Archive for the ‘Defining Moments’ Category

catching up…

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

detail, Weathered Wood

I have lost all inspiration to make new work since Marion died…well actually before then. The muse slowed down earlier this year. Immediately after her death I was occupied with returning files and quilts to her family, and then started in on my own to-do list, which had grown to mammoth proportions.

I received the shipment of catalogs for our exhibit Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman, and put that up on my website. The 48 pg catalog will also be available at exhibit venues.

Earlier in the year I had finished and blocked two hand-stitched pieces, so I bought gallery-wrap canvas and mounted those to the frame. I have gotten quite skilled at using the electric stapler and the Phillips screwdriver. What I found most frustrating is the available sizes of wrapped canvas.

Reflections of the Seine

The local art supply store had a generous 16″ x 16″, but no 14″ x 14″ which I really wanted for my stitched pieces of morning walks. So I went to the big box chain and they had neither 14″ nor 16″ squares but they had lots of 11″ x 14″ rectangles. So I came home and googled it and basically learned that 14″ x 14″ does not exist but if I want to custom order it, I can do so for a mere $85 each.

catalog cover, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman

I suppose I could make my own, but I am at that age where time is far more important than money; but not so much so that I am going to pay $85 for a canvas gallery wrap! As if framing hand-stitched work is not straying far enough from my usual work, making frames for such is pushing it just too far, as far as I am concerned. I am trying to use up my supplies, not add a whole lot more. Just like I decided not to ferment my own veggies, I don’t need another hobby.

So I got these done, documented and up on my website. I have finished 5-6 entries for upcoming exhibits, need to prep a piece to ship this week, and continue to whittle down the list.

Then perhaps… I will be so moved (or not) as to actually start the new series, which has been researched and waiting in the wings for a year now.

 

so many stories…

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Marion Coleman, and her fabulous hair

The last time I saw Marion was on February 6. After much negotiating there finally came a day that she felt well enough for me to see her. I was also there to pick up her quilts for our Defining Moments exhibit. That had been a very tough conversation to have, asking her to loan me her work for our exhibit. I finally just summoned up the courage and asked. She agreed that I should take responsibility for the work so I would not have to bother her family after she was gone. So that was the day I picked up her work.

She greeted me from the seat of her rolling office chair. She had already discovered that the medical grade wheelchair was not as mobile as her office chair. So she scooted around in that. She showed me the “mess” that was her studio, which to me looked like a genius resided there.

We looked at the quilts as she told me the story of each one. She said she needed me to photograph two pieces, as she had not had the energy to get them over to Sibila Savage, who had photographed her other work. We talked shop about our exhibit, potential venues I had not yet applied to, questions she needed to ask Dr. Mazloomi, the catalog etc. She even gave me a check to cover my expenses. The epitome of class, that one.

We talked for about an hour, holding hands, both well aware it was the last time we would meet. Finally, she said she needed to return to her bed, which I knew was my cue to go. I stood up to hug her goodbye, one last time and damn if I did not catch my earring in her hair! My very first thought was don’t touch the hair!

Early on in my friendship with Marion, I touched her hair. She didn’t say anything at the time, but I learned a few years later, you NEVER touch an African American woman’s hair! EVER. When I heard that I equated it to the tallgirl stuff.

I knew all too well about the intrusion of people telling me I am tall. Newsflash, I already know that!  Marion and I used to joke so much about that, how we as tallgirls were often seen just for our stature; and how so many clueless people think they need to tell us! We had heard it all. We came to own it, to refer to ourselves as strong, proud, aging, tallgirls. It was our right to do so. It is not anyone else’s, unless we give permission! So I came to see the caucasian’s persistent need to touch a black woman’s hair as a similar intrusive ritual. Just don’t… touch the hair!

So here I was entangled in her luxurious & soft mane. How fitting for our final dance! I had to remove my earring while bent over, trying not to drop my weight farther onto her frail body. Then I had to disentangle the earring from her hair. We both laughed through it. What a beautiful and quirky finale to our wonderful friendship!

Some months ago she asked me how many African American women I knew as well as I knew her? I said maybe 4-5. She said, no, I mean as well as you know me; who you can talk to just like you do me? She continued that she thought she knew far more white women than I knew black women. She was right, I agreed with that and it really made me feel sad. It’s not like I was closed off to meeting people of other races. I just maybe had not taken the time.

