Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Larger than life fiber sculpture, artist name forgotten...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

However you celebrate this time of year, I hope you are surrounded by loved ones, safe and warm.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finding Balance

I'd like to share with you a selection from the book, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  For those of you who don't know, Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the wife of Charles Lindbergh and a pioneering aviator in her own right.  She was also an author and environmentalist.  She wrote Gift from the Sea while on a beach vacation. It was first published in 1955.  What she wrote more than fifty years ago somehow still rings true:

Distraction is, always has been, and probably always will be, inherent in woman's life.

For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel.  The pattern of our lives is essentially circular.  We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider's web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes.  How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.  How much we need, and how arduous the attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules for holy living.  How desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist or saint -- the inner inviolable core, the single eye.

With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women.  I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children.  It has to do primarily with distractions.  The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationship with their myriad pulls -- woman's normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.  The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence.  It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel. 

As the new year approaches, I'm reflecting on the past twelve months and looking forward to the next twelve.  Finding time for all that has to be done and what I'd like to do is a delicate balancing act.   How do you do it?  How do you find balance in your life?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chinese Art in NYC -- Exhibition Review (Subtitle: How Curatorial Decisions Affect an Exhibition)

Yesterday, Natalya and I took a few hours out of our respective holiday bustle to go see Bound Unbound: Lin Tianmiao at the Asia Society in New York City.  The exhibition marketing pictures were intriguing and we were very excited to go see works that had never been displayed outside of China.

This isn't a very expansive exhibition -- only fourteen pieces are on display -- but some of the artwork, such as Here? Or There?, are installations that take up a gallery room.   Throughout the entire exhibition, Lin Tianmiao's care with her art is apparent. She is meticulous with her thread wrapping technique (photography wasn't allowed, but go to her website here and select All Same (All the Same,  2011 for an example of one of the pieces we saw).  And, Tian Miao is a master seamstress and sculptor too.  Some of her human forms, particularly those that showed the aging body and all its flaws were breath-taking and perfectly covered in stitched and (somehow) adhered white silk.  Scroll here to see an example in Chatting, 2004.  Almost all her works are done in white which, if I've done my research correctly, is the color of mourning in China.  In interesting contrast, the most recent work in the exhibition was done in gold, with bits of blue.  

But despite all the accolades I've just offered, I have to say the exhibition was a disappointment.  To be clear, it had nothing to do with the artist or the works on display.  Instead, I fault the Asia Society and the exhibition curator. To begin with, the sound quality of the free cell phone audio tour was terrible.  Natalya and I have different phones using different carriers and both of us experienced terrible static on the line.  In addition, the voice on the tour started off speaking in such low tones, it was almost impossible to hear.  Finally, when we could hear the voice, she didn't have particularly helpful things to say.

Second, the signage by the artwork left a great deal to be desired, in my opinion, and the bookstore catalogs were only photo books, without text.  I wanted to know why, for example, the walls and floors of the exhibition room for Mother's! were irregular.  I had to look to the artist's website to discover the answer and guess what, it helped me understand the artwork better.  The artwork within the room has to do with struggles and nightmares within the artist's psyche and it turns out, the room is designed to reference the shape of the body's visceral cavity. Heck, if the artist feels a need to share that tidbit on her website, it's probably important and should be shared in an exhibition. On the other hand why, when all the other artwork in the room is so carefully and cleanly executed, were the panels of silk on the walls so chaotically applied? Regrettably, that question went unanswered.

This was the case throughout the exhibition: lots of questions, no answers.  In addition, some of the signage on the walls just didn't seem relevant to the artwork I was looking at.  For example, the recent piece I reference above that's gold and blue was about buried bones.  The color yellow represents the earth in Chinese culture and blue references immortality (based on research I did at home after the exhibition).  I think that's significant to understanding the piece, but the signage didn't say anything about color at all, comment on the selection of this one of two pieces made with vibrant color, or noted it in relationship to all the white work on display.  Is this a new direction?  Does the artist feel more hopeful?   Pity I'll never know.

