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Archive for the ‘narrative’ Category

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…

artistic license run amok…

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

step 1

In April I posted about freshly painted cloth for new projects. My intention with the red and blue was to create a piece about the toxic tribalism that is plaguing our country. Tribalism has been around since the beginning of time but in the last three years has become increasingly toxic. There are many opinionated people, seemingly most of them are on social media. All of their real life & online friends are people who think just like they do. They have no tolerance nor respect for anyone who thinks otherwise. And often they hide behind their keyboard spewing hatred towards anyone who doesn’t think like they do. It has become incredibly toxic to our society and humanity, this world of US and THEM.

I typed a Word doc of words, phrases, various aspects of tribalism and screen-printed that to cloth. After heat-setting the paint I put both the red and blue painted cloths up on the design wall. I stared at those for over a month. I kept waiting for divine inspiration. Nothing happened.

A colleague posted an image of her WIP and a light bulb went off. Her work was composed of multiple geometric pieces. DUH…go back to quilting 101! Cut up pieces of fabric and piece a background. As I sorted through my various blue and red batiks and silks, I came up with a new design. The pieced backgrounds grew, then the next decision was what shape I wanted to make this work. I knew I did not want your basic geometric quilt shape.

before the stenciled letters came the pieced letters …

I wanted something that exemplified the chaos created by this tribalism. So I worked towards a big piece that was exactly the same dimensions on each side, of the blue and red. I got it all pieced and cut to match, and still it wasn’t right. I thought about my works Upheaval with their wonky shapes. Maybe I could do something like that? Instead of doing something familiar though, I decided to make it really difficult for myself!

step 2

I took a photo with my phone and printed out three pages of the image. I proceeded to cut and tape various combinations of a different shape. I came up with three good ideas. I laid out the big background on my design table and cut what I thought were equivalent-sized strips. One by one I sewed together batting & backing of each stripe. I overlaid fused letters of US and THEM in opposing colors and then took the quilt-lets to the mid-arm and stitched.

Back in the studio, I arranged the quilt-lets on the design wall. Somehow with all my careful measuring and cutting the composition was heavy on the red and not equal with the blue. I didn’t like it! So I sewed an extra 5″ blue quilt-let (which I ended up not using!)

I decided each quilt-let needed blocking so it would lay more flat. I blocked them. After they had blocked, I tried different compositions. I tried weaving the strips, nah, that hides the lettering.

woven quilt-lets, on black Kona as design wall surface is now deteriorating from all the blocking…

Nothing resonated. I began to research buying more red and blue batiks, online during the pandemic, and to start over. I decided to try one more thing first.

I would backstitch the quilt-lets together. I did so, leaving the bottom half of each quilt-let open. This allowed them to twist and turn as they wanted to do. And what a perfect metaphor for the dissension within the tribes! So I continued on, whip-stitching from the backside, until I had a full composition. Still the reds were wider than the blues. Then I remembered there are more red states than blue states in the US, so that is ok. (as if artists license were not enough!)

I still was not sure I liked it. I began to consider how many pieces of art I have made but did not like (not that many, actually). I just began to let go of it. Not everything is a masterpiece. I pressed it again and pinned to block on the wall. When it was dry I took it downstairs to photograph, for posterity, because surely it is not going anywhere else!

When I turned on the photo lights, something really weird happened. I really LOVE this piece! All that angst and turmoil turned into a piece I am really proud of!

Tribalism, 2020 …finito!

This quote is printed on the front and back of this work….

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. Friedrich Nietzsche

 

on a lasting marriage…

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

…just married (1971)

Forty nine years ago today I married a man I met on a blind date just the year before. My first thought this morning was I would do it again, in a heartbeat, because in those 49 years, I have learned so much. I learned so much about him, about myself, about tenacity, about strength, about courage, about wisdom, about endurance, about stubbornness, about love, about character and about commitment.

While I tend to think of myself as level-headed, easy-going, flexible; I truly am complex. I am an artist after all! I really don’t think being married to me has been a picnic. Yet the stoic Swede has been steady Eddy for all of these 49 years. And how blessed have I been to have his calming force in my life.

Everything about our lives together has been yin and yang. He grew up as an only child in San Francisco, the son of an immigrant carpenter, whose parents argued constantly and loudly. He left home as soon as he could, joined the Army, went to Germany during Vietnam era, came back and joined the Daly City Fire Department, where he worked for 33 years.

I was raised in an affluent suburb of San Francisco, the eldest of three daughters, of a corporate executive. My parents never argued in front of the children, but often slung sarcastic biting comments at each other. They were not pleased when I became engaged to this stranger from another world, this blue collar person. Sadly, for them, they never took the time to know him, to comprehend his character, his kind & generous heart; instead directing their attention to the husbands of my sisters, both Mr. Flash and Dash. Neither of those marriages lasted.

