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Archive for the ‘narrative’ Category

time well spent…

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

dorothy’s dahlias

This week I was blessed to have a private visit with my 93 yo Aunt Dorothy, who is the light of my life. She, being an extrovert, often has a crowd around her, so for us to just enjoy private time together was so special to me, and seemingly her. She has always had my back, as I imagine she has many others. She is the most kind, giving and generous spirit I’ve ever known; although Marion was a close tie.

In conversation, I ran something by her that had really upset me, although it was by then, days past the incident and I was pretty much over it. I just wanted her wisdom on this. And she delivered!

Upon waking this morning I had an epiphany from that wisdom, that toppled my decades of resentment.  She knew so well this disturbing dynamic having been a witness, for all of my 7+ decades. Her comments were as if she handed me the missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle of my life. All of a sudden, everything fell into place! Old hurts and conversations now all made sense.  Relationships that had tormented me for years all suddenly made sense. I could have been SO angry and yet I wasn’t. I finally felt free of the burden. First, I felt absolute liberation, then I got angry, then I wondered if my time here was nearly over, since I had finally figured this huge juggernaut out?!!!

And then I went into another Zoom meeting. The speaker, Paula Kovarik is an accomplished renowned artist who seemingly is my kindred spirit. I identified with so much of what she said, not only her artistic inspiration (Klee, Calder, Kandinsky etc) who are also mine; but her philosophy about life and art-making. Wow, just wow!

She spoke of bringing what is inside, out; which is exactly what I am doing in my work presently. And in releasing old painful wounds. I am in awe of her work and her art practice, and her discipline (treating art-making like a job!) but mostly what I gleaned from this look inside in her world, today, of all days, is the reminder.

The reminder from Paula and from my  aunt, of paying attention, being present; not only smelling the roses, but observing… the textures, the colors, the patterns, the shapes, all that forms our personal universe. Paying attention, so that when another life lesson presents itself, we notice, and don’t spend decades harboring the hurt. Some folks NEVER get that, whether they are not paying attention or thinking it unimportant. I am blessed with awareness. And most of all, learning from those lessons and moving forward…

And in others news…I just noticed I have not blogged about two pieces of work that were juried into the prestigious Intl Fiber Arts X at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, in beautiful downtown Sebastopol! The show is on now till September 12, open Thurs-Sun 10 am-4 pm; masks required. It is an incredibly diverse exhibit of fiber work, much of it sculptural.

well it finally happened…

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

detail Liar Liar 2

As a retired workaholic, raised by a workaholic & related to another workaholic, I am one of the most organized artists I know. I have curated, juried, packed and unpacked a number of exhibits, and know all too well that many artists lack this organizational skill-set. I have always been super proud of my organizational abilities and being a low-maintenance artist, at that. Until today.

Today I discovered I am human, that I too can be so distracted that I made a potentially fatal screw up on a submission. Well not actually fatal, but the physical reaction in my body did not feel good! The other thing I learned is maybe I should stop titling work #1 and #2.

I have learned in the past few years that my best ideas bloom while I am exploring them. I want to dig deeper, and make another and then maybe another after that. So other than being more mindful, more fully present in my brain while doing the exhibit paperwork, I will probably continue to do consecutive titles.

Liar Liar 1, detail

So what happened was I entered the image for Liar Liar 1, into an exhibit but mistakenly titled it Liar Liar 2 on the submission. I did not enter Liar Liar 2. I confirmed on the acceptance email that the actual Liar Liar 1 was accepted. How could it be otherwise, when I did not enter the other piece?!!!

The horrifying moment occurred as I discovered this error, as Liar Liar 1, is on its way right now to the exhibit near Chicago. OMG, what if I shipped the wrong piece?!

So I calmly looked at my initial submission and yes I had shipped the same piece I entered. Whew! So basically I had to change the google doc with labels and eat some crow by admitting to the curator that I messed up; that I, the former workaholic/nee organized artist blew it!

Do you have any idea how difficult that is for me, little ms. organized to admit I screwed up? What if they think I am a flaky artist was of course a thought. Until I remembered,  shit happens, they don’t know me, I am quite distracted by the daily life of a loved one with Parkinsons, and so what? I made a mistake. Mistakes happen. The world is not going to end because I screwed up. The very worst thing that happens as a result of this is if the work sells, I make less money. I stuck with the price I submitted, as that is the professional thing to do. And I learned something….slow down and reread those entries!

So tell me, if you have ever screwed up an entry?! I’d love to hear about it…

what good are excuses anyway?

