Tuesday, September 16, 2014

August

Where did you go, August?  You flew by in a whirlwind. Here's a blur of a photo tour (that dips a toe into the beginning of September):

My parents visited for a week and we laid my sister's ashes to rest.

I spent two days marveling at the absolutely glorious Tetons.

I picked up The Youngest from camp; she was named Rodeo Queen 
(she had highest accumulated score in rodeo and riflery events)


We shared a brief family vacation that included a fun visit to the
Monterey Bay Aquarium and its fabulous octopus exhibit.

I dropped off The Boy at school -- sniff, sniff.

I had a chance to visit the talented and welcoming Jamie Fingal
in her studio.

I wore out my dogs with hiking and playing (not an easy feat).

I tended to my garden and harvested its bounty, like this 10 lb watermelon.


I went to the Notre Dame v. Michigan football rougame , my first ever, and got to spend time with my daughters (The Boy had to stay at school) and family.



I got to share the game with my husband, an ND alum.  It was wonderful to spend time with him in his old stomping ground.

And now we're back to our regularly scheduled Fall programming: school and school events, driving The Youngest to her extracurricular activities, docenting, hiking, and helping to manage SPUN.

Cool.

Friday, September 12, 2014

SPUN Fiber Exhibition

I went on an unplanned blogging hiatus.  The main reason?  Time and travel with my family and friends. I simply absorbed every possible moment I could with those who make my life so special.

Now, the school year has begun and everyone's involved in other activities -- including me!  I'll tell you more about my summer later, but now I want to (belatedly) tell you about the exhibition for which I am the Assistant Director: SPUN


I am working with Jane Davila of  Art Quilt Workbook and "Minding Your Business" fame to bring a new fiber exhibition out into the world.  This exhibition is targeted towards small 2D and 3D artwork (no dimension larger than 24"), made in the last three years that's either made with fiber or that references fiber traditions.  The juror for the exhibition is Bartholomew Bland, the Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, NY.

Jane and I have been immersed in the details necessary to bring a high quality exhibition to the public and announcing it here, sadly, slipped through the cracks.  Hopefully you all read about SPUN on various social media sites where I've been shouting from the rooftops.  If not, please visit www.spunfiberexhibit.com for details.  The submission deadline is September 15 at midnight so there's no time to waste; please get your entries in!!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Moody California

I decided to meet up with a friend who was at the Blogher conference in San Jose while everyone in my family was busy doing other things.  We took a trip to Pt. Lobos on an uncharacteristically cloudy summer day.  The weather was downright moody, with stiff breezes followed by humidity, crashing thunderclaps followed by moments of sun.  It was an odd day and made for atmospheric pictures.

Unknown flowering ground cover that captured my eye with its color and shapes.

A grove of cypress trees bent by the wind

Plant life clinging to the sides of rugged cliffs, adding spots of color and interesting shapes


The sculptural quality of a dead tree

The sun debating as to whether or not to poke through the fog and clouds
I continue to be fascinated by the way the seasons and the weather affect the views I've seen many, many times.  I never tire of it.  Do you have a place that you love to visit over and over again?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Charles James at the Met



There's a spectacular exhibition about the designer Charles James at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I went to see it with my mother-in-law, daughter and niece and we all loved it.  The exhibition is divided between two galleries on two separate floors -- not ideal and a bit hard to find -- but that's a small detraction from an otherwise superbly executed exhibition.

James began his career as a milliner in Chicago and hats from his earlier days were on display.  It was said that he would mold the hats on his more courageous clients heads to ensure a personalized fit, with a brim that perfectly suited their face.


In the late 1940s and 50s, James made seemingly innumerable gowns, cocktail dresses, and elegant coats.  He was a master at sculpting and draping cloth in fascinating and compelling ways.  His patterning and construction technique was so unique that he kept muslin forms so others could learn from his designs.



As lovely as the muslins are, see how the patterns translated when used with finer materials:





(The lighting in most of the exhibition is very low; I altered the exposure so you might see more, but these colors aren't true.  The red is much deeper and richer.)

Part of the focus of the exhibition was to help viewers understand, to the extent a layperson can, the way the pattern pieces were sewn together.  All of the gowns in one of the galleries had a small camera-like light before it which highlighted sections of the dress.  Next to it, these sections simultaneously appeared on a flat screen.  The pieces were then animated so we could watch a virtual construction of the dress, from skirt to bodice.  It was fascinating.