So coming from such diverse backgrounds, and having such opposite personalities, it has been an interesting ride. We both had to learn good communication styles; his calmer, mine more direct.  I’ve had a lifetime of grandiose ideas. He has always been the voice of reason, the ballast to my sails. Had I not met him I would probably be living in my car! We have accomplished more than anyone on my side thought possible. We bought a home, raised a child, were good worker bees, traveled the world, retired early & securely. Yea… a real disappointment!

stitched photo of walk down aisle

I, of the grandiose ideas have been plotting course for the potential of our 50th anniversary. Yet this year I have been dealt another dose of reality as my rock is crumbling. His body wracked with Parkinson’s is failing him. I don’t know if he will be able to travel a year from now. He often reminds me that we have seen more of the world than most people. We have seen 46 of the 50 states, and 14 countries for me, 12 for him. (I went solo to Japan and Hong Kong in 2002). Recently I’ve thought we might just do something low-key to commemorate 50, unlike the big parties my grandparents had to celebrate theirs, when we were just newlyweds. We are going to practice for 50 by celebrating our 49th with a takeout dinner, in lockdown due to the coronavirus!

The images are of Defining Moments 16: Marriage. I dismantled my wedding dress, which my mother had made. It was exquisitely and intricately sewn of heavy cotton pique, lined with heavy flannel. I could have gotten married in January in the Yukon in that dress, it was that sturdy! In honor of my maternal heritage we had a Russian theme, thus the headscarves.

Some thought it sacrilege that I would take apart my wedding dress! GASP!  I made a screen from the vows in our wedding book, screen-printed those to the cloth and then layered it with my headscarf, the hand-crocheted headscarf of my Russian great-grandmother, and a bridesmaid’s dress. Yes, they did wear red/white/blue paisley dresses with go-go boots. It was the 70’s after all.

Defining Moments 16: Marriage

Yes, marrying the stoic Swede was definitely one of my better defining moments.

 

 

 

 

new work…

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

the very abstract Liar Liar 1

Just before my creative process came to a grinding halt, I finished two new pieces! They were both inspired by our pathological liar-in-chief. As many in my generation I was raised to be honest and sincere in my speech. Any lie I told got me in a whole lot of deep doo doo. So I continue to be stunned and amazed by our leader whose default is to just make up shit. I am reminded of that childhood taunt, liar liar, pants on fire.

With over 16,000 lies to choose from, I chose 100 to print to cloth. In Liar Liar 1, I had manipulated the image too much before sending it to print. The cloth arrived and the words were not as legible as I would have liked, so I designed another image in PhotoShop, had that printed to silk chiffon, which I then screen-printed, overlaid, stitched and slashed. I like it a lot, although it is very abstract. One has to really study the piece to see what it says which is also ok.

Liar Liar 1, detail

So I went back to the drawing board and manipulated the file again, had it commercially printed a second time, cut and rearranged, and laid flames on top to depict the liar on fire, which is Liar Liar 2.

Liar Liar 2

detail Liar Liar 2

Since then, my creative process came to a screeching halt. There are a number of factors; i.e. my having had two viruses in two months time, all the political chaos, being over-scheduled, and my husband’s declining mobility and worrying about travel because of that. Just yesterday I cancelled a spring trip to France. The coronavirus was an easy excuse when in reality I am more concerned about his ability to make long haul trips anymore. He reminds me we have seen more of the world than most people, and that is true. It really comes down to common sense and gratitude.

Nothing our fearful leader knows anything about.

before and after…

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

Two posts ago, I wrote about painting over two pieces of work on climate change. The gist of it was the original four had repeatedly been declined for juried exhibits. So in the spirit of adventure, I thought, why not add paint?  I really had nothing to lose. In the end I like them much better!

Underwater Garden: the ocean water looks murky and very mysterious, yet all the plastic debris is still obvious.

before

after

Plastic Ocean 4: Beyond the Glory...the paint made a big difference on the water. The plastic is still there, but  not so glaringly white. The paint also exaggerated the sunset sky.

before

after

Soon I will soon be getting a new sink in my wet/print studio. In order for that to happen all flat surfaces had to be cleared off. So I am happy to get these photographed and put away.

Progress!

revisiting…

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

sculpted moose,
National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, WY

Nearly two weeks ago, we took a quick trip through four states (UT, WY, MT, ID) in 6 days! It was a fly-drive revisit of two national parks, a creamery at the college I attended (priorities!) and to see five ex-pat Californians.

We’d visited both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park as young marrieds. The past few years I had seen so many spectacular images online from artist friends; and wanted to return with my own artist’s eye, to see it again, but did not want to drive from home, as we had before….because once you are there, you have to drive home!

