Monday, May 1, 2017

What Am I? Chopped Liver?

My goal is to be filthy rich:
Rich in knowledge,
Rich in adventure,
Rich in laughter,
Rich in health,
Rich in family,
Rich in love.

I have been extremely lucky lately with getting into gallery shows. My latest was Fantastic Fibers at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky (runs until June 17). More than 300 artist entered and 38 were accepted including me. My piece Gathering Stillness was my entry. It was the 30th anniversary of the show so I decided to attend the opening (April 22). It was a nearly 7 hour drive. I am thankful that I had handwork to do in the car and that my husband agreed to go with me. The weather was rainy and cold. There was not much going on since quilt festival did not begin until the 26. We arrived a little early and I identified myself as one of the artists and the person's reaction was, "Oh, then I don't need to tell you anything." Okay, not the reaction I was expecting, but I was there to see the art and hopefully meet people. I kept trying to figure out if there were any other artists present when Pat Owoc approached me. We had a delightful conversation then went looking for other artists. Pat expressed exactly what I was feeling, "Why don't we have name tags?" Once we connected with the other artists present, they too had the same thought. Marianne Williamson  had traveled all the way from Miami, Anita Cooke (won an award) from New Orleans and Roxanne Lasky drove from South Carolina. Roxanne took lots of photos so do check out her website. I bought the catalog because I always feel funny about taking photos where there is one. Silly me. Anyway, I have been to five openings this year where I have had work in the show and only one (Tall Grass Gallery) has had name tags and purposely acknowledged and encouraged the people attending to interact with the artists present. I do not get it. I love talking to artists. I want to know all about the work that they created and why. I was touched when Pat said, "Please tell me about your piece." I bought the catalog so that I could read the artist statements. Most of the galleries did not even have artist statements available. So my question is, don't you want to met the artists? Would meeting the artist have any impact on your purchasing the work? 

And don't get me wrong, I am thankful that I went. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thoughts on Assemblage

Remnants of Everyday Life
I don't think outside the box; I think of what I can do with the box. 
                                             -Albert Einstein

Well my run of getting into gallery exhibitions has come to an end. While it is disappointing, I am continuing to push myself to enter. I have to say that I really thought my piece "Remnants  of Everyday Life" fit the prospectus perfectly for "Common Objects." I am looking forward to attending the opening. 

I do not know why it has taken me so long to embrace making assemblages. As a child I was fascinated by Joseph Cornell's (1903-1972) boxes that were on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. And even as an adult, I always stop by and visit them.

Cornell  is one of the earliest assemblage artists with his work placed in shadow boxes. He had no formal art training and he did not attend college. It wasn't until the 1940s that he started making any significant money from his artwork. He had a fear of strangers and never married. He had a passionate, but platonic, relationship with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama while she was living in New York in the mid-1960s.  Kusama is an interesting person and artist on her own. She is still making art at 87! If you don't know her work, check it out. I love how her clothes match her artwork.

Exploring Pinterest, I discovered the assemblage work of Hannelore Baron (1926-1987) . Unlike Cornell's boxes which invite us into a personal and idiosyncratic universe, Hannelore's boxes are damaged, sealed and forbidding. We are unsure of the exact contents. She escaped from Nazi Germany and ended up in New York. She is also a self-taught artist who was highly successful. I was thrilled when I discovered her. 

Cornell influenced Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008). Rauschenberg created his "combines" series (1954-1964) "using found objects in random juxtaposition in order to unleash the unconscious mind by free association." I do not worry about people's unconscious mind when viewing my work, but this quote has made me think.

I can still remember being in some heated debates over The Bed, one of Rauschenberg's first "combines," by quiltmakers who did not like how he used a quilt. I thought it interesting and elevated quilts. I was more annoyed that the quilt is often referred to as a "blanket." From MOMA's Learning site, "Legend has it that these are Rauschenberg's own pillow and blanket, which he used when he could not afford to buy a new canvas. Hung on the wall like a traditional painting, his bed, still made, becomes a sort of intimate self-portrait consistent with Rauschenberg's assertion that 'painting relates to both art and life... [and] I try to act in that gap between the two.'"

To be clear, I do not think my work holds a candle to the artists I have shared with you today. And it wasn't until I began putting my assemblages together that I realized how much the fascination of certain artists from my youth are now providing me with not only inspiration but courage. 

