Saturday, June 29, 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Collaboration 5

Yesterday I wrote about my middle-of-the-night realization that my collaborative piece was crap.  The next morning I went into my studio and took off the thread-drawing, which I liked a lot, parking it on my design wall for a future use.  I cut away some of the selvages.  I took the hand and relocated it to a much better place.

The rules for the project stated that "you should make additions and subtractions to the piece as you see appropriate," and I decided I had to subtract before I could add.

I cut the pegboard into a much smaller size.

I got more acrylic yarn and stitched over the top of the preexisting raccoon/pencil, to complete the cross-stitch pattern across the entire piece.

Then I painted over the stitching so all I had was texture and a bit of color peeking through, but neither pencil nor raccoon.

Finally I added some found objects and called it a day.

To respect my collaborator, who was revealed to be Lelia Rechtin, I decided to pretty much keep the original title, even though it still mystified me.  I shortened it a bit to "Everything In Its Hands."

I found this exercise frustrating, but a lot of fun.  It's very difficult to read somebody else's mind and try to figure out their intentions, so you can attempt to complete their work rather than just burn it down and build your own work on its ashes.  Not sure I achieved that, and not sure that either of us successfully interpreted the theme of "cosmopolitan localism."

But I did use a found object that had (most of) the name of our city in it.  It may not be cosmopolitan, but it is local.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Collaboration 4

I wrote earlier this week about how I got started on my collaborative piece by echoing the stitches that the first artist had made.  But while I was working on that, I kept thinking about another element of the work: its title.  The artist who began a work was asked to suggest a title, which the second artist was not bound to retain, but it did perhaps give a hint as to what the piece started out to be.

The title on this work was "The one who holds everything in its hands."  Now what do you suppose that means?

One reading suggested that the shape was indeed a raccoon, but remember, I had firmly rejected that reading, so I had to think of the phrase in relation to the pencil.  After much stewing and fretting, I finally decided that I could think of some kind of Supreme Artist who, using a pencil and other tools, draws or otherwise pictures the world around her.  I decided to mirror the pencil shape with a second pencil, which was "drawing the streets."  This was done in machine stitching on a separate panel that was almost the exact color of the pegboard.

I also made a hand, since the mystery phrase had to do with hands, and let it hold a slip of paper with some handwritten text explaining what was going on.   I added some big selvage flowers to the "fields" of selvages at the bottom of the board.  I thought maybe I was almost done.

But while I was not sleeping in the middle of the night, I realized that the work was a disaster.  None of its bits and pieces went together, despite my efforts to invent a master rationale.

In many aspects of life I have always been tempted to use brute force when things aren't going well.  I won't detail how this played out in family or work life, but in my art career, for instance, I always figured that you could tame a lumpy piece with plenty of ironing or plenty of quilting, that you could make things stay flat with two more coats of matte medium, that you could resolve a bad composition with more shapes around the edge or by slashing it in the middle and piecing in some more bits.

In most cases in the past I have come to my senses before sending the poor stomped-upon piece of work out in public, but it seems that I have to work through the process of beating it into submission before I realize that I can't.  And that's what I had been doing with all those selvages and gloves.

Now I could do Plan B.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy birthday, Dad!

During the depression, my father worked at a number of low-end jobs, including one at a department store that went out of business.  Dad's job duties included window-dressing and display, and he particularly enjoyed making signs for sales and special offers.  As the store was liquidated, the loyal employees were given first chance to buy anything on the premises.  Dad bought a paper cutter, one of his favorite job tools from that gig, and it was one of his treasured possessions until he died.

As a kid I remember the paper cutter always at the ready.  Dad was always doing some kind of extracurricular calligraphy, making little paintings for a new baby, a new house, a special birthday celebration or any other auspicious event, and they all needed to be trimmed to fit.  We all made booklets and brochures and fancy covers for our school reports, and they all needed to be cut to size.  We must have cut a million pieces of paper on that equipment.  Mysteriously, the blade never needed sharpening and the pivot never loosened.

