Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MAD Artist in Residence

MAD (The Museum of Art and Design) in New York City offers an artist in residency program.  While we were at the museum to see the Biennial, we stopped by to see if there were any artists in their studios.  Lucky for us, Ricardo Cid was hard at work, but happy to stop and chat with us.

Ricardo is a mechanical engineer from Mexico who was combining his technical expertise with art pursuits.  He was making three-dimensional, solar powered "robots" in various geometric shapes that would rotate, spin and dance (as he called it).   He's created installations in Brooklyn in which large robots rotate in time with a music track Ricardo created, making a lovely synchronized moving display. He completed the installation with lights and a bit of fog.  He showed us the video and we were all impressed.

Ricardo's work space at MAD, with computer for programming and robots in various stages of completion

You can watch a video here that shows how four different robots respond to the same piece of music.  It also gives you a small sense of all the thought, planning, and engineering that goes into each piece.

While at MAD, Ricardo was working out the kinks on some smaller models that were serving as prototypes for a larger installation he was hoping to place outdoors, in trees.  He could visualize the trees and "robots" moving in tandem.  In this case, he was calling his robots ballerinas, as they danced with the wind and the trees.

So, so, cool.

Aside from creating dancing robots, Ricardo also used his scientific brain to restructure the calendar into interconnected atomic forms -- representing months -- that also showed moon phases and relative position to the Aztec calendar.  I didn't understand it all, but who cares?  I get excited when I meet someone whose brain follows paths I can't even imagine.

Ricardo's 2014 Neo-Aztec calendar.  Love the gear-like months!

I'm going to be on the lookout for more artists in residence so I can witness more creative thinking.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The MAD Biennial

When Deidre Adams was in town, Natalya, Benedicte, and I met at MAD, the Museum of Art and Design in New York City.   We went to see the MAD Biennial, NYC Makers.  The exhibition program described the biennial as follows:

"NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial is the first in a series of exhibitions examining cultures of making in urban communities.  Showcasing more than 100 participants, the Biennial celebrates the artisans, artists, designers and other makers who live and work throughout the five boroughs of New York City today.

Presenting a diversity of cultural producers on a level playing field, NYC Makers is an open and inclusive project, featuring practitioners whose work demonstrates the highest skill, discipline and innovation.....Makers were nominated from a range of trades and disciplines by over 300 New York City-based cultural leaders and civic figures, and selected by a panel of ten, including representatives from all five boroughs..."

I had high expectations for the Biennial.  I've loved most of the exhibitions I've seen at MAD.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Biennial didn't live up to the excellence of its predecessors.   I felt the artwork presented on the fourth floor was much stronger as a group than those on the fifth, making the Biennial very inconsistent in experience and appeal.  I also think the presentation of the artwork on the fourth floor was more thoughtfully considered than the fifth.  This was both surprising and disappointing.  I think, perhaps, the solution would have been to select fewer works for the fifth floor, and focusing on stronger pieces.  Because the galleries were organized by intent, such as "Community Garden" seen here (anchored by an installation of organic plants and the naturally dyed yarn whose colors were created with the plants), artworks weren't really transferrable between floors.  But I think it was a disservice to those artworks displayed on the fifth floor to be so crammed in because most couldn't be appreciated to their fullest advantage.

A view of the fifth floor installation -- it looks busy and cluttered in my opinion, and makes it hard to enjoy each piece individually.

A view of the fourth floor -- I felt the more open display allowed viewers better opportunity to appreciate each piece. (I also thought this collection of art was stronger, with or without installation considerations.)  

Nonetheless, there were plenty of pieces that I thought were interesting, exceptional, and/or thought-provoking .  Here are some of my favorites:

A portion of Every Person in New York, 2014
Ink on Paper
Jason Polan
The artist is attempting to draw every person in New York City. He sketches in the streets, subways, cafes, museums,  and other public places, hoping to capture them on paper before they disappear in the crowd.

