Thursday, April 29, 2010

Doing my Homework

"I really don't think of myself as a quiltmaker, just as an artist who works in the textile medium."
- Ardyth Davis, 2006

I've been busy of late, doing my self-imposed homework. What am I doing, you may ask? To start, I wanted to familiarize myself with the artist, Ardyth Davis. You may recall that I was ignorant of her work when I saw two of her pieces in the Jack Walsh III exhibit at the Morris Museum. Well, shame on me. In a nutshell, Ardyth Davis is an important figure in our textile art history. Born in 1930, Ardyth began work as a graphic designer, after attending the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. . She began working with textiles in 1970. Most of her body of work includes painting the textile of choice (often silk or muslin, but occasionally paper), then manipulating it into a form. As she describes it in her artist statement, "I like color, particularly all the subtle gradations obtained when mixing and intermixing dyes and paints. I work with color gradations instead of color patterns because my primary interest is in texture, which is likely to be obscured by patterning."

Davis was juried into Quilt National in 1983, 1985, 1989, 1993, and 2005. In 1985, she received the Award of Excellence. Her "fiber constructions", as she calls them, are often evocative of landscapes and the textures that occur in nature. I mentioned before how I loved "Peak 3 / Red Rock" that I saw at the Morris Museum. But, as I looked through her gallery of art, I fell in love with "Reef 1 / Coral" from 1996. Oh, it just immediately took me away to the ocean. Both of these pieces are made from pleated and dyed silk. In her interview with Le Rowell for the Alliance for American Quilts, Davis explained her process. She creates a scale design of her vision, calculating as well how much fabric and backing she'll need from the start. It's important that this is accurate since she needs four times the fabric and backing amount to account for all the pleating. Using Tinfax brand liquid silk dyes, Davis also calculates how much dye is necessary because she needs 1 milliliter of dye per square inch of silk. She does this to insure she has the right intensity for her dyes and is prepared for all the combinations she'd like to make. Can you imagine all the calculations? She'll also dye silk thread so that the stitched line doesn't interfere with the palette of the final piece. Using a smocking machine, Davis then creates all the pleats for her piece which are sometimes pulled tight, other times opened or twisted, dependent on her vision. I don't know if she uses the machine to help her pleat paper for her creations.... but that would be interesting to find out.

Not surprisingly, Davis' work has been included in a number of publications, including The Art Quilt by Robert Shaw and The Best in Contemporary Quilts, edited by Dawn Cusick. She has work in numerous corporate and private collections, as well as museums, most notably the Smithsonian American Art Museum. If you don't get a chance to see her work in the Jack Walsh III collection as it travels, you might be able to see one piece of hers at the La Conner Quilt Museum in La Conner, Washington. Her piece is part of an exhibit called, "Hardware". In my opinion, this artwork isn't as evocative as some of her pieces inspired by the land, but you'll get a great feel for her mastery of color, as well as her pleating technique.

Now that I know more about Ardyth Davis (and you do, too, though don't confess if you didn't know her name either!), I feel much better .... though I wonder how I didn't know about her in the first place. I'm going to have to do some more research on names I don't know. Perhaps I'll start with winners at Quilt National. That seems as good a place as any. In the meantime, I'm also doing some homework on my website. Yes, I'm very excited. I'm working with Jane Davila on this project and Jane asked me some very thought-provoking questions the other day that now I'm going to have to ponder and figure out. They went beyond just "Do you prefer tabs on the top of the page or along the side?". No, they were meatier questions, such as "What exactly are you trying to do with your website?" "Well, get my work out there" isn't enough of an answer. Do I want to sell to galleries? Do I want to expand into Etsy? Do I want to attract potential buyer? I need to think through all these types of questions so that I can create a website that works in conjunction with my goals.

Another thing I have to think about is "who am I"? I don't intend to be flip, but Jane is right in making me try to identify what makes me... me? This self-examination is important so that a website, and any other public "face", is in line with how I am projecting myself. This is really rather hard. What do I want to say about myself? I've decided to identify myself as "Artist, Writer, and Photographer". Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I already went and changed my Facebook, Twitter, and blog profiles to reflect that. Wow. Big step.

But there's also one other thing I've been working on. Today, I submitted a review of the Art Quilt Elements show at the Wayne Art Center to the SAQA Journal for possible publication. I don't know if it will make it in, but I hope so. I really do enjoy writing exhibit reviews and it's something I'd like to do more of.

