Sunday, June 29, 2014

Through Our Hands: what a find!

This British-based website is the product of a collaboration by twenty of the world's top-tier quilt artists, including many of my favourites: Elizabeth Barton, Deidre Adams, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs, Linda Colsh and Jette Clover.

What will you find here? Stunning images of their work. A free quarterly magazine to download. News of recent and upcoming shows, both individual and group, worldwide. Reviews of their shows. Information about books written by these talented individuals. Books, notecards and small works for sale. Videos of the process behind various works, of guided tours of shows, and of interviews.

Download the free quarterly magazine.
You may also subscribe to their e-newsletter.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Talking about my work

Thank you to Gabriel Landriault of the Arbor Gallery, who gave me this opportunity to talk about my work after the hanging of the Cityscapes show.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Photos from Cityscapes opening

A sunny day brought about 25 visitors to the Meet the Artist event at my current show. The cityscapes showed well in the historic house, with its white walls and gallery lighting.

Thank you to Gabriel Landriault, Director of Communications for the Arbor Gallery, for these photos from yesterday's opening. And, to those who dropped in, thank you for your interest and your support.
Shanna Steals, curator of the show, poses with me for Felicia,
reporter for the local newspaper, The Review. 
I'm looking forward to attending Michele Meredith's solo show in Rigaud later this summer.
A chat with a staff member of the gallery who formerly worked
 in the New York neighbourhood of 57th and 5th.

Having a word with Tim and Franki Elliott.
Tim recently closed his successful solo show of fine paintings at the Skelly Gallery.

The Montmartre cityscapes get their share of attention from Tim Elliott, Rosie Mayo, Betty Marok...
...Judy Jenne, and an Ottawa-area fan of 12 by the dozen.

Cityscapes: Collages in Cloth and Stitch, runs until August 17 at the Arbor Gallery in Vankleek Hill, ON. Hours are Wednesdays, noon to 1 p.m., and Thursdays to Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Must fibre artists be outliers?

One of the associations I belong to is, at heart, a group of plein air painters. I joined the Hudson Artists because they are a local community group and offer exhibition opportunities, but I often feel like an outsider within the group, especially when they are packing up their easels and paints and heading off to an outdoor retreat.

Likewise when I visit galleries in Montreal. So many of them feature work that is conceptual or installation or video. Having my work accepted in these galleries seems like an impossible dream.

I ask myself, "Why do you persist with this medium? Isn't it obvious that there is no serious audience for work in fibre?"
Segment of Bayeux Tapestry, c. 1070
And then I read something like the current blog item from Elizabeth Barton. On June 10 her post, titled "Stitched Histories: A Memory of the World", opened with a reference to the Bayeux Tapestry, which is listed as one of UNESCO's 250 "Memories of the World", along with the Gutenberg Bible and the Magna Carta. As Barton writes, "...the scope for decoration, art and story telling has always been a strong part of the craft of making marvellous tapestries, weavings and embroideries."
One of William Morris' many designs for textiles and wallpaper, c. 1880
She refers to champions of textile art, like William Morris, and to feminist artists like Judy Chicago, who used needlework to make a powerful statement in The Dinner Party, which I saw in Montreal in 1982 and, more recently, in its permanent installation at the Brooklyn Museum.
"The Dinner Party", detail, by Judy Chicago, 1974 - 79
A profile on of ten contemporary artists who work in embroidery celebrates their use of hand and machine stitching. Reading about them and seeing how they express their ideas with innovative combinations of embroidery with paint and photography, plastic and paper, encourages me to see fibre as a viable medium.

To quote Elizabeth Barton, "It is the extraordinarily tactile element of fibre art that appeals so much, I think.  Free flowing stitches (whether created by hand or machine) and the sewn edges of fabric shapes (whether appliqu├ęd or pieced) reveal the personal gestures of the artist in the same way that drawings do."