Many of James' gowns have names, such as the Butterfly Dress and the Tree Dress.  I couldn't take notes in the darkness of the rooms so sadly, I can't share them with you accurately.  But suffice to say they added an element of delightful whimsy to the elegance.

Here is a storyboard of sketches and articles, gathered together for a planned autobiography (1958-64).  I'm in awe of the fluid lines of James' sketches and I found it fascinating to read who wore these works of art.



Though made more than a half century ago, the style of the dresses have withstood the test of time.  I can imagine this dress appearing in today's fashion magazines or on the red carpet.



Fashion students were sketching, staring, and taking notes in abundance in the smaller, brighter gallery. Though not a student nor someone who sews clothes, I too was looking closely and examining the garments as much as I could.  I was amazed at how James took predominantly geometrically shape pattern pieces and, with well placed seams, fashioned soft drapes and gorgeous lines. If time allows, I would like to go see this again so I can absorb a bit more.  I hope you'll find the opportunity to go see this fabulous exhibition, too.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Docent-ing

My "lazy days of summer" have been jammed packed with activities: a week at my youngest's national dance competition, hosting my in-laws for a weeklong visit from the Midwest, and docent-ing. Yes, I know that docent-ing isn't technically a word, but I believe it should be.  In my experience, the act of being a docent is a verb.

Let me explain....

STEP 1: When I began my inquiries into being a docent for the Katonah Museum of Art, the head of the Education Department made it clear that being a docent was akin to taking a new art-related college course every few months in preparation for each new exhibition.  Practically, what does that mean?  It means that three to four weeks before an opening, all the docents attend several hours of lectures/presentations to familiarize us with the artwork in the upcoming exhibition, along with all the interesting factoids, personal stories, and tidbits that are all fodder for interesting and accurate tours.  For the current exhibition at the Museum, Iceland: Artists Respond to Place, we also had group lessons on the correct pronunciation of the Icelandic artists' names.

Detail of "Untitled" by Eggert Petursson, included in the current exhibition

STEP 2:  I have to learn this material, inside and out.  There is typically at least one single-spaced page of information on each artist and their artwork.  Some artwork is more familiar: Jasper Johns prints didn't require a huge learning curve because I was already knew bits about his career and recognized his work.  Nothing was familiar about the Icelandic artists.  (I did learn that one of the artists in the KMA exhibition, Olafur Eliasson was also responsible for the 2008 installations called "New York City Waterfalls", a Public Arts Fund project.)   Other than this reference, all the material was new to me.

New York City Waterfalls, Olafur Eliasson; photo credit, New York Times
NOT part of the current KMA exhibition

STEP 3:
I have to prepare a tour.  It's one thing to be able to spew facts about artwork.  It's a completely different thing to be able to present the information in conjunction with the artwork, not sound like a robot AND do it all in 40 minutes. This preparation starts with a lot of thinking and then requires walking through the exhibition (nothing beats seeing it in person) and really contemplating the work, anticipating what is unique about each piece, and finding ways to present the work in an interesting and engaging way.  To facilitate this, the Museum always has a seasoned docent give a "first look" tour to the rest of the group.  Attending an advance tour has multiple benefits: anticipating questions, understanding pace -- it's harder to do than you'd think -- and establishing a flow between the artwork.  More thinking follows.

STEP 4:
Once I feel ready, I have to give a one-on-one practice tour to the head of the education department.  This is the time I am evaluated so the Museum can determine if I'm ready to be in front of the public on their behalf.  I'm evaluated on a slew of criteria ranging from eye contact to my transitions between artwork and my overall thesis.  This evaluation is necessary to ensure that we are ready to be engaging experts and very public faces of the museum.

STEP 5:
I give tours.  I'm pleased to report that I've passed my evaluation and have been approved to guide tours for the Iceland exhibition.  This exhibition is open through the end of September, at which point I'll have already started the process again in preparation for the next exhibition.

So what do you think?  Should docenting should be a word?


Sunday, July 6, 2014

From "notes for an oration at Braintree"


This 4th of July weekend, it seems apropos to quote from one of our founding fathers, John Adams.  These thoughts on government are taken from pages of his journal, notes he made for an oration which he never gave.