And finally, I keep taking pictures. How about this one -- a view of the only tulip in my garden this morning that survived a rabbit feeding frenzy. Isn't it amazing how many colors there are in a yellow tulip?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Place to be Today was....

the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. Why? Because the Morris Museum is playing host to "Art Quilts Contemporary Expressions from the Collection of John M. Walsh III", a remarkable exhibit featuring selections from the noted collection.

Walsh began collecting art quilts " that jump out and stand on their own" (Gloria Hansen, "An Interview with John M. Walsh, III", Art/Quilt Magazine , Issue #7, 1996-97) in 1992. He did so (and continues to do so) with guidance and input from Penny McMorris. McMorris is an independent curator who said the following about art quilts,

It is art for walls, not bed, created by artists abandoning media like painting, printmaking and ceramics, to express themselves in original designs of cloth and thread.

Indeed, the pieces from the collection now hanging in the Morris Museum are excellent examples of artists who created landmark pieces of art. Many, such as "Lush Life" by Michael James and "Geranium" by Velda Newman, are quilts we've seen in print before but are no less impressive for their familiarity. "When the Bee Stings" by M. Joan Lintault seemed new to me because photography simply cannot do justice to the open negative space within her art.

I have to confess, though, a terrific ignorance of some of the artists represented in the exhibit. One of my favorite pieces was created by Tim Harding, a former painter and photographer. He created a commission for Walsh called "Surf Swimmers" that I'd never seen before. It's a large diptych more than ten feet wide representing the bob of the ocean waves and the visual distortion of swimmers within the surf. It's a magnificent pointillist creation, with an array of fabrics layered and pieced together to create terrific movement and texture. You can almost feel the ocean's current. Another one of my favorite pieces, "Peak 3 / Red Rock", was created by Ardyth Davis in 1994. Who's Ardyth Davis? I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know, but I guarantee you, I will find out. Davis' two pieces in the exhibit were both made from hand painted and pleated silks. "Peak 3 / Red Rock" had the fabric vertically pleated in such a way to be perfectly evocative of a red stone face. Perhaps I was so drawn to this piece because I'm also drawn to the landscape of Sedona, Arizona, though to say it so simply would diminish the mastery of this piece.

The main gallery which houses the exhibit is well lit and surrounded by windows, making the outdoors a nice backdrop for the artwork. The exhibit itself is divided into five sections: That's Art?; Methods and Materials; The Natural World; Narrative Quilts; and, Inspirations. Many of the pieces easily fell into their categories, such as Susan Shie's "Savannah, The Two of Cups" (narrative quilts). Others crossed boundaries in my mind. For example, Kyoung Ae Cho's piece "Aged, covered by wisdom" was placed in the Methods and Materials division, but could easily have fit into The Natural World category with its pieces of pine laid out upon the surface. I did note that the artwork, save for the two by Ardyth Davis, were all pieces of grand scale. I don't know if that's a function of the space and the museum's intent to fill the gallery with large pieces or because Walsh has a predisposition towards bigger pieces of artwork and this is representative of his collection. That's something I may investigate.

You can't take pictures in the main gallery and many of the quilts in the exhibit are being displayed for the first time in public. Since this exhibit will only be on display until April 25th, you have to hurry to get your glimpse of these masterworks. Yes, the date crept up on me, too, and that's why Natalya Aikens and I raced to get there today. We weren't alone. It was a pleasant surprise to run into Art Quilt Elements SAQA Cream winner, Benedicte Caneill, Fiber Revolution member, Rachel Cochran, Create your Own Hand Printed Cloth author (and teacher of the year nominee), Rayna Gillman, and Inspired to Quilt author, Melania Testa, all there to view the exhibit as well . Perhaps some day, one of these esteemed artists will have a piece in Walsh's collection and I'll be able to say, "I remember when ....."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Babysitting Conehead (a.k.a. the dog)

Goblin is recovering well from his surgery, but he's not allowed to climb stairs, run, jump, or do any other activity that dogs like to do. He can't even chew a bone because he can't reach around the giant satellite dish he's wearing to prevent him from licking his wound. Needless to say, he's one bored dog.

