Friday, October 30, 2009

artist's statements

I hate writing them. I think they are silly and serve no purpose except to keep the viewer from thinking for him/herself. But just once, writing an artist's statement changed my understanding of my own work. When a gallery director asked me 5 or 6 year ago to write an artist's statement for a mixed media show she had curated, I rolled my eyes and asked what she wanted. "Tell me what you do and why you do it," she said. I spread out the work from three years earlier up to the (then) present and it was a revelation. When I looked at a lot of pieces together,I knew immediately what my work was about. Granted, my processes and subject matter were not always the same. On the surface, they were very different, but there was a common undercurrent that colored my work. Once I saw what I was doing, the "why" was easy and the artist's statement wrote itself. Since then, I have modified it slightly and wrapped it into my bio, but it gave me an insight that is either worth its weight in gold, or, as we used to say in my family, "that and a nickel will get you on the subway." I don't have to spread out my work now to know that it is going through a transition and that the undercurrent has changed in the past two years. We all go through these transitions, during which we experiment and may change not only a point of view but visual context. It's part of the deal when you are an artist, I think. Nevertheless, I urge you, if you haven't done so, to spread out your work on the floor from at least the last 1-3 years and find the common thread; the subtext that makes your work yours alone. And then write a "tell me what you do and why you do it," just for yourself.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Thanks for all your interesting comments and discussion on my last post. You got me thinking about so many things that I can't even organize what I want to say. I will get to it. Tonight, I am hand-stitching a piece of cloth I printed maybe 4 years ago. It is part of my Poland series; a tribute to the memory of those rescuers - the Righteous who risked their lives to save or hide Jews during the war. I hand wrote as many names as I could fit on the cloth; "ordinary" people who were, in fact, extraordinary, including The Danish People, the entire French village of Le Chambon, and Sempo Sugihara, Japanese Counsul to Lituania. November 15th will be our annual open studios at 66 Franklin St. Last year, I stuck this piece on the wall and two people said that I should let them know when I finished it because they wanted to buy it. I am not sure I want to sell it, but I am going to finish it and gallery-wrap it before the studio tour. If either of them comes back, we'll see. As I have been stitching, I have been thinking that it is recognizable as mine -- my voice, loud and clear. But what does this mean? The processes are not mine: other people make screenprints and write with syringes around and around till they have finished their stories. And other people put hand stitching into their work and gallery-wrap it. True, I own the image, the essay is my stream of consciousness --my words; my hand. But still, what makes it identifiable as mine? What does it mean to find our voices? Sherryl commented... Finding my own voice.... I love that statement. I hate what it stands for. To me, it means that you have so narrowed down what you do that you no longer experiment. I don't agree. Your voice can sing different tunes - but it is still your voice. And it is while you are learning the new melodies -- experimenting -- that you strengthen your voice. I'm working in a different style now, but even within these new pieces, there is something that makes them uniquely mine (or at least I hope so). What is it that makes your work identifiable as yours, despite forays into exerimenting with different materials, palettes, techniques, or mediums?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cézanne & American Modernism

A periodic recurrence on the Quiltart list is carping about how someone's quilt is a knockoff of Mary Famous' work and how terrible that she (or he) has been so influenced by Ms. Famous, from whom she may or may not have taken a class. The list members throw up their virtual hands in horror as a beat-the-dead-horse discussion ensues about imitation: flattery or dishonesty? Should the piece be banned from a juried show? What are the copyright issues? Blah blah blah blah. Sigh. Have we forgotten about cross-pollination among/between friends or students/teachers? I have often mentioned the musical influences between Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein -- so strongly intertwined that sometimes, on hearing an unfamilar musical phrase, I am unsure for a moment which one of them composed the piece. A few notes later, it becomes obvious who it was...but the influence is clear. Ditto Hayden & Mozart. So what? Nobody complained that Picasso, Braque, and Juan Gris created work that was practically indistinguishable, one from the other. And nobody blackballed Cezanne for painting some pieces that were strongly influenced by Matisse, with whom he had studied and referred to as his master. This afternoon, Marty and I went to a fascinating exhibit at the Montclair (NJ) Art Museum. The exhibition, 10 years in the planning and organizing, showed the influence of Cézanne on many American artists -- some you might never have heard of, like Morgan Russell. And others like Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Maurice Prendergast, Max Weber, Arshile Gorky, and even Man Ray. The Cézannes were juxtaposed with similar paintings by the Americans who were studying Cézanne's methods of working. None is as good as the Cézannes, but some were quite well done. (I stealth-snapped this painting with my iPhone. All that pattern going on is clearly à la Matisse.) Bottom line for many of the Americans in the exhibition is that eventually, most of them found their own way of integrating some of those techniques/influences into their work as they found their voices. Some went in a totally different direction. But the artists who never stopped imitating; never found their own voices, are the ones we have never heard of. Lessons learned? If you are anywhere within driving distance of Montclair, NJ, go see this exhibit. I will go back at my leisure and see it again. It is on till January.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

home but where have I been?

