Artist As Quiltmaker Show

Last weekend I met up with other Ohio SAQA members in Oberlin, Ohio, to see Artist as Quiltmaker XVIII.  The show, hosted every two years by the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA,) presented a good overview of styles in art quilting.

FAVA’s banner promises it’s not your grandmother’s quilt show and the show delivers. Some of the pieces are exquisitely crafted and would please the most demanding of show judges. Others are more, er, experimental, in nature.

I noticed more use of digital images this year, usually highly edited and blended seamlessly with other elements.

Jill Kerttula’s “Boundless” combines an edited digital photo with various commercial fabrics, couching, slashing, and hand and machine quilting.

Anna Chupa’s “Pieces Petals Leaves and Eaves: Bellevue Park” blends layers of digital house photos with kaleidoscope like repeating images of some architectural features like windows. You could take it as a fireworks display above rows of houses.

Wen Redmond’s “Cormorant’s Perch” melds different interpretations of one photo with different fabrics.

Margaret Abramshe’s “Nan” is based on a photo of the artist’s mother taken in the late 1950s-early 1960s. After manipulation, the photo was digitally printed on whole cloth and painted with various media.

There were several abstract pieces, such as Gerry Spilka’s “Red Jive,” one of the larger pieces at 91 by 49 inches.

I don’t know whether to consider Liz Kuny’s “Troublemaker” as abstract or as an errant strip falling off an ironing board or shelf. As always, Kuny’s workmanship is impeccable.

“Two Quilts” by MJ Daines is just that, separated by about four feet. It took me a while to figure out how to view this work. They are meant to go with each other.

On a more whimsical note, Holly Cole’s “Warthog Memory” (detail) commemorates a troupe of warthogs that cut through the artist’s campsite in Africa. They are drawn on organza and layered over hand dyed fabric. The only quilting I could find was in the ditch stitching around the organza panel.

Susan Fletcher Conaway’s “I Felt A Connection” obviously references a traditional quilt block, but she chose to outline the block with string, raveled threads and strips from tee shirts, for the most part. A few of the diamonds are carefully hand appliqued. Most of the fabrics are cut up old textiles.

Maggie Dillon’s “Poppy Picnic” is based on a vintage image and uses batiks in a fabric collage. The technique appears popular in art quilting circles, and several teachers offer courses.

One final note about the show – the prices the artists placed on their work. They ranged from $450 to $14,000.

If you’re in the area and want to see the show you have until July 29. There’s lots more to see beyond what I’ve shown.

 

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Artistic Endeavors – Vincent Van Gogh

If you love the work of Vincent Van Gogh prepare to feast your eyes on almost 1,000 photos of his paintings and other work. The Van Gogh Museum has digitized all of its Van Gogh holdings, and it has the world’s largest collection.

You can filter your search by location, time period in which work was completed, type of work (painting, sketch, study etc.), and genre; as well as by title of work. When you click on an individual photo you’ll get the work itself, its particulars, and a short description. You can also download a pdf of it, buy a print of it, share it on social media, enlarge or shrink it.

I’ll use one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings as an example,”Wheatfields under Thunderclouds,” completed shortly before Van Gogh’s death in 1890.

Here’s the website’s short description of this painting:

In the last weeks of his life, Van Gogh completed a number of impressive paintings of the wheatfields around Auvers. This outspread field under a dark sky is one of them.

In these landscapes he tried to express ‘sadness, extreme loneliness’. But the overwhelming emotions that Van Gogh experienced in nature were also positive. He wrote to his brother Theo, ‘I’d almost believe that these canvases will tell you what I can’t say in words, what I consider healthy and fortifying about the countryside.’

The elongated format of Wheatfields under Thunderclouds is unusual. It emphasizes the grandeur of the landscape, as does the simple composition: two horizontal planes.

Through the website I can order a print in three different types of finish in five sizes, and share it through five social media. I don’t know if I like the painting enough to pay over 100 Euros for it, but it’s certainly easy to share.

I glanced through Van Gogh’s work by year, beginning with the museum’s earliest holdings. I assure you that worldwide artistic renown would never have been predicted for Van Gogh based on his work up to about 1885. Finally, I could begin to see his mature style in “Houses Seen from the Back,” painted in late 1885-early 1886.

For more background about Van Gogh and his artistic development the museum provides several what it calls stories on its website. These cover his friends, loves, artistic influences, and his mental state. I especially enjoyed the Inspiration from Japan story, which explains the elements of Japanese prints used by Van Gogh.

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My Latest Obsession

When I began my map quilt of the Ohio and Erie Canal I had no idea how deep I would get into the subject. Last Sunday I dragged my husband to a lock operation demo at the NPS Canal Exploration Center, and then surveyed the exhibits inside the center. First, here’s a photo of an actual quilt being worked on by one of the volunteers. (She was taking a break at the time.) You can tie just about any subject to quilting, somehow.

