Cat’s out of the bag, finally!

So in addition to getting new work ready for my new solo exhibition, opening tonight at the Crary Gallery in Warren, PA, I have also been working on a top secret project.

I live near Chautauqua Institution, and each year they commission a local artist to make a unique art object in response to a book which has been awarded the Chautauqua Prize. This year I was chosen to create something in response to the winning book, The Fact of a Body. If you haven’t read it I think it’s a must read.

I don’t want to give away the whole book, but it involves two stories, a murder and a memoir, which overlap and diverge. Along the way the reader has time to consider their own opinions about some very deep difficult issues, among them, the death penalty. For me though the overwhelming theme is the individual humanity and the unique narrative of each person touched by the story(s).
The structure of the narrative in the book immediately suggested a flag book. The overlapping elements of the narrative in the book seemed ideally suited to the interleaved flags of this book structure. As regular readers of the blog know much of my work involves redacting and altering existing texts, and as a core idea of the narrative is the elusiveness of a single truth, I really hoped the author wasn’t going to e distressed by my hacking her fine book apart and constructing yet another version.

When selecting the passages to include I was drawn to those which left a vivid picture in my mind, passages that evoked in me a lasting retinal impression or a strong emotional connection. My selections were personal and perhaps not indicative of the arc of the authors narrative. The use of translucent vellum to create the flags allows for the text to be experienced in layers and for the various elements of the story to literally overlap visually.

I used sewing as a form of mark making, to emphasize elements of the text, primarily names, and the various physical bodies contained in the original work. I also edited out some elements of text using Boro type stitching, the words are still partially visible beneath the sewing. Boro is a tradition Japanese mending technique. The word itself means rags or scraps of cloth. I chose boro because it seemed that all the characters in the work are patching themselves together, layering new versions of themselves over the old, and also, because the make- do and mend aesthetic seemed appropriate to the tenacity of many people in the narrative.

I hope the finished book reflects the fragility of the stories and bodies in the original text, and that the author forgives me for rummaging about in her ideas this way.

It really was a singular honor to be a part of celebrating this amazing book. I’m glad to say that Alexandria was pleased with the book. Here we are together at the awards dinner.

Congratulations Alexandria on the well deserved honor. And if you are still reading, for yourself a favor and read her book!

Okay back to the studio, I need to find my bench, it’s a mess in there, well the whole house really!

Hope in the dark

A year ago, Sarah Mo, started an artists book challenge #areyoubookenough on Instagram. It has been a great way to meet all kinds of book artists, from fine binders to students, and all points in between. The quality of the books being created is always inspiring, but more importantly it has helped me feel like part of a community, helped find my book tribe!

January’s challenge was dark. Sometimes I really have to dig around for an idea, sometimes the muse just pops in and drops a fully formed idea right in your lap. All you have to do then is make it, ha ha!

For me the inspiration was a sheet of paper. I made this beautiful wafer thin sheet of black paper at Paper and Book Intensive with Steve Miller. I have hoarded it since then. Taking it out of my paper drawer from time to time, but afraid to commit to using it. (Does anyone else struggle with using the beautiful materials in their grasp?) But when I heard the word dark, that sheet of paper immediately came to mind.

I tore it down into tiny signatures, and stamped/embossed a quote from Rebecca Solnit’s powerful book, Hope in the Dark, on to the center pages. Then I burned the edges of the pages leading up to those pages, just a little, wow! That was heart stopping! I bound it with a really simple Coptic stitch in black linen thread, actually a reel I don’t use much as it has slubs in the thread, but the imperfections seemed perfect here. To finish the pages I added a single thickness of silver metallic thread. You know me, there’s probably going to be some sewing!

I didn’t want to add covers, it seemed pretty perfect, scuffed and vulnerable. But I did want to protect the book, so I attempted a box. I was thinking that Pandora’s hope was found in a box. I had another sheet of paper from that same class, a sheet of charcoal grey laid, so I used it to cover the box. Of course I got glue on the good side of the paper, so I ended up embossing the box. Oh well, at least the pieces of the box fit together well and look pretty square!

This is a rare instance when I am actually pretty satisfied with the final product.

Thanks for continuing to read the blog, I appreciate it!