Parasol Skeleton Hat, 2012
Wood, straw, cotton
BFAMFAPhD.com represented by Ben Lerchin, Caroline Wollard, Lika Solkova, Vicky virgin, and Julian Boilen.  The program indicates "The 2005 census revealed that there are more artists than lawyers, doctors, or police officers in the United States.  Each year, another 100,000 students graduate from American institutions with arts-oriented degrees.  The three projects here are an etched Plexiglas installation of data by Caroline Woolard; a line of clothing instigated by Lika Volkova, in which discarded and unwanted paintings are used as raw material for a local fashion cooperative; and an online data tool by Vicky Virgin and Julian Boilen.

Echo Hat, 2014
displayed in front of Vigilant Floral, 2011
Mylar wallpaper
Flavor Paper and Dan Funderburgh
(If you look closely, you'll see security cameras within the floral wallpaper design)
A Knight of the Round Table and Sir Gawain
from King Arthur's Camelot, Cincinnati Baller, 2013-14
Sally Ann Parson, Parson-Meares Ltd, Sandra Woodall, designer

Eight mannequins (from MOTION2_RED), 2014
Ralph Pucci

Large Chiffon Hat and Blackbird, both 2014
Harriet Rosebud
displayed in front of Gold Leaf Dome panel Sample, 2013
2013-14 Die Fledermaus Act II, Metropolitan Opera Scenic Artists
Robert Jones, designer
on the opposite wall is Peacock Crest, 2013
2013-14 Die Fledermaus Act I
Velociraptor Mount, 2008
Steel, Polyurethane
Richard Webber
Working behind the scenes at museum, Webber made this mount for a Velociraptor dinosaur skeleton to illustrate how fragments of fossilized bones could be safely displayed.  I love the shadow it makes, too.

There were a few other artworks I would have liked to share, but my pictures don't do them any justice so I won't belittle them here.  

Despite my lackluster feelings about some of the art in the Biennial, I will say that it was a successful exhibition in that I continue to think about it.  Sometimes I'm inspired by things I loved, and other times I'm scratching my head.  Why did the panel accept some of the pieces?  What didn't make it in?  I wish I had some insight into the selection process because I'm sure it was fascinating.  

If you'd like to see the Biennial, be sure to get to MAD before October 12.  If you do go, please share your thoughts; I'd love to hear if you had the same experience I did.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fiber Group Swap

This summer my fiber art group (FiberArt NorthEast --FANE) hosted a swap. Our ultimate goal: make 4" x 4.5" pages that we would swap in the Fall.  Each of us brought in a paper bag filled with supplies that we thought might fun to work with.  We could put in surface design supplies, fabric, or embellishments.  We blindly swapped the bags among the participants, making sure none of us got our own bags.

The bag I received contained beads, perle thread, cotton floss, paper clips, ribbon, and bon bon cups (like mini cupcake liners).

Can't wait to find out who filled this bag....
I didn't have a clue what to do....

I briefly contemplated using the paper clips and bon bon liners for  surface design but wasn't inspired.  (Having played with the materials I'm more inspired now, but that's a story for another day.)  Instead, I decided to use the supplies as embellishments to add texture and shape to my pages.

Taking a cue from the colors of the liners, I started by painting some cloth.  First I used yellow paint and bubble wrap; not knowing entirely what I would do, I thought it would be a good idea to mimic the circular shape of the liners.

I had just looked through the August/September 2014 Quilting Arts Magazine and decided to use one of the techniques described in Lynn Krawczyk's article to add more organic ink color to cloth.

Page from Lynn's article in Quilting Arts Magazine

One lesson learned: if you use cloth that's larger than 12" x 12", don't use rubber bands. I didn't have good success getting the ink to soak through all the layers because the rubber bands hold them too closely.  Instead, I simply smooshed the fabric in a plastic container (as suggested in the article) and kept "folding" it, as if I was baking.

Ink dribbling on my scrunched up cloth in a plastic bin

Look at the lovely color that process made.

