Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Advanced Style"

I recently listened to an interview on CBC radio with filmmaker Ari Seth Cohen. Originally a Montrealer, Cohen seeks out "women of a certain age", say 60 and older, who love to dress up. These ladies, many of whom worked in the fashion industry or as performing artists, embrace colour, pattern and chunky jewelry to express themselves and their joie de vivre. Their choices could be seen as positively disruptive, as the triumph of the human spirit and a refusal to become invisible, in a time when fashion is seen as the purview of the young.

Cohen's blog celebrates his subjects, mostly women, mostly New Yorkers, posting pictures of them in their natural habitat. He has published a book of their profiles and an "Advanced Style" colouring book, and has produced a film, essentially a compilation of interviews. (Prepare yourself to see a lot of leopard skin print.) Cohen was deeply influenced by his own grandmother, a woman of style.

I enjoy expressing my love of colour and texture with a sparkly red shoe or an interesting print scarf. While I'm not yet ready to cross over into "wacky" territory, I applaud these women and their enthusiastic flouting of convention.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hanging my work at home

Having participated in a record number of shows this year, I am now faced with the issue of how to store or display all this new work. I have resorted to hanging many new pieces on the walls at home. I'm quite pleased by how they work in the space, but I feel a little sheepish about the number on display. Why is that?

living room
I like grouping work together to make a bigger statement. I wonder if potential buyers ever think about how these pieces might work together as multiples.
upper hallway
upper hallway
entrance hall
guest room
guest room
I can see that it is easier to live with works with a quieter palette, like the blue-grey above.
guest room
But bright and bold has its place too.

upper hallway
When the pieces are small enough, even this mix of colour works well together.

"Walk in the Woods" series, 2008
Above are a couple from an earlier series that have graced our family room for several years, showing no effect from exposure to light. (I spray a UV protectant on all my finished work.)

Some experts in the marketing of art suggest that work be shown in a domestic or commercial setting to allow potential buyers to better visualize the piece in their own space. I will give some thought to following up on this idea.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Greetings

Maurice Cullen (1866-1934)
Lower Town, Quebec 1896

Happy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Come Sit with Me, Patrick Caulfield

Come Sit with Me, Patrick Caulfield, 16 x 16
Mid-December,  I made this piece to submit to Montreal's Beaux Arts des Ameriques gallery on rue St.-Denis. If my piece is accepted, I will post details of the upcoming show.

The call for entry, limited to the gallery's mailing list, set the theme as "Still Life: Re-worked" and required participants to pick up a 16 x 16 cradle board from the gallery, so all submissions would be identical in format.

The title? I have been told that my Cityscapes share some qualities with Patrick Caulfield's paintings. I had the good fortune to see a retrospective of this British painter at Tate Britain, summer 2013. Often his subjects were interiors and still lifes. He used a strong black line and solid, flat colour and there is a certain stillness to his work. Hence, the title.
Café Interior: Afternoon, Patrick Caulfield, 1973

I have used this image once before, in a 12 x 12 format. I enjoy working with patterned cotton when it suits the project.

To see more images of Caulfield's work, click here.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Neutral colour palettes

In response to a discussion about using neutral colours on my SAQA chat forum, I am posting images of some of my Cityscapes that use a neutral palette. The works range from low contrast...

Port Clyde #1
... to stronger contrast...

Quebec City, Old Town
to high contrast. A patterned batik was used for Open Window, Cēsis #1 to add texture to the wall of the building.

Open Window, Cēsis #1
At other times, I have used what I would call "warm and cool neutrals". Here, the warm neutrals have a touch of ochre, and the cool neutrals a touch of greyed-down blue.

Montmartre #1
The chroma is reduced further in Montmartre #2.

Montmartre #2
And for Montmartre #3 I have used the warm neutral on the sunlit portion of the buildings, and the cool neutral on the shaded side.

Montmartre #3
For Open Door, Riga #1, warm and cool neutrals, with stronger value contrast.
Open Door, Riga #1
Finally, a recent piece that uses neutrals as a background for higher-chroma colours.

Come Sit with Me, Patrick Caulfield

The subject of neutral colours is on my mind these days, because the next colour challenge for our 12 by the dozen group is "sand", which at least one member has labelled as "not a colour"!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A "quilt" made of milk crates? Hmmm...

As reported by Canadian Art:
Courtepointe (Quilt), by Philippe Allard and Justin Duchesneau
"For decades, Montreal students have used milk crates to furnish their apartments and studios.
"But, in the past few years, local artists Philippe Allard and Justin Duchesneau have brought that aesthetic into the big time with building-sized public installations of the colourful plastic cubes.
"[Recently,] Allard and Duchesneau’s creative use of this unexpected medium was recognized with the Prix Art Public at Montreal’s Gala des arts visuels, held at the historic Rialto Theatre.
"Specifically, Allard and Duchesneau were honoured for their installation Courtepointe (Quilt), which was installed at Montreal’s Darling Foundry in 2012. Since that time, the duo has created similar public installations in Baie-Saint-Paul and Charlottetown—as well as large-scale structures crafted out of shipping pallets, among other projects." 
Now, maybe there's an idea here for my sleepy little town of Hudson, Quebec. The 5000 residents of Hudson are somewhat demoralized by allegations of civic financial mismanagement and even fraud, which may go back many years. Maybe what this town needs is ...
... a quilt! A big plastic quilt! Making something as a collaborative project, involving as many citizens as possible, would express our solidarity. And we all know that quilts have been given as a gesture of comfort for many generations. Making it out of plastic ensures its durability for an outdoor installation. Can you picture something like this draped over Town Hall?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas postcards 2014


Every year I make about 30 machine-stitched Christmas cards. This year, I borrowed a stencil of tree silhouettes and used it with oil paintstick on grey hand-dyed cotton. Added crystals and stitched with metallic thread. 