Local arts showcase

image

I’ve blogged about Infinity before. What happens there is the best of the arts. Young people are mentored and inspired. With the help of local artists they craft their own goals and get all the support they need to make them happen. We all know the arts make better people. So I am happy to be participating in this year’s local artist showcase. In addition to hawking my wares I am also donating an art guitar to their auction.
Here’s a shot of the work in progress.

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Hope that if you are in the area you will take the time to come and see the marvel for yourself!

guest posting!

and done!

and done!

Starting off my new year on a very happy note! A artist I met through the DLP Facebook page asked me to do a guest post about my first art journal spread of 2015 on a new mixed media blog. You can find it here. Of course if you read my post earlier it will be a bit repetitive, but it is so FUN to be invited to post someplace else!

2014 in Review – a tiny bit late

This year has been one of the most active of what now feels like a career as an artist. SO MANY amazing firsts happened this year, and all of them were linked to an amazing group of colleagues and friends, so to ALL OF YOU – thank you so much!

It is hard to know where to begin so I am going to start with collaborations and then go to some personal milestones. I curated or helped put together some exhibitions including the women create biennial with my amazing enabler Jennifer Schlick!

poster web2

Then March became April and my hometown was invaded by two waves of British artists in an event we called Colonize, with an exhibition across two galleries, workshops, lectures and lots of community building. None of which would have happened without help from Wendy (SCI) & Bruce (Basement Arts Project) and all the artists involved. Not only did we get to be on the radio – we also became video stars and front page news!

we made the FRONT PAGE of the local newspaper!!

we made the FRONT PAGE of the local newspaper!!

I also put together this exhibit for the Dykeman Young Gallery – and then I was asked to become a part time curator at the 3rd on 3rd Gallery, and created these two shows to round out the year.

FRESH PC show-Poster

I’m looking forward to playing with new artists in the gallery in the coming year!

I was also able to share my work through workshops, here in my own studio and at a few other places, like WNYBAC, The Morgan Conservatory and CBA in NYC. To everyone who signed up to take a class with me – an enormous THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity to travel and share my work and meet such amazing artists!! I REALLY hope next year provides some similar experiences for me!

Of course I did also manage to squeeze in (not enough) work of my own. It seems this year has been a bit bogged down in large slow projects, but of course I made plenty of books, some beautiful commissions, and got to play in my art journal frequently.

just learned this french stitch - so pretty!

just learned this french stitch – so pretty!

back view of the tiny book

my table display at bookfest

my table at WNYBAC’s bookfest

OH and I was completely sidetracked by sewing on all manner of things and learning how to put needlelace on leaves – I am pretty sure there is more of THAT to come

magnolia leaf with needle lace bars

magnolia leaf with needle lace bars

photo by Jennifer Schlick

photo by Jennifer Schlick

I exhibited a bit, and I also managed to fit a small solo show in, along with many trips to hospitals and doctors as members of my immediate family struggled with health problems.

Thank you for indulging my trip down memory lane, here’s to a very happy super healthy art-filled new year for us all!

community

OK so it is not Thursday – but here is my throwback thought for the week. It’s about community and how important it is as an artist to have a supportive tribe to rely on. I am thinking about this for many many reasons this week, but here are a few of them.

As many of my readers know I work part time with the Cattaraugus County Arts Council as a creativity consultant to their business program for artists ABLE. Last week was out last monthly meeting with this great group of creative people, and although our support for this group will continue on indefinitely, this intensive part of the program is coming to an end. As part of our wrap-up we talked about what we had learned from the program, and one of the artists said that something I had said at the very first meeting had profoundly changed the way he thought about his work. He had said he was reluctant to share his photography in case people didn’t like it, and I had said who cares? And I meant it – our work is our own given only to us, if we don’t do it it never manifests in the world. I really believe our job is just to do the work, not to make judgements about it, just to do it and put it out in the world. I was glad something I had said had encouraged a fellow artists to stay on the path and keep on working – that is such a great feeling! Bringing this program to a close made me think about my NYFA Mark experience, and how powerful it was to be acknowledged as an artist and be taken seriously. (If you are new to me and my blog you can read about that here). But also it is about seeing that others are in the same place as you – that even the most seasoned and accomplished veterans wrestle with the same problems.