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Hypocrisy 1

In the past month, I finished new work that absolutely stumped me in design for the longest time. When I finally figured out what I wanted to do, it went swimmingly and I love it so much! It is titled Hypocrisy 1; because you just know I am making another! It is about evangelicals who worship on Sunday and make mayhem on Monday. It is bound to really anger some devout folks, but most people I know who sing the praises are good, decent, loving, kind people. This work is not directed at them; but instead the hypocrisy of whose who claim to be Christian yet behave badly.

Additionally I have been submitting entries to exhibits and this week got the fabulous news that two pieces of my work were juried into the prestigious biennial International Fiber X at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, July 31-September 12. Seventy two pieces were accepted, many of which are being flown in from all over the world. I’ve entered this show every two years but have not had my work accepted since 2010, so it was really gratifying to get that email!

And, I decided once again to bail on satellite TV. I nearly did a year ago but it all seemed so complicated. Yet when hubs could not watch his beloved Giants (baseball) a couple weeks ago that was the last straw! Oh he could watch it if we added another premium channel to our already bloated plan. So I said uncle and started the process.

The transition required several days of patience, investment in two new Smart TVs, a new iPad for him, because his was too old to stream, several days learning curve and a surprisingly polite conversation with an agent at the satellite company. It turns out I can keep the dish, and do whatever I want with it, for which I have no interest! And no I am not making a quilt of it. My patience continues, as every day hubs needs instruction in how to work the new remote and get where he wants to go. I knew this would be an issue, due to his cognitive challenges, but decided it was STILL worth it to unload the satellite company. And I still believe that.

I joined a FB group for Parkinson’s caregivers which is basically saving my sanity; sometimes having a place to vent is all one needs. I also got my long overdue quarterly art newsletter done (only 3 mos late) and scheduled to blitz mailboxes later this week. I should have taken the time to learn the latest template, but I am a quart low on learning new technology right now! I made labels for work going to exhibit and entered 3 more pieces in another show. Plus there have been those lunches with friends in a valiant attempt to revive my mastery of speaking in person!

So there…all my reasons for neglecting to blog. As an old woman told me when I was young…what good are excuses if we don’t use them?!

the big reveal…

Friday, May 28th, 2021

Somebody’s Child 2 photo credit Digital Grange

Now that Quilt National ’21 has officially opened, I can reveal my work juried into this prestigious exhibit. This is Somebody’s Child 2, which was digitally printed on silk organza, fused, machine and hand stitched with tear-drop shapes. This piece was a followup to my work Somebody’s Child 1; both of which were inspired by the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, MN .

The artist statement reads …”after the recorded murder of George Floyd calling out for his Mama, I researched black lives taken at the hands of police. Over 4700 names of African Americans who died of gunshots or asphyxiation in police encounters in the past 20 years were digitally printed to silk organza and then layered. Each one was Somebody’s Child. All of these folks had Mamas.”

Somebody’s Child 2, detail photo credit: Digital Grange

This work is intentionally difficult to read, both in scope of the number of black & brown folks killed in police encounters but also in structure. My primary emphasis was on the horrific numbers of people killed just in this century (up to June 2020). There are sadly, so many more, now.

Photo credit: Joe MacDonald, Digital Grange, Petaluma, CA.

Simultaneously the images of Somebody’s Child 1 have been added to the virtual gallery of Art Against Racism.org while the actual work just concluded a run at the Textile Center in Minneapolis through the Women of Color Quilters Network exhibit We Are the Story, curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi. (You can see my work in the bottom center of the banner for that show, on the above link).

Somebody’s Child 1 is now off to Cincinnati to join 41 other pieces from We Are the Story at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, opening July 2 for a 2 month run. I am honored to have my work in this venue.

Meanwhile, another new piece that says something and potentially makes people think is evolving in the studio.

 

Somebody’s Child 1, detail

missing Marion…

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Marion and I, 2018

Today I have been working on a powerpoint presentation I am making next month for the SAQA Board. Essentially it is about introducing diversity to the organization by relating how my friendship with Marion Coleman led me to self-educating about black history. I designed and tweaked most of the morning, and when hubs needed the computer to Zoom with his Parkinson’s group, I left to go pick up some groceries.

As I drove to the store, I suddenly burst into tears. Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of Marion’s death, and it hit me how serendipitous that I am working on this presentation about her impact on my life & art-making, on the very anniversary of her leaving.

