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Archive for the ‘pandemic distraction’ 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.

Somebody’s Child…

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Somebody’s Child

There is a lot of hesitancy on my part in posting about this work. I recognize that old master, the stay quiet, keep your feelings to yourself, don’t show initiative or courage or emotion. Go to your room, sit back, look pretty, don’t speak, no one cares what you have to say, don’t embarrass the family, don’t talk about personal things and never ever speak about anything controversial. Keep your mouth shut. These were not just words of my programming but by the white privilege culture in general.

No growth ever comes from playing it safe. In fact, stagnation comes from playing it safe. Stagnation and fossils grow from these outdated rules and old threats. None one challenges them. They just keep playing by the same rules, because that is all they know or they are too scared to learn differently. Nothing good comes from it.

Growth only comes from stepping way outside the comfort zone. Growth comes from allowing myself to be embarrassed and humiliated for how people of color have been treated by people of privilege for far too long in American history, let alone world history. Growth comes from worrying about saying the right thing, so as to not make the situation worse. So, I put on my big girl panties and post my work, which undoubtedly will embarrass or humiliate those I know who still play by the rules. Growth is painful. It is cumbersome and full of missteps. But I am stepping out, taking baby steps in my size 13’s.

When George Floyd was recorded as he was being asphyxiated by a white cop in Minneapolis on May 25th, like many I reacted not only to the brutality of his murder, but to his dying words calling out for his Mama. I doubt any mother in touch with her humanity did not feel that heartbreak. Those moments were the inspiration for this new work about black lives matter. I researched the numbers of black people killed by police in America and sadly learned over 28,000 people (of all nationalities) had fatal encounters with police in this 21st century. I gathered names, states and causes of death of over 4700 African Americans who died of gunshots or asphyxiation from police encounters.

detail…left are names of 76 asphyxiated by police

The center section of this piece reflects the printed names of the 76 black lives extinguished by police asphyxiation and/or restraint between 2000-2020. The surrounding names are but a tiny percentage of the over 4700 black people killed by gunfire in encounters with police.  I found this information to be so profuse that I really struggled with who to include, who to exclude, as if I were extinguishing their flame a second time & also how best to honor all these lost lives. How to create an artwork to honor all these murdered black people?   It seems very apparent to me that more, larger works will follow.  This work is titled Somebody’s Child, (click for larger view) as all of these folks had Mamas. Many mamas are mourning.

It is not lost on me how traditional this piece is, in shape and design. It was not intentional, but the shapes of the components really created it. Another old master, perfectionism nearly caused the piece to land in the trash a few times. Once I was able to get out of my own way, and ignore the errors I made in technique and construction, I was able to recall the passion of my intention. After all, it is not the messenger but the message.

Besides that old rule, about perfectionism can work to my benefit, allowing me the opportunity to make more work on this subject…until I get it right! Sadly there is endless inspiration.

 

 

 

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

 

lovin’ me some blanket stitch…

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

As of today we have been ‘sheltering in place’ aka SIP, in isolation, on lockdown social distancing and in captivity for

pathway rock

7 weeks, aka 42 days. In all honesty it really has not been that bad! Of those days I have only had one where I thought will this ever end? Mostly it has been like everyday life with the exception of not seeing friends, going to lunch, getting culture and grocery shopping. Oh how I miss grocery shopping, which of course is something I never thought I would say. With the kindness & generosity of friends, neighbors and kin we are thriving.

In our past life, we would be packing this weekend for a trip to France on Monday. I had planned to take an organic embroidery workshop in Brittany at a fabulous country manor, taught by a Dutch artist Mirjam Gielen, who I follow on Instagram. When she mentioned this workshop on her feed, I jumped on it, as the class was for just 8 people. I pondered, decided, reserved class and air all within 24 hours!

As the coronavirus began to spread from Asia into Europe I began to rethink the possibility of making this trip. With my husband’s mobility becoming more and more challenged, I began to worry whether he could make this trip, how (un)cooperative he might be about accepting assistance in airports and on land. So using the virus as an excuse that he could accept, I canceled the trip. Eventually the class was postponed anyway as the virus spread throughout France, and then within the US.

Because I had to cancel for reasons other than the virus, and obviously would not be able to take the workshop, no matter when it was rescheduled, Mirjam graciously asked me if I would like to proofread the tutorial she wrote for the class? That way I would be able to glean the material from the class without attending. After all, I had paid a non-refundable deposit for the workshop. I agreed. She sent me the 50+ page tutorial in a .pdf file while I was in the middle of resizing images for my updated website. So when I finished that, I started reading her materials. Initially I thought that 50 pages would take me a long time, as I am such a slow reader, or rather lousy at comprehension. Yet the material was interesting and fascinating, and I felt, when finished as if I had actually attended the class.

One of the stitches that rocked my world was the blanket stitch. I had tried it several times on my own and always came up with a jumbled mess. I used it in the most recent ‘morning walk’ stitched collage, as part of a rose petal, and it turned out well. So now I am on to another morning walk stitching and I have used it as the crevices in a flat stone, cut for a walkway.

blanket stitched rose petal

My morning walk collages have become part of my ritual of walking our dog. Since we have been SIP for 42 days, there have been no excuses, appointments, classes, lunches, cultural outings, nothing to interfere with getting our exercise by walking the pooch. So every other day for 42 days I have been walking Mops, and taking photos of things that catch my eye along the way.

I started taking photos while walking, about 5 years ago, as a way to distract myself from the creaking & cracking of my bones and/or pain from my joints, while out walking. Because I am visually oriented, I see art in everything! So I started taking photos with my phone, while walking the dog. Using an app or two I collage the photos and post to my social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook.

Friends started commenting about how my morning walk photos inspired them to notice more on their walks, and so on and so forth; which to me is pure gravy! How these images have transformed my visual acuity is a whole ‘nother story. I really feel as if my morning collages have grown into an art-form, in of itself as opposed to how it started off taking photos to otherwise occupy my mind. So now, we are out there, every other day, hubs using his walker, and me walking the dog & taking photos. During SIP we have now walked 22 miles and taken a lot of photos of glorious spring blooms and cracks in the sidewalk.

rock crevices

The stitching of the morning walks came from my need to be doing something while I watch TV. I had already hand-stitched three morning walk collages, before the pandemic began. Yesterday I finished a fourth and now it is blocking. Then I printed out four more, because once the wide format printer is fed with cloth, one wants to keep printing!

So I have begun anew and am enthralled once again with the blanket stitch. The rock (above) was sliced from a larger stone, laid out in a pathway in one of the beautiful gardens we passed by the other day. Using the blanket stitch to fill in the crevices, I am already dazzled by the start of the stitching of another morning walk collage.

Of course the question always comes into play…what will I do with this? Others ask, but I tend to not put that pressure on myself. The destination does not matter, it is the journey that is important.

What I do know is the hand-stitching of my morning walk collages is definitely contributing to my mindfulness during the pandemic.