We flew into Salt Lake City and out of Boise, seeing ex-pat friends in both places. We went after Labor Day to avoid big crowds, and it was perfect, other than a whole lotta miles in 6 days. I did not anticipate driving all 1159 miles in a lowrider Chevy but after hubs doc scheduled eye surgery just days before we left, blurry was the best he could muster. The car had great go-power, but getting in and out, eh- was not pretty.

So we flew into Salt Lake City, which is always stunning for landings and departures.

SLC salt ponds

I had fried catfish for a late breakfast, and missed seeing Marion’s sister for said meal, due to a work project on her end.

fried catfish, Pig & A Jelly Jar

We spent the rest of that day visiting and dining with good friends, former Sonoma residents. Second day, we journeyed up to Logan, where I went to college, not for homecoming, but to indulge at the Aggie Creamery. The ice cream was divine and 5 cents a scoop, way back when. Now $1.99 scoop, it did not disappoint! I took a lactaid and was in pure lemon custard heaven for about 30 minutes!

Onward. I’d forgotten how spectacular Logan Canyon is, which we took on our way to Jackson. We visited the much ballyhooed National Museum of Wildlife Art which was stunning both in structure, location and art collections. It did not disappoint!

lemon custard from the Aggie Creamery

Spirit Totems by Herb Alpert @ National Museum of Wildlife Art

We stayed overnight at Teton Village, having cocktails with another friend/former Bay Area resident. When we rose it was raining and foggy so we did not actually see the Tetons but enjoyed the ride just the same.

We arrived in Yellowstone just in time for checkin to our restored historic hotel, only to learn we should have made dinner reservations six months in advance!  So we ate sandwiches for dinner three nights, in the deli, which were btw fabulous! You can keep your snooty dining room!

We spent two full days criss-crossing the park. We got up and at ’em early to see a lot of the sights before the crowds emerged. We got lots of exercise, saw many stunning features, all of which would make a great quilt. This is something people always tell the artist, for every photo she takes. That would make a great quilt! When in reality sometimes the photo is art enough, in of itself.

hello comrade!

I wasn’t much interested in taking a selfie with a buffalo, bear or moose. In fact we did not see the latter two. But the buffalo quickly decided I was theirs in spirit and turned up in the most unlikely of places, like jumping across the road 30′ in front of the trusty lowrider. Explain that to your rental car company! Well I was just driving along minding my own business and this buffalo landed on my windshield. Yea, ok lady.

This one ambled down a one-way road, as I drove by with my window open. Oh hello there! The last morning another was bidding us adieu as it grazed nearby as we checked out of our hotel. People who could not read the warning instructions in 12 languages were standing too close trying to get a photograph of themselves just before being gored by the buffalo.

Pedal to the metal I drove over 8 hours to leave the park and over to Boise ID. Funny how it looked like a short drive online!  We got there and it was well into the 90’s. Just two mornings before we had cleaned ice off our windshield! We checked into our hotel, returned the rental car and enjoyed our last two nights with former Petaluma friends, now in ID. Then we flew home.

Six days, 1159 miles, two flights, 4 climate zones, 3 buffalo encounters, 1 catfish, 1 ice cream cone, hundreds of photos, visits with five treasured friends…priceless!

It has taken me a week to recover, but alas I’m back to art-making.

 

 

restarting the engines…

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

after and before step one in the makeover

As many of you know my creative mojo aka the muse went south just before Marion died in April. It has gotten progressively docile this summer, and brought the realization that this is likely the first summer of my entire life that I have relaxed! What a concept.

Lately I have had several days where I thought TODAY would be the day when I start in again, but alas I spent that day hand-stitching, reading or too much time ‘researching’ on the computer.

Today I decided to just start, do something, no matter what. I decided I would paint over some quilts! I have done this before, with excellent results. So why not again?

Last year I made four quilts about plastic in the oceans. While I believed it to be a timely, relevant topic, all four were repeatedly rejected from exhibits. When four quilts are rejected at least 4 times each, there is a loud and clear message there. So I decided today to just start in and overpaint one of them! If it works, I may paint them all. I have absolutely nothing to lose!

Undoubtedly it appears to the more conservative of you that I have totally ruined this quilt. I may have and yet I feel no panic, nor remorse. It is because I know I am not done yet, with the makeover. There is more to come, once the paint dries. When I laid down the paint I was greatly surprised in how thick the coverage was. It was likely caused by the 3-dimensional pieces stitched to the quilt, so I could not get a clean screen pass directly on the cloth. I decided to keep going and work with it! What, me worry? Nah it just presented me with a new challenge. It is after all these challenges that both keep my brain young and keep me making art.

Stay tuned…