I have a friend who says I am the most ‘woke’ person she knows. While I consider that a compliment I am well aware that I still have far to go. I continue to self-educate, by reading books, watching videos and every black film I can get my hands on. I even took an online course about the Civil Rights Movement, which I lived through, but had paid little attention to as it did not apply to me, in my white privileged world. I also catch myself and others, on their stuff all the time.

I owe all of this growth to my friend Marion. We were acquainted for 15 years and had talked about most everything. It was her question, near the end of her life, that prompted this growth in mine. How many black people do you know as well as you know me, she asked? I responded that maybe it was 5-6; to which she said, no I mean who you can talk to as comfortably as you speak to me?  Well that was the kick in the pants I needed to look out beyond the lily white meadow and learn something.

She might be surprised how far I have come from Pollyanna in just two years time. I am continually grateful to her for so much, not the least of which was pushing me out of my comfort zone. I miss her so much.

RIP girlfriend.

stuck on a title…

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Choose Love Over Hate

Usually when I make a piece of art, the title is the least of my concerns. Not so this time. When I was self-educating on black history I came across a talk by a director of the Southern Poverty Law Center who spoke about hate groups in America. Of course I had to follow that lead, only to learn to my shock and amazement that as of 2019, there were over 940 hate groups within the United States. I found that an unbelievable statistic so I explored further. What I found out was that there is not just one anti LGBTQ group in the US but 49; there is not just one anti-Muslim groups but 100 and so on. Nine hundred and forty hate groups in the US, and that was in 2019. How many more are there now? 

This lead me to reading about hate groups, and how hate is a learned behavior. No one is born a hater. They have to be taught to hate. Which lead me to thinking, why could these folks not be taught to love instead, which led to designing this work.

I had Spoonflower print the numbers/names of the hate groups on white cotton. I then designed a collage of love words, from love songs and poetry; both things I recalled or collected over the years. I screen-printed those in white paint over the hate group background, which kind of distorted it, and what I was hoping to achieve. I also screen-printed the same words in red on a vintage French tablecloth. I cut that randomly to create a mosaic effect of a heart partially covering the hate group background. Perfect! I achieved exactly what I wanted…that is until I got to the title.

At one point the label had one title, it went to the photographer with another title, my website had a 3rd title! Right now, they all say “Choose Love Over Hate.” I think that is actually quite adequate as really, is it not a choice whether to love or hate?

Initially, it was ‘Love is The Answer’. Then it was ‘Only Love Conquers Hate’ and then ‘Choose Love Over Hate.’ It seems important to me to include the words both love and hate; otherwise will the message may not be apparent. Maybe so? The jury is out! Your thoughts?

high anxiety elixir…

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

Somebody’s Child 2, detail. Photo credit, Digital Grange

It’s rather remarkable to me that in this time of high anxiety I have been prolific at art-making. It seems everyone I talk to or read about, including myself, is struggling with anxiety during these “uncertain”, “unprecedented,” “troubling “(insert an adjective) times. It’s remarkable to me that as my body reacts to living in these anxious times I am making art. Believe me I am grateful, but also somewhat puzzled by the whole thing.

Since my last blog post, I have finished two more pieces of narrative art. And one of them was juried into Quilt National 2021! For the uninitiated this is one of the top-drawer contemporary quilt shows in the world. One has better odds of getting hit by a meteorite than having their work juried in! I tried and tried for years with no luck. Just shy of giving up, in 2016 I entered Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO, my piece about campus rape into QN 2017 and it was juried in! I skipped 2019 as I had nothing that fit the criteria.

I entered again this year, submitting two of my recent works about politics and social justice issues. Somebody’s Child 2 was juried in. This piece was a vision in my head that proved quite difficult to execute. My initial thought was to make the layered silk organza pieces into a square, but then it occurred to me that the names would be more impactful as a list, a long skinny piece. It finished 63″ x 16″.  I also considered it as 3-D with LED lighting, sort of as a totem but it looked too much like Christmas; and this is not a festive narrative. This is a somber narrative, showing the over 4700 names of black lives extinguished at the hands of police in this century.

In the end I decided to just let the fabric do its own thing. It is three layers of digitally printed silk organza, fused together and hand-stitched with tears. I have no doubt people will whine that this is not a quilt, as it moves silently in the air! It does however meet the criteria of two layers stitched; actually being three layers, hand-stitched with tears.

It will be interesting to see how they install it, whether it will be backlit which will show the names laid askew to emphasize the horrendous number of lives lost. I likely will not be going to the opening or to see it in person, unless these “uncertain” times bring a miracle. So hopefully another artist who does attend will send me photos. To me the best thing about being in this prestigious exhibit is the other artists I meet; which is the truly sad part about not attending.