Opening and closing a canal lock isn’t exactly high tech. You get a few people to push or pull the horizontal beams attached to the gates. Those suckers weigh a few tons. When the lower gate is closed the lock fills up with water and raises the boat to a higher level for the next stretch of canal. If the boat is going the other way, the process is reversed.

I learned that each lock is 15 feet wide and 90 feet long. Canal boats were 14 feet wide and 80 feet long, which made for tight clearance. After the mules or horses were unhitched, the crew poled the boats into the locks and used the poles to keep the boats away from the lock sides.

Before 1850 some canal boats took paying passengers from Cleveland to Portsmouth, Ohio. A trip took about 80 hours, and to call the quarters cramped is an understatement. After 1850 railroads were the preferable transportation choice.

Many canal boats were family operations and the boats also served as the family’s home.

During the disastrous flood of 1913 the locks in Akron were dynamited to release the water backed up by the locks. There were 15 locks in a one mile stretch in Akron.

I think it’s time for me to step away from the lock, and concentrate more on the art part of my quilt. I did hear, though, that Canal Fulton operates horse pulled canal boat rides in season. . . .

 

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Artistic Endeavors – Cities and Memory

Sound Photography asks “What is the relationship between photography and sound?” It’s an international creative interaction between more than 160 photographers and sound artists from 32 countries. Apparently volunteers send in photographs, for which sound artists create a composition based on their reactions to the photo.

The website says it better than I can:

Photographs in the project cover everywhere from Djibouti and Botswana to India, Vietnam and Australia, and include:

– Iconic locations such as Tiananmen Square, the Empire State Building and Copacabana Beach;
– Political protests, social commentary and photojournalistic stories;
– Environmental studies and nature photography;
– Some of the world’s most beautiful cities, including Paris, Venice, Kyoto and Chefchaouen (Morocco’s “blue city”).

The sounds created in response demonstrate an extraordinary breadth of creative approaches including:

– Recordings of melting ice, floating driftwood, electromagnetic fields or words translated into 20 languages;
– Using the raw data from a photograph to construct brand new sounds;
– Using elements of the image as musical notation from which to build new melodies;
– Collections of historical sound recordings from the location of the photograph to bring its past to life;
– Sonic fairytales assembled from legendary fictional tales through the ages.

The Verge interview with composer Stuart Fowkes about this project gives more details about the thinking behind it and the process used.

“Every location on the Cities and Memory sound map features two sounds: the original field recording of that place, and a reimagined sound that presents that place and time as somewhere else, somewhere new.

The listener can explore places through their actual sounds, to explore reimagined versions of what those places could be…”

Here’s the ambient sounds version of sewing machines in Mani Sithu (Myanmar) market, followed by the music created based on those sounds.

You can search the project by episodes or playlists.

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A Map Quest

Here and there I’ve alluded to my long term project that involves research and planning. It’s the opposite of improv. I think it’s far enough along now I can share it, or at least what I’ve done so far.

An art quilt group I belong to set a map quilt as this year’s challenge, inspired by Valerie Goodwin’s book, “Art Quilt Maps.” I reviewed her book a few years ago. Our quilts are to be no larger than 20 by 20 inches, and no smaller than 12 by 12 inches. I’ve already broken that guideline as my piece is shaping up to be about 20 by 28 inches.

My subject is the Ohio and Erie Canal through Summit County, Ohio. Why? Because the current Towpath Trail that I walk on every week follows the canal’s towpath. Here’s a subway map type rendering of the trail.

The canal was constructed in 1827. Canal building fever struck New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states in the early 1800s as a way to open up the region for trade. The Ohio and Erie Canal was part of a system of connected canals to link the Ohio River with Lake Erie ports. A disastrous flood in 1913 finished off the canal. It had long before been superseded by railroads, but was still used for transporting coal.

I began my project with a map of the towpath and Cuyahoga River, mottled green fabrics and a piece of crinoline. I sewed the green fabrics together for my base on the crinoline, and traced the towpath and river onto separate light green fabric. I dabbed green paint onto that fabric to make it look more like a topographic map. My plan is to embroider over the lines and possibly do some embroidery on the edges to integrate this large piece with the base.

Next, I searched out historic photos of the canal. Luckily the Summit Memory Project and the wonders of Google Images provided some.  As with many historic photos, some have damaged areas, and some were digitized at a very small size – about 1.5 by 3 inches. The photographic skill levels were casual, at best. I persevered and came up with some that showed the canal in operation, stores and businesses along the canal, and the 1913 flood. I also took photos of display maps at the Mustill Store in Akron, and explored the Cascade Locks.