Barton quotes reviewer and critic Ciara Connolly, who asks, "What is the point of a [fibre work] that looks like a painting?” and who concludes that it "is the very looseness, the wabi-sabe, the mark of the hand, that is so evident in much fibre that differentiates it from painting – and makes it so effective because we can almost see the artist at work."

Connolly, in turn, quotes French poet Edmond Jabes. “I dreamed of a work which would not enter into any category, fit any genre, but contain them all; a work hard to define, but defining itself precisely by this lack of definition, a work which would not answer to any name but had donned them all”.

I am inspired by this vision of what textile art has been, and what it can yet be. I am encouraged that Montreal's Concordia University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in "Fibres and Material Practices". And I am more than ever convinced that groups like SAQA, which work towards placing fibre in art venues worldwide, deserve my support.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Belgo Building

On Saturday, the Canadian Art Foundation hosted its first-ever Montreal Art Hop. A similar, annual event has been held in Toronto for many years by the Foundation, which also publishes Canadian Art magazine.

I took advantage of the Hop to follow a guided tour of six galleries in the Belgo Building, 372 Ste.-Catherine Street West. Built in 1912 to house a department store, the six-floor building has gone through several incarnations, including as a centre of showrooms and offices for the rag trade. Currently, it is known as one of the largest concentrations of contemporary art galleries in Canada. Almost forty galleries can now be found in the Belgo Building, some private, some government-supported, some no-commission, and some artist-run. It even has its own weekly bulletin.

Part of the fun of visiting the Belgo Building is stumbling upon something unexpected, and that's how I felt about the work of Sarah Bertrand-Hamel at the Joyce Yahouda Gallery, a great "find" which wasn't even on the tour.

Bertrand-Hamel is currently finishing a Master of Fine Arts at Concordia University in Fibres and Material Practices. The guide to the show reads, "The artworks ... consist of handmade paper created by Sarah Bertrand-Hamel through which the artist manipulates fibres, colours, textures and translucency. Stitches, folds or wrinkles become lines, letting drawings ... appear. Inspired by Gee's Bend women's contemporary quilts, Greco-Roman mosaics and medieval stained glass, the paper artworks are engaged with architecture.... An important aspect of her practice is fragmentation. The fabric scraps, the stone tesserae, and the coloured glass bits are here replaced by paper pieces. Whether it is with her pencil or sewing machine, Sarah Bertrand-Hamel draws. Fascinated by impermanence and singularity, the artist creates images that she repeats and reinterprets, fragments and recomposes. She is interested in transitions and shifts between these images."

The three works on view were made of small pieces of paper, stitched together by machine, with threads left untrimmed. They were stretched taut inside a framework of raw wood.

The Belgo Building seems to be the kind of place that rewards the casual visitor with many such interesting finds, and I plan to go back again soon.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Solo show opens mid-June, Arbor Gallery

So excited to announce that my solo show, "Cityscapes: Collages in Cloth and Stitch" will open soon at the Arbor Gallery in Vankleek Hill, ON. For two months, more than two dozen of my urban landscapes will be on display, including some of my most recent work.

For more information, and for a sneak preview of the show, please visit the gallery website at

Friday, June 13, 2014

Montreal Art Hop tomorrow

Art. Talk. Tours. June 14. All day.

Neighbourhoods include the Belgo Building, Saint-Henri, Griffintown, Old Montreal and Mile End.
For more information, please visit their website.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A girl can dream...

One special stop on my travels in Maine last week was the Haystack, as it is known, a summer art retreat on Deer Isle. One- and two-week sessions are available in ceramics, glass, papermaking, fibre, wood, etc.

Tours are available at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. Unfortunately I was there on a Thursday. Visitors are usually limited to a very small part of the campus, so as not to disturb the artists, and I respected those boundaries, but still managed to get some photos that allowed me to get a sense of the place.
A footpath bordered by lichens and mosses
A dirt road through the woods brings you to the campus. The views of the forest are magical. It almost appeared as though the lichens had been painted onto the rocks by the artists.