The second incident was when a past student dropped by to visit – she has been in a bit of a bleak place in her life and wanted to reignite her creativity and work her way back to emotional health. I sent her off with a long list of recommended reading, and I hope that along with a chat over coffee I was able to help her a bit! I remember “beginning” as an artist, and I told her that right now I still struggle with the same thoughts as then. Doubt assails me less often, but doubt still comes, and that for me I have to remember to just keep working and wait for the work to find its own way. So many people support me when doubt creeps in, and my blog readers especially have become such an amazing support network of people, most of whom I only know through this cyber-space connection. It is good to be able to pay that feeling forward.

Also this week I read this post over at Tattered and Worn about balance – and I felt refreshed and reassured and able to get back to work with less concern about how out of whack my life has been lately – I just decided to drop the pie on the floor and eat it! (Now you will have to go read the post to see what on earth I am talking about!). I read this blog almost every day with my morning coffee – I hope you have time to read at least this one post this weekend – you will be glad you did!

This blog has been a catalyst for me in meeting and making my tribe. Through it I have met so many amazing generous artists willing to share their talents and advice. Being online and reading other blogs makes me feel less alone, inspires me to get up out of my rut and go back to work, fills my mind with the splendor of their work, and encourages my inner child to get up and go play again. So I am very happy to say that I was contacted this week by Jill Zaheer from Jazworks to be part of a blog-hop. Jill and I met as paper swap partners through LaWendula’s amazing and FREE paper swap. (I encourage you to go check it out and sign up – it is really FREE). So next weekend I will be posting my answers to her questions and linking to the next blogs in the hop. I hope you will go and visit Jill’s blog and look at her incredible work, which has such a unique signature style, and then backtrack along the hop and check out the other artists who are playing. Maybe on the way you will find a little something to help you today. Thanks for visiting – and I’ll be back with a new post in a few days. blogging it turns out is much like riding, when you fall off you just need to get back on and ride again!

missing my studio

It has been a whirlwind week with the European artists, many trips to the airport, many more trips to the two galleries where the show now hangs, and ending yesterday with a fun day trip to Niagara Falls. I have only walked in and out of my studio to grab something we needed, I am feeling a little disembodied and anxious, it is time to get back to work. I’ll leave you with some pictures from the last week.

my new work for the show

my new work for the show

beginning the installation at 3rd on 3rd

beginning the installation at 3rd on 3rd

we made the FRONT PAGE of the local newspaper!!

we made the FRONT PAGE of the local newspaper!!

a quick side trip to Niagara Falls

a quick side trip to Niagara Falls

Jean & Wendy at our table at the local SWAN Day market

Jean & Wendy at our table at the local SWAN Day market

bittersweet

This has been a busy week, the Women Create exhibit and month of events is drawing to a close, the last salon was last night, the closing is Saturday, on SWAN Day, when once again there will be an art market full of amazing women artists and a free drop-in mini zine workshop with Wendy Williams and Jean McEwan from the UK. Then a final private reception for the artists and their guests, and its over, the show comes down and a new chapter begins.

The reason I am so busy is I am also the “next chapter”, coordinating an exhibit with over 20 European artists from SCIBase, a group I am also a member of. April will be another whirlwind month of lectures, workshops, performances and a house full of visiting artists. The exhibit is so large it will span two galleries in Jamestown! I’m feeling a little anxious, I hope the artists will enjoy their time here and make some fruitful connections for their work. And I hope I am not too grumpy a hostess for their stay! You can see all about our goings on by going to the colonize page on this blog, here

It has been hard to fit in much time in the studio, I have been trying to get caught up on both my marking and my spring cleaning before April begins, but of course I have managed to squeeze a little time in. A new set of wings is finished and I have been steadily sewing on any leaf that presents itself. So one little peek…

beginning webwings on hoop web

 

getting a little off topic

So there are plenty of things I SHOULD be working on, but there was a dying leaf on one of my orchids, which started this train of thought, beginning at Paper and Book Intensive with that embroidered vellum manuscript from Uppsala

which led me to create my own attempt

a close up of my attempt

a close up of my attempt

in response to which people kept sending me images of embroidered or knitted leaves like this one

which is why the dead orchid leaf has been distracting me, so I did this.

linen embroidery on orchid leaf

linen embroidery on orchid leaf

I love how the cellular structure of the leaf is exposed as it is dying, especially in the circle I cut out which I stitched above the hole. Well that was fun – now I guess I had better get back to work.