Sunday, May 31, 2015

Photo suite 179 -- cemeteries around the world

Portanou, Lemnos, Greece

Stuttgart, Germany

Ivittuut, Greenland


Buenos Aires

Isles of Scilly, England

Friday, May 29, 2015

Quilt National 4 -- representational (nature)

Looking at loose realism -- today, quilts having to do with nature.

Ginny Smith, Roundabout

Jeanne Gray, Seasons End (detail below)

Lou Ann Smith, Leaf 2 

Karen Tunnell, Ghost Trees

Barbara Schneider, Line Dance, Tree Ring Patterns, var. 11 (detail below)

The tree sections are dramatically shaped, extending maybe four inches out from the wall.

For all those folks on the SAQA list complaining how there is so little representational work in Quilt National, stay tuned for at least two more posts on that subject!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Quilt National 3 -- more representational quilts

Yesterday I showed a bunch of photorealistic imagery; now let's go down the spectrum a bit and see quilts with looser realism -- but still no question about what is being depicted.  Today I'll show you some having to do with people; tomorrow, with nature.

Diane Siebels, Head 7 (detail below)

This was a major prizewinner; probably the judges were intrigued, as I was, by the hand stitching that held the multicolored fabrics to the black backing.

Ruth de Vos, The Boundless Energy of Children

Cynthia Friedman, Global Reflections

Kate Gorman, A Keeper of Secrets and Parakeets

Dinah Sargeant, Dog Dreams (detail below)

Susan Shie, The Pie of Life: Page of Wooden Spoons in the Kitchen Tarot

Pam RuBert, London -- Wish You Were Hair

Kristin LaFlamme, 'Murica

Wen Redmond, The Creative Hand

An interesting mix of techniques in this batch of quilts, from piecing to applique to painting.  I'd wait a while before declaring representation dead at Quilt National.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Quilt National 2 -- the jurors' bias?

Mere milliseconds after the Quilt National winners were posted online following the show opening Friday night, the SAQA email list started buzzing with discussion of whether representational quilts got their just deserts in the show.  Apparently there's a substantial bunch of people out there who believe that QN is biased against representation and in favor of abstraction.

There were remarks along the lines of "I know my work doesn't fit QN, which is why I haven't tried for a decade to enter" or "Quilt National has never been a venue known for representational work" or "it doesn't look like a venue for realism."  One person wrote "As someone who does representational work, it is incredibly discouraging.... Why would I bother... when I know the type of work I do has an infinitesimal chance of getting in or being recognized."  Another wrote "Quilt National has long been pro-abstract and pro surface design...  I entered twice, both times with what I thought were strong pieces and both time rejected.  I decided long ago that if they aren't in the representational camp... I would stop bothering to enter.  I haven't since."

Many of these posts were made by people who weren't at the show and hadn't seen anything in the show (since QN has the infamous internet virginity rule) except the prizewinners, which were indeed mostly abstract works.  But when I got home from the show and read the emails, I got out my catalog, made a count and came up with 41 out of 86 quilts with varying degrees of representational imagery -- hardly what I would describe as " an infinitesimal chance" of getting in!

Indeed, several of the pieces were in the extreme realism camp, clearly made from photos.  Take a look at these:

Patricia Kennedy-Zafred, Tagged (detail below)

Velda Newman, Clams

Mary Arnold, Grandma Maude

Joan Sowada, Morning Walk

Jayne Bentley Gaskins, Memories

Kathleen Kastles, Legislating Love

Dorte Jensen, The Sunshine Of My Life

I find it hard to think that a show with these pieces in it is biased against representation.  And I'll show you many more representational works in subsequent posts.

Finally, please accept my apologies for the poor photo quality.  The lighting at the Dairy Barn is not well suited to large works of art like quilts; spotlights are focused on the center of the pieces but leave disturbing shadows around the edges.  It was hard even to properly see the work in person, and photography just exacerbated the uneven light.  You really should get a copy of the professionally photographed catalog to see the quilts at their best.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quilt National 1 -- Best (place) in show

Quilt National '15 had its opening over the past weekend and I am so pleased to report that my quilt "Entropy" was quite the red carpet star.  No, I didn't win best in show, and my quilt wasn't on the cover of the catalog, but I certainly had the best location in the show -- right above the little dais that's the first thing you see when you walk in the door.

Here's a photo of Kathleen Dawson, executive director of Quilt National, standing in front of my quilt to announce the winners.  (Apologies for the hot spot in the pale sections of the third panel; it's difficult to take photos under the spotlights at the Dairy Barn.)

