Friday, September 30, 2011

Seasonal Palette

Just found out that I have been selected to participate in an exhibit sponsored by Studio Art Quilt Associates that will debut at the Houston show next fall and then tour for two years.  The theme and the process are kind of interesting, so I'll share it with you.

The exhibit is called "Seasonal Palette," and the concept is that each artist chooses a season, then makes a quilt of uniform size (32" wide x 78" tall).  We were asked to submit a portfolio of quilts we have made, say which season we wanted to do, and explain what palette we would use. 

My theory on making work for challenges or theme shows is that I don't do it unless the piece is something already on my to-do list or would fit into an existing body of work.  Much as I love the intellectual challenge of working to a theme or specifications, it can become a distraction and keep you away from doing something that advances your artistic vision.  But this challenge appealed to me and I sent in an entry.

I knew immediately what I wanted to do.  My statement read:  "Winter!  This year I sailed to Antarctica and was enthralled by the icebergs.  The palette:  brilliant white, many shades of blue, and the unexpected black and gray of dirt and stones picked up by the glaciers.  The fracture pattern of my recent quilts will perfectly depict the fractured ice."

I was pleased but not really surprised to be chosen for the exhibit.  Since my vacation I've learned that Antarctica trumps most other cards in the deck, and indeed, my preexisting technique is pretty well suited to this subject.  Ever since I got home I have been toying with the idea of making a fractured ice quilt anyway, so it seemed as though this particular challenge was a no-brainer (for me, at least, if not the juror/curator).

But here was a real surprise:  it seems that more than half of the 38 people selected for the show also wanted to do winter!  Who knew that is such a popular season?  My experience is that for every person who loves winter, there are a dozen or more who hate it.   But apparently quilt artists are different from the run-of-the-mill population.

I was happy to be one of the people who got to do winter; others were reassigned to other seasons.  I was asked to make my new quilt specifically using the style and techniques of one of the quilts in my portfolio:

Fault Lines 1

I'm excited about this project and after the brutally hot summer, am particularly looking forward to working in ice colors.  My husband, however, had to be a party pooper.  He pointed out that it wasn't winter in Antarctica, it was summer.  But I hope this won't get in the way of making a wintry-looking quilt for Seasonal Palette.

Photo du jour

sign of the week

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stolen words

After I wrote about doing "found poetry," Valerie Kamikubo commented: "I know another person who sometimes writes poetry (she calls them 'stolen words') from the first phrases of blogs."

Don't you love that phrase "stolen words"?  I thought I might steal those words to describe my own work, but then remembered that I had already used that concept in a poem that I actually wrote all by myself.

     Grand theft

     They call it Midnight Auto Parts
     A blend of larceny and luck
     That TV just fell off a truck
     Much easier than shopping marts.

     Why not try Midnight Poetry?
     Pick clever rhymes up off the floor
     Hijack somebody’s metaphor
     Or steal a stunning simile.

Photo du jour

black walnuts

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Found poetry 2

I wrote yesterday about my newfound literary/art form of found poetry.  I've asked myself why I am so enthralled by this approach -- why don't I just sit down and write a poem from scratch?  Actually I do occasionally write my own, but I'm hesitant to let them out in public. 

I enjoy writing poetry, but am a beginner with a lot to learn.  Besides, I have a strong sense of privacy and am reluctant to put my heart on my sleeve, even for limited distribution.  But for some reason finding poetry is much easier than writing it.  Choosing from pre-existing words somehow mediates the expression and makes me much less reticent -- much as artists often find that monoprints, with their mediated mark-making, are easier to do than painting directly onto the paper.

An artist friend of mine sent me a link to a blog that posed a found poetry challenge.  We were too late to participate in the challenge, but decided to do it ourselves.  The rules were to look through your bookshelves and choose titles that would become part of a poem.  Then stack the books up and take a picture. 

Technically you were allowed to add words to fill out the poem, but I decided to make it harder and use just the titles. 

Here's my found poem:

     Away from home
     living dangerously
     a lost love.

     I want it now!
     Set the stars on fire!

     Bad love
     over the edge:
             moment of truth.

     Coming home.
     150 ways to play solitaire.
     Time enough for love
     before I die.

Click here to see what a lot of other people did with the challenge.  I like mine better with no added words.

Photo du jour


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Found poetry 1

I've been thinking a lot about poetry in the last several months.  Since my last college English class I have never done much of that, but for some reason I got interested in "found haiku," an art form that I don't suppose I invented but have not seen done by other people. 