After that, I whipped together a piece about Your Tax Dollars at Work. I had the fabric commercially printed and I screen-printed the text months ago; then it languished in the studio. A 3 am design session gave me the idea of money growing on trees and after that it came together quickly. And I love it, which is always a bonus!

Your Tax Dollars at Work, a study in pork barrel projects

We are all coping with these “uncertain times” in our own ways. Some spend hours online debating/arguing/sharing political posts, others are streaming serials and movies; or baking the world’s supply of sourdough, while several friends are writing postcards, and letters to voters in other states to encourage them to do their civic duty and vote. I am so grateful to those folks for taking the time to do this important work!!! THANK YOU!

At the same time I know I would be creating more stress for myself to do the same thing. My activism is coming through in my work, for which I am enormously grateful. I even had that thought the other day, you know that one, that no one wants to consider. What will happen to all this when I am no more? Immediately I dismissed it… that’s not my problem!

So while I deluge myself in mindfulness reminders, yoga stretches, morning walks, and really annoying twice daily blood pressure checks, I continue to make art that says something. A new work is going under the machine today! Life is good in these “unprecedented’ times.

so how is your sleep?

Friday, September 11th, 2020

new WIP

A couple weeks ago I wrote a comment on FB about having attended a Zoom class on End of Life Options. My comment ended with the paperwork alone would kill you! I came clean in my comments about my husband’s descent into Parkinson’s, a disease he has battled for 9 years now. Because this disease does not actually cause death, we are exploring his options for when he decides he has had enough. In opening up about this, I received incredible support from hundreds of people. I was a bit embarrassed because I feel it is his story to tell, until someone reminded me it is also my story, as his caregiver and spouse.

My ‘coming out’ with the story led me to seeking support for myself as his caregiver. I had been down this road before, as caregiver, and yet how quickly I had forgotten about self-care and self-compassion. In one of my encounters in ‘building my team’ I was asked about my sleep. How is your sleep? I say, it’s fine, as it generally is…that is until it isn’t. Some of my best work has been designed in the night. As example…

Way before the pandemic, maybe 9 months ago, maybe a year ago I had some cloth printed at Spoonflower with words related to taxation. I took it into the wet studio and printed the same words on the whole cloth. I heat set it, brought it into my upstairs studio, folded and placed on the bed of the overhead projector,  where it has resided since. After finishing my second BLM piece, I felt like I needed a break before embarking on no 3. The long ago but not forgotten aforementioned piece of cloth came to mind. I pinned it up on my design wall, and nothing happened! I masked off certain sections to give me some perspective, nothing happened. I envisioned trees, but still nothing happened.

Two nights ago I was awake for several hours in the night. I forgot what started the conversation, but somewhere in the depths of those thoughts came divine inspiration. Money growing on trees! This morning I went in and in 20 minutes designed this piece that has languished for well over a year. Tomorrow I will begin the stitching! When someone asks how long this one took me, I can definitely say, a year!

I am humbled, grateful and surprised, how with all the despair in the world right now, that I am able to make art. Just yesterday I felt overwhelmed by the 6 months we have lived in isolation, while others go to the beach, to Vegas, to dinner with friends and on and on and on….because they are weary of isolation. I’m weary too. I miss travel too. I miss seeing friends too. It’s not just about you!  Our beautiful West Coast is on fire again, we can’t breathe the air, we can’t meet inside, we can’t go outside, the horrendous vitriol being slung from both sides, and yet somewhere within there is this bright light that seems to need to be making art.

It is a wonder, to me, as well.

on inspiration for MY new work…

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

detail… Somebody’s Child 1

Ever since I switched from designing ‘pretty’ quilts to narrative work, I have attracted people who want to advise me on subject matter! One of the reasons I now make narrative work is it allows me to express my voice, and opinion without physically marching in the streets. For as my body has aged, my desire to actively protest has subsided.  Instead I let my work speak for me. And it seems I have a lot to say. I have a file of ideas, longing to come to fruition.

So when I recently shared on social media that my new Black Lives Matter work titled Somebody’s Child was juried into an important exhibit, someone told me I should make work about the thousands of lives lost to opioid addiction.  My immediate reaction was this person, also an artist, had lost someone dear to her to addiction.

