I have long maintained that flowers have little to no place in my work. I love flowers in a garden or a vase, but haven’t been drawn to them as subjects for my work. So, I was surprised that I based a piece now under construction on flowers, rhododendrons specifically. Each May I see the bold magenta floral clusters of those plants in the yards of the older houses in my neighborhood. I don’t know if they’ve gone out of fashion, but I don’t see them in newer developments. Of course, that color would give one pause and they like shade.
But I didn’t start my floral project with the shrub in mind. Instead, I began with a surfeit of high flow quinacridone magenta acrylic paint that I decided to splash on scraps of tablecloths, muslin, PFD cotton, and fabric already printed with bell pepper. Then after I noticed all the rhodies in my neighborhood I came up with a scheme to make a piece with a floral theme out of all that painted fabric cut into squares.
To the magenta fabric I added squares (including an old sheet) painted with green, yellow-green, and yellow; plus fabric monoprinted with Inktense colors. Once I had the squares arranged to my liking I added thin bias strips of fused fabric. I know that my inspiration shrub doesn’t have skinny leaves, but let’s pretend bindweed has clambered up on it.
The new color palette I became enamoured of is that used by Zoe Zenghelis, a painter who pioneered an appreciation of the role of color in architectural design. The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has mounted an exhibit of her paintings, which introduced me to her work. You can read a review of the exhibit below.
Now, I don’t grasp all the architectural aspects of her work, but I do love the shapes and clear, melting colors she uses. I was transported to an alternative universe through her paintings.
I hope to experiment with my paints to achieve similar effects. Maybe I can learn some subtlety.
Each year the National Collage Society holds a small format members’ exhibition. Since the the exhibit of eighty-six 4 by 6 inch works was held at Summit ArtSpace in Akron, I made a point of going to it. At first it seemed out of scale to walk into a large room with one horizontal line of very small works on three walls, but you forgot that once you drew closer to the pieces. I was amazed at the detail the artists packed into such small real estate.
While almost all the works merited close examination, here are the ones that really caught my eye.
Speaking for myself, it’s much easier to work at small scale with paper than with fabric, unless you’re only fusing. And that’s essentially collage with fabric. Now, that’s a thought – a paper-fabric collage using Mistyfuse. I’m sure many have already tried that, but it’s a new idea to me. I certainly have plenty of paper and fabric scraps to use.
To go with its upscale reputation, Naples, Florida, sports an impressive art museum/performance center that houses the Naples Philharmonic and the Baker Museum. My husband chauffeured me from Fort Myers to the museum so I could soak in more southwest Florida art. Unlike the collection of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota which features walls of European Madonnas, saints, and portraits bought in quantity; the Baker Museum has a more contemporary collection with many Mexican and American artists. The work is also more scaled for display in a modern private home.
I enjoyed browsing the permanent collection as well as special exhibits, especially one called Ocean Gleaning by Pam Longobardi. The museum is small enough you won’t suffer visual fatigue, yet diverse enough you can discover gems in each room. Too often I find smaller museums feel compelled to have third rate work by big name artists like Picasso rather than first rate work by lesser known figures. The Baker Museum has a few Chihuly sculptures that aren’t his best in my opinion, but the charm of other works make up for them.
Here are some works that caught my eye. Each photo is followed by the museum’s description. Be warned, there’s lots of photos.
And that’s not all. There are two additional galleries in the performance center with interesting cyanotype prints by Noelle Mason and wall sized charcoal drawings by Gonzalo Fuenmayor.
If you’ve stayed with me to this point, I offer the sunrise art we enjoyed on our trip north.
Recently I spent time with an online exhibit called Known and Unknown Quilt Stories put together by the Quilt Alliance. To quote from the website:
Documentation, or the lack thereof, is at the heart of the over 30 quilts in Known and Unknown. And it’s also the heart of what the Quilt Alliance does. Without documentation, the stories behind countless quilts are lost to us. But with documentation, we can honor and remember the diverse voices and perspectives in quiltmaking.
The exhibit’s quilts range from art quilts to rescued quilts spattered with paint. For each quilt featured there’s a short interview with its maker or current owner, and links to additional resources related to the type of quilt featured. Some quilt makers put their names front and center on their work; other quilts can only be ascribed to anonymous. Still other makers can be known through the stories of their quilts’ current owners.