Government is nothing more than the combined force of society, or the united power of the multitude, for the peace, order, safety, good and happiness of the people.... There is no king or queen bee distinguished from all others, by size or figure or beauty and variety of colors, in the human hive.  no man has yet produced any revelation form heaven in his favor, any divine communication to govern his fellow men.  Nature throws us all into the world equal and alike...

The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people.  As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved....

Ambition is on of the more ungovernable passions of the human heart.  The love of power is insatiable and uncontrollable....

There is danger from all men.  The only maxim of free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

John Adams, David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, 2001, pp. 69-70

Monday, June 30, 2014

An Art Tour

Colors and textures in Nature
A while back in the blog-o-sphere, a writer decided it would be interesting to do a virtual tour of how writers and artists create.  Each participant of the tour answers a few standard questions, giving readers a little insight into the varied way in which we each create.  I'm honored to have been asked to participate by Natalya Aikens.  Here's a glimpse into my world:

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I have several projects in the works at the moment.  I'm exploring a new way of working with my textiles: thread sketched watercolors using my eco-dyed cloth. My current project isn't ready to share since I'm in the process of adding hand stitching for texture and emphasis.  Concurrently I'm working on a quilt that's just to satisfy my itch to piece.  I've taken vintage 1930s blocks, cut them up (not to fear, they were clearly someone's practice blocks!), and am in the process of re-piecing them in a new arrangement.  I'm enjoying the mishmash of colors and patterns, along with the old seams that are all askew.

As a photographer, I'm constantly looking for the splash of color or pattern that catches my eye.  I'm hoping to spend more time finding venues to display my images.  I'm excited that I have two photographs that will be part of the OSilas Gallery Summer ARTiculated exhibition starting on July 10th.

Emerald Waters, juried in the Carmel Art Institute's Scenes from Pt. Lobos exhibition, 2012

Lately, I've been using my writing behind the scenes at the Katonah Museum of Art.  I am a docent at the Museum, and I've written a few docent training materials that provide background information on an exhibition.  I'm learning so much through the process and am thrilled to have this opportunity.  And, in a similar vein to my photography, I'm always on the lookout for art -- on the street or in a gallery/museum -- and I regularly share thoughts and reviews of what I've seen.


HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
All creative work is influenced by the unique voice of its creator.  Artistically speaking, I tend to make focused and/or uncluttered compositions, whether with textiles or my camera. Though I love monochromatic works and abstracts that are created with a focus on form, my muse doesn't direct me that way.  As for my writing, well it tends to lean towards scholarly because I'm a geek at heart.


WHY DO I WRITE/CREATE WHAT I DO?
I'm often prompted by a thought or word in my textile art process.  Exhibition themes or on-line challenges can lead me in interesting ways.  I may not choose to create something specifically for an exhibition, but the theme may spark an idea.   In addition, I create what makes it through my brain.  I'm not a journaler; I don't make copious notes or keep a sketchbook.  Instead, I tend to focus on the ideas that continue to stay in my mind, that my subconcious can't let go of.  These are the ideas that have captured my imagination, that nag me until they're made.  Sometimes, a photograph I've taken -- even one from years ago -- will spark a new work and/or make its way into a piece of art.

This quilt is made with an image transfer of a photograph taken seven years ago
I love the natural world and constantly want to capture the textures, colors, and patterns on display in nature.  I think it's all a wonder and get so excited when I am able to recreate some of that marvel in a photograph.

As for writing ... well, I guess one answer to that question is that I'm a talker.  I like to share what I've had the opportunity to see and learn.  I also am a geek at heart; I love to research topics and learn about something new.    Finally, I ask a lot of questions when I'm at museums and galleries and the answers to those questions often lead me to do some writing.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING/CREATIVE PROCESS WORK?
As I noted earlier, my textile art is guided by the ideas that I can't get out of my head.  For me, that's also the best culling process; at this stage I often eliminate extraneous details that can muddle a composition.  This is often helpful because I can be very deadline driven.

The biggest factor in my photography and writing is my curiosity about a subject.  It might be an interesting juxtaposition of textures or a sentence on a museum placard that makes me want to look closer. I do love to delve deeply, and that's why I have taken, for example, hundreds of pictures of poppies and spent hours researching topics just for my own satisfaction.

Behind the Barbed Wire, made in homage to Margaret Bourke-White
And there you have it; a glimpse into the why's and how's of me as an artist.  Feel free to go back through the blog trail to see what was written before, starting with Natalya.  And check back next week when the next artist in line will be sharing her thoughts.