I have had conversation after conversation with friends about how our children have no interest in our "stuff."  My assemblages are filled with family "stuff" that was passed down to me or I dug out of the trash. I wonder why these items were kept while others with thrown or given away. Remnants is full of these items.  Robert's (my father's legal guardian) last pair of glasses. My grandfather's shaving brush. Why did my dad save my first pair of roller skates then wait more than 40 years to give them back to me? What happened to the child's spoon? Who ate with the fork? When "Mirage" hung during ARC Gallery's Home exhibition, I was happiest when I saw people lean into and spend time looking at it instead of just glancing and walking by. I want to draw people in. I want people to think about the items they keep. What do you have stored away? What memory does it hold?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Valentine's Day and a Giveaway

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. -Charles M. Schulz

When my friend Barbara asked me to join her in a day of making things for Valentine's Day, I jumped at the opportunity. She suggested we make Valentine hot pads. I had not made hot pads for a long time so I made a test one before our play date then cut out several to bring along. When I got to Barbara's house, she excited told me that she had come up with an idea that would take us about an hour and we each could have five gifts. Well, three hours later we did each have five necklaces done. We moved on to making Valentine's. I finished first because I made simple ones and moved on to making hot pads. By the way, Barbara still has not had one. At home, I decided to use some wooden hearts that I bought to make some tags to go on my gift bags. One of my missions this year is to use the things I have purchased. I am going to need to live for a very long time. 

I think it is important to take time to just play. Katie Pasquini-Masopust  shared with me that she has a group of friends that get together once a year and make log cabin quilts. This mini retreat is all about friendship and doing something that they all love--quilting, but just for fun.  

I find that after doing this kind of crafting, I feel recharged and ready to tackle something more serious. It is also fun to be able to share. Shoot me an email (musgrave.karen at with your name and address and I will send you a Valentine.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thoughts on "Wings" and "Seeing Red" Exhibitions

I feel truly blessed lately as my artwork has been embraced like no other time in my life. I truly did not know what to expected when I went to the opening of "Wings" at the Tall Grass Gallery in Park Forest (south suburbs of Chicago) on January 21 in the afternoon. The gallery itself was beautiful, but the mall it was in was just about empty. It was also 61 degrees! Well, I was blown away. The space was packed with people. The artwork was incredible. All the artists were given name tags and asked to stand near their work for questions. There was a nice spread of food with a variety of drinks. I binder with artist information was available. The president of the organization (Tall Grass Gallery is a nonprofit gallery run by volunteers) was kind and invited me to become one of their juried artists.  I loved the variety of artwork that was in the show- 45 artists from 8 states. This was the largest call of entries that they have had. I was thankful that the jurors were open-minded when it came to "Wings."  

There were paintings, watercolors, a charcoal drawing (won an award), sculptures, a collage, photographs, and an assemblage. Here are just a few that spoke to me and I was able to get a photograph. I liked the dragonfly monoprint on mylar, Navigating the Familia by Kim Laurel and was not surprised it won one of the awards. The gentleman in the painting with wings was present but not very approachable.  I have always admired Laura Lein-Svencner's collage work and I was taken by her assemblage piece.  By the way, the wings are from a real crow that she found dead on the highway. Lindsay Sanbothe's acrylic painting Cinerors Vulture was amazing. She also won a prize. The gallery presents first, second and third place awards and three "Awards of Excellence." It was a great experience and I left feeling appreciated as an artist. 

On Friday night, I traveled to ARC Gallery in Chicago for the opening of "Seeing Red." All the pieces had to be 18" wide or less and this was an open call so no jurying. This is the second time I have had a piece in the gallery so I was excited.  I entered this time to be supportive of the gallery. ARC Gallery is also an nonprofit gallery, although a women run one, that is more than 40 years old. I have visited exhibitions at the gallery for more than 30 years and never imagined that I would ever have a piece hanging in the gallery. I was surprised, although maybe I should not have been, with the number of political pieces that were in the exhibition including a DVD for sale of the Women's March in Chicago. 

The gallery quickly became full of people, but I was struck by the contrast between the two experiences. There was not a book with artist statements, no name tags so no way to know if other artists were present and two fundraisers was going on- a bake sale and decorated masks from Michael's. Maybe the fundraisers should not have bothered me, but they did.  I was greeted by a member and we talked briefly. My piece is hanging in a great spot that can be seen from the gallery's windows. My friend Barbara Wester's piece, Seeing Red, is two pieces down from mine and I thought how great serendipity can be. I found the exhibition interesting, but I was left wanting more.

