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Archive for the ‘wisdom’ Category

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.

musings in the night, part 47…

Monday, April 12th, 2021
RHODIE BLOSSOM

Mendocino Botanical Gardens, rhododendron

The other night’s musings brought me some awesome titles for new work. Not the work itself, just the title! I particularly love ‘the writing on the wall was in invisible ink.” Or “how I became an activist on my way to becoming an old woman.” The funny thing about night musing which most often follows a potty break, is if I just focus on my breath I fall back asleep in seconds. Often I forget that and get a good 2-3 hours of musing, worry and planning in, before I drift back off. People often chide me for being a multitasker, and yet it is my happy place. If I did one task at a time I likely would be committed!

After returning from a 4 day getaway to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary (shocking, I know!), my plate quickly filled. Before the celebration for two, I had been scanning and resizing a myriad of photos from the past 50+ years for a Powerpoint for hubs on the big day. Well into it, I realized that he might not be as thrilled with it as I was, so I decided it really was a gift to myself. And good thing, because the stoic Swede came through with a lack of enthusiasm, as anticipated. Yet I loved every minute of putting it together! This is what 50 years teaches one…tamp those expectations!

air bib

rental on Mendocino Coast for our 50th anniversary celebration… comfortable and luxurious

the view from the house

When we returned home, I resumed researching the next piece, and designing the screens for fabric printing. I had to go with plan B when plan A failed to give me exactly what I wanted. And now I am waffling on plan B. So when someone asks me how long it took me to design something, I always include these days and hours of research and photoshop. The actual construction takes little time! It is really how folks justify in their mind, the price of something. If I am charging XYZ it must have taken me hundreds of hours. Well, that just might be true!

Post-trip, I also entered the overscheduled Zoom zone and yet I am loving it. I am learning so much in the Plastic Pollution class, a virtual multi-week course from Bennington College, taught by Judith Enck, former EPA administrator in the Obama-era.

The SAQA virtual conference from Australia-NZ piled on, but fortunately those sessions are mid to late afternoon in my time zone. Hubs has some OLLI Zooms, which require my setting him up, as he is mostly computer illiterate. And in May I am taking a weeklong immersion on Baja CA with Road Scholar, in lieu of actually going there.

All this has been made possible by my unloading an energy vampire which had been haunting me for months. Wow, what a huge difference! That and dropping 20 pounds, walking regularly and I feel like a new woman. A newly educated artivist woman!

Too Much Information…

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

scanned papers that found their way to the recycle can

I spent the morning sorting through my Inbox. Not my email inbox but my IRL inbox. Yea, it’s a holdout from my office days that I still have a real life inbox. This one has no sense of urgency however, but rather a place to stash papers I want to remember, revisit or read later. Then once in a blue moon I sort through the inbox.

I find several papers that have essentially expired, in that whatever is printed on them has already passed or is no longer valid. Sometimes I find calls for entry that I have already entered , decided against, or with a deadline that has passed. I find papers I should have scanned in the first place, and then I do so, and file away on the hard drive, most likely never to be read again.

I find words of wisdom, which is possibly my largest category of saved papers. Quotes from the Dalai Lama, Sharon Salzberg, Albert Camus, a friend’s poetry, etc. Wisdom quotes have no expiration date! They are always wise words into perpetuity.

In addition I have the bookmark folders on browsers with articles and websites saved to remember and/or to read. There are videos and TED talks to watch and listen to. Then there are the tangible books to read, the stack now measures 7, not counting the minimally 75 on my Kindle. All this is just Too Much Information!

I had one of those mothers who cut out things in the newspaper and mailed them to me. I promised to never do that to my kid and pretty much have stuck to it. I have sent her maybe 3 things in 20 years, so they must have been really important! I knew my mother was doing what every good mother should do, but then when I started receiving clippings about people spinning goat hair in Montana, from my father’s bestie, I knew a line had been crossed. If one cannot retrain their own parent, how can they possibly retrain someone else’s?

I now believe this obsessive saving of stuff to read or remember is the 21st century version of the newspaper clipping mailed by a ‘well-intentioned’ person! The other day it occurred to me, as I was marking yet another article to read in case I ever want to design work on ‘that subject’, that I may NEVER ever read this article. If I don’t have time to read it now, will I read it later? Will I be sitting in my rocker 20 years from now, with nothing to do but read all this stuff? Will any of it be relevant other than the wisdom? Really it is all information overload…TMI.

We are deluged with facts, figures, quotes, commentary, opinions etc. I never was a good reader to start, being a visual learner. So maybe scanning and filing words away on the hard drive is my adaptation to visual learning?  I think not.

Perhaps the moral to this little ditty is to stop saving stuff I am never going to read. Read it now, or don’t, but please stop saving it! Besides anything I ever desperately need I can likely Google.

And don’t even get me started on the photographs I’ve scanned…

 

 

 

loose ends…

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

I’ve been fraught with anxiety for much of the past four years. I made a lot of art about subjects that got me fired up and am now exhibiting it as much as I can, in a pandemic. After the election I calmed down a bit until the domestic terrorism two weeks ago. Today on the eve of the inauguration I am beginning to feel as if I can breathe again, knowing full well that we as a country still have a long, long way to go, before we can feel complacent again. In fact I don’t believe we will ever see “normal” again. You know the kind of normal where you don’t think every day about your government, or the pandemic.