Fabric post ink dribbles 

Front and back of the cloth
For some reason, I felt the cloth needed a few larger "true" circles, so I used a bit of painted fusible and scattered them across the surface.  The weren't glaringly obvious, but I felt they were enough.

After the addition of circles

A painted fusible circle -- love all the layers of color!

At that point, I felt the fabric was done and ready for quilting.  My first thought was to stitch large irregular circles around the red, but I didn't like it.  I had created unattractive mounds lost on the fabric. Eww.  They needed to disappear so I maniacally stitched swirls and circles all over the fabric in an attempt to flatten the mounds.

My crazy quilting, as seen from the back

Quilting, quilting, quilting

Post quilting

I liked it, but I felt that the fabulous texture  the stitching had created was too hard to see..... so I painted over it all with white paint, a la Deidre Adams.

I really like being able to see the quilted texture

Side view of texture; LOVE it!

There, now I really liked it.  Reluctantly I cut up the cloth to add the embellishments, but how?   This is what I decided: cut up the candy liners, open up the paper clips, and stitch them down using the thread from the bag.  Occasionally use some beads... and viola, here they are, ready to trade:

Can't wait to see what I get in the swap --  I'll post pictures when I get them.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Melly's Breast Pocket Project

Last year, Melanie Testa shared her thoughts, frustrations, and feelings about her experiences post-breast cancer.  For those of you unfamiliar with Melly's story, Melly chose not to have breast reconstruction following her double mastectomy.  Melly's experience isn't unique -- a significant minority of women choose not to have post-operative breast reconstruction -- but nonetheless, the "world" seems unprepared for women for whom this path is best.

Amidst all the other stuff she had to deal with, Melly found it difficult to find shirts that didn't have darts, shirts made for "flatties" (her term).  In response -- and in frustration I imagine, Melly put out a call for artists to make breast pockets in honor of breast cancer survivors, regardless of their post-op choices, and to help raise awareness about the choices women have about reconstruction.

Melly's frankness wasn't the way things were dealt with in my family.  Oh no.  If a conversation had to deal with "feminine issues", it became taboo and hush-hush.  It was so private that I didn't find out my mom was going in for a lumpectomy until a hospital nurse confirmed all the pre-op procedures and administrative details with me on the phone, assuming I was my mom.

Oops.  That was not an ideal way for me to find out.

I've clearly survived the shock and have come out of it believing that talking about medical issues is important.  Everyone doesn't need to be as open as Melly, who has shared her experiences broadly and bravely across social media.  But it IS important for members of a family to talk about whatever is going on: cancer, mental illness, whatever.  So many things are influenced by genetics and/or environment that it seems fool-hardy not to talk with those who are most likely going to be impacted by health issues.

But getting back on track here, it's no surprise I responded to Melly's call for pockets last year.  I wanted to make something for my mom who went through three lumpectomies and countless aspirations.  One pocket  I made dealt with my mom's beloved cup of coffee; after her surgery, she was advised to avoid caffeine under the notion that caffeine could speed metastasis.  This was almost as hard to deal with as the surgery.  My mom never had an empty coffee cup and our house forever smelled of coffee.  The other pocket was made with fabrics my mom had said, at one point or another, that she loved.  It seemed appropriate to give my mom some method of expression on a topic she otherwise felt she wasn't "supposed to" talk about.

You can see my two pockets flanking the bottom corners of the title of Melly's article in the October/November 2014 issue of Quilting Arts magazine.  (Imagine my surprise to discover them there -- thank you Melly and QA.)

(Apologies for the photo; my scanner is broken)
Melly's article tells her story, shares a pocket pattern, and puts out another call to further raise awareness.  I will be sending in more pockets -- perhaps I can make one in honor of my mom as a survivor and another for Lisa Quintana who fought valiantly for years before succumbing to the disease.  I hope you'll all read Melly's interview and decide if you can do something to support her cause.   You can find details in the issue on news stands now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


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.


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?