Saturday was my son Jeremy's 40th b.d. so I went to give him his present and stayed to watch my grandson David(almost 9) play football for the last half of the game. Then some grocery shopping and a visit to my mother. All of this, in the rain, and fortunately, yesterday was warm so it wasn't bad. The woods were at their autumn peak, and in the rain the trees looked too gorgeous not to photograph again. I wish I could bottle the colors and fragrance of fall. I'm so happy when the woods look like this! You're probably sick of looking at these views from my kitchen window every five minutes, but I can't help it: I'm addicted. When we were seriously thinking we would have to move I went into mourning for these woods and my kitchen. Everything else was expendable. Friday and Saturday nights, I printed some of those dyed scarves. A few, I am happy with, altho these pix don't really do them justice. One I don't want to part with; the rest need more layers. So I am off to the basement to add/delete.

Friday, October 23, 2009

back to work!

Came home to this glorious color and this morning, shot it with my iPhone, just to see how the resolution would turn out.  Not bad.

I finally got my quilts off to the San Jose Museum yesterday, overnight mail:-(...that's what I get for being a slowpoke.  Meantime, I have quilts scattered all over my sewing room, which is not at its worst but not at its best, either.  Do I need to straighten it before I leave for the studio? Nah.

I dyed a pile of scarves yesterday as a base for whatever it is I do with them.  We have open studios at 66 Franklin Street on November 15 and I hope to have a pile of scarves to sell.  Just got in 3 dozen from Dharma and they seem to be sewn with silk thread, so that's good. I plan to transform as many as possible today - at least with one layer, for starters.

Before I run to the studio, I just want to share a few pieces from our Art Cloth Network "gallery" (aka - show and tell) which broke up the business parts of our meeting. 

Sue Jones helps hold this piece while Russ Little talks about his process.

Susan Ettl helps display Susie Monday's work as she talks about it.

And here, Sue Jones discusses her concept and process.

There are artists out there creating amazing cloth! Which puts the pressure on me to get out the door before the day gets away from me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

R.I.P. flip phone

Boo hoo - I love this phone.  But I couldn't find my charger -- although I could have sworn I packed it. So, the phone was destined to die during the five days I was here. Sunday morning, after Bev Snow and I walked 3 miles to breakfast, we headed to the AT&T store so i could buy another charger.  But did they have one? Of course not; this phone that I loved so much is so old they no longer make it.  So I asked for their cheapest upgrade. Without going into a long story, suffice it to say that I ended up with a phone I never wanted but everybody tells me I will be happy that I have. Maybe eventually, but so far it's a learning curve, just like my macbook was.

Still trying to figure it out, but everybody who has one is welcoming me into the cult. I guess I can learn to love it if I can figure out how to get my voice mail. Here I am, outside the gallery where we had our art cloth exhibit, with Bev Snow and Susie Monday. Maybe I am making progress.

We spent this afternoon doing "meet the artists" and here are some shots of the work.


Going back to Sunday, after the cell phone debacle, Bev Snow, Russ Little and I took the tram and the bus and then walked to the Menil Collection - a most wondrous private art collection that we were so happy to have seen. They wouldn't allow pictures but all I can say is that if you are ever in Houston, do not miss this remarkable museum.  Here are some things we saw on our walks around Houston (and by the way, several people said to us, "you WALKED? Nobody in Houston walks."  Look what they are missing.


Early flight tomorrow - more when I can.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Internet at last!!