You tear a page from a book, then search for three phrases -- five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables -- that make some kind of interesting "poem."  Then cut or black out everything else on the page.  I started finding haiku more than a year ago, and then this year started using them for art, mounting them on backgrounds and perhaps collaging them with other elements. 

Part of the impetus for doing more with the poems was joining an internet group that does a fiber art haiku every month based on a common theme.  I asked to join with the understanding that I would not write my own poem, as everybody else did, but use a found poem.  I've enjoyed that greatly; haven't exactly made great art but it gets me working once a month and has been a good discipline in practicing with my collage. (Click here to see what I've made in this group.)

Then I got the idea to do a daily art project with found haiku.  Each day I find a story in the newspaper with an illustration.  I cut out the photo, and then look for my three haiku phrases somewhere in the story and make a little composition in a sketchbook.  I've just finished the first book of 50 days, and plan to do another book this year. 

This approach is different in a couple of subtle ways from the full-book-page poems.  It's a bit easier in that you do have the freedom to arrange the phrases any way you want, rather than use them in the order they appeared in the original.  But it's more difficult because newspaper columns are much narrower than book pages, and many appetizing phrases don't all fall on one line. Sometimes it's hard to find any lines at all with seven syllables!

Here are a couple of my favorite pages.


Photo du jour


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Entering shows, the new way

In the olden days, entering a juried show was quite a production.  You had to assemble the right slides, label them as required by the sponsors (heaven forfend if you wanted to reuse a slide you had previously sent to somebody else, and it didn't have the proper red dots, arrows, and information written in the right place).  You had to include a self-addressed stamped envelope so they could send your slides back along with the sorry-you-lose letter.  You had to put the slides into a little protector -- plastic? cardboard? -- and take the package to the post office.

Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, entering a juried show is still quite a production.  Different, but still guaranteed to take up your whole afternoon.  I'm not talking about the intermediate method of naming your images correctly, burning them onto a CD, finding a little protector -- plastic? cardboard? -- and taking it to the post office.  No, I'm now in the brave new future of online entry.

Gridlock 1, 2011 (detail) -- will it get in??

In theory online entry is a wonderful thing.  Why mess around with hard media at all when you can just upload directly to the show sponsor? 

Because this method is new, different show sponsors are using different interfaces, some more user-friendly than others.  I entered a show a couple of weeks ago and found it to be the simplest, cleanest entry form I had ever seen.  I zipped through it effortlessly; they didn't care how many pixels my images were or what I named them.  I was feeling really good about this until I hit the "submit" button and nothing happened.

Usually you get a satisfying click, or the online equivalent, and a little message that says "thanks for submitting" or "your submission has been received."  Nothing of the sort.  My filled-in entry form just sat there for about a half hour, then disappeared.  I thought about it for a while and decided to call the museum to inquire.  Explained my problem to somebody's answering machine.  She did call me back, a cause for relief right there, since the entry deadline was that very afternoon.  And she wasn't really surprised; other people had complained of the same problem.  She graciously suggested I just send the images by email and put a check in the mail.

Yesterday I put in two entries to the same art center, but two different shows.  They suggested you preview the forms, because once you went to the online entry page you could never change your mind or hesitate, a Roach Motel for artists.  I did, and finally felt ready to do the actual entry.  This being an all-media show, they had three fields for dimensions, but my entries being two-dimensional, I simply entered height and width.  I filled in all the rest of the fields, selected the images, hit the button and waited for about five minutes while it slowly uploaded. 

But then I got the red screen of death.  YOU DUMMY!  It told me, YOU DIDN'T FILL IN DEPTH!!!  And by the way, you have to attach all your images again and let them upload.  What should I fill in for depth, I wondered, and decided to write 1/2 inch.  Hit the button again, waited five more minutes for the images to upload -- and got the red screen of death again.  YOU DUMMY!  YOU DIDN'T FILL IN DEPTH RIGHT!!!  And by the way, bla bla bla.  This time I decided to write 1 inch, and five minutes later it uploaded successfully. 

After finally finishing my entry for show #1, I moved on to show #2.  Again I reviewed the rules in advance, which told me that the images had to be at least 1800 pixels on the longest side.  That was nice, because I wouldn't have to resize my larger images.  Except that after I got to the actual entry form, it wasn't at least 1800, but exactly 1800.  Quick, resize all the images and hope the form didn't time out.

This show wanted an artist statement as part of the entry, so I had written it and checked the word count.  But on the entry form, here was a field called "quilt inspiration."  At first I thought this was something other than the artist statement, but apparently not.  The only way I figured out this was the artist statement was that it said "maximum 100 words."

