system the day before, and because I was entering the same pieces. (That was possible because Thursday's show is an exhibition in print, where you don't have to actually send the work, so double-dipping wasn't going to create conflicts.)
But how long will it take for me to forget the quirks of the process, thus making my next encounter just as painful as it has always been in the past? I guess if you're a compulsive enterer, responding to many different calls, you could get comfortable. I still wonder why the system has to be so difficult for the casual or first-time user.
And despite being not so crabby, I can't help but note the strange schedule of this show. The juror is going to have results announced four days after the entry deadline, which I think is fabulous. I hate it when shows keep you in suspense for weeks or even months. But the delivery date is only ten days later -- after which the artworks will sit in a back room for two whole months before the show opens! (This is clearly a museum with a lot of storage space.)
I wonder why they need the work so far in advance. If you have a good piece of art that you would like to send out to several juried shows, this is a long time for it to be out of commission while the clock ticks on its shelf life.
Friday, September 22, 2017
... if you weren't crabby already, just do a show entry using CaFE.
You are asked to submit images "1200 pixels or larger on longest side," and then the call goes on to say "Please note that uploaded images are scaled by the system and two monitor versions are created: a small 100-pixel thumbnail and a large 700-pixel image. These images are available for you to preview in your portfolio after you upload."
What image do you suppose the jurors will see? If they're going to see 700 pixels, why don't they just tell us to upload a 700-pixel image? If they're going to see 1200+ pixels, why tell us about the 700-pixel image? Why do I need to know this?
They tell you to submit "A brief artist statement (50-100 words, maximum)." Does this mean somewhere between 50 and 100 words, or does it mean 100 words maximum? Scratch your head all you want to (is my 45-word statement going to be disqualified for being too short?) but never mind, because when you get to the place to type in the statement, it now says "1000 characters maximum."
I got to the website by clicking a link in a message from Surface Design Association, which is sponsoring this Exhibition in Print (no actual show, just a catalog). After that, I clicked my way into the CaFE website and started filling out the application. Despite confusing directions, I managed to upload my images. I was not distracted by ominous remarks like "If Modify or Remove options are not available, click to archive past entries, then return here to modify or remove media." or "If you need to add artwork samples, save first before returning to MY PORTFOLIO. You may come back to your saved application from MY CAFE ENTRIES to complete or review the application prior to checkout."
Now it's time to attach the images to the entry form. I had misread the ominous remark about coming back to my saved application, and mistakenly went to the page where you would select what call you are responding to. The form told me to select the organization sponsoring the call. I typed in Surface Design Association and it said "showing 0 events." I typed in Exhibition in Print and it came up with a show in New Mexico sponsored by somebody else. Hmmm. I started clicking around on all the many tabs on the website and eventually came back to the page I started from, which indeed had the right show listed. Sigh of relief.
I had uploaded three full images and three detail shots. But the system told me to attach two or three images to my entry. Hmmm. I went back and read the call and sure enough, it had said "up to 3 images total may be submitted; artists are encouraged to submit at least 2 pieces and no more than 1 detail. Submission of a detail is not required." So I uploaded just the three full images.
Why do you suppose the system is set up to discourage detail shots? I've rarely encountered fiber art shows that didn't want details -- as in any materials-based art, how it's made is always a big viewer magnet. I've made art where the full view is almost meaningless without a detail shot, so if I want to enter such a piece, and have to submit the detail, then in effect I can only enter two pieces instead of three. What's that supposed to accomplish? Do you think this was a deliberate decision made by SDA, or an unintended consequence of the program?
The only other show I've entered recently was a relatively small regional show, and the entry process couldn't have been easier: send an email with your images, put your info and list of the pieces you're submitting into the body of the email, call them the next morning and tell them your credit card number. I know you can't reasonably offer this kind of service if you expect hundreds of entries (or can you??) but all the bureaucratic complexity of the automated programs has to be a turn-off to potential entrants. It wouldn't be so bad if the directions weren't apparently written by the same people who write user manuals; maybe geeks can follow along, but those of us who just speak English have serious problems.
That's why I'm crabby today. But if you're willing to put up with the hassles, you can still enter SDA's Exhibition in Print until midnight tonight. Click here to get to the call; after that you're on your own.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Thoreau warned us to beware of enterprises requiring new clothes; I might revise that advice to cover new clothes requiring alterations, since I'm the one in the family who has to make the alterations. While I adore mending, I'm not so hot on alterations. Nevertheless I do them.