Dad's paper cutter and pens

After he died, I inherited the paper cutter, rich with an 80-year-old patina of loving use, along with his old desk (also bought second-hand in another distress sale, and used for a half-century) and his pens, still stored in his Michigan State mug.  I graciously allow my husband to use the desk every day, but the pens and the paper cutter are for me alone.

Dad's desk, installed in our house

Today would be Dad's 100th birthday.  He was the towering figure  in my life, a great man with a public persona who nevertheless always put his family first, and his first-born (me) first among the first.

Dad and Baby Kathy

He left a big hole, but it's a hole full of love and memories.  And pens, and a paper cutter.  Happy birthday, Dad!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Collaboration 3

I wrote last week about a collaborative project between my group of established (read, on the old side) artists and a group of younger, hipper artists, and showed you the piece that I started and was finished by a collaborator.  Here's the other part of the story: the piece that I received to finish.

I was totally at sea about what this piece was about.   It was a large piece of red pegboard with an off-center geometric design made by stitching heavy acrylic yarn in a formal cross-stitch pattern.  If you held it one way it looked like it could be a raccoon, which immediately filled me with horror.

We live right next door to a big park, and raccoons and their marauding small-animal compatriots are enemies to our gardening household.  Also I've always been wary of raccoons since one took up residence in our attic decades ago and gave us one awful time getting rid of him.

So I immediately turned it the other way up, at which point the shape looked like it could be a pencil, the interpretation I chose to give it.

I was first drawn to the big empty space at the bottom, and decided to play on the stitched-textile sensibility of the big shape by doing some stitching of my own.  I found a bunch of selvages in warm colors and filled in the bottom part of the board using a technique like the sewing machine, with a "bobbin thread" underneath that came up to loop around the top "thread" and then pulled it down through the hole.

But what to do next?  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Photo suite 78 -- kids on the move

Perhaps it's just spring fever, but everywhere in Paris teachers are herding their students on field trips.

Centre Pompidou

Chartres Cathedral

Napoleon's Tomb

Gare Montparnasse

Centre Pompidou

Rodin Museum

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Art reader's digest

From "The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)", Andy Warhol, 1975:

I always like to work on leftovers, doing the leftover things.  Things that were discarded, that everybody knew were no good, I always though had a great potential to be funny.  It was like recycling work.  I always thought there was a lot of humor in leftovers.  When I see an old Esther Williams movie and a hundred girls are jumping off their swings, I think of what the auditions must have been like and about all the takes where maybe one girl didn't have the nerve to jump when she was supposed to, and I think about her left over on the swing.  So that take of the scene was a leftover on the editing-room floor -- and out-take -- and the girl was probably a leftover at that point -- she was probably fired -- so the whole scene is much funnier than the real scene where everything went right, and the girl who didn't jump is the star of the out-take.

I'm not saying that popular taste is bad so that what's left over from the bad taste is good: I'm saying that what's left over is probably bad, but if you can take it and make it good or at least interesting, then you're not wasting as much as you would otherwise.  You're recycling work and you're recycling people, and you're running your business as a byproduct of other businesses....  So that's a very economical operating procedure.  It's also the funniest operating procedure because, as I said, leftovers are inherently funny.

My Valentine

from my recent show of art made from junk on the street -- I agree, leftovers are funny!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Feeling disrespected

You know how sometimes you're nibbled to death by ducks?  That's how I have felt the last couple of days.  Please indulge me in a bit of a whine (then I promise I'll shut up).

I've been fortunate to have work on display in several venues this month, both in print and in person.  But my pleasure and pride were dulled a bit by a bunch of little glitches that I took as disrespect.

You have to know that I am a person with a name and a nickname.  My name is Kathleen; my nickname is Kathy.  Hardly anybody calls me Kathleen in person; I use Kathy on the phone, in emails, and to sign personal letters.  But I use Kathleen as a byline for published work, in information when I teach, and on signs and printed material when my work is shown in public.  Or at least that's what I want to use.