I've been in Houston since Saturday and only now have Internet access at the hotel. Don't ask! So now you're in for either a very long post or several long ones while I catch up on everything. Saturday afternoon, Russ Little and I met at the hotel and took the tram to the convention center. We didn't have a lot of time to spend but I had to see a bunch of people, so we headed to the vendor aisles. Here we are at the start of the afternoon. The first person we ran into was Cathy Arnett, who was working at the Embellishment Village booth. Cathy and I have never met face-to-face so it was good to do so, especially since I will be teaching at Fabrications Retreat next September. This picture of us isn't great but the other one was worse, so you get this one! Cathy is wearing a scarf she bought from me several months ago. Over at the C&T booth, Jane Davila had just left to go over to Make It U and Lynn Koolish (my editor) was left to man the booth herself. Can you tell what a terrible time she was having? She was demonstrating the new line of Liquitex soft acrylics that will now be available in quilt shops so that people who do surface design will have easy access to paints. Behind Lynn, the booth was loaded with all the wonderful little quilts created with those paints,including two that I made. The diversity of art was a pleasure to see!Here's Leslie Jenison, who was over at Make It University, demonstrating gelatin printing. She had just finished and we were waiting for Jamie Fingal to finish up so we could have coffee with them and chat for a bit. Pokey came over to say hi while we were waiting, and Susan Brubaker Knapp, who had just finished teaching, came over for a hug. Susan and I first met at Quilt Market in Portland last year when she took a schoolhouse class I was teaching. Now she's got a book out. Goodness, what a group! Russ and I did have a little time to see the quilts but I was not comfortable taking pictures of them. However, I had to take one photo of the wonderful German Forest installation. This doesn't begin to give you the idea of how amazing this exhibit was, but it's all I have.After the show closed, Russ and I met Jane Aldoretta and went out for a delightful evening and good dinner. It was soooo great to catch up with Jane and I can't wait to go out to Grand Junction again one of these days. She's got plans to open a wonderful, big, new studio and classroom space in January 2010 that will probably be a mecca for that whole area. There were people I didn't have a chance to see because there was so little time. We had hoped to go back the next day but Sunday turned out to be quite a different sort of day, which I will post about tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

what else is new?

Good question. I'm back again, trying to post something about nothing. Some people are great at Del Thomas. But for me, it is really a reach. I have lots of things to say but they are either too private or too quirky or too boring. So you'll have to make do. Here is a picture of me, last weekend, with my close, quirky, and(far from boring) beloved friends who are still in my life and in my heart. They are both on Facebook so I guess they shouldn't mind if I post this picture on my blog. On another topic... There is something I would like to share with you that I think is not only very important but fascinating - and it has nothing to do with health care reform. This will be a revelation to many of you and I hope you will watch all the videos on the site. My friend, Sherry Shine, sent me the link today and I spent part of the afternoon watching and listening to the wonderful videos. Did I have anything better to do? I thought so before I watched, but I was so moved that I donated to this quilters' project. On more mundane topics... 1)The weather: Cold, raw, rainy. What I would call November weather - but we're not there yet. A little further west in NJ they had 2" of snow. Brrrrrr. I left the house today only to mail the bills in the cluster mailbox up the street (the vicissitudes of living in a condo development). And then, when Marty came home, we went to happy hour and bar food a mile away. I am, indeed, happier than I was before we went. 2) My sewing room: Still neat, considering that I have been cutting and sewing strips today.( no pix - it looks the same as last week...almost.) 3) My mother: I have to visit her tomorrow, since I am leaving for Houston at the crack of dawn on Saturday and will be gone till Wed. She doesn't look bad for 92, does she?(she didn't want me to take her picture, can you tell?) 4) My daughter Jessica: on bed rest, working from home as of today, for the next 16-19 weeks. Glad we had our day out a couple of weeks ago!5) Houston and Art Cloth Network: I have a list of people to call and to see on the floor at Festival (or for coffee or drinks). Having dinner with Jane Aldoretta (and maybe other people - who knows?) on Saturday night. Jane is in Houston now and I can't wait to catch up with her. I plan to see Iris at MistyFuse, have coffee with a few other people I've put in my cell phone, and am really excited to be going. And I will post pix, of course. 6)New book shipment: I was completely sold out of books and luckily, when a couple of orders for signed copies came in last week, I still had two left. I now have a few dozen here if you still want a personally autographed copy. 7) Silk scarves en route: Totally out of scarves, too - and by popular demand I have ordered several dozen that I will be dyeing and printing in he next month or so: just in time for holiday gifts. I'll keep you posted. I was hoping to make this list get to 10 but I don't think so. Need to get back to cutting/sewing and don't have the imagination to make up three things.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

what's new?