Since the weather was so beautiful this morning, I sat outside with him so he could take in the scenery and catch some rays. While Goblin relaxed in the sun I wandered about the yard, taking pictures. Oh, the glory of spring! I challenged myself to take pictures from all angles, as an exercise in perspective. It was fun, though lying atop fallen holly leaves was not. I did realize (again) that I'm not the best gardener. For example, does anyone recognize the flower in the last photo? It has the most wonderful checkerboard-like pattern. I know I planted it, but for the life of me, I haven't a clue what it is. Do you?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Brain Hurts

I have only a moment to spare here, between unpacking and getting back to the business of being a mom, but I just had to share what an incredibly intellectually and visually stimulating weekend I've had. Whew! My brain literally hurt at the end of the day yesterday. On Friday evening I tagged along with Natalya Aikens to a Fiber Revolution get-together at the home of gracious hostess, Cindy Friedman, in the outskirts of Philly. Conversation was exciting, to say the least, in the company of Jason Pollen and Regina Benson.

On Saturday, I attended the SAQA symposium, "Building an Artist Community". The keynote speaker was Sue Benner who, with the most delightful humorous asides, led us through her path as an artist and how it was enriched by her association with other artists.... and not only textile artists. This point was driven home again and again over the next 18 hours: it is imperative to your success as an artist to seek out artists in other fields and to meet with them regularly. What you learn from these other artists and their form of expression will only better inform your own.

This lecture was followed by an exchange with the three jurors of the Art Quilt Elements show: Jason Pollen, Robin Schwalb, and Deborah C. Warner. During their panel discussion, they reviewed a random selection of entries which were not juried into the show. In each case, they expressed how the entry was enhanced and detracted by color, technique, even the detail photo selected for submission. They opened the floor to questions as they went through the photos, so it became a real dialogue with those of us in the audience. I have to credit each of the jurors with being very accessible in how they spoke about the art. It was a very engaging experience. Among the many things I learned was the importance of the detail photo. It's not enough that it convey some sense of the mastery of your technique. Instead, it should reveal some essence of the overall piece, with the technique supporting that vision. It was interesting to note that many of the pieces that were presented during the talk were compositionally stronger in their detail shots, as compared to their full views. If your piece looks better as a detail, perhaps you should rethink the piece. What a great self-critique tool.

During lunch I had the opportunity to mingle with some of the artists juried into the show (talk about rubbing elbows with greatness -- whew!). Then Sandra Sider and Lisa Chipetine spoke about their critique business, (currently off-line, but soon to be back). I was hoping there would be fresh material from Sandra in her talk, but she used a good portion of her recent article in the SAQA journal as the source for her lecture. Still, it is interesting to see and hear how critique from those whose opinions you trust can lead you in new directions and better work. Lisa followed up with ways to become part of critique groups. One of the key points here is that there should always be a facilitator so nothing gets out of hand and/or isn't productive. She also spoke about marketing ourselves more widely, using technology, to help create a more global artist community. Skype, the Flip Minnow Video for You Tube, and enhancements to the SAQA wiki were all part of the discussion. I haven't had success getting into the SAQA wiki (technical issues), but I am looking forward to it. I think I'll benefit from some of the information there. It's also clear that I should participate in more of the mentoring calls offered, as another way to reach out.

After all the lectures, the symposium moved to the galleries. Each of us were encouraged to talk with the artists about their quilts. Every artist I spoke to was very generous and forthcoming about their experiences, inspiration and joy in making their artwork. Each of the pieces in the show is a marvel and it was my great pleasure and privilege to speak with so many of the artists in attendance.

Now, though I'd love to write more, I have to get back to the business here at hand: school projects, injured dog care, unpacking.....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting Sappy Here

I have to bring my silly, wonderful dog in for surgery tomorrow morning to remove a growth the vet believes may be cancer. Just wanted to let you know that between that and attending the SAQA Symposium "Building an Artist Community", along with the Art Quilt Elements opening this weekend (yep, very cool!), I likely won't be blogging for the next few days.

I can't wait to share my thoughts about the weekend. And, if you're so inclined, I'd appreciate positive vibes going out to Goblin. Yes, some might say he's a just dog, not a person; to keep it in perspective. But he brings tremendous joy and love to our family and I do hope he's okay.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Deer in the Headlights

Someone kindly asked how I was doing, given the shocking news of last week. I'm doing fine, thanks, as are my parents... but we all still have just a bit of the "deer in the headlights" look. I can't get over how this situation snuck up and bit us. But we've done what we can and now it's time to move on, hopefully with our humor and goodwill intact. To that end, here's a picture for today.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Let me start with apologies to Carole; she awarded me the Sunshine Award for positive and cheerful blogging. Well, Carole, unfortunately today will not be such a day.

