Sunday, April 28, 2013

I've been coached!

While attending the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) conference in Santa Fe this week, I had the privilege of a coaching session with Leni Levinson Wiener. Leni is an accomplished fibre artist, with a background as a professional photographer and as a sculptor.  Based in New York, Leni uses her camera to capture the figure, alone and in groups. Her images hint at a story or situation, often because of the suggestion of body language and gesture.
Leni Wiener, In Her Footsteps

Leni offers "Voice Coaching", helping artists to discover a personal style or point of view. Having a consistent thread in your work is important if you wish to sell your work through a gallery,  to teach workshops, or to publish a book. It's what allows the viewer to recognize your work as yours before they've read the signature.

Leni Wiener, Three Graces on a Blue Monday
I was able to sit in on Leni's coaching of three other quilt artists before my interview with her. One of the things I learned as Leni talked about her own work was the importance of eliminating the parts of your process that you don't enjoy. Leni doesn't like to use batting: she stopped using it. She wasn't enjoying the functional quilting required to hold larger pieces of her fabric collage to the base: she decided to work smaller. She couldn't abide putting bindings on her work: now she turns the edge over, sews it with a running stitch, and then stitches the piece to a stretched canvas. She enjoys making the figure, but found making the background tiresome: she has simplified her backgrounds.

Leni Wiener, Out in the Cold

The key is to examine your process and decide what you enjoy doing and what you'd rather not do. When you focus on your strengths, your work becomes stronger.

So often I've been told that sketching is a requirement to making art. Leni uses a camera instead of a sketchbook, so now I am reassured that I can dispense with the sketchbook too.

Leni Wiener, The Man in the Black Track Suit
Leni admitted that she is very drawn to abstract art, but that complete abstraction is just not in her personal repertoire. I was encouraged by that too.

Being in Santa Fe, visiting dozens of galleries, and seeing all this amazing art is a bit overwhelming. I was completely smitten by some abstract paintings, by the surface textures achieved by paint and encaustic. Maybe I'll be able to incorporate that into my art, but maybe not. You can't be all things to all people.

Leni Wiener, The Empty Chair

I would highly recommend Leni's coaching, which she also offers online. It was fascinating to witness how she was able to look at what seemed to be a disparate body of work and find the common thread, to tease out in an interview with the artist the essence of what they wanted to do.

And something I learned in another workshop: the importance in investing in yourself and your art.

Friday, April 26, 2013

New Mexico: Unfolding

Holly Hughes, Buffalo,
cloth, magnetic tape, film, paintbrushes, wire

Began Wednesday with a visit to the State Capitol Building here in Santa Fe. It's a circular floor plan, with a labyrinthine system of hallways. These passages are lined with a wonderful collection of art, some 400 pieces in various media, all with something to say about New Mexico. I love to see government investing in cultural life.

In the same building is a large gallery, where SAQA has staged a show of fibre art, "New Mexico: Unfolding", April 12 - August 16. Here are photos of some of the fifty-two art quilts.

Julie R. Filatoff, Local Color: New Mexico

On the right is Julie R. Filatoff's "Local Color: New Mexico", "an abstract representation of the myriad colours of the Land of Enchantment."

Rod Daniel, Pauline's Ford

The subject of Rod Daniel's "Pauline's Ford" was "found sitting along the side of the road on Route 66."

Katie Pasquini Masopust, Stones
Katie Pasquini Masopust, Stones (detail)

Pasquini Masopust wrote about her work: "I created three acrylic paintings to represent rocks and stones I see on walks in my arroyo. Then I cut up these paintings to create a composition, made a quilt to look like the painting, and inserted two of the paintings into the quilt."

Susan Szajer, Spirit Markings

Susan Szajer added this note to the program:
"When the pow-wow is over, the feathers hang silent, but the spirits remain forever present. Cotton painted with acrylics by the artist, feathers painted and stitched, machine-pieced and quilted".

Cheryl FitzGerald, Architectural Impressions: New Mexico

Lastly, Cheryl FitzGerald noted of her piece, "A fabric interpretation of a montage of five of my photographs...."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Museum of International Folk Art


If you are ever lucky enough to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Museum of International Folk Art is a must-see. The permanent collection is a dazzling display of dolls and dollhouses, puppets and puppet theatres, embroidered samplers, silver talismans, carved masks and intricate models of vehicles and villages, with pieces collected from all over the world.

Until September 2, 2013, you can catch a fine exhibit, "Plain Geometry: Amish Quilts" which explains the evolution of Amish quilting and its regional variations. Several dozen beautiful examples are on display in a well-lit and spacious gallery. I've met any number of quilt aficionados who have told me that seeing the rich colours and spare designs of Amish quilts was what first inspired them to consider quilts as art.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Petition for cultural centre in Hudson

Lynda Clouette Mackay of the Hudson Music Festival has initiated a petition to the Town of Hudson to use the old fire station as a cultural centre. The petition, which already has more than 250 signatures, may be found here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Quiet Zone, World of Threads

In November, Michele and I visited the World of Threads festival in Toronto and Oakville. Here are sixty images from one of our favourite shows, titled Quiet Zone, and staged in Oakville at the Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre.