new biz cards While this looks grey on my monitor, it is a lovely, glossy white with black type. Was out of cards and didn't want to use VistaPrint again. GotPrint did our open studio postcards, so I gave them a try. new source I took the jpg I'd shot for my blog and designed the card in a few minutes on GotPrint. Ordered a rush print job & 3 day mail so I'd have them in time for Houston (in fact, they came in time for my reunion last weekend)ms;" >and they still cost almost nothing.couldn't be happier! Next stop, postcards. new quilts I finished sewing down facings on the quilts I am sending off tomorrow for an article. Nothing like last minute! This m.o. is not new. new workshop I'm so excited to be teaching "Can this Fabric be Saved?" Sept 1,2,3, at Fabrications Retreat in Michigan next year! If you were there this year, you may already have signed up for next year's classes. If not, you should know that registration for everybody else opens this Thurs, October 15 and classes will fill quickly since some are already half-full from this year's attendees. new looks Rifling through my fabrics today I found this before and after of a yucky piece of dyed fabric I had printed on. Then, of course, the famous designer-who-shall-not-be-named fabric I transformed. It always makes me laugh and I still can't think how this got into my stash.I have quite a few more examples of fabrics to which I have given facelifts. I wouldn't mind it if somebody would do the same for me, but failing that, perhaps a good night's sleep will help.

Monday, October 12, 2009

still out to lunch

The weekend was heaven and I am not ready to come back from being a 17 year old. Lots of people brought pictures from the various elementary schools, including this one from 4th or 5th grade that I brought. I can name every kid except one -- and some of us still have our same faces. Can you find me? Testimony to the fact that my head was elsewhere: I spilled a container of liquid red dye all over the carpet in my studio today. The rug is wool and the dye did not have soda ash in it, but it still stained. Oh, well. I cleaned up as much as I could and then came home to upload the few pix I took over the weekend. Too busy talking and hugging. My house guest and I stayed up till 3:am talking for 3 nights in a row, so I am turning in early tonight. Maybe after a good night's sleep I will be ready to return to grownup-hood.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thanks for all your amusing comments on my cleaning frenzy yesterday. My housekeeper is coming tomorrow and will faint with astonishment because I don't normally let her in here. It is so neat and peaceful in here that all I want to do is sit and stare into space. This is hard if you are hand-sewing and need to look down, but I am managing. This room is now suitable for meditation. Spurred on by all of this neatness, I spent a few hours in the studio today filling trash bags and neatening up the place. I also took a long piece of silk broadcloth that I had waxed, dyed, discharged, and was now a hideous, blotchy mess of green and yellow and some unidentifiable dark color. Realizing that I have no art cloth to take to the Art Cloth Network meeting in Houston, I decided this was a candidate for something. Out came the wax pot and some red dye and I went to work. Here is what it looked like when I ironed out the wax at home tonight. You can see the green and yellow underneath the waxed part. Quite a bit of the scarlet came out of the silk in the wash, so here is what I have now. That blotchy green simply won't go away (a turq. that wouldn't discharge) so I will either take this as a WIP or will have to put another couple of layers on it. Don't know if I'll have time, though. H.S. reunion this weekend. It started tonight,actually - but I didn't go to the "meet and greet." There will be endless ops to do that, starting tomorrow. Two of my lifelong friends (one since 7th grade, the other since high school) will be staying here. I'm picking Bob up at the airport tomorrow afternoon and he will stay in the house. Bill will arrive and sleep in his camper in the little parking area across the street from my house. Tomorrow night, the jeans and bar scene - probably the best part of the weekend. Marty may go for a drink but he'll take his own car because I am not leaving early and he will want to. Sat night the dinner dance. I don't love to dance - but I might be persuaded if they play some romantic '50's music and the right person asks me...although the person I would most like to dance with will not be there. Marty has opted out, although he attended all the other reunions with me and had a good time. In anticipation of the festivities and the guests, I baked cookies tonight. Tried a new recipe from Maida Heatter's cookie book (the one I own - she wrote so many). I stowed half of them in the freezer or they'll all be gone by tomorrow. They look like oatmeal cookies, but that's because they are. 2 sticks of butter (ouch! - I almost didn't make them), flour, brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries, and a secret ingredient: potato chips!-- well, not so secret now. I forced myself to have two of them with a cup of tea a little while ago and I have to admit they are delicious. I halved the sugar - every cookie recipe on earth is too sweet for me. I will see if Marty can figure out the potato chips. I have gotten less than one side of the facing on one quilt sewn down: I guess I will do some tomorrow morning and then it's good to do while I am sitting up late with the "boys" and catching up. Sweet dreams,

soup weather in June and a little more

DISCLAIMER: Blogger is giving me grief tonight, which you will see by the varying sizes of the type. Ye p, soup weather and it's ...