I then subject these little guys to the mercies of Canada Post, without benefit of an envelope. As they make their way around the world, I hope they bring a little delight to those who handle them, and those who receive them.

Wishing you a magical Christmas!

To see postcards from previous years, please scroll down and choose your favourite....

metallic paint on ice-dyed cotton, with pearls
metallic paint on hand-painted cotton, with crystals
stamped and stencilled on painted cloth,
from an original photo
hot-fix pearls; lace, ribbon, photos and buttons,
 stitched onto commercial cotton

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Masterpieces of Canadian Impressionism

Skaters, St. Louis Gate, Quebec, 1965
Robert W. Pilot (1898-1967)

Last month, the Eric Klinkhoff Gallery mounted a retrospective loan exhibition, "Masterpieces of Canadian Impressionism." The paintings were borrowed from generous private and corporate collections. Artists included Frederick S. Coburn, Maurice Cullen, Clarence A. Gagnon, James Wilson Morrice, Robert W. Pilot and Marc-Aurèle Coté..

When the show closed, images of all 51 works were posted in their on-line gallery. To be transported to another time and place, have a look at these beauties.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

World of Threads: Textile References

The Last Supper, detail,  Carmelo Arnoldin
The recent World of Threads Festival showcased several interesting works that, though they were not made of fibre, referenced a fibre technique. The Last Supper, by Carmelo Arnoldin, is one such piece.

The Last Supper, Carmelo Arnoldin
Shown in The Studio of the Oakville Galleries, this work measures more than 20 feet wide. It is made entirely from discarded aluminum cans, which are cut into quarter-inch wide strips and then woven to "depict a spread of fast food fare readily associated with North American lifestyles."

The work "draws on traditions such as religious painting, Roman mosaics and Dutch vanitas -- and their enduring themes of devotion, desire and death -- to reflect on the state of vice and virtue in contemporary life."

Arnoldin has exhibited his work worldwide, and has been a professor in the Art and Art History program at Sheridan College in Oakville and the University of Toronto at Mississauga since 1987.

Grey and White Grid, Natasha Gouveia

Another work with not a trace of fibre or thread is this painting by Ontario artist Natasha Gouveia. (Except, of course, that it is painted on a stretched canvas.) It was part of The Red and the Black exhibit in the Gallery of the Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre, curated by Gareth Bate. The photo does not do justice to the subtlety and complexity of the work, which seems to have been created by using drywall tape as a stencil. Again, though not made of cloth, it references cloth because of its texture.

Grey and White Grid, detailNatasha Gouveia
The Studio Art Quilt Associates group has recently expanded its definition* of an art quilt to include works like this. Earlier this year an entire show, Radical Elements, was organized by SAQA and was comprised exclusively of work made of wood, metal, painted canvas and/or other non-fibre materials that suggested the materials and techniques usually associated with cloth.

I think that this blurring of boundaries is a positive development, asking both makers and viewers to question the nature of fibre art and its place in the contemporary art scene. It is also consistent with the approach taken by university-level Fine Arts programs, many of which now have entire departments devoted to "Fibre and Materials Practice".

* "The art quilt is a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.

"The word 'references' allows for a broader understanding of the art quilt, thus creating a potential for growth in SAQA membership in terms of numbers and diversity of artists. The revised definition allows for more 3D work and work in media other than fiber/textile/fabric/cloth; it allows for techniques and materials not found in traditional quilting. The revised definition allows for framed, unframed, bound, and unbound work, thereby welcoming growth and development of individual style."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

World of Threads: Recycled and Found Materials

The majority of art on display at this year's World of Threads Festival was made of recycled or found materials. The Festival was held in November in Oakville and Mississauga, featuring 255 artworks by 97 artists from all over the world. Here are some pieces that caught my eye.

When You Grow Up, Eszter Bornemisza
Such a treat to see three works by Hungarian artist Eszter Bornemisza, all in her signature colour palette. When You Grow Up  is made of hemp canvas, paint, newspaper overprinted with battle operation maps, torn, and gauze. It was screen-printed, fused and machine-quilted.

Interweave 32, yellow black, Lindy Fyfe
Toronto artist Lindy Fyfe had several very graphic works on display, made of recycled knit fabric on canvas over a wood stretcher.

Make, Shift, Joyce Watkins King
In a similarly bold style, Joyce Watkins King of Raleigh, North Carolina tied, cut, stretched and knotted hosiery on cradle board to produce striking abstract compositions.

Ian, Jim Arendt
Jim Arendt of South Carolina created a number of life-sized portraits using reclaimed denim, appliquéd. The shirt for Ian was constructed of snippets of pocket lining, shingled.

Dad and Mom, Jim Arendt

Layers of Time, Judy Martin and Community
Layers of Time is one of three similar, large quilts made by Ontario artist Judy Martin with the help of many hands. It is constructed of re-purposed wool blankets, re-purposed linen damask tablecloths, vintage lace, threads and beads. It is entirely hand-stitched and hand-quilted.

Precious Water, Judy Martin and Community
Another of the series, Precious Water uses reverse appliqué, embroidery, couching, and heat-activated shrinking to combine re-purposed linen damask tablecloths with other fibres. Pieced and quilted entirely by hand.
Rose Petal Shroud, Beverly Ayling-Smith
From the U.K., Beverly Ayling-Smith's large, stunning piece in black is composed of rose petals, hand- and machine-stitched.

To learn more about the World of Threads' artists, and to subscribe to weekly profiles of fibre artists from all over, please visit their website.