Every other year northeast Ohio is treated to aFocus: Fiber show, co-sponsored by the Textile Arts Alliance (TAA) and the Kent State University Museum. Since 2019 is an “on” year, I joined other art quilters on a tour of the museum’s latest show.
As always, the word fiber encompasses a wide array of materials, as the photos below show. Before I forget, let me mention the artists’ reception for the show will be next Thursday, March 21, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the museum.
The works above are made of conventional materials – yarn, thread, cloth, wire. Others in the show venture further afield to electric cords and metal. As always with unconventional materials, I’m left wondering if a work was chosen for its differentness or its artistic merit. You can judge for yourself if you catch this exhibit, which is up until July 28, 2019.
As I’ve told you before, despite my efforts to plan work in advance, often I begin with fabrics and work out a design from them. Recently I finished a top I call “Dark and Deep,” that grew from vintage linen stenciled with trees. That gave me my theme, trees, but nothing else was set.
Let me introduce you to the starting lineup of fabrics I pulled for this project. The vintage linen is in the middle with the brown paint. I lined the open work section with a strip of painted cloth. To the right of that piece are two of my tree photos, edited and printed on cloth. I printed or painted the pinkish pieces, and used the curtain lace on the lower right as a stencil.
At the stage above I’ve created more blue fabrics to work with the tones of the darker photo, and cut curves into some of the fabric chunks. The little pink squares, printed with a linoleum block, did not make the final, nor did the fabric printed with feathers.
I’m trying more blue fabrics above, and the whole enterprise has become chunky.
The piece has lost a tier and is beginning to be more horizontal though it’s still block like.
It took a walk on the towpath to give me the unifying factor, the thin tree trunks.
I made them with mostly raw edge bias strips cut with slightly curved edges. Some are packaged strips, a quilt show give away, which I painted with white and brown paint. Others are cut from Mackenna Ryan fabric. I joined the blocks with as many curves as I could. I also talked myself into breaking up the photos with applied raw edge bias strips. That so needed to happen.
Lessons learned (or re-learned): no piece of fabric is too precious not to cut/modify/cover up, a big theme helps when working improvisationally, edge stability is important when using wobbly fabric (that linen), and layers of texture add depth.
A member of my art quilt group clued me in to yet another way to use silk fabrics, especially men’s ties. She found a tutorial by Linda Heines, who uses neck ties to dye silk scarves. The key is to use all silk.
I had to try this technique as I had old ties and various silk scraps. Linda arranges her materials carefully to create attractive scarves. Since I wasn’t making scarves I got a bit experimental with my combinations.
The technique is easy. You layer your ties/scraps on a piece of silk, such as a scarf, and wrap it all around a dowel to make a tube. After securing the tube with string, rubber bands, etc., you remove the dowel and boil the tube in a big pot (not used for food) for 25 to 30 minutes. Linda adds vinegar to the water, but I tried boiling with and without it, and didn’t see any difference. Maybe it helps the silk retain the color.
After your bundle cools, unwrap it and see what you got. Here’s what I got.
For me the big advantage of this technique is I already have all the needed materials. Also, there’s no dye to rinse out. I rinsed all the fabrics once they were boiled and had little bleeding. The big disadvantage is it’s hard to control your results. If you’re willing to live with whatever you get, then you may enjoy trying it.
Forgive me if I treat my quilts as my children. I like to send them out into the world, to be viewed (and enjoyed I hope) by others. Last week “In The Clouds” came back to me after three years on tour with SAQA’s “Concrete & Grassland” exhibit.
It traveled to China, Ireland, and England with the exhibit. It’s too bad I couldn’t go with it.
Another work that came home this week was “Sur La Table” which was in a regional art show. It was one of two fiber works in the show. The rest were paintings, prints, photographs and 3D works.
“Rococo” is the latest work I sent out. It will be exhibited at the Mid-Atlantic Festival of Quilts in Hampton, Virginia, from February 28 to March 3. I’ll have it back by mid-March, a mere month after I mailed it.