The grounds are bisected by an impressive stairway leading down
to a platform overlooking the sea.
This is the view from the platform.
Stretching in both directions from the stairway are decks, leading to individual studios.
The pottery studio, facing the ocean.
The pottery studio, back end. It appeared to have just been hosed down,
perhaps indicating the end of a session.
An assembly room with display walls
The dining hall. At noon a bell rings to summon everyone for lunch.
Note the roaring fire surrounded with comfy seating.
Applications are reviewed and participants are selected to ensure a wide range of ages, experience and backgrounds. Scholarships, work/study positions and technical assistant positions are available.

Please visit their website for more information. Here's a two-minute video from Youtube for a little inspiration.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

An art holiday in Maine

"Telephone Booths" by Richard Estes (1968)
Typical of Estes' photorealistic paintings, this work shows a street scene in New York City.
The viewer is challenged to distinguish the reflections from the reflected.

I spent last week driving the coast of Maine, from Portland to Bar Harbor. Some of the pleasures of the holiday included looking at the Richard Estes photorealism exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art, visiting the Farnsworth Museum with its wonderful collection of paintings by the Wyeths, taking the ferry to Monhegan Island (pop. 75), which has served as an art colony for well over one hundred years, and enjoying way too many "lobstah" rolls. The small towns like Camden and Wiscasset are rich with galleries, showing high-quality paintings and fine crafts.

Are you familiar with the concept of "First Friday"? On the first Friday of every (summer?) month, art galleries open their doors for the evening, and offer visitors music, refreshments and sometimes opportunities to meet the artists. This event happens in many cities in Maine, New York and Vermont. It makes for a nice feeling of community and a festive atmosphere. Maps are printed with participating galleries and shops, and flags are hung by those enterprises involved. In Bar Harbor, the library and the YWCA were also participants in the Art Walk.

Some of my time was spent "casting my net" for some great images to use in my work.  Here is a sampling of my catch.

An alley in Boothbay Harbor. Notice the door to nowhere on the second storey.
Port Clyde. Love the web of wires overhead. The town reminded me of the fictional
Port Wenn, in the Doc Martin series, in part because of the friendly characters.
The museum beside the Monhegan lighthouse.  Great roof lines, plus a boat!
The museum covers the history of Monhegan and features paintings by famous artist
residents and visitors. Opens June 24.
Typical cottage on Monhegan. Coastal homes often have few trees planted nearby, 
allowing the viewer to fully appreciate their lines.
Just might get to use some of these images in my work in the months to come.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Water Tower #7

Ah yes, nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. One last piece for my upcoming show at the Arbor Gallery, Vankleek Hill, June 18 - August 16.

Water Tower #7, 24" x 24"
It was a joy to work with these vibrant colours. The blue-tinted violet of the sky looks almost cool compared to the fiery warmth of the oranges, hot pinks and delicious reds, all hand-dyed.

I've used this image before, but never cropped as a square. The colour palette was inspired by the idea of the setting sun reflected on these buildings in lower Manhattan.

Sometimes, turning the piece around can help me assess the composition. Squinting helps.

Here's the original photo, taken from the High Line linear park in lower Manhattan.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Water Tower #6: Yellow Challenge

Water Tower #6

For our fifth colour challenge, the 12 by the dozen group has made small art quilts (8.5" x 11" or A4 size) using a mango yellow colour suggested by Michele.

At right is the inspiration photo, a bowlful of yellow beets.

And below is the image on which I based my piece, a photo I took somewhere in New York City. I used the lines and shapes of the photo, and chose a palette of hand-dyes and commercial cottons to bring it to life. The iconic water tower was made the focal point because of its position, its contrast of shape (cylindrical vs. rectangular) and colour (orchid pink vs. yellow), and by the contrast of dark and light used to delineate its surfaces.

I created this in mid-March, when we in Montreal were still in the grip of an interminable winter, and were desperate for a blast of sunshine.

To see the sunny results of the challenge, which were revealed yesterday, please go to the group's website.