Yesterday I got to step up to the plate for Isaac's new Cub Scout uniform, which set his mom back more than $100 (!?!?!?!?!?!?) at the Scout store on Tuesday. Cubs Scout pants have to be the only kids' pants still sold in the United States that come without hems; they're made six inches too long and somebody has to take them up. I wonder how families without sewing grandmas deal with this challenge.
But I rose to the challenge, not only with hemming the pants but also sewing the troop number on the sleeve. I was happy that the other patches, indicating the local Boy Scout Council as well as the American flag, came pre-sewed. After years of mending only for big men, I had forgotten how small little boys' sleeves are and how hard it is to get your sewing machine in on those little numbers without inadvertently catching some other part of the garment in the seam.
I guess the Scouts still value those old traditional survival skills like sewing. I wonder if they will instill them in the boys as well as demanding them of the moms and grandmas!
Monday, September 18, 2017
I've been trying for the last several months to get rid of things that I no longer need, but keep coming across boxes of stuff stowed away in closets and under worktables. Sometimes it's straight to the grab bag pile, but other times I find work in progress, often things that I started in workshops years ago but never finished. And often those things aren't half bad, just not exciting enough to have made me work on them once I came home.
I've thought, seriously, that perhaps my next body of work should be using up all those partially pieced expanses. Because my fine-line piecing is so complicated and labor intensive, there's an awful lot of work invested in those little bits, and I hate to flush it down the drain. Uncut yardage can always be donated for charity quilts, but who wants to inherit a bunch of little modules of varying shapes and sizes that cry for more intricate piecing to match?
Last month I found a box with leftovers from an experiment in piecing with stripes. It happened at the Crow Barn in 2007 or 2008. I was struck by this array of batiks in the fabric store, variations on brown and chartreuse. I was just starting to experiment with striped fabric as the very fine lines separating my small shapes, so the striped fabric was also appealing. I also bought a chartreuse fabric marker so some of the white dots in the brown-and-white fabric could become green.
I sewed up a bunch of samples and was unimpressed. I have never been a fan of brown, and though I love chartreuse, there was too much just-kinda-plain-wishy-washy-green in this bunch of fabric. But I carefully folded and bagged up everything and took it home with me, to languish for a decade.
Halfway through I realized that I needed to make a quilt for my International Threads challenge, on the theme of "integration," and this could be it. So I made the piecing fit the IT size, quilted it up, and sent it back to Europe with Uta Lenk, who was visiting.
Not a masterpiece, but finished. Actually, not half bad -- I like the graphic contrast of the light and dark, and the many different variations on the simple three-color palette. And I love how all that long-ago sewing paid off in the end. There's plenty more unfinished piecing where that came from, and maybe I'll start working with those UFOs. I have enough square footage already sewed to occupy me for the rest of my life.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
In 2013 I had a solo show at the beautiful art gallery at St. Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary, a monastic institution in St. Meinrad IN, an hour or so west of us. It was founded in the 1850s by Benedictine monks sent from Switzerland to the frontier; their presence generated a large and thriving Catholic community that still exists in southern Indiana.
My husband and I drove over to deliver the quilts, and as we went through the closed gallery we saw that the artwork from the previous show was still there, leaning against walls and stacked near the door. It was sculpture by Brother Martin Erspamer, a monk at St. Meinrad with an MFA who paints, designs worship spaces, and makes furniture, ceramics and stained glass.
Ken fell in love with a ceramic Jesus and we bought Him and took Him home with us. It's a ceramic bas relief, about an inch thick and amazingly heavy. After we got it home I went to hang it on the wall and realized to my dismay that there was no hanging apparatus -- no holes so you could slot the piece over nails in the wall, no wire loop embedded in the clay. Hmmmm.
Jesus leaned against the wall in Ken's office for several months until my wonderfully practical son figured out how to put Him securely on the wall. The solution was two wooden railings, long enough to be screwed into the studs, rabbeted to make lips that keep the ceramic slab from coming loose.
I particularly love this piece of art because it was Ken's choice. For 47 years he has been graciously welcoming art of my choice into our home, with only a few pointed comments about how so few of my paintings have any people in them. (Yes, I'm a landscape junkie....) This time he got what he wanted.