Going forward, I plan to make the time to learn other people’s stories. And I promise I won’t touch your hair, especially if you don’t tell me I am tall. I already know.

with gratitude…

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Tall Girlfriends, 36″ x 29″, 2017, by Marion Coleman

Yesterday my dear friend Marion Coleman died. While I have known the end was near for months, I have been unable to articulate my sorrow until now. Marion was my fourth close friend to fight and lose the vicious battle, that is cancer. The one thing I have learned, other than cancer sucks, is how important it is to gather the goodness each one brought into my life, and to cherish it. By carrying their richness, they live on, in my heart.

I met Marion in 2003 at a SAQA regional meeting. It was the first meeting for both of us, and in Sacramento which means we both had made an effort to be there. I thought to myself, who is that exquisite tall black woman?! She shared later she had spotted me that same day. I continued my observation for about a year, until I asked her to mentor me on my Tall Girl project. I knew it was going to be a difficult story to tell, and that I might need someone to prod me, and had witnessed her to be an articulate, smart, gifted, get-things-done woman!

She asked me to write a business plan to define my goals for the project. She was the calm voice of reason when I needed it; and instrumental in my finding the way through the jungle of my repressed stories. She encouraged me by saying how much my story would help others, and challenging me to always aim higher. As a result I was able to secure six venues for the exhibit, including the National Quilt Museum. We talked then about doing a collaborative project of our own. We, women of two very different worlds had a lot of similarities which needed airing and sharing. It is our job as elders to tell these stories she would say.

In 2014 we met over lunch in Berkeley to discuss the particulars of that project we had spoken of years earlier. The time was ripe to finally start. It was to be an autobiographical project examining the contrasts and parallels of our lives as two tall aging women; one African American, one Caucasian. She had grown up in the Jim Crow south and I, in her words, in an affluent white suburb of San Francisco. One would think we had nothing in common, and yet we shared an incredible number of similarities, both as kids and as adults. Meaty subject matter, this one!

We were both approaching our 7th decade, which brought its own unique set of challenges. Since she was a year older than I, we set my 70thas the deadline, which bought us another year! She chose our working title for the series, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman. She said we needed to each design a solid 25 museum-size pieces. Sure, twenty-five large pieces in three years’ time… I can do that! (what? are you nuts?!) And so, we began.

Early on, I learned that we had very individual ways of working. I, of the spreadsheet tribe, mapped out all my ideas and designed the work in chronological order. She was deadline driven, and made the work as it came to her, in between other projects, designing public art, solo exhibits, curating Neighborhoods Coming Together, and mentoring youth. Some of her work went in and out of the series, and yet it all came together in the end. Because all of her work was narrative, it fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

People kept asking me… how many has she completed? Is she going to finish? What if she doesn’t get them done? And so on. I never lost faith. I just recognized she had a different style of working than I did, and that it would all sort out, as it did.

Defining Moments 25: Homage

Our 25th piece was to be a true collaboration and we tossed out all sorts of ideas via Skype. (We both disliked the 90 minute drive in traffic which stood between us.) When it became too painful for her to work, she was unable to finish the project, let alone our grand finale, #25. I designed my own #25 Homage, in honor of her, my friend, my mentor, my project partner. She told me the piece made her cry.

In the end she had stitched thirteen pieces and we still have a robust exhibit, which makes its debut in July at Visions Art Museum in San Diego for a 3-month run.  Even as she lay gravely ill, she graciously allowed me to take possession of her work so that our committed exhibits will still be seen.

catalog cover, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman

In the last month I have been designing the catalog for our exhibit. I called her frequently with questions: details that if one were dying would not seem terribly important. Yet she was always so kind and patient, even thanking me for pulling it all together for our exhibit. How does one even wrap their head around that? It is just who she was, the epitome of grace and kindness. I just feel it so important that her work continues to be shown.

Marion was the most generous-of-spirit woman, and particularly artist, I have ever met. There is so much professional jealousy in this field (although how professional is it to be jealous?)  She believed when one succeeds, we all succeed. There is enough for everyone. She always shared calls for entry for exhibits, public art, grants, internships, fellowships, etc. She taught me so much as an artist, as a woman. I will always reach higher and push through the fear because of her.

She made me laugh when talking about grants though. She would say I should apply for this grant or that grant. I HATED the idea and would say, no, if I need money I will just go to the bank (a white privilege response if there was ever one). She would say…Girl, they are just giving away money and you need to get you some! Finally, I relented and applied for a couple of grants and actually got one! Oh, happy day. They were just giving it away, just like she said!!!