The show was curated by Dawne Rudman. While reviewing submissions for the Common Thread International, she noticed that many of the more contemplative works had employed a neutral colour scheme. She decided to make these "elegant, alluring and strong" pieces the focus of a whole exhibition.

To view the show, click here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My studio

When I taught at Kingston three weeks ago, I was asked to describe my studio. "Perhaps this would make an interesting blog post", I thought to myself.

Two or three years ago. when my younger daughter moved out, I had the wall between the two girls' bedrooms knocked down to make myself a new studio. I had been working in a small downstairs bedroom, and this was a chance to double my space, increase the natural light, and add a wet work station. The total floor space measures 25' x 11".

I went to work with graph paper and an Ikea catalog, and carefully planned things out. Here you can see what is immediately to the right of the door when entering. The cutting table is made by Horn of America. My fabrics are all folded and sorted in rattan baskets from Ikea, protected from sunlight and dust. I used the measurements of the baskets when ordering the custom-built storage unit to hold them. The labels read, "Hand-dyes, Red and Purple", for example. Notice the cardboard window frame on the pegboard for my 12"x12" challenge pieces for 12bythedozen.

Moving around the room counter-clockwise, more furniture from Horn, and my trusty Bernina 150 sewing machine, now more than 10 years old. On the walls are bits of inspiration and personal momentos. The storage unit under the table is separate, and holds mostly thread. In the bottom drawer are all kinds of odds and ends, like metal washers, zippers and copper mesh.

Everything described to this point was in my old studio, fitted out maybe eight years ago.

Immediately to the left of the door is a storage unit from Ikea, filled with books and magazines. Inside the storage boxes are collage materials clipped from magazines and old books, or ordered from Etsy. Ribbons and fancy yarns are wrapped around cardboard tubes.

I love the vintage suitcases above, and I use them to transport papers to collage workshops. I intend to collage the suitcases themselves one day to make them really special.

What I never figured on when I made the floor plan was how useful the little nooks and corners would be for storage. To the left of the unit are bolts of pfd cotton, and on the right is a massive roll of batting. Aprons hang on the back of the door.

This wall juts out a bit to accommodate the bathroom sinks on the other side. I took the practical route and located the sink back-to-back with the bathroom plumbing. The sink counter and the metal storage shelves beside it were found at Ikea. My portfolio of drawings slides underneath the shelving, and in the cupboards under the sink are two big bins filled with dye equipment.

The poster on the wall is from the recent Women's Art Society of Montreal show.  An image of my work was used by Ogilvy's to promote the show.

The laminate flooring was found at a bargain price, and suits the purpose nicely.

I have a wide board for ironing that doubles as a work table. It's supported by storage units from Reno Depot that hold specialty items like foil and heat guns. I wanted to maximize the usefulness of the ironing space to include storage. Under the ironing board are pillow forms and frames.

A few years ago I scavenged some old picture frames and painted them white. I'm not quite ready to let them go.

The design wall is made of foam insulation boards mounted to the wall and covered with batting. I can pin heavier items up there, but most often bits of fabric adhere without pinning.

In between two windows overlooking the lake is another table from Ikea, with a rolling storage unit underneath. On top of the table are a radio / CD player, a printer, a phone and my laptop. CD's are stored in the wall unit. Jars hold bits of lace and angelina fibre, and large flat storage boxes are filled with tissue paper. A calendar is positioned on the cork board, as well as multiple "to do" lists, a dye colour chart, and my quilted Curlylocks avatar.

Would I do anything differently if I were to design the studio again? I definitely went overboard on the task lighting. Mostly I just use the full-spectrum fluorescent fixtures overhead.

Much of the material in my studio is stuff I am not currently using in my work, but I don't see the need to toss it because I just might need it some day :-) I am so grateful to have this bright and functional work area!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Five reasons to visit NYC soon...

This is why my subscription to the New Yorker is so expensive.

1. "Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art until August 4.
El Anatsui (Ghanaian, b. 1944). Earth’s Skin, 2007. Aluminum and copper wire, 177 x 394 in

The first solo exhibition in a New York museum by the globally renowned contemporary artist El Anatsui, this show will feature over 30 works in metal and wood that transform appropriated objects into site-specific sculptures. Anatsui converts found materials into a new type of media that lies between sculpture and painting, combining aesthetic traditions from his birth country, Ghana; his home in Nsukka, Nigeria; and the global history of abstraction.