But here's the best part: on both shows, you had to tell them the completion date of your work -- down to the day!  Which you didn't realize until you had opened the entry form.  Do you remember what day in 2009 you finished your quilt?  If not, are you going to race into the studio and review your diaries for the last couple of years, all the while hoping your form doesn't time out?  I recalled that these quilts were entered in Quilt National, for which the deadline was mid-September last year, and I had finished them just barely in time, so I wrote down 09/01/2010.  I extrapolated another date by checking when the photo had been taken and backdating a week or so.  I suspect my guesses were a heck of a lot more accurate than those of 99% of the show entrants, and I have to wonder whose brilliant idea it was to request such detail, knowing practically everybody will make up the answer anyway.

All told, I spent the entire afternoon on these two entries.  Granted, that includes fifteen minutes to take a new detail shot after I realized the one I already had showed a stray thread in the middle.  The fifteen minutes includes the time it took to find the quilt, unpack it from its roll and hang it on the wall.  Can't blame that on the show organizers.  But I'm still unhappy over having to upload the images three separate times, five minutes a pop, because it didn't like my answer about depth.

Still a few bugs to work out, but at least I didn't have to go to the post office.

Photo du jour


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Masters Art Quilts

The good news is that my review copy of Masters: Art Quilts Vol. 2 has arrived, and it is certainly a beautiful book.  Martha Sielman was the "curator" who chose the 40 artists (actually 41; two of them work as a team) featured in the book.  Thanks to Lark Press, the publisher, I was able to give away a copy a couple of weeks ago to Julie Mackinder, one of the readers who visited my blog.

This is truly a beautiful book.  For each of the 40 artists, there's a short essay, and eight to ten quilts, printed large enough to really get a good look.  For some of the artists, the quilts are relatively recent work; for others, the images go back 20 or more years.  So paging through gives you a cornucopia of different styles, different times, different approaches to quiltmaking.  I was happy to see several images of quilts that I had admired years ago and not seen for a long time, and some that I saw quite recently. 

You could find a lot to drool over and think about in these pages, and I did.

Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, ¡Guerra! 1993, 58 x 97"

But I admit to some bemusement as to the concept behind the book, both how the artists were chosen and how the quilts were chosen.  The best I can articulate is that the objective was to present variety, in every sense of the word. 

To begin with, there didn't seem to be a rationale for which artists were chosen for the book.  Half are from the US, half from elsewhere.  Some achieved their stature decades ago, some are relative newcomers on the quilt scene.  Some are among the usual suspects in art quilt circles (multiple times in Quilt National, etc.) and some have evidently been achieving fame in venues that I have never heard of.  Some are still active in quiltmaking, exhibiting and teaching; others who used to be prominent on my radar screen have dropped off. 

I counted 25 of the 40 artists who make representational images, if not on every quilt, at least on some of those pictured -- which I found remarkable, given that quilts are so well-suited to abstraction.  While most of the works were in the standard quilt format -- flat, pieced, layered, quilted -- many featured hand stitching, 3-D installation, unconventional materials and other departures from the norm.  I was pleased to see very little embellishment, in my opinion the trend most overdue to become passe, and don't believe I found a single bead (although there were sequins).

Most of the work in the book is artistically excellent, but one or two of the artists struck me as embarrassingly low-end.  With all the fine work abounding in the field, this is hard to understand; perhaps Martha was under pressure to include more countries, more diversity, more people whom the US audience has not heard of.

Dorothy Caldwell, A Lake/A Bowl, 2002,
19 x 59"

Nor could I see a rationale for which quilts were chosen for the book.  For instance, it might have been interesting to ask the chosen artists to send in images for a "career retrospective," showing how their work has changed and developed over time.  Or to ask them to send their current work. Or to send their greatest hits from the past.  Or to send examples of different styles and techniques they have worked in over their careers.  Indeed, you could find an artist in the book to illustrate each of these possible approaches.

Perhaps I'm spoiled.  There are just too many opportunities to browse through hundreds of images right here at my own computer, idly noting that some are good art and some aren't.  If I'm going to buy a book, I want to get something more out of it.  Sielman's introductory remarks on each artist are perceptive and well-written, but short, and do little to put the person into a larger context in the art quilt world.

Bottom line, I wasn't sure what the readers are supposed to learn from the book, other than to enjoy the nice pictures.  But you sure can do that.

Photo du jour

rainy night

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pieced together

I wrote yesterday about Terry Jarrard-Dimond's work in a show in Spartanburg SC.  It was a joint show with her husband, Tom Dimond.  But the show's clever title, Pieced Together, doesn't refer just to Terry's pieced quilts but to Tom's paintings as well.