Why do I exhibit my work? If I spend lots of time designing, making and finishing a piece that I think turns out well I enjoy the ego boost (I’m being honest here) of having it chosen for public display. Many of my pieces I wouldn’t consider submitting. They’re too idiosyncratic, derivative, or off in some way. Of course, pieces I love others don’t; and pieces I shrug at others think are great. I’m still trying to get “Mean Streets” shown somewhere.
The typical art museum or gallery experience involves walking the perimeter of a room, looking at 2D objects on the walls. Occasionally, there may be a 3D piece, placed so you can walk around it. But what if you were totally surrounded by and immersed in the art and had to wend a path through it?
In the past few months I’ve found a few such art works online. Some have videos that show how the installations were created. They gave a hint at what it must be like to experience the installations.
“Talking Continents” by Jaume Plensa started me on this path. His upcoming exhibition at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia, includes 19 stainless-steel orbs, each composed of die-cut letters and symbols from nine languages, which suspend from the ceiling to form bulging clouds topped with figures. The letters and symbols are arranged in no particular order for symbolic reasons.
Then I found Antony Gormley’s “Domain Field.” This multi-piece work consists of 287 sculptures in its total form. Volunteers aged from two to eighty-five years were molded in plaster by teams of specially trained staff. These molds were then used to construct the individual sculptures by welding the steel elements together inside each mold. Each piece was constructed from stainless steel bars in eight different lengths. Google Arts and Culture has a slide show of the work’s development.
In contrast to metal sculpture, red thread is the medium used by Japanese artist Chihara Shiota. Her 2018 London, England, exhibit, “Me Somewhere Else” filled a large room with crisscrossed strands of red yarn suspended from the ceiling, forming sacs and hanging strings that rise from a pair of feet. You can get a feel for the size of the installation in this video.
The video that accompanies Shiota’s work, “Uncertain Journey” shows a bit of the construction process, that takes many people and lots of warehouse type lifts. After the exhibit ends, the string is cut, and the artist says it now exists in the memories of people who saw it.
I have mixed feelings about such art, having been raised with the idea that “art belongs on a wall to be gazed at from a distance.” The only immersive installation I’ve been in was Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, and even there you’re viewing the work from a fixed viewpoint. Perhaps outdoor sculpture gardens give such an immersive effect. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation near Dumfries, Scotland, comes close to a controlled integration of garden and sculpture. Too bad it’s open only one day a year.
Many possible art quilt subjects have occurred to me, but none ever involved pigs. That gap has been remedied by a prompt from my art quilt group. Since 2019 is the Year of the Pig (or Boar) by Chinese tradition, our challenge is to feature one in a piece.
“Pigs might not stand out in a crowd. But they are very realistic. Others may be all talk and no action. Pigs are the opposite.
Though not wasteful spenders, they will let themselves enjoy life. They love entertainment and will occasionally treat themselves. They are a bit materialistic, but this is motivation for them to work hard. Being able to hold solid objects in their hands gives them security.
They are energetic and are always enthusiastic, even for boring jobs. If given the chance, they will take positions of power and status. They believe that only those people have the right to speak, and that’s what they want.”
While I don’t find pigs attractive creatures, I love the notion of pigs with wings, as in the derisory phrase “when pigs fly.” Of course I did an internet image search on flying pigs (freely available for use) and rediscovered the flying pigs outdoor sculpture at Cincinnati’s Sawyer Point Park. The sculptures commemorate the city’s history as Porkopolis and as a port. The pigs perch atop riverboat smokestacks. My husband was born in Cincinnati, so the deal was sealed.
I chose a photo of one pig, enlarged it, and traced it onto Pellon 830, a nonwoven material.
Since a flying pig is fantasy, I elected to use acid trip colors as I filled in my outline. In an alternate universe skies may be magenta purple and pigs may be golden orange with purple wings.
I originally planned to do fused applique, but then I considered how tedious it would be to cut out little shapes and stick them where I wanted them on a piece this small, 8.5 by 11 inches. Instead, Inktense pencils and Fabrico markers were easier and more fun. I added the gold ball because I thought my pig looked like it was ready to play volleyball, with its front trotters in the air.
I have two weeks to do the quilting and finishing touches before the reveal.