Sometimes the best in show quilt gets the red carpet spot, but not always.  I have been in four QNs and I am flabbergasted to realize that my quilts have been hung in this prime real estate twice!  This time probably it was because mine is the biggest quilt in the show, and a tiny piece would disappear on the large panels above the dais.

Whatever the reason, I am thrilled with the result!

I'll be writing plenty about the show in the weeks to come; hope you will stay tuned.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Photo suite 178 -- love locks

One of my favorite places is the Big Four Bridge, a pedestrian walkway over the Ohio River, which has become a destination for lovers who write their names or initials on a padlock, fasten it to the bridge and then toss the key into the river, metaphorically locking themselves together forever.

Unfortunately the heartless party-poopers at our waterfront agency come around and cut the locks off, apparently worrying that the extra weight will cause the bridge -- built to hold railroad trains -- to collapse.  But not to worry -- I document the locks whenever I see them, so even if the lock itself has gone to the landfill, it lives on in cyberspace.

In honor of my wedding anniversary this weekend, here's a bunch of locks from the bridge -- dedicated to the one I love.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

FNF 5 -- award for political and social commentary

In the very earliest years of Form, Not Function, I helped install the show, and one year after we had been sorting and rearranging and hanging quilts all day I made a comment that I was pleased to see a couple of quilts with a political edge to them.  I had been complaining for years that quilt shows had a dearth of such pieces, instead being full of nice, pretty quilts giving off only positive emotional vibes.

And then I had an aha moment -- if I liked quilts with strong emotions, I could and should do something to encourage artists to make and submit them.  So I asked the museum director if I could donate an award for political and social commentary, and she said of course.  If I'm in town when the show is hung, I'll choose the winner, and if I'm away I'll delegate that task to the juror/judges.

This year I got to do the honors myself.

Judith Plotner, Bronx Elegy (detail below)

I like the gritty character of this quilt, with its raw edges, faded colors, imperfect printing and loose thread ends.  I'm happy I had the chance to give it a prize!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

FNF 4 -- Award of excellence

The fourth-place winner at Form, Not Function was Gay Lasher of Denver for her digitally printed whole-cloth quilt.

Gay Lasher, No Exit (detail below)

I like the design, a complicated mix of dense areas with open space, with curves and stripes placed with a sure hand.  Digital printing allows  quiltmakers to use complex images, impossible with traditional piecing or applique, and this is an excellent example of what can be done.

But what I find particularly stunning is the quilting.  The printed image, looked at up close, has irregular lines between the different colors, and Lasher has quilted precisely along the boundaries, preserving every wave and wobble.

With no knots or thread ends visible, I can only imagine the painstaking work that went into the finishing.  I might have wished for a bit more quilting in the open areas, where the fullness will no doubt droop over time as the piece is displayed -- which I hope it will be!

This award of excellence is given by River City Fiber Artists, a small group of six to which I have belonged for getting on twenty years; I'm proud that we helped start the FNF show and that we are still supporting it through our sponsorship.  Providing an award at an art show is a gratifying experience, and I'll write more on that subject tomorrow.  But meanwhile, hats off to Gay Lasher.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Calling all Photoshop-challenged

Is there anything in your photographic practice that might benefit from a bit of post-production improvement?  Is there anything in your fiber art practice that might benefit from being able to audition compositions, colors or shapes?  Most pathetic, is there a copy of Photoshop Elements already loaded on your computer but you don't know how to use it?

If you're like me, you can answer yes to all three questions, but even if you aren't that bad off, you might very well benefit from a class that will teach you how to use that program in your art and your life.  I enrolled in two classes this winter and I am so pleased with what I learned and what I was able to do with it.  Let me show you just one of my new tricks:

My fiber art pal knew she needed to make radical changes to this work in process.  She thought maybe she would cut off the fire section at left and move it to the bottom, radically changing the composition -- but obviously she was reluctant to hack it to pieces if that wasn't going to work.  So I took a picture:

And went home to show her six different alternatives, including:

putting the fire on the bottom

slicing and staggering the landscape section

 adding a new section of burned ground

 adding stylized burned trees

 reversing values

In  an hour on the computer I was able to audition several different approaches, some of which looked crappy and others of which had promise -- all without touching the original.  As you can see, as the afternoon wore on I got more enthusiastic about playing with the program, silhouetting the raw edges, drawing new shapes, simulating more burn.

This is just one thing I learned in my online classes with the Pixeladies, aka Kris Sazaki and Deb Cashatt.  I wrote several posts about the class while it was going on, and I return to the subject because they have just opened the enrollment for a new series of the same classes, in June and July.  I can't recommend this strongly enough and urge you to check out their website and sign up!

These women are not my sisters-in-law and they're not paying me a kickback for referring students.  I'm just a very satisfied customer who thinks you might become another one.