Thursday, December 14, 2017

Putting Stretch Marks on My Comfort Zone!

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. - Neale Donald Walsch

Yesterday as I removed the cover on my yogurt the message was "Think big. Dream big." It made me smile. Last month I decided it was once again time to do something that scared me so I applied for an artist residency with A.I.R. Studio in Paducah, Kentucky. It was my understanding that acceptance was heavily placed on artwork and project. Only four people knew that I had applied (three were my references and Cathy Neri, who had pushed me to apply). I spent a lot of time telling myself that it would not be the end of the world if I did not get accepted. When the email arrived, it took me an hour to get the courage to open it. The message started out by thanking me for applying and ended with my acceptance! While I did not get my first choice for time (May), I did get my second choice (September 2 - 15). I will have lots of time to put together a plan to maximize my time in Paducah. The mission is to add to and fully complete a body of work that explores loss, memory and the things we leave behind when we die. While I always begin each year optimistic, 2018 is already looking pretty good to me. It is my hope that it will be the same for you. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

More 8 x 8 in 8

To get through the hardest journey we need only take one step at a time, but we must keep stepping.  -Chinese Proverb

I am surprised at how many people said to me that they could not do artwork in 8 minutes. My response is, "Have you tried?" Don't think of it as making great art. Think of it as play. Teaching in places like Georgia (country not state) and Kyrgyzstan, taught me that having limited resources is actually a good thing. I limited my resources so I had fewer choices which helped me create quickly.  I kept things simple. I decided it was fun. I also allowed myself, if the spirit moved me to create in a series, which also made things easier. I am sharing part of a series that occurred about nine days into the month

I think it is important, no vital, for me to do things that put me outside of my comfort zone. Each time I do that I learn more about myself and what I am capable. I think we are all happier if we know ourselves.  And one closing thought, just because you make something does not mean you have to share it. I will tell you that there were days after I finished my collage that the trash can was the best place for it. I am glad that I resisted this urge and let the work rest because pieces that I thought deserved the trash actually have provided me with the need for further exploration. So be kind to yourself and just create. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

8 x 8 in 8

Art replaces the light that is lost when the day fades, the moment passes, the evanescent extraordinary makes it quick silver. Art tries to capture that which we know leaves us, as we move in out of each other's loves, as we all must eventually leave this earth. Great artists know that shadow, work against the dying light, but always knowing that the day brings new light and that the ocean which washes away all traces on the sand leaves us a new canvas with each wave.  -Elizabeth Alexander, The light of the World, a memoir

When my friend Barbara suggested that we do an quick art project a day and then share it, I was all in. I loved when I made my 8-minute collages (the time it took my oatmeal to cook). After some back and forth, we decided to create 8-minute collages that were 8" x 8." And so each morning for a month, we created. Some days were easy and others I struggled. I really believed since I had done this before, I would not have any problems.  Wrong! I limited mine to whatever was on my work space plus one box of scrap paper. I loved playing with used tea bags and using my stencils. The days that I struggled had to do with overthinking. I also noticed as time moved on my collages got simpler. I highly recommend projects of this kind. If you can find someone to do it with you, it keeps you honest and it helps create a habit. I will share a few more of my collages next week. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Swedish Death Cleaning and More

It's your road, and yours alone. Others my walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. - Rumi

A few months ago, I read an article about Swedish death cleaning, dostadning. Move over Marie Kondo! I do think this will be the next big thing. Margarta Manusso, the author of "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" will not be available in the U.S. until January, but it has already had a huge impact on my life. Margareta suggests that people focus on simplifying their lives beginning at 65 until you are living with just a few items upon your death thus freeing your children. I am not 65, but I think the time is now for me. My friend Barbara has also been caught up in getting rid of things that no longer are useful or bring joy. 

Margareta feels we should not leave our children to deal with our stuff. My dad made that promise after dealing his guardian's estate. Alas, he did not and I spent hours shredding years and years of old, really old bills. For me, getting rid of things has been a process that has been occurring for years. As an artist, I think it is even tougher, especially now that I am taking things my mom and dad saved and turning it into art. However, I do want to live more simply. I want to have as much joy as I can and so I know this is a process that has a destination.

I am also reading "The Light of the World: a memoir" by Elizabeth Alexander. It is beautifully written prose about the unexpected death of her husband. It is making me cry--a lot. And yet, it is also helping move beyond my losses. She pays her husband's cell phone bill for 18 months because she does not want to loose the text messages. I have not deleted dead friends numbers from my phone even though many are disconnected. And as I write all of this, I realize I am ready to move on.

I want to thank the Northwest Suburban Quilters Guild. They are one of the most caring, wonderful group of quilters I have ever encountered. They helped me renew my love of teaching. I cannot wait to see what the group creates. You have my deepest gratitude.

I want to close with my thoughts on the term one-size-fits-all when it comes to life, art. It plants the idea of "one way-ness," when for most things in life there are many, many ways to achieve, measure and value the things we do. My way might be a good fit for some people, but how can just one size really be considered a viable for all? Your thoughts?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Living, Grieving and Creating

"Hope After Sorrow"
We are going to suffer. 
Ant it is going to shape us
We will become bitter or better,
closed or open,
more ignorant or more aware,
more or less tuned in to the thousands of 
gifts we are surrounded with 
every single moment
of every single day. --Rob Bell

I have not posted for a long time and yet, I cannot remember a time when I have been more creative. The ideas just keep flowing out of me as if I am possessed. If you have read my blog, you know that in 2013, I had nine friends and my mother-in-law die. My dad died the following spring. The death of family and friends has continued. This year my friend of more than 20 years died unexpectedly and my cousin Sandy died from cancer. Sandy was convinced until the end that she could beat it. I suspect that Marti might have given up. I have inherited her UFOs and slowly finishing them and finding places to donate them. I do not think I will ever stop grieving, but I also know that if not now, when? 

And so I have given myself permission to explore whatever I my heart desires whether it is assemblage, printing, collage, quilting, etc. I continue to explore "why do we keep the things that we do?" My mother sent me my great aunt's nursing school apron from the late 1930s. I have been turning it into a piece of art. I have also been entering and getting into gallery shows and admit that every success is a surprise and also encouraging.  For months, I have been exploring eco dyeing and pretend I am a mad scientist. I have made more than 50 napkins because they are fun and my grandchildren adore them. I say, "I love you" often and with meaning. I hope you do too. I spend Fridays once a month creating with my friend, Barbara Wester, and feel truly blessed that she is in my life. Art heals. Art has saved me.  I thought I could walk away from this blog and just concentrate on creating, but alas, it is important to me even if no one reads it. 

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?