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.
The gullibility of sophisticates in NYC never ceases to amaze me. The NY Times‘ Sunday Styles Section had a writeup about Naomi Mishkin, an artist and “budding fashion designer whose work frequently takes everyday objects and subverts them with a clever, feminist-skewed twist.” One of her pieces “took a traditional dress form and remodeled it after her own torso, complete with a slight paunch and sagging shoulders.” Gosh, it turns out my grandmother had art in her sewing room.
My favorite creations by Ms Miskin are a scarf made of fabric that looks like a cutting mat, and a white cotton shirt with an iron burn scorched on its front. That’s right, the shirt, called Bad Wife Shirt, is scorched with a vintage British iron. The limited edition shirt can be yours for a mere $180. That’s wrong on so many levels, starting with Bad Wife.
I have continued to revisit old work that I wasn’t satisfied with, and revised two pieces, “Z Is For Zoom” and “7 Years of Bad Luck.”
Z was just too plain before, so I painted broad white stripes over the already quilted area and then covered the stripes with seed stitching.
7 Years needed focus, so first I over-dyed the completed piece and stamped it with white ink. Then I cut off the top edge, added swirls of bias tape, and appliqued jagged chunks of silver lame on to represent the bits of broken mirror. As I was sewing the tape on I realized I was channeling Judy Kirpich. A new facing on the top and reattachment of the hanging sleeve completed the makeover.
Do I think these pieces are now wonderful? No, but I think they are improved. My initial inspirations have been tempered with layers and more clarity in my intent, I believe. I’ve learned that a piece can take its own sweet time in revealing what it is meant to be.
I’m not doing artistic endeavors this year, but I can’t help passing along goodies that appeal to me. Case in point, magazine covers by Ryo Takemasa. Here are covers he did for NON Magazine that I thought could translate well into fabric.
Each of these illustrations would take just the right fabric – bought or painted/printed to bring the image to life. The trees above the waterfalls could be done by printing with a cut out sponge. I’m not advocating breaking copyright laws by using these images, but such simplified images could be an interesting way to create quilted landscapes.
Takemasa’s website shows yet more examples of his work. I hope his work inspires you to approach design in new ways.
If the proof is in the pudding, then my quilt pudding reflects my love of color. In 2018 improv continued to be my default way to start a piece, though three pieces – Rococo, Sunset on Main, and Ohio-Erie Canal – were planned from sketches. While I bought fabric, I focused on my scraps and cloth I had changed in some way with dye, paint, print, etc.
When I begin my design with fabric, color usually dominates, and any “meaning” evolves with the piece. In past years I tried to create work with meaning. This year I just let whim take over, especially when I didn’t have set prompts to respond to.
I think all my work for the year is above, but I may have missed some. I didn’t include quilts I’ve reworked, nor ones that aren’t yet finished. If you click on one of the photos you’ll be able to see a slideshow of all of them.
Three, possibly four, of my 2018 quilts are based on patterns and/or templates developed by others. For “Church Windows” I actually read the directions. The rest I put together based on my best guess. Three were for an Ohio SAQA bullseye quilt challenge. One, “Siriusly,” was for a dog challenge. The Ohio-Erie Canal piece was for a map quilt challenge. That leaves about eleven pieces I dreamed up for no particular reason. Sometimes my fabric bits said, hey, let’s play.
It’s always interesting to see which of my pieces appeal to others, and which are my favorites. Often, they differ. The process of making a piece certainly influences my fondness for it. I enjoyed making “Sur La Table,” “All Decked Out,” and “Bullseye Bubbles.” I was frustrated while making “Ohio-Erie Canal” and “All Fly Away.” The former challenged me to integrate historical information with an aesthetically pleasing design. I learned a lot more history than is usual with a quilt. The latter showed me that decisions I thought were right in design terms weren’t. I’m holding onto it as a lesson in humble pie. In fact, I don’t think the photo shows the completed quilt, and I can’t find one anywhere. (Update: I found the piece and photographed it last night. I did improve it a bit but it still needs work and I don’t think it’s worth it.)
Of course I made lots of custom fabric, especially on non-woven Easy Pattern material. I’ve developed a fondness for stencils and have more than doubled my stencil collection. Dyeing has taken a back seat to painting as it is physically more demanding and just plain messy. One fun way to avoid work play is to add more layers to previous surface design experiments.
Because of my aging joints I steered away from complex piecing and fancy (as if!) FMQ. It’s a bit painful to do fiddly work and I get frustrated when complex mechanics just don’t work with clumsy fingers. I tried to build complexity through my fabric choices. When I used small pieces they usually had been cut several years ago. Thanks, Bonnie Hunter.
Overall, in 2018 I consolidated my skills but made no breakthrough pieces. In part, that’s because I let go of any notion of cutting edge work and focused on making in ways I enjoyed.