Category Archives: Commentary

Viral Reading

It’s a good thing I had lots of reading material checked out of my local library before it shut down. I’m a compulsive reader who will read jar labels if nothing else is available. And thank heavens one of the books I have now is the last part of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series, “The Mirror and the Light.” It clocks in at 700 plus pages, but every word is worth reading.

Two of my books pertain to art: “Rex Ray” and “Landscape Painting Now.” As I wrote a bit ago, I’ve made three Rex Ray inspired pieces.

Oops!
Ready to Split
Not All Black and White

Because Ray was so prolific with commercial and fine art projects, the book I have covers only so much of his work. It’s broken down into collage on paper, collage on panel, and collage on canvas work. Ray made at least one small collage on paper every day for many years.

This is a wall of Ray’s daily collages.
Ray at his collage work table
“Collage Number 2751” painted paper and resin on panel, 24 by 16 inches, no date
Ray beginning work on a panel. He used a kitchen sponge mop to apply his base color. You can see a wood grain in many backgrounds as in the piece shown above.
“Leptogium,” oil, acrylic, and painted paper on linen, 76 inches square, 2006. I see potential for paper piecing and applique here.

“Landscape Painting Now” casts a much wider net. The opening essay by Barry Schwabsky notes that landscape painting hasn’t gone away in modern times, but has been reinvented by contemporary painters.

I’ve chosen my favorites from the book, though I’ll note that one of the artists, Jordan Nassar, hasn’t painted his work but has used tatreez, a Palestinian mode of cross stitch embroidery. The book’s authors note his “works are more akin to art than craft – with his use of a needle and thread in place of a paintbrush.” I heard that sort of special pleading before. I know the book’s title is landscape painting, but I wonder why this one exception was made.

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Filed under Books, Commentary

The Inspiration of Limitations

Too often I trip myself up with a lack of focus in my work. I start with an idea that cascades into yet other ideas and, in the end, I realize none of them well because I try to do them all. I find I do better by putting metaphorical blinders on – to work only with certain colors, shapes, or techniques. In her 1965 book “On Weaving” Anni Albers said, “Great freedom can be a hindrance because of the bewildering choices it leaves to us, while limitations, when approached open-mindedly, can spur the imagination to make the best use of them and possibly even to overcome them.”

I have two long term projects on the go that have built in size and material limitations. Both are sets of squares, needle felted ones and appliqued roundish shapes that I call pebbles.

The former came about because I had wool roving left from a wet felting class and was given felted wool fabric scraps. I bought a Clover needle felting tool, read a book, watched a video and went to work. The work is limited to the colors I have on hand, hand embroidery, and 5 inch wool squares. At some point I may sew the squares together. So far I have 16 squares made and only a small amount of roving left. I’m undecided about buying more. Right now I’m concentrating on embroidering them all.

14 of my needle felted squares

The pebbles are a variation like this one on the classic Dale Fleming 6 minute circle, with my monoprinting experiments used as the pebbles and backgrounds of hand dyed mottled fabrics in green, blue-green, and turquoise. When I make just one inset circular shape I often use a single layer of freezer paper as my template. If I’m making several shapes, as with my pebbles, I iron two layers of freezer paper together to make a longer lasting template.

For my pebbles I used pieces of my monoprints smaller than the template so I could get more pebbles – 30 in all. It worked fine as I made sure the stitching lines wouldn’t go beyond the edges of my fabric pieces.

Here’s the pebbles I created with four different templates. I’m now out of monoprinted fabrics.

detail of my pebbles

I debated whether to go with a simple layout or try to concoct something more elaborate. I decided to surround each square with uneven thin lines, somewhat like a tile floor.

It’s brighter when the sun shines.

Next up is figuring out a surround. I’m working on an uneven border. After that is settled I need to decide whether to pursue a wild hair idea to turn my pebbles into talismans by crossing them with threads to make them look wrapped. I wouldn’t add beads and feathers, though.

