Saturday, August 31, 2013

Art reader's digest

from "Transgressions: The Offences of Art," by Anthony Julius

Politically resistant artworks have divided audiences: those against whom they are directed, and those whose morale they are intended to lift.  The stance of the artist is thus both oppositional and representative.  His artworks are pitches against one audience, but made on behalf of another one. They are transgressive and affirmative -- in a sense, transgressive because affirmative. Politically resistant works are exceptional.  There is no place for them in two contrasting kinds of state.  There is the state whose citizens take for granted, correctly, that they order their own lives, and that institutions exist to serve them.  Politically resistant artworks are not needed in such a state.  And then there is the state where these assumptions are not made and in which politically resistant artworks are not possible.  Such works will be exceptional, then, either because of the acquiescence of accommodating states or the harshness of repressive states.  One kind of state is usually too hard to offend; the other kind of state is usually too quick to respond.

Compare the anti-Vietnam War art in the United States with the art briefly on display at the September 1974 Moscow 'Bulldozer' show.  While the former, with exceptions, was unable even to engage the state's attention, the latter could not survive its brisk dismissal.  In Moscow, artworks were thrown into skips and destroyed, and visitors chased away with waterhoses mounted on trucks.  On the one side, then, there tends to be a surplus of political works, existing, as artists experience it, in a vacuum of indifference, while on the other side there is a dearth of works, surviving against expectation.

Kathleen Loomis, War Rationale 2, 2004, (existing in a vacuum of indifference) 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fiberart International 5 -- paper

At Fiberart International I liked several works made of paper, in addition to the piece by Eszter Bornemisza I wrote about last week.  The approaches are widely different, but they're all pretty much white.

Anna Goebel, Greetings from the Forest (detail below)

An installation of sheets of handmade paper, incorporating greenish brown moss that remarkably retains its shape and color amid the white support.

Julie Abijanac, Disease Mapping (detail below)

The artist sewed folded strips of paper into a complex construction that sprawls over the wall resembling a growing organism (the work references her struggle with cancer and apparently the raw material is paperwork accumulated along the way).

Julie Sirek, Dissolving Dream

The delicate dress is sewed from felted Korean mulberry paper.

Sandy Shelenberger, Textures 1 and 3 (detail of Textures 3 below)

She started by photocopying the back side of a quilted block (I guess, although it's the messiest quilt back I've seen in ages), made many copies, mounted them on boards and covered them with encaustic.  The incised red square in the detail shot, along with other red bits here and there, was added as the wax went on.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fiberart International 4 -- hand-stitching

I already showed you my favorite piece of hand-stitching from Fiberart International, an embroidery by Stephen Sidelinger.  Here are some more hand-stitched pieces that I liked.

 Mary Mazziotti, It's Just Not Safe (detail below)

Mazziotti found the images in an old pamphlet "obviously intended to terrify children into observing safety rules."  The captions include "Screeching brakes ... but too late ... Tommy is killed!" and "Only a miracle saved Mary's life and she will be seriously crippled!"  The pictures are executed in the familiar stem-stitch embroidery that I learned from my grandmothers, sewing over iron-on transfers.

Tod Hensley, Untitled  (detail below)

This is one of a matched pair of small embroideries, about six inches across, densely composed and stitched with a variety of images.

Roslyn Ritter, Love Letters (detail below)

Ritter embroidered the text from her father's letters onto her mother's 1936 wedding dress -- pure simplicity and pure love.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

You saw the quilt, now read the journal

Last year I blogged about my quilt "Big Ice," made especially for the SAQA "Seasonal Palette" exhibit that is now on tour.  Part of the deal was that selected artists were to keep a journal of their inspiration and execution, which was on exhibit alongside the quilts.  Now SAQA has made many of the journals available online.

To read mine, click here.

Here's one of the Antarctic icebergs that inspired my quilt.

And here's the quilt.

To read the other artist journals from the show, click here.  Lots of different approaches -- some are almost entirely photos, others have a fair amount of narrative about process.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fiberart International 3 -- machine stitching

More work that I liked at Fiberart International, where dense machine stitching was quite the thing. First, three that were stitched onto a fabric base.   Interesting that the first one lies perfectly flat, the second is deliberately distorted by the stitching into 3-D, but the third seems as though it ripples and bulges more by accident than by design.

