Thursday, May 31, 2012

NYC - Day 4

Began my day with a morning walk around the neighbourhood of my hotel, near the Lincoln Centre. Found some good fodder for urban landscapes.

Later found my way to the High Line linear park. Once an elevated train line, now repurposed into an urban park, it is complete with some of the original track, indigenous grasses and flowers, seating and lounging structures, birdhouse sculpture and water features for the children to run through. The owners and tenants of adjacent buildings have also got into the spirit of things with large murals and rooftop sculpture. The whole thing runs between 30th and 14th Streets, just west of 10th Avenue with another, final, stretch to be opened next week. It has been a great success, maintained largely by volunteers and filled with people of all ages.

It was fun taking photos of the buildings from the higher elevation.

I got off the High Line to visit the David Zwirner Gallery on West 19th Street. A show of seventeen paintings by Alice Neel runs until June 23. Alice Neel (1900-1984) is widely regarded as one of the greatest figurative painters of the twentieth century. She was based in New York City, and used the people around her as subjects for her portraits.  I like the strong use of line in her work, and the looseness of her painting. In most of her work, the background is very effectively broken up into flat shapes or made more interesting with gradations of colour.

It is quite amazing to see the vast spaces in these private galleries, and the squads of security and other staff. No admission is charged for shows and yet clearly it costs lots of money to operate these galleries on such expensive real estate. It gives you some idea of the money to be made from selling the "right stuff" to the "right people".

NYC - Day 3

On Tuesday I visited a show at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison. Last year at this time I saw the show "Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L'Amour fou" at Gagosian's Chelsea showroom, and this year it's "Picasso and Françoise Gilot: Paris-Vallauris, 1943-1953." And what a great show it is, very nicely hung in a bright and spacious venue.
Maternité, by Pablo Picasso
Gilot was only 21 when she met Picasso, forty years her senior. Together they had two children. Gilot was an artist in her own right when they met. Now, at 90, she is still actively painting and living in New York. Her work is shown side-by-side with Picasso's. Often their subjects were the same: the children, domestic life. One wall of his lithographs was particularly fascinating to me, because we had been talking about the idea of a series in my on-line class. These dozen prints, all portraits of Françoise, were each made several days or weeks apart, from the same printing plate. Only the distribution of the ink is changed, and yet the effect is markedly different.

From there I went to the Jewish Museum, to take in a show on Vuillard. I felt that the paintings on display did not represent the best of Vuillard's work, though the show was interesting enough from the point of view of his relationships with dealers and patrons.

Finally, I visited The City Quilter, a quilting store and art quilt gallery on West 25th Street. Featured until June 23 is the work of Lenore Crawford. Two images of her work are shown below. About sixteen of her pieces are on display, ranging in price from about $1500 to $2500. They measured two to three feet in either dimension. Technically, they are fused, raw-edge appliqué, using commercial fabrics, heavy machine quilting, and a minimal amount of paint to enhance shading. Her sense of composition and colour makes her work very special.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

NYC - Days 1 & 2

Having a fine old time in NYC on my Art Immersion Getaway. Here are some photos that may find their way into some of my imagery, the first taken from a window at the National Academy Museum, where I saw a great exhibit titled "Women's Work" that included galleries on three floors devoted to works by women from the 19th to 21st centuries.

Mary Cassatt had a room full of drypoint prints, May Stevens and Colleen Browning each filled a gallery with their paintings, and another room showcased work by women sculptors. There was even a work in fibre. Polly Apfelbaum's piece, The Fandancer, 1995, consisted of long strips of dyed synthetic velvet, draped on a large metal hanger, displayed like something just back from the dry cleaner's. A great idea for presentation, I think.

Also on Day One I visited the Neue Gallery, celebrating the 150th birthday of Gustav Klimt. I saw another Klimt exhibit there a few years ago that was even more impressive. Perhaps there are other Klimt shows worldwide this year and for that reason there were fewer pieces available for this particular location. Here's a street scene from my walk back to the hotel, along Madison Avenue.

On Day Two I visited two wonderful shows at the Metropolitan Museum. "The Steins Collect" featured over 200 works collected by Gertrude Stein and her two brothers, Leo and Michael, mostly by Matisse and Picasso, during the early decades of the 20th century. Other paintings included those by Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne and Renoir. The role of the Steins' salon, held every Saturday evening in their Parisian apartment, was also highlighted, and it was noted how this promotion and cross-pollenation of artists and writers advanced the contemporary art scene.

I also enjoyed the show "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations". One of the themes of the show is how Schiaparelli drew attention to a woman's upper half with beautifully worked jackets, shoulder detail, and surrealist hats. She explained that in her time, a woman socialized mostly at the table, and it was important that she have a commanding presence even when seated. Prada designs for the lower half where, she says, "all the interesting things happen". She feels that the upper half is about decoration and "pleasing". It's "too easy"and anyways, "Who would want all that fussiness near one's face?" Many of her elaborately detailed skirts were on display. The show was organized around a film of an imaginary conversation between the two designers, with an actress standing in for Schiaparelli, as they discussed not only fashion but femininity, power, and the impact of their times on their work.

Wallis Simpson wears Schiaparelli, 1937

Prada, 2005

Later I visited the Cloisters, in Tryon Park, where the Met displays its medieval art collection, including an iconic unicorn tapestry.  Here are some architectural photos from that visit that may find their way into my work.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Soulplay, at the Arbor Gallery, Vankleek Hill

"The Pond", by Sharon Collins

Yesterday I was fortunate to make a visit to Vankleek Hill, to see the Soulplay show at the Arbor Gallery. Until July 1, six fibre artists will be exhibiting perhaps two dozen beautiful works, most of which use an aspect of nature as their subject. The participants are Barbara Carroll, Sharon Collins, Ann Dunlap, Carolyn Gibbs, Molly Hartin and jo-ann zorzi. For more information about the group, go to

The Arbor Gallery is located on Home Avenue, which is also the site of this impressive mural. Painted on inexpensive sheets of plywood, the imagery creates a trompe l'oeil effect of old-fashioned storefronts and upper-floor residences. 

