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?


norma said...

i must confess that I didn't know the name either. Shame on me since her work is absolutely amazing. It literally took my breath away. Thank you for the education. Good luck with your writing career. You certainly have a gift.
I look forward to seeing your website.

Natalya Aikens said...

like Norma said - thank you for the education! you fabulous writer you....

Cindy said...

I agree: your writing is right up there with your photography and art! You are certainly all three! I think you'd make an excellent reviewer - show them your blog as proof! (And the FANE show quilt is up to 14x14 but can be smaller. I don't know why I often find smaller harder!)

lisette said...

thank you for leading me to ardyth davis' work - it's stunning!!

i'm so please i found your blog (via fiberations blog) - your work is fabulous :)