Five years ago, I asked her about her end goal for her art, and she said she wished to be recognized as a NEA Heritage Fellow. Well, talk about manifestation! Last September she was recognized as a 2018 NEA Heritage Fellow, one of NINE in the entire country. Beyond this extraordinary achievement, was the timing, when she was so gravely ill. She gathered together her nearest and dearest and flew to DC, and on to NY to accept this great honor, bestowed on her. It gave me such joy for her end goal to be met, and for her to live to experience it.

I haven’t spoken much publicly of her illness these past 15 months, out of respect. It was her story to tell. But, now, be prepared for shameless self-promotion of Defining Moments and the ongoing exhibition of the exquisite artwork of my dear friend, Marion Coleman. She lives on through her art.

My deepest sympathies to her kids Mel, Lisa, Eric and Tina; to her sister Sharon for taking such extraordinary care of her these past four months. And to her two grand-girls, siblings and stepmother. And to all the people whose lives she touched. She was loved and admired by so many.  How blessed we all were to know her.

She and Nyls are together again. RIP dear one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

for my next number…

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Defining Moments catalog cover

Finally I have finished the dreaded replacement queen bed quilt and it’s off to be stitched.

So for my next creative endeavor, I am designing the catalog for Defining Moments, the joint project of Marion Coleman and I. Our first exhibit opens in July at Visions Art Museum in San Diego, so this is top of my to-do list.

I am using the same Blurb software with which I designed the Tall Girl Series book, but alas a decade has passed, software has been upgraded and I am ten years older! So far I have managed to find answers to all my questions and watched a couple You Tube videos to remind me how to do some PhotoShop tricks. All in all, it is fun but a huge time suck. Although I should take a break every hour, I am lucky if I do every 2-3 hours.

My biggest fear is if I fall too far down the left brain rabbit hole, will I find my way back to stitching, easy enough? I guess if that fear is realized I can always clean out the basement or start looking at fixtures for the bathroom remodel which is also on the list.

I don’t know what people are talking about that I should play more! Is this not play? Let’s put it this way. I am seldom bored.

Onward…

finished quilt top

finished quilt back…pesky blocks return

on plastic and awareness…

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

With an early morning orthodontist appointment that sent me running as soon as my feet hit the floor, I have yet to slow down. I have 90 mins between appointments when I thought I would stitch, but alas here I am doing a blog post. I should be meditating which would make everything fall into place…ah meditation guilt!

What got me thinking about a blog post was an errand to the superstore to stock up on things like dishwasher soap and shampoo. Normally I avoid the chain supermarkets but sometimes one has to just stock up. While there I got a huge size of gallon ziplock bags. I also picked up a box of hand wipes. As soon as I was home and unpacking I got so disturbed with myself that out of habit I bought these things.

You see in the past year I have become educated as to the glut of plastic garbage that floats out to sea, drifting aimlessly in a stew of other forgotten necessities; strangling fish, killing coral, and what remains often ends up on the beaches of beautiful places we all hope to visit one day. I believe I am more upset about this than any other chaos or disaster affecting our planet, probably because if we each did more than our part we might be able to affect change. So what am I doing about it?!

As most of us who have done any work on ourselves know, half of the problem is awareness. Once we are aware of something that needs to be changed, or a bad habit to be broken, that is half the battle. So I wonder why when I am so outraged do I continue to buy the products that offend? I justify it by saying, well I recycle, but isn’t the problem with the product itself and not with the conscientious recycler? Isn’t the problem that these kinds of single use plastics are being made in the first place? Isn’t the problem that so many people are throwing their trash on the streets rather than in a garbage can two feet away? What ever happened to simple human decency? Well that is a subject for another day.

So note to self. Stop buying the offending products, even if I do recycle. Why contribute to the problem? And you might wonder WTH this has to do with art making? Well, a lot! Since I finished the Defining Moments series I am between projects. I am designing a number of narrative pieces because it turns out I do have an opinion, on a lot of different subjects!

For the past couple of weeks I have been doing battle royale with a new piece of work about the masses moving out of California to other states. Last year 46,000 more left, than came in. Mostly people leave because it is so expensive to live here, but in my research of 6 friends moving out of state, all but one initially came from somewhere else. Only one native has left. Yes we are a hearty lot!

Today the initial layers are ready for the needle. It has been a duel between the work and me, with lots of cloth bias with which to contend. More than once I have wanted to pitch it in the trash. It still has trash (er, recycle) potential but I am hoping the needle will make it behave.

OK, ok…now I will meditate! Only because I no longer have time to stitch!