I have saved all the innards I cut out of the framing fabrics and fused WonderUnder to them. Maybe I could figure a way to add them, or maybe not. At this point I should reread the first paragraph of this post.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Commentary, Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

More Artistic Endeavors

I had to bring back this feature for a one day stand when I came across the following websites. Besides I haven’t done much sewing because of a long lasting cold. Eye candy is more fun than reviews of cold remedies.

Jane Perkins

Perkins says, “In my current body of work, Plastic Classics, Old Masters are given a contemporary twist. I use anything of the right size, shape or colour: toys, shells, buttons, beads, jewellery, curtain hooks, springs etc. No colour is added – everything is used exactly ‘as found’.” I enjoy Perkins’ cheeky renditions of art classics and applaud her chutzpah in using throwaway plastics.

The Birth of Venus
Monet’s Water Lilies

Holly Wong

From her website: Holly Wong is an artist who lives and works in San Francisco, California. She was educated at the San Francisco Art Institute where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in New Genres. Holly creates installations, assemblages and works on paper, integrating non-traditional approaches with more traditional sewing techniques associated with the history of women. Her approach is both non-conventional but also deeply rooted in her history and culture.

I love the transparent nature of Wong’s work and the interplay of shadows in the free standing pieces.

Wong uses dichroic film, vinyl table cloth, plastic bags, gold foil, hand-painted vellum, thread, candle smoke, polyester tulle, duralene plastic, plastic rope, cotton gauze, origami paper, and monofilament wire in installations, works on paper, mixed media, and photography. I give her full marks for listing candle smoke as a medium.

WPA Posters Documenting and Presenting the Posters of the WPA 
(U.S. Works Progress Administration 1936 -1943)

From the website: The lavishly illustrated book Posters for the People: Art of the WPA amasses nearly 500 of the best and most striking posters designed by artists working in the 1930s and early 1940s for the government-sponsored Works Progress Administration, or WPA. Posters for the People presents these works for what they truly are: highly accomplished and powerful examples of American art. All are iconic and eye-catching, some are humorous and educational, and many combine modern art trends with the techniques of advertising and commercial designs.

Mind you, many, many of the posters are bog standard and could have easily been produced by high school students. You have to search for the gems.

I’m linking to Off the Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

Revisiting A Goal

Over the past two years I have made a conscious effort to show my work publicly. While I have focused on national shows, I’ve also entered local shows. Ironically, I’ve had greater success with the latter. Right now the three pieces shown below are in a local juried art show.

“Disco Woks”
“Dark and Deep”
“Let The Mystery Be”

By my calculations my work has had roughly 50 percent success in being selected. I’ve entered quilt, fiber, and all art media shows. For some shows I realized after the fact my work was totally outclassed. I’m looking at you, Excellence in Fibers. For others, once I saw the work selected I decided my work simply didn’t fit what the juror was looking for.

To enter juried (and most other) shows, you need to fill out an application and pay an entry fee. Since selection is based on digital photos, you need to submit photos that do justice to your work. Shows that produce catalogs use the images you submit, so they have to be high quality ones.

As you probably have figured out, the costs begin to add up. Professional photography fees can run $30 to $50 per piece. Entry fees can range from $15 to $50, though often you can submit up to three entries for the higher fee. If your work is selected, you need to pay shipping costs to and from the venue, unless it’s close enough to drive to. Many shows specify you can’t use USPS, a cheaper alternative to UPS and FedEx. Total shipping to and from the last show my work was in came to $55. Recently I saw a call for entry with a $20 handling fee for unpacking and repacking your work.

The cost is worth it if your piece sells or if the show helps increase name recognition for your teaching or work. Since I don’t teach and have made no organized effort to sell my work, the calculus is different for me.

In 2020 I plan to enter fewer shows. That’s partly because some of my work is aging out. Many shows specify work has to have been made in the past three years. Right now that’s 2018, 2019, or 2020. Another reason is that much of what I’m creating right now doesn’t have show potential. I’m trying different materials and creating small pieces. Shows like big work, and often have a minimum size requirement.