Picky, yes, but is that really so hard to understand?  Robert Rauschenberg was Bob to his friends but the Museum of Modern Art had no trouble putting Robert on the signs.  (Actually his name was Milton, but that's another story.)

From past experience I know that the issue of my name can be problematic.  That's why, when I turned in my work to one recent show, I wrote in large red letters on the paperwork, "Please use my name as Kathleen Loomis on the signs and programs."  Did it work?  Nope.  The signs and the program said Kathy.

When I turned in my work for another show, I sent along a bio and a list of the quilts provided, both using Kathleen.  I knew the gallery director had consulted my website, which uses Kathleen.  Did it work?  Nope.  The press release said Kathy, and I suspect the signs do too (I haven't been able to visit the show yet).

At one of the shows I had an even more discouraging nibble from the ducks.  A friend visited the venue as the show was being hung and sent me a nice email with a couple of photos.  He thought the show looked great.  But when I looked at the photos, all I could see were a bunch of ugly clip-like things on the top edge of every one of the quilts.  What????

As tactfully as I could, I emailed the gallery director and said I was confused by the clips and hoped they were something temporary during the installation process and "it certainly isn't the way I would like to see them displayed."

She replied "I am sorry that you do not like the clips.  I will re hang the work."  She said the hooks on her hanging system were too big to go through the eyehooks on my sticks.

Did I detect a certain coolness in that response?  Maybe I'm just being crabby.

Then the coup de grace -- in the mail arrived a copy of a quilting magazine that I don't normally see, but had printed a feature story on several quilts in the SAQA Seasonal Palette exhibit.  They did get my name right, but here's how they depicted my quilt:

Any one of these petty slights by itself might not have bothered me too much, but four in one week got kind of old.  Quack, quack.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Collaboration 2

Yesterday I showed you the unfinished artwork that I turned in for the collaboration project between older and younger artists.  Here's what happened to my piece after my collaborator, Kelly Rains, worked on it.

Gone were the knife, fork and spoon. Concentric circles in black, white and gray were put over the entire piece, either painted or with loosely attached paper, apparently cut from past art projects.

The character of the work had changed a lot, and my carefully executed collage had gotten a lot more slapdash.

I think the graphic quality of the concentric circles, especially the outer rings on top of the solid colors, is quite attractive and an improvement over the original open  areas.  And I like the cutout arcs, especially those taken from watercolor compositions and lettered on vellum.

But I wish I could have my knife, fork and spoon back.  They could be very happy in another piece of work.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Collaboration 1

Recently I participated in a collaborative project in which members of a group of mostly middle-aged and older artists were paired with members of a group of younger, hipper artists.  We were asked to make art on the theme of "cosmopolitan localism," which I thought was a bit obscure, but I decided that the most cosmopolitan aspect of our city is the immigrants from many different countries who have settled here in the last decades.

Since I don't draw and didn't want to use photography in this project, I decided to portray the immigrants by going to my favorite ethnic grocery store and buying a lot of food products from different countries.  Then I mounted them on a board in mandala fashion, leaving one quadrant empty for my collaborator to work with.

For the backgrounds, I used a map of the parts of town where most of our immigrants live, and some handmade paper that seemed kind of exotic in feeling.  I decorated the edges of the composition with a knife, fork and spoon that I had found on the street (the fork and the spoon had been run over and flattened) and a pair of chopsticks.

Here are some of the details.

One of the things I learned is that shiny plastic see-through packaging has no affinity for adhesives.  After trying two different kinds of glue I finally got it to stick with huge quantities of matte medium, but even so it didn't want to cooperate.  The paper and cardboard packages were much easier to deal with.

Tomorrow I'll show you what happened next.  Meanwhile, I'll tell you that the collaborative works are on display at the Patio Gallery at the Jewish Community Center in Louisville, through July 14.  If you're in the vicinity, drop by and see our stuff!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Photo suite 77 -- Paris from my hotel window

And yes, it's all from the same window!  Paris blocks often have huge interior courtyards with subsidiary buildings invisible from the street.  Our seventh-floor (sixth, in Europarlance) room had a great view of everything.