Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Art Quilt Elements 4 -- maps

I took a break from my reporting on Art Quilt Elements, the show at the Wayne Art Center in Philadelphia, but last week I was out and about and was confronted in person by a faithful blog reader who demanded that I get back to unfinished business and show something besides pieced quilts!  I will do my best, although as I reviewed my images I realize that I did a lousy job of documenting the show.  We arrived late, thanks to a transportation mishap, then too busy talking with people instead of practicing photojournalism, and then my camera ran out of juice as I was making one last pass around the room to get photos.  So if you need more info you'll have to buy the catalog.  You can also see the quilts here; the images are small but the color is excellent.

But today, here are two quilts that were complementary of each other, both of them maps with a body of water as the focal point.

Alicia Merrett, Port at Dusk Diptych (detail below)

My camera being crabby; imagine that the purple background in the detail shot is the same lovely blue as in the full view.  But the show shows the interesting mix of piecing and applique, both raw edge and turned-under.

I've always had a thing for maps, both real and artistic.  Last week while I was visiting a friend I had the chance to look at not one but two books about maps made by artists, and was reminded of the vast range of approaches that can be used and still clearly be mapmaking.

Ayn Hanna, LineScape  #31 (Pelican Lakes) (detail below)

I believe this gorgeous quilt has no machine piecing, just applique and reverse applique, plus paint and hand stitching and a wide range of fabrics.  It's rich in texture (by contrast to the much flatter effect in Merrett's quilt) and more subdued in palette.

I admit that my eye is usually drawn first to the machine piecing, since that's my personal style, but more and more I admire hand stitching and enjoy seeing the ways it is integrated with machine stitching.  For instance, check out the long horizontal gray embroidery threads in the detail shot above.  They were laid down in long lines, interrupted by some fancy counted-thread work that made little crosses, then stitched over with machine quilting, which held the threads somewhat in place.  A surprisingly complex effect that rewards close viewing.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Poster child!

What a nice surprise -- I'm the poster child (oops, I mean the postcard child) for the SDA exhibit at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn NY.

In case you can't read the tiny type, this is my set of knotted sculptures called "Unspooled."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Photo suite 213 -- thinking about flags

No, it's neither Flag Day nor Memorial Day, but I've been working on flag quilts and they're on my mind!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Opening the mystery package

A few years ago, my dear friend and fiber art pal Joanne Weis went to Tuscany on vacation, and bought a mystery package at a Sunday flea market for a couple of euros.  The woman who sold it to her thought it was a roll of old linen, but it had been neatly sewed up so Joanne bought it pretty much sight unseen.  She brought it home and put it away, and just recently came upon it and decided it was high time she opened the package and saw what was inside.

She decided this needed to be a ceremonial occasion, so she brought it to our fiber art support group.  First we surveyed the package and heard the story.

Then we noticed how neatly the roll had been sewed together, and the tiny brown cross-stitched motif on the roll.

Joanne cut the stitches and undid the roll.

We measured it -- about nine and a quarter yards.  It had brown spots on the first foot or so but was creamy white on the inside of the roll.

Best of all, Joanne gave me a piece to use in my next flag quilt.  If I can stand to machine stitch all over it; maybe I'll have to keep out a bit for hand-stitching.

What a find to come across such a treasure in a faraway place, and how nice it is to have fiber friends who appreciate it to share the moment with.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Flag quilt progress report

I'm nearing completion on my first flag quilt, and got it to the point where I could hang it on the wall. Which is easier said than done, since it's almost 100 inches long and the ceiling in my studio is almost 84 inches tall.  Fortunately I have a display space in my front hallway, with a rod right at the ceiling and a wall that extends down the stairway to the nether regions.  So I was able to put the quilt up and see what it looks like.

It looks very imposing, but it doesn't hang straight.  The right-most white stripe bows toward the left, which forces the middle red stripe to double up on itself.

I am not opposed to this quilt hanging wonky; in fact, it fits with my conceptual theme of going wrong, but this just looks like accidental wonk, not deliberate wonk.  The latter I would embrace; the former I have to fix.  So when I get back from my road trip next week the quilt is coming off the wall and back to the sewing machine.

I'm going to cut a wedge out of that wonky white stripe and hike it up so it will hang closer to vertical.  Then I'll put it back on the wall and see how the right-hand red stripe feels about its relationship to the revised white stripe.  Maybe I'll have to either take up some of the extra height of the right-hand red stripe, or re-stitch it to the white.  I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I already LOVE this piece and think I'm going to love it even more when it gets tweaked!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Very afraid

During the SAQA conference a couple of weeks ago I heard at least four presentations in which the topic of fear played a prominent role.  Yes, in the final reckoning fear was always vanquished, at least temporarily, but I had an uncomfortable feeling about the whole subject being brought to our attention so frequently.

Several trains of thought left from that station.

First, I wonder why fear is such a popular subject for artist presentations.  Maybe starting with the famous "Art and Fear" book, there seems to be a pervasive assumption that yes, of course artists suffer from fear, and that overcoming fear (aka self-doubt) is the major task one has to accomplish in order to unlock one's full artistic potential.  If only we could get past our fear of success, or maybe our fear of failure, or perhaps it's our fear of being liked, or being disliked, or something....  then we could MAKE ART!!!  In 20 years of working among actuaries, and in 40 years of working in communications I never once heard a professional development talk in either field exhorting people to overcome fear, so I wonder just what is there about artists that makes us so fragile.

Second, I wonder whether this fear of fear is gender-related.  Let's have a thought experiment.  Let's imagine a professional group called the Heavy Metal Sculpture Artists, of which Richard Serra is the president, and let's further imagine that it's 90% male, because you know those welding tools are really heavy.  At the HMSA annual conference, how many presentations do you suppose will talk about conquering fear?  I imagine not very many.  (After all, a guy packing real heat with a welding tool is almost as well-defended as one packing mere metaphorical heat.)

Third, I wonder whether all this talk about the need to overcome fear really helps people overcome fear -- or whether it actually encourages and enables fear.  People who do have doubt and fear are comforted: apparently everybody has doubt and fear, I must be just fine, I'm like everybody else, it's OK to be afraid.  You could walk in to a conference fearing nothing, your self-esteem at an all-time high, and by the time you sit through four or five of these talks you could start thinking geez, I'm not afraid, what's wrong with me????

All together now, let's sing:

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid.

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tome
And no one ever knows
I'm afraid.

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people I fear
I fool myself as well!

I whistle a happy tune
And every single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I'm
Not afraid.

Make believe you're brave
And the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are.

So if I were organizing the next SAQA conference I would tell all the presenters that there will be no talk of fear.  There will be talk of hard work, and continuous learning, and rigorous reading and thinking, and brave self-evaluation.  Focus on those things, and maybe fewer people will be afraid.