Friday, September 15, 2017
I always look forward to Friday's New York Times because it has a whole section on art, with reviews of several current shows. And this morning's paper started out well, with a review of a fiber art show in Boston that wasn't the least bit condescending, didn't refer to anybody's grandma, and talked about "the timeless, haptic allure of fiber art." Bravo!
But farther down the page, by the same reviewer, came a description of a show by Sanford Biggers, an African-American artist who makes paintings, collages, sculptures and videos. One of the pieces that the reviewer described is a large sculpture made from antique quilt fragments.
|Marianne Boesky Gallery|
The reviewer explains that antique quilts "are central to the art of the African diaspora" (true) and "were signposts used on the Underground Railroad" (FALSE!!!!!!!).
I am so sick of hearing this fake news, which has been debunked so many times, such as here by the scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. Just as disappointing as hearing that these are or aren't like your grandma's quilts.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
What a great week I just had!
First, I took a carload of fabrics to my friend Ann, whose quilt guild likes to make charity quilts. I've given them four carloads in the last several months, and maybe this is even the last of the bunch. I've saved out the Kona solids, and all the commercial striped fabrics, and the batiks, and the African fabrics, and some other stuff to precious to give away, but now I think all the other quilting fabric is gone.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
A couple of months ago I got the idea to buy wood painting panels as supports for collage. I thought they would give substance to the work, and avoid the necessity and expense of framing. So I bought a five-pack of 9 by 12 panels and set to work.
I decided to work on all of them at once, and that all of them would have the same general elements. At a workshop last year I made several pages worth of calligraphy, just writing in black india ink, sometimes overlaying the first page of writing with more writing in a different scale and a different direction. I used those pages as the bottom layer.
Each collage would include a map, most would include an old photo, and I found four old books that I would tear up as collage elements for each of the pieces. Then I added bits and pieces of this and that until the collages seemed finished.
The advantage of working on several pieces at once was that it gave me time for the various paints, inks, glues and mediums to dry; by the time I had worked on all five panels the first one was ready for another step. I used plenty of matte medium as the top coat, or I should really say top coats, because I kept slathering that stuff on until some of the the surface resembled encaustic. Toward the end I added some mystery junk for 3-D interest.
The five panels that I started with eventually grew to about ten, and I kept working on them bit by bit through the summer, not sure whether they were done yet. The first one to be declared finished was a birthday gift, on a smaller but deeper panel that allowed me to add stuff on the sides and a roof on the top.
This week I declared two more finished so I could put them in the sales room at Pyro Gallery.
Messages: Eschenbach (detail below)
Messages: Allouez (detail below)
Good thing, too, because there are at least a half dozen more of these in the studio waiting for something before they too can be finished.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
One of the nice things about being a member of a co-op gallery is that you get to spend time hanging out with the art while you do your shifts of gallery-tending. After I joined Pyro Gallery last fall, we had a pre-holiday show in which all the 22 member artists displayed work. During my shifts I noticed that some of the art was definitely priced to sell -- perhaps it had been sitting in the studio so long that the artist didn't want to bring it home again.
I was drawn to a limestone sculpture by Mike McCarthy which looked vaguely pre-Columbian, and when we held a 10 percent off sale the week before Christmas, I pounced! I wanted a sculpture for our front yard, something that would hold up to the weather, too small to be noticed from the street and too big to be easily stolen if a miscreant did spot it. This one filled the bill.
We sited the statue so it gave the big eye to people walking up the path, but also to those coming down off the porch.
As the spring wore on, daffodils came and went, sometimes crowding the statue on one side while leaving it empty on another; obviously no professional landscaping had occurred in the testing of this product. But in August all of that changed -- brilliant zinnias came up to the left, scarlet sage came up to the right, framing my pre-Columbian guy in color. He guards my front walk with a stern, all-seeing eye (and peeks into the guest room window with his back eye if you open the curtains).
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Here's a long story about a small quilt. If you've been reading my blog for years you've heard parts of it before. It started out in 2010 as the leftover bits from a group project organized by Terry Jarrard-Dimond, in which a bunch of people collaborated on a quilt design. After Terry sewed the final version together, I asked if I could have the scraps, and made two small quilts.