By way of backstory, my mom's wallet was stolen last October. My parents did all the necessary things to protect themselves: cancelled credit cards and got new ones; changed checking and savings account numbers; filed a report with the Attorney General; etc. Earlier this week, my parents discovered that someone used my mom's driver's license and social security card (which she unfortunately had in her wallet) to access their new accounts and take out $15,000.

My parents are angry, but they also feel violated and unsafe. As senior citizens -- my dad's in his 80's, my mom her 70's -- on a fixed budget, this is a serious dent in their life savings. The bank has agreed that a fraud has been perpetrated, but it will be a while before they can reimburse the funds.

I, on the other hand, felt RAGE. I don't know that I've ever really felt this before. I am a happy person by nature, optimistic and occasionally a bit silly. But not this week. I felt rage at an individual who would go to such lengths to attack two hard-working seniors who earned every single penny in their account and make them feel vulnerable in a way only crime can. I felt rage at system that enabled someone to make a $5,000 cash withdrawal despite the fact the criminal, upon endorsing the false check, not only shortened my mom's last name by three letters, but added two that aren't even in there. Doesn't anyone check to make sure the name is at least spelled correctly? And where was the red flag to alert bank staff that my parents had never withdrawn such a large amount in cash and that this should give pause?

After helping my parents as much as I could throughout the week, I ended up with a major migraine by last night. I woke this morning still with a migraine, but also with a serious stomach ache and tense, painful shoulders. I know what it means to be eaten up by rage .... and bottom line, it's awful. I couldn't focus on anything, so I decided to make some art to help channel my powerful feelings. Here's the end result. It's not incredible art, but it was an incredibly cathartic process to create something out of my strong emotions. By the time this was finished, my headache was gone, my stomach felt better, and the tension was gone from my shoulders. I'm now ready to tackle anything I need to for my parents. Now my head is clear enough to see through the problem I was having with my Smithsonian donation piece and to work on my piece for our upcoming Fiber Art NE exhibit.

My rage is gone. Thank God.

"Rage" - paint (freezer paper stencil created using an amending font called Broken); thread; embroidery floss

Monday, April 5, 2010

Test Pilot

I am one of a lucky group of artists being a "test pilot" for Susie Monday's upcoming Text on the Surface on-line class. Just like future students, we're working through a series of weekly assignments and exercises to discover different ways to incorporate text in our artwork .

One of the things we're doing this week -- our first week-- is focusing our attention on different styles of text. I had letters and fonts buzzing about in my head as I worked this morning. And so, instead of using my drop-cloth to wipe up the mess, I decided to stencil letters on it with the left-over paint. Look what I ended up with! Isn't it cool? I really love this detour! This is definitely going from my drop-cloth pile to my painted fabric bin.

I'll keep you posted on the all exciting things I learn and make; it looks like it's going to be a great class!

Saturday, April 3, 2010


In my book, looking at trip pictures comes before unpacking and tackling piles of laundry. With that said, here are some of my favorites from our visit to Carmel this past week. What an absolutely gorgeous area!

Carmel Mission

Mama sea otter and pup

A view of a tube off Carmel Beach

Among the redwoods along San Jose Creek

The angry ocean before a storm

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lady Bug Tracks

As you know, we've experienced devastating weather here these last two months. So much of what we heard was the crack and crash of falling trees and limbs, the howl of the wind, and the harsh pound of rain pelleting down. Mother Nature was overpowering and overwhelming.

Then, two weeks ago, the weather turned. We heard gentle breezes, bird song and the whir from wings of newly hatched lady bugs. It was all music to my ears. Eureka! Our recent challenge for Textile Abstractions was to represent music in our piece and this was perfect. As a result, this quilt's final look and name -- which was brewing in my head and driving me crazy -- was inspired by the many lady bugs who hitched a ride on it as I quilted. I celebrate the music of spring!

This piece is a hand-painted cloth, quilted with rayon and metallic threads, and embroidered. Any comments / critique / thoughts you have would be welcome.

For all the other wonderful pieces that were made for the challenge, please visit our group blog.

P.S. Credit must go to Norma for the name of the piece. I love the play on words: "tracks" can mean the path taken by the little critters and / or the sound tracks the wings make. Thanks, Norma!