Both "Wings" and "Seeing Red" will be available for viewing until February 25. If you have a chance to see either, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Loss and Finding Meaning

You are not accidental. The world needs you. Without you, something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it. -Osho

The world has lost another talented quiltmaker--Sue Garman. I met Sue 23 years ago when I moved to Houston. Whenever I move (which was quite before moving to Illinois nearly nearly 20 years ago), I would find a local quilt shop and sign up for the first available class that even moderately interested me. That way I find out about guilds and other quilt shops. I found my way to Quaker Town Quilts in Friendswood. It was a mostly traditional shop so I signed up for Sue Garman's Halloween vest since it was just one afternoon. It involved cute applique. The women in the class were a lot of fun and I got lots of information on guilds, teachers, classes, and other quilt shops.
Sue was patient and kind. I only wore the vest once at the show and share at a guild. She was a member. If you don't know Sue's work, you should check it out. She learned to quilt from her grandmother and I don't think I ever saw her not working on a quilt. I found her amazing. She was the assistant director of NASA, a mother of two, a wife, and a pattern designer. She personal quilts were amazing. For me, she was one of the kindest people I ever met. In October, she shared that she would be having a test to see if she had a year or two to live. Unfortunately, she only had months. She will be missed. 

I had been struggling to come up with a piece to enter into "Red" at ARC Gallery in Chicago. Nothing seemed to be working until I picked up Carolyn's dress. Carolyn was my husband's only sister and my in-laws first child.  She only lived a few days but her life impacted a family deeply and not always in a positive way. I was touched and a little shocked when my mother-in-law gave me all of Carolyn's handmade dresses. It took her many years to get over her son marrying me. My children will have no interest in the dresses so I am happy to give them a new life and even more pleased the "Not Even a Memory" will be a part of the exhibit (February 2 - 25). My husband says that he thinks his mother would not approve, but I am not so sure. I think she would be pleased that others will know that Carolyn once was among us.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Adrienne Der Marderosian

I love the Internet for the connections that it brings. I was thrilled when I received an email from Adrienne Der Marderosian who also had work in the ARC Gallery exhibition Home. In my post about the show and opening, I was not able to get a decent enough photograph of her work and now I get to share them (the first two images were at ARC). She lives in Massachusetts so could not attend the opening. We all know how unpredictable Chicago's winters can be.

 Adrienne shared, "When I saw the call for submissions for the ARC's exhibition Home, I was interested in applying as the curators broadened the traditional definition of  "home" to include homelessness and the refugee crisis. My current body of work investigates how migration to a new homeland affects one's psychological, social and cultural identity so it seemed a good fit." It was also Adrienne's first time entering ARC. I feel like I have met a kindred spirit.  

I am also thrilled that I get to share with you her artist statement for her series. As I shared in my post concerning the exhibition, I wish that there had been an opportunity to read the artist statements because I love learning more about the person's thoughts on her work.  Finding out that Adrienne is Armenian gave me even more insight because I curated and traveled an exhibition of thirteen quilts from Gee's Bend, Alabama, to three different cities in Armenia. While in Yerevan, I visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum which is dedicated to a time in Armenian history (1915-1923) where the Turks tried to exterminate Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. It was estimated that two million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire and one and a half million of them were killed including women and children and the rest were exiled. Images from the museum will stay with me for the rest of my life.  


My memory is
the history of time.

Charles Olson

This series of works, entitled Tattoo Trails II, explores the relationship between memory and identity.  As an artist of Armenian descent, I carry a history that embodies not only my past but that of my ancestors as well.  My families’ stories of survival are not only rich and textured but also complex and traumatic.  Their collective history has led me to consider how exiles that are separated from their homeland navigate their lives.  How does migration affect them psychologically? Do immigrants face feelings of alienation, isolation and displacement? How are their cultural identities impacted by their separation from their homeland?

Throughout my work, I investigate these questions and challenge the viewer to consider the strength and endurance of the human spirit.
This series is based on a video still by Edwin Wurm, 1995/96.
Adrienne Der Marderosian

I you would like to know more, you can read an inspiring interview, here. I love that you also get to see her studio.  Do you agree that learning more about an artist enriches your understanding?