Also on Home Avenue was this example of Queen Anne architecture, something quite characteristic of small-town Ontario, but rarely seen in Quebec.

Our visit to Vankleek Hill ended with lunch at Mary's Fine Foods, 117 Main Street East, a delightful find.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CQQ show, May 24 - 27

This week, I was delighted to serve as a judge at the CQQ Salon 2012. I had about 70 quilts to judge, in four categories, and 12 ribbons to award. I collaborated with the two other judges, Lily Lam and Sheila Wintle, to decide on Best of Show. Lily and Sheila were very generous, sharing their approaches to the task at hand.

Newsflash: I have a new-found respect for quilt judges!

I was definitely influenced by my many years of writing reports for elementary school children, giving rather few C's. Anything "needing improvement" is supposed to get a C, but I preferred to give a B, "satisfactory", with a prescriptive comment. Why discourage someone whose best work may lie ahead of them?

My comments were usually tentative: "perhaps you should consider...", "I think that...", etc. Now I wonder if this phrasing will undermine the authority of my opinion. "What does she know anyway? She doesn't seem very sure of herself."

Another issue is the item on the score sheet about the appearance of the back of the quilt. I had to ask myself, in the case of a wallhanging, does the back of the quilt really matter? I decided it would have to be a really big mess to qualify as a problem. A buyer might question the quality of overall workmanship if the back of the work showed a lack of care, but otherwise, really.... Next time I might just X out that item on the score sheet.

The big question for me was "What distinguishes the Art Quilt category from the Small Wallhanging category?" I judged the first group on Day 1, the second on Day 2. The organizers didn't have a definitive answer. I decided that the essential thing about an art quilt is that it has to be original work, whereas small wallhangings could include pieces made from patterns or even pre-printed panels. True, all work was to be graded on originality, but I weighted that factor less in the small wallhanging category. I didn't downgrade anyone for using a pattern, and I placed more weight on the traditional criteria: does it hang straight, is the stitching even, does the quilting design complement the work, etc. Then again, doesn't the quiltmaker who takes a bigger risk in the design, technique or colour deserve special consideration?

One of the highlights of the experience was being able to designate a Judge's Choice, Julie Poirier's "Allium", a very graphic black-and-white image made with a cut-away technique and some closely-spaced horizontal quilting lines. Congratulations on your striking and innovative work, Julie!

The show is definitely worth a visit, with much beautiful work to see, including many that didn't qualify for a ribbon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New show at the Hudson Medi-Centre

Denise Paquette has five paintings, three of them new, hanging in the revolving gallery at the Medi-Centre, until July 15. This single wall in the waiting room is used to display the work of local artists, and is a delight to staff and visitors alike. Thank you Denise!  If you would like to have your work displayed in this venue, at 465 Main Road, please contact me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Show at Baie d'Urfé Library

On Saturday, I hung eight recent pieces at the Baie d'Urfé Library, 20551 Lakeshore Road. There is a great deal of wall space available, and the library welcomes enquiries by local artists who wish to exhibit their work. The show continues until June 9 (closed on the holiday weekend). For hours, please go to

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Des Choses Suspendues

On Friday we visited a show presented by Diagonale, "Des Choses Suspendues", at the Maison de la Culture de Côte-des-Neiges. The piece above was made of sewing thread and graphite, by Hannah Claus. The fine threads did not reach to the floor, and were attached to a wire grid above.

The large works were varied, ranging from video to photography to a dress made of salvaged gloves, and were all related to fibre in some way. An interesting presentation, continuing until June 3.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On-line class

In January I participated in an on-line class with Elizabeth Barton, offered by, called "Inspired to Design". Elizabeth is a great teacher, and the format allows for lots of feedback from her and from the other class participants, from all over the world. We get to post to a discussion board and also to individual galleries. Though I had already started to use my photos of cities as a basis for fibre pieces, this class showed me a way to use value studies to improve the design, and to introduce coloured and patterned fabric into the compositions.

I am now enrolled in another of her on-line courses, "Working in a Series". For me, it's about focusing, "finding my voice", and creating a consistent body of work. I have encouraged a few friends to sign up too, which will be fun. Of course if you want to optimize the experience, you have to do the assignments, and the first week is quite demanding. Mostly, we are looking for themes in content or form in our past work and in the art we are most drawn to.

 "Bento Box"
"Amanda's Quilt"

One of the common threads I see in my work is the "Square in a Square" motif. Above are two examples, both from 2006. Interesting to see how this form evolves. Below are a couple of examples from 2011. The first measures 8" square, the second 90" square!


"It's All That"

I think that the Cityscapes pieces are related to these square-in-a-square motifs, and it will be interesting to explore that relationship and its possibilities over the next few weeks. What's next?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

New Piece in Cityscapes Series

Beginning with a photo taken in Old Montreal,

the image was translated into a line drawing

and then into black stitches on hand-dyed grey cotton. I used permanent ink to add in the blocks of dark grey.

I think this image might work well as a larger piece, and I would like to introduce large blocks of colour too. Meanwhile, this will serve as another 12 x 12 cityscape to include in an upcoming solo show at the Baie d'Urfé Library, opening May 13.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Regional directory of artists

Christian Gonzalez has begun a blog that serves as a directory of artists in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges area, and I am delighted to be included in such good company. You can read my profile and those of many  others by visiting

If you're an artist from the Vaudreuil-Soulanges area who would like to be listed, please contact Christian at