In the meantime, I have been preparing for a SAQA Textile Talk next week. If you want to watch, comment below and I will send you the link to register. I am one of 5 artists whose work is being featured from an exhibit titled ‘Upcycle’ on recycled materials. I have spoken about my work on many occasions, so that is the easy part. I was able to put my vintage PowerPoint knowledge to use and prepare 10 slides of art and studio shots for my portion of the talk. Where I got hung up was on the lighting for my ‘person’ on Zoom.

I decided I wanted to do a custom background, featuring some of my work, as one would do. Yet the problem was still with the lighting. A colleague suggested I bring a lamp with a shade to my computer. Uh, I no longer own a lamp with a shade! Our entire house has been upgraded with overhead LED lighting. I tried my Ott-lite and that sort of helped.

Another suggested a green screen. I researched green screens, and decided against it as I did not need more stuff to clutter my office. My sister gave me a new green screen which she bought but decided not to use. I also decided not to use it and passed it along to Goodwill.

Finally I decided to swap out the wall quilt behind me, forgetting that a 6 ft table bearing a heavy midarm sewing machine was between me and the wall as a deterrent to hanging another quilt. Thank goodness for these long arms, as I was able to reach over the extended arm of the table, up the wall and with a little -uh hang a different quilt!

Then I remembered a recent purchase of a clamp-on light can, down in the basement. I brought that up, put a 5 watt bulb in it, clamped it on the shelf above my computer and voila! Let there be light. Essentially I spent two weeks fretting over the lighting.

Some time ago, before the pandemic, as I recall, I volunteered to design a memory quilt for the family of a slain person of color, for the Social Justice Sewing Academy. I  heard back a week ago, asking if I were still interested? I replied yes.

This past weekend I received the information, photos, likes and dislikes for my first memory quilt assignment. After reading the information about this woman, I felt such a tremendous responsibility to create this quilt, which I need to do in 6-8 weeks. What a huge honor to be asked to design something memorable for a family who has already lost so much. Especially in this era of Black Lives Matter, and white supremacy, it is so important to me to step outside of my life as a person of privilege and really look at the life of a woman who didn’t have a chance. The easy path would be to turn away, as so many of us have done for centuries. My hope is I have it in me to do more than one. Stay tuned…

Lastly, I have been mulling over the role of social media in my life. Several people whom I know have left Facebook, and thrived! I have considered it many times. What keeps me there is the contact I have with so many of my art colleagues, all over the world; friends and neighbors. It’s a place to read about others art and blab about my own. I also enjoy reading about local restaurants, taking a class or two through groups, reading local gossip, as the paper comes out just once a week; just catching up.

The lack of security is what bothers me most. And yet I wonder if I do walk, where will I have human contact? Where will we meet up? It looks like it will be another 2-3 months minimally before I get the vaccine, before I can meet friends for lunch, go to exhibits, resume some sort of a normal life.

I guess if I do sign off, I will just have to pick up the phone, which is not exactly a bad thing. I’ve noticed that my ability to actually speak language rather than type it, is occasionally challenged. As in, if you don’t use it... all good food for thought!

 

 

 

musings in the night…

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

manipulated photo of Lake Powell

I don’t know why but I seem to do my best thinking, and especially designing, in the night. Last night was a stellar example. I don’t remember what started the parade of thoughts but it just went from one subject to another to another to another and on for over 2.5 hours. Usually when this starts I try to focus on my breath; in for 3 seconds, out for 6 seconds. About 3/4 of the time this works and off to lala land I go. But last night, oy!

One of the things I thought about a lot was the list of presidents in my lifetime. I could not for the life of me remember where Kennedy fit on the list! I knew he was elected in 1960 but hmmm…where did he fit in? I was pretty sure he was after Eisenhower because I think Nixon was his competition and Nixon was Eisenhower’s VP. But then Nixon was impeached and Ford took over and I knew Kennedy was before Ford, and so on and so forth. I even resorted to counting on my fingers, like knowing the number of Presidents in my lifetime, would solve this question!

What I should have done was wake hubs and just ask him. For he is the walking Wikipedia of all things history. Of course I did ask him this morning and he said Kennedy was after Eisenhower. Whew! He laughed and laughed that I had spent so much sleep time pondering this. So glad we resolved that!

Another thing that captured my attention was how hubs and I, computer matched over 50 years ago as polar opposites with the same values, are still polar opposites, with the same values…only we have switched places! I was thinking our fable would be the Angry Young Man and the Angry Old Woman! As a young man, he was angry about most everything, and I was an everyday-is-a-new-day Pollyanna.

Now, when I spout off about anything… current events, politics, the pandemic, rude people, sheeple, etc etc etc (fill in the blank), he tells me everything is going to work out! Who is this guy, who quit worrying years ago?!

That set me off to wondering when did we change places? I envisioned a design of shifting mindsets! Two mindsets cruising past each other. When were they on the same page? And for how long? I sure don’t remember, but it is probably something hormonal, in both of us. It really is something to ponder, and why not at 3 am? What else do I have to do?

It is somewhat humorous to me that we two polar opposites are still polar opposites after 50 years. We are just the polar opposite of the original polar opposite! It seems to work though which really is the most important point.

Now that I have resolved those two important thoughts, perhaps tonight I may sleep.

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.

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.

 

 

 

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…