Once I ran the photos through PhotoShop Elements to adjust size and clarity, I had to print them on fabric. I decided to go with black and white as almost all were that way to begin with. The hard part was choosing how to print them. I ended up buying silk organza sheets and inkjet transfer paper.  The organza printed well and will allow me to get a soft translucent quality. The transfer paper, which I chose because I didn’t want a white fabric background, printed well, but I had problems with the heat setting. The paper backing didn’t peel off smoothly and I had to reprint some transfers. Also, the finish is very plastic-y and will be ruined if you put an iron near it. Your iron won’t be in good shape, either. But, I got the natural linen background I wanted.

I played with layout possibilities for months, beginning with paper copies of my photos. I want to show the canal’s history, but don’t want a school poster board effect. The layout has changed since this mockup that combines fabric and paper photos.

I will work with overlapping fabrics, transparent effects, and embroidery to make it more arty. I plan to have the quilting be the current road network in the map area, and am considering outlining parts of the photos with stitching. After looking at Valerie Goodwin’s latest art quilt maps, I yearn for the ability to laser cut fabric.

 

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Artistic Endeavors – Art Prof

Remember those matchbooks with the ads for the Famous Artists Course? Fast forward to 2017 and the creation of Art Prof, a website that offers free, accessible to anyone with an internet connection, online art instruction. Videos form the core of the program, with critiques and links to art supplies offered as well. How is it made possible? Initial funding came from a Kickstarter campaign, with continuing funding through Patreon donations.

Clara Lieu, an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and her staff of teaching assistants (many of whom are her former students from RISD) began by producing foundational videos on drawing, collage, mixed media, and painting. These videos are geared towards beginners, both in terms of skill, which is entry-level, and cost of materials.

The course lists cover both classes with videos and project ideas. The latter are prompts to create a project in a specific type of art. For example, in 30 minutes, use continuous lines to draw every figure that enters a public space.

I’m taken with the three printmaking course options – monochromatic monotypes, rubber stamps, and linoleum printmaking. Each course includes a video, a prompt, core ideas, and a supply list (with links to suppliers.) Oh, you also have the option of linking to Prof. Lieu’s Spotify playlist.

For me, critiques are the most intriguing part of this program. “For now, many of Art Prof’s critiques are presented as video, with several different options, including group critiques of a single work and portfolio critiques. Lieu said that while the video critiques are by invitation, anyone can submit an artwork for a one-minute audio crit online via Instagram. Either way, the works are discussed based on photos, and Lieu and her staff only see the works in person when they invite artists into Lieu’s home studio for what she calls Crit Chats.” (Hyperallergic, May 31, 2018)

I’m unclear how critiques of individual works are arranged, though you schedule and pay for portfolio critiques.  At any rate, you can learn a lot just by watching the critiques posted.

I decided to try out some of the courses. The monotype and rubber stamp videos are listed as upcoming, so I couldn’t test drive them. Instead, I looked at a short (about 15 minutes) video called Sensory Playground and a longer video on Drawing with Crayons. The Sensory Playground video gave me a lot of practical information about acrylic paints and painting brushes, and shared hints such as using coffee grounds to thicken paint. If I buy acrylics the video will keep me from choosing the wrong products (as always, you get what you pay for.) Drawing with Crayons uses the high priced art crayons, not Crayola, but the first part of the video has a wealth of information about composition and color that’s worth watching.

Art Prof is very much a work in progress, but I think it contains helpful art school 101 information about all the stuff that needs to happen before you worry about brush strokes, the stuff most Youtube videos don’t cover.

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A Sense of Completion

I’ve gotten two pieces across the finish line in June and one is almost there. You’ve seen the two in various stages, but here’s the reveals.

“Sur La Table” features many bits of cloth I’ve messed around with over the years. It’s named for the two tablecloths that are the base for many of the squares. The greens are from a gradation dyeing I did, while the border is dyed linen. In fact, the only all commercial fabric in it is the Grunge I used for the flange and binding. The backing is a sheet someone gave me, with the hanging sleeve made from the hem of the sheet.

“Sunset on Main” is now mounted to a pre-stretched canvas, for better or worse. It’s ineligible for most quilt shows, but sometimes you just need to do things differently.

The third piece that sidled into being is “Primary Directive,” an improv work based on already sewn together bits. It needs a facing, which will probably wait until July. The stripey print is one of my fave fabrics – “Everglades” by Alexander Henry. A few years back you’d see this fabric used in at least one quilt at every show.

Aside from taking apart a quilt I’m not satisfied with, I now have no excuse not to work on my canal map quilt. I think I have a path forward, but I’ll see how the embroidery goes before I call it all over but the sewing.

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