I encouraged her to make such a piece. She responded that she couldn’t, it would be too large.  When I showed another work on gun violence, an acquaintance suggested I make work about abortion. She, being a devout Catholic, obviously is very passionate about the subject. It really struck me then just how badly people want their voice heard, but seemingly do not want to ‘risk’ putting it out there themselves.

Culture of Fear, detail

I simply cannot make work that does not speak to me! What is the point? Am I just an art factory? I think not. Instead I encourage people with a cause to find their own constructive way to express it. You only live once!

I follow a funny account on Instagram called CanYouSewThisForMe?  My daughter turned me on to it. She has two degrees in fashion design and while she does not work in the field, she sews and knits most of her own personal wardrobe. She is always being asked if she will sew something for somebody? Or worse yet being told, she could sell that for everything she makes. The woman knows that. She knows she could sell it. She does not want to. Not everything in life has a price!

So back to CanYouSewThisForMe?...the postings are mostly hilarious. A lot of people want a knockoff designer wedding gown, in 3 days for less than $50, because they don’t have much money. Uh, why are you having a fancy wedding if you have no money?  I definitely need to add my ‘new work’ idea suggestions!

My mother’s voice just came to me… These folks mean well, or this is a compliment. Yeah I know that. As do I. I mean well when I suggest they find their own voice, speak up, demonstrate, protest, write letters, campaign, make art, whatever.

You do you, and I’ll do me.

on the mind-body connection…

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

now this would make a pretty quilt!

I have been a firm believer in the mind-body connection for over 40 years. I only go to the doctor when I have exhausted all other options, which is infrequent. And yet, occasionally, I forget…

I have been actively self-educating on black history for a while now. I am not a great reader, which is the main reason I dropped out of college, as a junior. My reading comprehension is largely MIA. I am a visual learner, so I have taken a visual approach to learning these stories which I either missed in school, were not taught in school or certainly were not discussed in the white privilege world in which I grew up and continue to live.

In the past month we have watched Harriet, Selma, and Just Mercy for starters; with many more in the queue. I also watched a PBS special on Toni Morrison, and have read three anti-racist books so far. I was seriously enlightened by Debby Irving’s Waking up White. She grew up like I did in a middle-class white neighborhood in the ‘burbs. In reading her story it felt as if she wrote it from my childhood home. I had NO idea that the advantages in my life were at the cost of the disadvantages to black people. It wasn’t that I didn’t care; I just did not think about it. White privilege in action!

Suddenly it all made sense, that in order for people to succeed, others must fail. My entire childhood was built on success, my father’s success and the anticipated success of my sisters and I. Because I chose to leave college, my anticipated success was squelched, never to be resurrected, in his eyes.

For me art-making has led to my own version of success. I don’t really care if I am considered successful by others. I know who I am. I find my success in producing art that says something, which is also my personal form of protest. My aged body does not take lightly to protesting in the streets, surrounded by hundreds of others. I protested the Vietnam war as a newlywed. That was our time, and now my protest comes in the form of visual art.

As I have been self-educating, I forgot one really important detail for this sensitive spirit. I forgot that unreleased emotions fester. All of the black history movies I have seen so far have felt like an emotional gut punch; and actually were. I have been heartbroken, devastated and sorrowful for how black people have been and continue to be treated throughout US history. I have felt that sorrow and I held onto it. It will release eventually in artwork, but for now while I am learning and researching, it is taking a physical toll on me.

I only put this together in the night, when I do my best thinking! I have had acute belly pain for a week now. The belly is my go-to spot for stress reactions. Because I have done over 40 years of acupuncture and holistic medicine, I know that I hold anger & stress in my belly. How did I not put this together before? Funny, I asked a practitioner that once…why did this not occur to me before? Her response always was, yes, but you remembered now!

So I am back to the basics, eating belly-friendly food (rice and bananas), having acupuncture and listening to calming music, practicing meditations, doing yoga stretches, etc, while I continue my research.

This morning hubs suggested I no longer do this work that “upsets” me so, saying I should return to making pretty quilts. I told him I NEED to do this work. This is my purpose at this stage in my life. I am finally using my voice and I have something to say! This is my personal protest.

I just need to be more aware of my own reactions, my own emotions about these tragically sad stories and history. I need not internalize my reaction, but instead save that emotion for my art.

I’ve always been a sensitive soul with a sensitive physiology to match. I’ve learned this is what makes me a good creative. I consider it a huge blessing to feel; and to make art from those feelings. So I am re-framing, one more time and moving forward.

I have memorized this owner’s manual. Occasionally I simply forget where I left it…