Or more accurately, two small quilt tops. Only one of them got finished at the time because I wasn't pleased with the design. I carried the other one around with me for years as a workshop sample, and at one workshop I had it pinned up on the design wall. I was talking about how you should always evaluate your work, and that it's often more important to understand why certain things didn't work than to understand your successes. I pointed to the quilt top on the wall and said I never felt that the top half played well with the bottom half. And then I heard these words come out of my mouth: "What I really should do is cut it in half, right about here..."
So I went home and did just that, separating the Siamese twins. And they have been much happier as companions than they were together.
And now the latest chapter in the story. I entered one of the quilts in the 24th Annual Juried Art Exhibition at the Krempp Gallery in Jasper IN. I've been in that show several times before and try to enter every year; it's a beautiful space, the show attracts a wide variety of entries in all mediums, and best of all, the jurors seem to be very happy with fiber art. In fact, two years ago another of my quilts won best in show.
Turns out that Left Coast, one of the Siamese twins, won best in show this year. I am so proud of her! If you're anywhere in southwest Indiana in the next month, drop by Jasper and check out the show -- there's plenty more fiber art besides mine.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Yesterday was the first day that Pyro Gallery's new space was open for business, and after it closed for the day we gathered for champagne to celebrate. We took possession of the new space 12 days ago and it's been a flurry of moving, painting, and hanging the new show. Although there's plenty left to be done -- almost half the space is still under construction, and we don't expect that finished until early next month -- it's great to see the place clean, sparkling white, extremely well lit, and with art on the walls!
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Yesterday the construction workers came to start on our huge bathroom project, in which two small bathrooms are going to be combined into a single beautiful one. We've lived in this house for 31 years and I've chafed under the poor design ever since, but could never figure out what to do about it. Finally I hooked up with a bathroom/kitchen guy who took one look and drew up plans that promise to be wonderful.
Now the boxes have taken up residence in one of the guestrooms. We'll see how many of them survive the project.
My concern is whether construction dust is going to invade the other rooms on that floor, which include my studio. The contractor assures me he will cover everything with plastic, tape doors shut, etc. and I don't have to worry. I think I will worry just the same.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
During the Great Depression my father, like so many other people, had a hard life. His dad died of cancer, but not before using up the family's savings on hospital bills; he had to drop out of college after two years; he had a bunch of crappy jobs that he hated, including selling Libby's canned goods on the road in central Michigan. But as things got better, he had a great opportunity, to work at and subsequently buy half of a weekly newspaper in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
Unfortunately for the missionary effort, when they got to Michigan the Indians were long gone, driven out by loggers and settlers, so the immigrants simply went about their business, living in Christian harmony in a community centered on the Lutheran church. My great-great grandfather was one of those immigrants, arriving in 1853.
Dad and a bunch of other young men came home from World War 2 determined to breathe new life into the staid old town, where people still spoke German as easily as English. Dad had a great idea: Frankenmuth should capitalize on its German heritage and go for tourist business. There were already three hotels in town that had become famous for serving chicken dinners, and people were accustomed to stopping for a meal on their way to and from Detroit. The guys persuaded the local bank, ready for a new building, to use Bavarian architecture, and from then on other businesses did the same.
Pretty soon Frankenmuth had become a kitschy tourist town famous around the world. Dad's buddy Wally Bronner opened a year-round Christmas store, selling ornaments, artificial trees, inflatable Santas, every kind of holiday stuff. The hotels, now remodeled in Bavarian style, cranked out chicken dinners by the bazillion. Main Street was filled with shops selling Germanic souvenirs. The town was the first place outside of Germany to get an official imprimatur from Munich to hold a sanctioned Oktoberfest. For years Frankenmuth was either #1 or #2 in the list of tourist attractions in the state.
When our family moved away from Michigan (I was 9 years old) Dad still kept his half of the paper as an absentee owner. He always said he was waiting till I got out of journalism school and could take it over. Privately I thought I would sooner move to Siberia and herd yaks, but didn't say this out loud. Nevertheless, I was kind of hurt when, in my senior year of college, he sold out to his longtime partner without even discussing it with me. All for the best, of course.
We buzz Frankenmuth whenever we go back to Michigan, which isn't all that frequently. We always bring a cooler so we can load up on sausages at Kern's, and of course drink a beer and eat a chicken dinner. And I always walk by the Frankenmuth News building, which is now the local history museum. As Oscar Hammerstein wrote, "This nearly was mine."