Tom has been using the stellated dodecahedron shape as a motif for many years, ever since he saw it on the floor of a church in Venice; it was a favorite shape of Uccello in the 15th century.  I think they included this old painting in the show as evidence that this is not a new idea!

Tom Dimond, Ukkonen, 2003

Now he's using it in a new format, in which he simultaneously makes four separate collage/paintings, cuts them up, and reassembles the pieces into four new works, each containing something from all four originals.  He uses the dodecahedron as the template for cutting and pasting -- or perhaps we could say "piecing together."

Tom Dimond, Reunion 2010/9H

Tom Dimond, Reunion 2010 C

The works look interesting from across the room but don't start to pay off until you get up close and look at the fine details of his underlying collages.  In his gallery talk, Tom explained that the title "Reunion" refers to putting together images from the past of general art and culture, plus images from his own past.

So, for instance, in one of his suites of four, the place of honor, the top segment of the central pentagon, always contains an image from Krazy Kat, the old comic strip that Tom loved as a kid.

Close inspection shows many other small bits of recurring imagery, including rubber stamps, phototransfers, doodles, and his son's childhood artwork.  One of his collages started as the desktop on which he and his officemates wrote years of phone messages and reminders.

I was excited by the complex process of layering images in the underlying collages and then cutting and piecing them into the final works.  The little bits held together by the conceptual structure of the star struck a chord with me -- it's an approach that I could see myself using, even though I could never see myself making a "painting" in the conventional sense.  I've even been toying with the idea of committing the sincerest form of flattery and trying my own take on this collage/reassembly process.  Thanks in advance, Tom, for not suing me for stealing your idea.....

Photo du jour


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A new direction

While I was in South Carolina last week I had the opportunity to see a show of work by Terry Jarrard-Dimond and her husband Tom Dimond, at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg.  I have been familiar with Terry's work for some time and knew that she made a big change in direction about a year ago, so I was looking forward to seeing this new body of work.

And I was not disappointed.  Her new quilts make a cohesive and impressive show, all based on dots and stripes and executed in dye-painting.  While her earlier works were hard-edged and tightly composed, these are looser, more ambivalent and totally gorgeous. 

Terry Jarrard-Dimond, What Isn't Seen

Terry Jarrard-Dimond, Shelter (detail below)

Raw-edge pieces were occasionally sewed on top of larger expanses of fabric to interrupt or echo the underlying patterns.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond, Hold That Thought (detail below)

Some of the pieces were accented with hand-stitching.

Terry said in a gallery talk that after she spent a year making several huge pieces for the Color Improvisations show, curated by Nancy Crow and currently touring in Europe, she was ready for something different.  Readers of her blog have followed her weekly experiments in surface design throughout 2010, which led to the works in this show. 

I'm sorry to say that the show will close on Friday, but keep your eye out for Terry's new work to appear in other venues.

I'll write tomorrow about Tom Dimond's work in the same show.

Photo du jour

building green

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Museum visit

do we detect a theme??

I think God wants His name on this last one.

Photo du jour

pumpkins already???

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Photo du jour

sign of the week -- Italian restaurant, outside the ladies' restroom

Friday, September 16, 2011

Collaboration project 9

I have just finished my ninth collaboration project for the year, this one in a different vein -- calligraphy.  My friend Joanne Weis, who is a member of my small fiber art support and critique group, has been working on a series of pieces based on the Psalms.  She included the Hebrew text of the psalm in her compositions, but only a word or two of the English version. 

As she showed us her work through the springtime, she sometimes quoted the English texts to us, and I was struck by the beauty of the translation, a 1963 version for the Gelineau Psalmody that was unfamiliar to me.  When Joanne got an opportunity to show her works, I suggested that viewers might like to read the entire English text to better appreciate what she was portraying visually, and offered to do calligraphy to hang alongside the fiber works.

She accepted my offer, and the companion pieces have just been installed at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Louisville. 

Perhaps I'm overreaching in describing this project as a collaboration; Joanne's beautiful surface design and hand stitching is clearly the star of the show, and my written pieces are not particularly spectacular.  But it's my project and I'll call it collaboration if I want to. 

I used sumi, walnut and India ink over a walnut ink wash, and mounted the pieces on paste paper.  For display, they're sandwiched under 8x10" glass, but to photograph them, I had to dispense with the glass and allow them to curl -- sorry.

Joanne Weis, Food for the Earth

Joanne Weis, In Silence and In Peace

Joanne Weis, The Waters Bring Joy to God's City

Joanne Weis, Sun Time and Moon Time

Joanne Weis, The Stars are Named

Joanne Weis, The Wind as Messenger