2. "John Singer Sargent Watercolors" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art until July 28.
John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925). (left) Simplon Pass: Reading, circa 1911. Opaque and translucent watercolor and wax resist with graphite underdrawing, 20 1/16 x 14 1/16 in.  (right) Bedouins, circa 1905–6. Opaque and translucent watercolor, 18 x 12 in. 
The ninety-three pieces on display provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to view a broad range of the artist’s finest production in the medium.

3. "'Workt by Hand'": Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts at the Brooklyn Museum of Art until September 15.
Mary A. Stinson (American). Crazy Quilt, circa 1880. Silk, 81¼ x 81⅝ in.

...showcases approximately thirty-five American and European quilt masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned decorative arts collection. The exhibition examines the impact of feminist scholarship on the ways historical quilts have been and are currently viewed, contextualized, and interpreted. 

4. Hopper Drawing at the Whitney Museum, May 23 to October 6.
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper; 11 1/8 × 15 in. 
Hopper Drawing is the first major museum exhibition to focus on the drawings and creative process of Edward Hopper (1882—1967). More than anything else, Hopper’s drawings reveal the continually evolving relationship between observation and invention in the artist’s work, and his abiding interest in the spaces and motifs—the street, the movie theatre, the office, the bedroom, the road—that he would return to throughout his career as an artist. This exhibition showcases the Whitney’s unparalleled collection of Hopper’s work, which includes over 2,500 drawings bequeathed to the museum by his widow Josephine Hopper, many of which have never before been exhibited or researched. The exhibition will survey Hopper’s significant and underappreciated achievements as a draftsman, and will pair many of his greatest oil paintings, including Early Sunday Morning (1930), New York Movie (1939), Office at Night (1940) andNighthawks (1942), with their preparatory drawings and related works. This exhibition also features groundbreaking archival research into the buildings, spaces and urban environments that inspired his work.

5. "As It Were...So to Speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom", The Jewish Museum until August 4.

Here's some of what the New Yorker had to say:
Scent, in the Jewish tradition, is a gateway to the soul. In this beautiful exhibition, a selection of spice containers stand in for the historical figures (including Marilyn Monroe and Vladimir Nabokov) who had the gift of synethesia. They are just a few of the two hundred and sixty-seven domestic objects chosen by the whip-smart New York conceptualist from the museum's vast collection.... Inspired by scholars' commentaries on the Talmud - conversations across generations - Bloom uses the objects to reflect on eclectic subjects in essays displayed in the form of open books. Marriage contracts lead to musings on the Song of Songs as it relates to the lyrics of Leonard Cohen.... By looking at the overlooked - privileging the personal and anecdotal over the public and official - Bloom does more than search for lost time; she makes us feel as if we've found it along with her.

What makes it tricky is that no sooner have some of these fine shows closed than MOMA opens with "American Modern: Hopper to O'Keefe", August 17 - January 26. Decisions, decisions....

Edward Hopper. House by the Railroad. 1925. Oil on canvas, 24 x 29" 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hudson Artists Spring Show

Boathouses #6, 12" x 12"
I am pleased to be showing recent work from my Cityscapes series at the spring show of the Hudson Artists, to be held at the Stephen J. Shaar Community Centre, 394 Main Road in Hudson.

The show opens with a vernissage on the evening of Friday, April 19, 7:30 - 9:30. It continues Saturday and Sunday, 10 - 5.

Almost 200 pieces in various media will be on display, with 33 artists represented. Greeting cards and unframed work will also be available, with a painting to be raffled off to benefit NOVA. Refreshments will be served.

On Saturday afternoon from 1 - 3, AHA member Sue Rhodes will give a demo of her scratchboard technique.

Boathouses #1, 12" x 12"

If you can't make it to the show, there will be a selection of work from the AHA executive on display in the lobby of the community centre for the month of April.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Piste cyclable en oeuvre

Villaggio Toscano, 12" x 24"
Will you be one of the 100,000 visitors to the Soulanges canal bike path this summer? If so, I hope you will keep an eye out for the banners overhead, each celebrating the work of a regional artist or artisan.

I am happy to have been chosen as one of 54 artist-participants in the second edition of the Piste cyclable en oeuvres  project. The piece I have made for the project is shown at right. It's based on one of my photos of Tuscany, and has been translated into hand-dyed and commercial cloth and stitch.

The bike path runs about 27 km between Pointe-des-Cascades and St.-Zotique. Each kilometre will be marked by a lamp post with two six-foot-tall banners, back-to-back. These vinyl banners will have been printed with photos of original works of art by artists of the region. The banners are expected to be on display for the next four years.

The actual works will be shown this summer at Galerie Autour de nous, 4B rue principale, Coteau-du-Lac., beginning with a vernissage on Friday, May 3,  All the pieces will be for sale, and they will all have banner-like proportions, twice as tall as they are wide. The show ends August 28.

A creative way of promoting the work of local artists, this imaginative project adds another dimension to the experience of biking the canal path. Thank you to all the organizers and sponsors.