I’ll see if my mind gets changed by the SAQA seminar I’ve signed up for called “Your Professional Toolkit.” It will cover exhibiting your art as one of six topics. Stay tuned.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Quilt Shows

Museum Meandering

Drawn by an exhibit of Tiffany glass, my husband and I visited the Cleveland art museum recently. We admired the stained glass, but found many other works we didn’t recall seeing on earlier visits.

Detail of Hinds house stained glass Tiffany window. Some of the glass is an inch higher than the rest.

First, an exhibit of mid 20th century Swedish printed textiles made me recall the influence Swedish design had on U.S. decorative taste. More details are on the museum’s holdings website. The examples below are printed on linen.

I had to include the Orrefors bowl for the shadows cast by the lighting, and who doesn’t love cobalt blue.

Random meanderings turned up a few works that would make great quilts.

“Merging Emerging” Skuodas I’m thinking paper piecing here.
“Blue Bloc” Mieszkowski

In the local artists room I was struck by “The Pie Wagon,” which vividly conveys Cleveland’s industrial past. On the drive up we passed factories that look just like the one in the picture.

“The Pie Wagon” by Carl Gaertner

Finally, I came across a portrait of Nathaniel Olds which, for sheer goofiness, won me over. I can see a steampunk addict crushing on those glasses and the hair.

Explanation of the glasses

I’ve linked to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Commentary, Project Ideas

Catching Up With Artistic Endeavors

Although I no longer highlight specific artists and art/cultural shows as a regular feature, I still collect websites that especially appeal to my artistic sensibilities. Here’s a collection of some of them. May you find one or two intriguing or entertaining.

Matthew Wong Sadly, this artist who I just discovered died at age 35. I can’t explain why the work below draws me, but it does.

“Blue Rain” Matthew Wong

American women artist podcasts The Getty Institute has released podcasts about six women artists in the 1960s and 70s – Lee Krasner, Yoko Ono, Alice Neel, Bettye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, and Eva Hesse. Each lasts about 30-35 minutes. The era can be summed up by Alice Neel’s narration of her mother’s response to her artistic ambitions – “well I don’t know what you expect to do, you’re only a girl.”

Alice Neel in front of her portrait of Andy Warhol

Sarah Amos Who would have thought of combining printing on felt and thread? I want to run my hands over Amos’ work.

“The Narrows” Sarah Amos

Eleanor Ray Ray’s very small works (usually no larger than 10 by 10 inches) are usually of a landscape viewed out a window. The work below captures how winter light looks at the end of the day.

“Museum Windows” Eleanor Ray

Kyoto Costume Institute Warning, you could easily lose hours at this site if you have a fashion jones.

I love the dress by Hanae Mori featured above.

Art Trip: Columbus, Indiana This video is part of a series that spends about 15 minutes each on the art found in several U.S. cities. I chose to link to the episode about Columbus, Indiana, rather than San Francisco or Chicago because it’s not your typical art mecca, though there are many other episodes in larger cities. I love all the textiles in the Miller House’s conversation pit’s pillows. The house was designed by Eero Saarinan, and that conversation pit was groundbreaking at the time.

Conversation pit, Miller House, Columbus, Indiana

I’ve bookmarked many more sites but I’ll save them for another post. After all, you need to save time to eat cookies.

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Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

Department of Self Promotion

I’m happy to report that my quilt “If The Shoe Fits” is now at the Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona, as part of the Art Quilts XXIV show. Unfortunately, I’m not there as well, but if you’re in the Phoenix area before January 3, 2020, stop by the gallery to see the exhibit.

My other news is that a local free weekly paper called “The Devil Strip” has done an article about me, and “Hazy Shade of Winter” is on the cover. You can read it here. I was amused to read that I do “circus” design with fabric – the perils of relying on a recording in an interview. Otherwise, the article pretty much captures my voice. (Note: I think that oopsie has been fixed.) My work will be featured on the bottom of bird cages and litter boxes around Akron.

The upshot is Christmas came early for me this year.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects, Exhibits