 

completion…

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

my FRIEND Marion Coleman (image from Earth Stories exhibit)

A little over three years ago I began a project with my good friend and mentor Marion Coleman. We set a goal of each creating 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, which was then three years in the future. We chose my 70th as hers was a year earlier so that gave us more time! We gave it a working title of Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming a Woman. Our plan was to explore personal, cultural, historical and social issues that formed us into the women and friends we are today. What made this project unique and meaty is that I am Caucasian and was raised in an affluent white suburb and she is African American raised in the segregated South. We hardly had anything in common, one would think and yet as very young girls we were already separate but equal.

Just as I was rounding the corner on my 24th piece in the series Marion got a nasty diagnosis which has halted her work on the project, diverting her attention rightly so to her health.

As I tried to wrap my head around this news I decided to make my final piece as a homage to her, my friend, which is titled Defining Moments 25: Homage. Not only are we rocking it as aging tall girl-friends, but she was my mentor for the Tall Girl Series, has always been so generous with sharing art biz, is one of the kindest women I know, an incredible storyteller, and very accomplished artist, both in the public and private sectors.

MENTOR

I gathered images of her person, her CV, artist statement, some of the pieces she created for this series. I digitally printed all to cotton sateen and pieced together with African fabrics. Only when it came to the photography of this final piece did I realize I basically made a textile of copyrighted material! You see we each own the copyright to our own work. So if you don’t tell her, I won’t.

I now feel completion with the Defining Moments series. I am still planning to tell stories as that is what I most enjoy, and have a few ideas in the queue. Stay tuned.

back at it…

Friday, March 9th, 2018

2018 has been hectic thus far… took a short trip, got bad news about a friend’s health, got the flu and battled that for two weeks, followed by nearly three weeks of digestive issues. Now hoping that I am on the mend, I am pondering my next creative steps.

I decided to do a no. 25 in the Defining Moments series and have that started on the design wall. This one will be a homage to my good friend, project partner and mentor Marion Coleman. We met 15 years ago and shortly thereafter she became my mentor on the Tall Girl Series. It is she who suggested we do the Defining Moments series and provided me with the inspiration and incentive to start. She is the most generous artist I know and meeting her was definitely a defining moment in my life.

I also have been giving a lot of thought to my next body of work, and started the research and development on that. In addition I have various forms of hand-work that beg my attention.

There is the knitting I have ripped out four times, likely as a means of seeing just how strong this yarn is or how much abuse it can really take.

There is the hand-stitching of the water in France, on which I initially used too large a needle and am also now considering changing yarn weight and color entirely. Oh there’s that masterpiece thinking again!

And there is the hemp yarn I bought on vacation to knit two things, a washcloth and a shopping bag. I knit a small cotton washcloth years ago and love it for the shower! You notice the skeins are still intact.

And then of course this fabulous Noro yarn I also bought on vacation, to create a very cool ladder scarf, which I discovered after I got home was crocheted and not knit. My hands don’t hurt enough from knitting that I am going to take up crochet?

I am not sure what all this says about me personally. The inner critic says I can’t settle down and do one thing at a time or that I am dissatisfied or bored. Hubs would say I have to multi-task and save nano-seconds!

The wise me thinks it is all good. All these things are stirring the creative juices. Plus it is not a competition as to how much I can do at once. And yes I am easily bored!

In other news I decided to make a weekend sprint to Anchorage this summer, to see my friend Amy Meissner’s Inheritance Project exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. This is big for two reasons. I have not been away solo for nearly a year & that I seldom go the 30 miles to the Bay Area to see art! Yet I have been so inspired by Amy’s extraordinary use of these vintage textiles to make art. After sharing time and space with her in OH last year, making this north to Alaska jaunt was a no-brainer. I look forward to this quick getaway and reuniting with her and some of the other Quiet Women from Quilt National 17.

coming ’round the corner…

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Defining Moments 23: The Aging Optimist

Today I photographed no. 23 in the Defining Moments series and put it up on my website. This piece, The Aging Optimist was another that sat in my head for weeks, figuring out how to design it. I had yet another roll of strips made of scraps from which I had started the series and I wanted to carry forth that same idea, although in the early work it referenced the Christian cross. On this piece I wanted it to represent the growing vine, the road traveled or any other metaphor for aging. I discovered though that the strip, already congested with many seams was not going to curve around and make a tight corner. So I cut it into sections, which almost resembles vertebrae and constructed my winding path from there.

strips that started the series

Now I am starting the text for no. 24. Again, all but done in my head, only to be done in real time and stitched. No. 25 is a true collaboration so no deadline stress! It will happen when it does. So there I am three plus years and 24 quilts later. A grand sense of accomplishment, indeed!