For example, quilter Nellie Mae Johnson put a Native American spin with braids and moccasins on the classic Sunbonnet Sue block in her quilt Little Women.
The interview by Nellie’s granddaughter Gwen Westerman (who is a quilter) reveals the quilt was made for her high school graduation out of fabrics from her home made clothing. All Nellie’s quilts were meant to be used, and this one has the holes and lumpy batting to prove it.
A just opened exhibit at the Akron Art Museum introduced me to the work of Elias Sime (pronounced SeeMay.) Sime is an Ethiopian artist whose media are colored wires, buttons, carpet tacks, and electronic and computer parts. His work is abstract and from a distance resembles mosaics, though some is 3D with pieces extending out 3 or 4 inches from the base.
What fascinated me about Sime’s work was how well it subsumed the materials to the art. At first I didn’t see all the motherboards and buttons, but enjoyed subtle changes in textures and colors. Too often it’s difficult to see past the component parts of assemblages and collages.
One aspect of Sime’s work not shown in the exhibit is the Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis Ababa which Sime co-founded, designed, and helped hand construct from mud and straw. The short video that accompanies the exhibit has gorgeous shots of the center.
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.
If you’ve ever attended an art quilt show or any art show, you may have wondered how the winners were chosen. You can get the perspective of one judge, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, who summarized her experiences as a show judge in a recent blog post.
She began with her criteria for works to consider for awards:
Be well executed.
Have a point-of-view.
Make the viewer feel or think or react in some way.
Be unique in some way.
Then, she narrowed her choices for top awards by asking herself which pieces stayed in her mind the next day. Finally, to choose the grand prize winner, she asked herself, “Which of these works shows complete mastery over this person’s craft?” and, “Which of these works do I not have any suggestions to give the artist on how to make it just a little bit better?”
Her takeaways from the process were:
Art is subjective (obviously). I like seeing the hand of the artist. Another juror might not.
It’s often attractive to go towards creating work that is like what everyone else is making, but standing out is often about standing alone.
Titles matter. Is your artwork about something? Can the title add meaning to what the viewer is already taking away from the work?
For me, pretty is not enough. I need story, emotion…something more substantive than pretty.
While these points may not apply to a craft oriented show, I think they work in an art show context. They also remind us that judges’ preferences vary. One judge may love lots of hand stitching and raw edges while another may prefer a more polished look. Please note that Julie fully recognizes the importance of craftsmanship, but feels that the story a piece tells and the emotions it evokes are what make it award-worthy.
I tried to apply the above criteria to choose my work to enter in future shows. I do pretty well on titles and written overviews. I think most of my work is sui generis and doesn’t follow the latest trends. I worry whether there’s a story and substance to my work, other than I liked the fabrics and colors together. I do know if my husband calls a piece pretty, I won’t enter it. As to level of craftsmanship, that’s the opinion of the judge. No one will ever gush over my fine workmanship.
Here’s an example of a piece that was juried into a national show. The juror must have liked my title, “The Language of Pink Elephants,” because there are many, many workmanship errors in the piece. That silk bias tape should have been handled better, and the bottom has waves when it’s hung. I’ve never entered it in another show, nor will I. And I will never use silk crepe bias tape again.
Recently, two of my quilts have been in local juried art shows, and a third has been in a regional show. Of course it’s an ego boost to have my work selected for public display, even in local shows. However, I think I enter shows to get feedback on how others who know nothing about quilting see my work. Otherwise, my work gets shown to a small group of art quilters, and then stored in my house.
My secondary reason to enter non-quilt focused shows is to show that quilts are just as valid an art form as paintings, prints, and photographs. That show judges aren’t poking at my stitching and binding is a plus. After all, I don’t see paintings being critiqued for the regularity of their brush strokes. But then that’s the difference between judging work as craft and as art.
Right now “It’s All About Me” is part of the Me, Myself and I? show at Summit Artspace until August 31.
Earlier this year “Unfolding” was in The View From Within, also at Summit Artspace.
My “Sunset on Main” is in the Mahoning Valley YWCA’s Women Artists: A Celebration show that wraps up tomorrow. It’s one of four quilted entries, though there are also woven and mixed media pieces in the show.
If you make original quilts please consider entering an art show. You may be pleasantly surprised to find your work is accepted, and you’ll be helping fabric to claim its place as an art medium equal to others.