In addition, the layout/display of the artwork wasn't ideal and I'm surprised the artist didn't balk at the placement of some of her pieces.  For example, Chatting, 2004 includes a soundtrack as interplay between the bodies of the piece.  Unfortunately, this artwork was set up close to Sewing, 1997.  Sewing, 1997 is a thread-wrapped treadle sewing machine with a video installation that mimics fabric being guided through the machine, replete with the rat-a-tat-tat of the needle mechanism.  The sewing "sound" was so loud as to completely obliterate any hope of hearing the soundtrack of Chatting, 2004. In my opinion, Sewing, 1997 should have been swapped with the artwork hanging from the ceiling in the gallery foyer because it included two of the three elements of many of the artist's techniques: thread-wrapping and video installation. The artwork that was hanging in the lobby was a better partner to the self-portrait pieces that were in the room and the ceiling height there would have made it easier to get underneath the piece to appreciate it better.  I have to add too, that the lighting was so dark in some spaces as to almost obscure the artwork.

And how come the exhibition lists the artist's name as Lin Tianmiao, when on the artist's own website she shows her last name split in two, as in Lin Tian Miao?  How did that pass the copy editor's and curator's notice?  If this isn't a significant change or if it's customary to combine multiple Chinese last names to coincide with Western "ways", I would have appreciated a footnote to that effect.  Right now, it seems sloppy.

All in all, I wish I could have found more information, somewhere, to help me better understand the artist's intent.  I know that art's supposed to stand on its own two feet and this was fabulous work ... but it's hard to ignore that some of her work was in direct response to her life experiences in China, and I'm ignorant of that since I don't live there.  I'm sad that display decisions so negatively affected my appreciation of the art.  (I'm going to keep that lesson in mind if I ever curate an exhibition).  I have to wonder if the curator presumed more familiarity and/or knowledge with Chinese culture and that's why information was lacking. At any rate, I am glad to have gone; I still learned a lot and discovered an artist whose work I find interesting.  Besides, we ended our outing with a trip to a virtual Candy Land -- how could I not leave the city happy?

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Bit of Fun

As I sit down to write, I realize how long it's been since I've posted here.  All is well, there's just been a lot of fun happening here, including a Thanksgiving visit from our daughter.  On the art front, there's been a fabulous new development: I've joined an international group of textile artists, called Latitude Quilts, that will be functioning similar to the Twelve by Twelve group. There are sixteen members; two are from the United States and the other members hail from all over the globe.  It's so exciting to see the work from the other members, most of whom have finished at least one City & Guilds course and some have taken class from the Kemshalls.  I'm finding it wonderful to see the members' work.  Their design aesthetic is different than that in the United States; the best word I can use to describe it is to say it is very elegant.  I know I'm going to learn a great deal and have a great time within this new community.  Be one the look out for more in the coming months.  For now, I leave you with our first challenge theme:  CARNIVAL.

In between family time and getting to know my fellow Latitude members, I managed to make a piece for the Quilting Arts "Coffee or Tea?" reader challenge.  I always have a lot of fun with the ideas presented in the challenges, but don't have enough time to respond to each of them.   The "Coffee or Tea?" challenge asked readers to share how they enjoyed their cup of Joe or tea in an 8" x 10" piece.  Well, I drink neither coffee nor tea, but I still wanted to participate in the challenge.  Here's what I made as a result:

I hope the editorial staff gets a good chuckle when they see it, though it's unlikely to be selected for publication since it's not about coffee or tea.  Still, this little piece served its purpose.  I probably should have been more careful with the letter placement and overall spacing but  I had fun, it was a good way to get back into the studio after a little break, I solved some "problems" along the way, and I managed to work with tulle (something I'd like to work with on another piece I have in mind).  Time well spent, I'd say.