Throughout this project I have acquired both new skills and new equipment. The challenge remains to continue to create work that says something, tells a story, sparks conversation, gets people to think and put it out into the world. I do have my work cut out for me (haha)!

Meanwhile I have come up with a truly inspirational way to celebrate my 70th. Other than the spa day and dinner out, this is a way for me to spread the love and give back just a little bit. Stay tuned for the deets …

 

on deadlines…

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

scraps

Today while looking through birthday cards for all my favorite winter babies, I came across one with the grim reaper on it. Somehow it did not strike me as excessively funny. Yet as one who is rapidly approaching a new decade, a BIG birthday (as if they are not all big) I didn’t find it particularly amusing. The punchline however was something about life having a deadline.

Which got me to thinking about the word deadline having the word dead as part of it. We never say I have a lifeline on Thursday unless of course we are anticipating some sort of help, escape or spa appointment. No we say I have a deadline on Thursday.

For me, the past 3.5 years of my art-making has been driven by a deadline. This self-imposed deadline is to finish the Defining Moments series by my 70th birthday. The idea of this partnership was each of us was to design and sew 25 big quilts before my December 2017 birthday. I am now designing #23 and where my partner in this project is, remains a mystery!

At least semi-annually my husband has said that I had put a big whambo (he has his own dialect) on myself in setting this deadline. I just brushed it off, half thinking he was right while the other half was driven to make it.

Because I keep great documentation of my work, I am able to share this exciting bit of trivia with you. For this series, in 2014 I made 4 pieces, 2015 was 5 pieces, 2016 was 6 pieces and year to date I have made 7.5 ! So clearly I function best with a deadline, grim reaper or not!

I did get a hitch in my deadline driven rhythm this week though when my wondrous dream machine had major tension problems. Hubs and I spent the better part of two days recording non-existent numbers & running the gamut from no tension to high tension on both top and bobbin. All this achieved was sheer frustration, an enormous waste of thread and several lovely samplers such as this. Finally I threw up the white flag, contacted the dealer, got his input and voila today finished stitching the background of no.23. I am back in business!

Granted I am not going to make the deadline, but I am so close that I am very pleased! This leaves me wondering what my next deadline will be?

stress inducer 101

inspiration in unexpected places…

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

doodle

Yesterday five women came to my studio to see what I do. This idea started over the course of a year when a long time friend from the local quilt guild said she wanted to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in my studio. Then another local friend of 40+ years mentioned that she too wanted to see my work and how I do it. Then a third wanted to see my work, and in turn invited two of her friends. It took the longest thread in the history of email to find a date that worked for all five people, as we of the retired tribe do love our travel!

I had some reservations as I am not big on being observed while working; just ask my husband! Nor do I much like doing Open Studios, which I have done once. I just want to make my work and essentially be left alone while doing so! Why else did my daughter hand-stitch a SCRAM sign for my studio door, years ago?!

The challenge for me was to figure out what parts of my process would be interesting to others, and how much time to allocate before my body would be unwilling to stand any longer. Finally I decided to demo the Thermofax screen-making process, the screen-printing process, stitching on the new love of my life, the Juki mid-arm, talk about digital fabric printing and lastly show some work that incorporated all of the above. I pulled about 8 or 9 pieces from my various series, and talked about each piece. I envisioned the visit lasting about two hours, with no refreshments, only art process.

It was delightful! There were lots of questions and photo taking and more questions.Two hours breezed by and my only physical complaint was minor voice strain. And the most unexpected thing happened. After they left I realized that I was so completely psyched about my own work! What greater inspiration to keep going?

Meanwhile…no. 22 in the Defining Moments series is finished, but not yet photographed. The second layer of paint was laid on the background of no. 23 during yesterday’s studio visit. The text for the overlay design is printed so this week I will get to batting & backing and get this puppy stitched, so that I can then design the piece. No. 24 has been rattling around in my head for weeks, and going through many configurations. After yesterday’s studio visit, it became abundantly clear exactly what I need to do, so this morning I trashed rendition #2 which was essentially creating way too much work for myself, and am now enthused about rendition #3!

I am now six weeks shy of the self-imposed deadline of 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, but not the least bit worried. Rather I am excited about this huge endeavor I took on and have achieved. Stay tuned…