Ann Graham, City Square (detail below)

Susan Hotchkis, Once (detail below)

Gwen Lowery, Lightning (detail below)

Next, two stitched onto a disappearing solvy base, but looking like they are stitched onto air.

Kimber Olson, Community Center  

Apologies that my point-and-shoot camera couldn't focus on this image.  The detail show below gives you a much better idea of the wispy texture.

Rachelle Gardner, Unable to Divide (detail below)  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fiberart International 2 -- best in show

The best in show piece was an impressive, large (6' x 8') 3-D felted and knitted wool construction with lots of presence.  And somewhat redundantly, its twin sister was there too (I liked it better than the best in show).

Naoe Okamoto, A Laughing House (best in show), detail below

(for some reason my camera made this way lighter than it is in real life)

Naoe Okamoto, A Deep Night

That's what the judges thought.  But if I were choosing best in show, it would go to Stephen Sidelinger.  Like others I have mentioned, he has two pieces in the exhibit.  Both were delicious, but this was my favorite.

Stephen Sidelinger, Pirates #1, detail below

The work is 26 x 20", densely hand-embroidered in DMC floss, individual strands mixed together to blend colors.  I can only imagine how long and how painstakingly he must have worked to finish this piece!

Many hand-stitched works depend on the sheer virtuosity and texture of the stitches for their impact, but this one, virtually flat and matte, rises and falls on its powerful imagery.

Finally, if I could choose a runner-up it would be this piece by Eszter Bornemisza.  I've drooled over her work before but this is a lot different from what I've seen in other shows.

Eszter Bornemisza, Lung of the City (detail below)

It's a 3-D work, composed of three separate panels of bits of newspaper joined by a machine-sewed thread grid.  (Do I like it because it reminds me of my own work?)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fiberart International 2013 1

We were just in time to catch the last days of Fiberart International, the triennial show sponsored by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh.  It's exhilarating to see a show with a wide range of techniques instead of just quilts, but I was unhappy that the jurors didn't give us even more range within the space available. There were 79 pieces in the show, but only 63 artists, and one of them even had three pieces accepted.

In my opinion, once you've seen the first pair of socks "knitted" in glass -- very clever and attractive -- you don't really need to see another one.

Carol Milne, Free & Easy

Carol Milne, Fire & Brimstone

And once you've seen one rescued acrylic afghan, augmented by thousands of beads sewed on the bottom, you REALLY don't need to see another one.  (Sorry -- I was unimpressed and didn't shoot them at the show; these are photos from the very nice catalog.)

Samantha Fields, She Speaks Folly in a Thousand Holy Ways

Samantha Fields, Triptych with 206,720 Beads

The artist with three pieces in the show, Margaret Scott, also seemed to be tripping over herself a bit, although I liked her work a lot.  I thought two pieces would have been much better than three, and maybe one would have been even better.  (Perhaps if the same little girl hadn't appeared in all three of the pieces I wouldn't have been quite so bothered by the redundancy.)

Her technique is to print photos onto silk, felt a bit of wool into the fabric, then embellish the image with hand-stitching.  The finished pieces are so light that they fluttered in the breeze; one that was hung directly over an air vent was blown a good foot away from the wall, an effect that enhanced the ethereal quality of the silk and the slight translucency of the images.

Margaret Scott, Wedding Day v3 (detail below)

Margaret Scott, Early Messages 'Enid' 

I'll show you more from the show tomorrow.  Even though you've missed the Pittsburgh dates, the show will travel to San Jose from November to January, and to Myrtle Beach from January to April.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Daily collage -- an update

I've written a bit about my daily art project for this year, a small collage each day.  We're almost two-thirds through the year, and I'm still loving it.  Yesterday my project was written up in a blog about daily art (apparently lots of other people do this kind of thing too).

I think my style is changing -- I hope improving -- as the year wears on.  Early in the year I was tending to compose my collages more like graphic design, with elements arranged on a plain background (I'm using library card catalog cards for the supports).

Lately, I've been trying to make compositions that more resemble pictures, with "scenic" backgrounds and people engaged in activities.  I wish I could make work like the surrealist photos and collages.

The nice thing about a daily art project, especially a small one, is that you can fall on your face one day without getting discouraged, because you know you'll have another chance tomorrow.

If you'd like to look at all my daily art, it's here.