Sunday, March 31, 2013

Latitude Quilts Reveal Day!

First off -- HAPPY EASTER!!!

Today also happens to be Latitude Quilts Reveal Day for our newest challenge, Every Single Day.  I had an idea come to mind pretty quickly after the challenge was announced.  It was such a cool idea, but despite lots of time and energy spent (including consulting with friends on how to construct it), I failed.  Complete wash-out.

Unfortunately, I didn't keep an eye on the calendar.  I had left myself very little time to create a new, second piece -- less than a week.  Fortunately, another idea crystallized quickly;  it was in the same vein as the first idea, but much less complicated to create.

This piece is a visual daily "to-do" list.  The key to this piece is velcro -- did you know that velcro comes in lots of colors?  I didn't, but when I discovered it, the red velcro helped set the palette for my new piece, Daily Tasks.  Once again, I've turned to circles and bright colors to help express myself. I have a number of labelled medallions secured to the surface with velcro.  Some are in the center, representing the tasks I need to do today.  Others wait on the outside frame because it's certain that I'll be transferring them to the center at some point soon.   I can rearrange the medallions to meet the demands of most of my days, though I realize some tasks are missing, such as gardening.  (I suspect that's because I created this while snow was still on the ground.)   In fact, I identified more tasks than the number of medallions I made.  I suppose there's always room for more to do.

I hope I'll remember always to put the Be Thankful medallion at the top of the list.  And, in the event I drop the ball and forget to do a task, I gave myself an Oops! medallion, too.  I made it green to give myself a green light to just "let it go".  Sometimes we can't juggle it all but life goes on, every single day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Questions and Answers at Matisse: In Search of True Painting

Scan of Metropolitan Museum of Art postcard
THE DREAM, Henri Matisse, French, 1869-1954
Oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in., 1940
Private Collection

I wasn't sure what to expect of the Met's exhibition, Matisse: In Search of True Painting.  The exhibition had been up since December 4th and I hadn't spoken with anyone who had been to see it.  But I was confident it would be interesting since I'd had a chance to see the Met's last Matisse exhibition in 2005, Matisse, His Art and His Textiles. In that previous exhibition, the Met had focused on textiles that repeatedly were shown in Matisse's work.  In the current exhibition, the Met curator was hoping to illustrate the evolution of Matisse's ideas to the finished product.

I found the exhibition fascinating.  Through the excellent audio guide and the posted placards, I learned that Matisse worked and reworked a painting until he felt it was finished, even painting over already completed sections of canvas until he was satisfied.  He tried to "push further and deeper into true painting."  By selecting thematically connected paintings, not necessarily series per se (because Matisse didn't view them as such), the curator showcased the progression of ideas from one to the next.   For example, Matisse was interested in artistic deformation, the simplification of a form to its most essential elements.  This was influenced by Matisse's interest in African art that exemplified (to him) this very concept.  One instance of this was exploration from 1906 in two paintings, Young Sailor (1906) and Young Sailor II (1906).  The curator hung them side by side to facilitate comparisons.   It became easy to see what elements Matisse chose to eliminate, emphasize, and simplify.

Matisse did set some parameters while investigating a particular idea.  One of his most notable self-imposed "rules" was to paint the same sized canvases throughout his investigation.  This was true even if the experimentation spanned years.  He also returned to subjects if he felt his investigation wasn't complete. The audio noted that the following ideas engaged Matisse: the means of representation; the role of color; and, questions of what constituted a finished canvas.    The curator selected what looked like sketched compositional studies and finished paintings, but noted that many of the sketches weren't titled as such.  Instead, Matisse considered them finished works onto themselves even if elements weren't fully formed.

One of my favorite "experiments" (though it's hardly fair to call them experiments since they're all completed works and brilliant) was Matisse's investigation into "using black to paint light".  His painting "Interior with Violin" (1918) from his time in Nice is absolutely spectacular in my opinion.  You can see a copy of the painting here.  You'll see that, though most of the painting is black, there's a luminescence to the canvas that's breathtaking.  You can see the sunlight shimmering.  Amazing.

Of course, the exhibition also left me with lots of questions that only Matisse could answer.  Why are the lady's hands in "Woman in Blue" (1937) so huge?  Why didn't he think it necessary to clean up the paint drip in "Young Sailor"?  Why didn't he put many people in his Notre Dame paintings, even if they were a representation of a street view in Paris (were the people extraneous)?  Fortunately, a very obliging curator was able to answer another one of my questions.

One room of the Met's exhibition was given over to a re-creation of the Matisse Exhibition at the Galerie Maeght in 1945.  In the 1945 exhibition, the gallery arranged photographs of the evolution of a  work, culminating in the presentation of the final piece.  It was an effort to dispel the notion that Matisse worked spontaneously.  At the Met, three such progressions were displayed and arranged according to photos taken at the original exhibition.  One of the paintings showcased was "The Dream" and it just so happened that the photo from the Galerie Maeght of that painting was enlarged to wall size.  When I compared the original exhibition photo to what I saw before me, I noticed that some of the progression photos were arranged differently.

Fortunately, the exhibition curator had just finished a private tour and was saying her goodbyes to the group.  When she finished, I decided to ask her why there was a discrepancy (if in fact there was one -- was I wrong?).  In fact, she stated that I was only the second person to call out the difference.  Indeed, the photos on the wall at the Met were hung in chronological order (easy to determine because Matisse dated everything) but the photos hung originally at the Galerie Maeght were not.  Apparently, Matisse was ill and couldn't be present when the 1945 exhibition was hung, hence the error went unchecked.  The Met curator told me (and the small gathering of folks who now surrounded us) that she had thought long and hard about how to hang the photos.  Was it more important to be true to the original exhibition or to be true to Matisse's implied intent?  She chose to correct the error and hang the photos in the correct chronological order.

Ah, the impact of a curator on even the minutest of details....

I love it that she took the time to answer my question.  And by doing so, she brought Matisse even more alive for me.  With a bit of Googling, I've learned that Dr. Rebecca Rabinow was the curator and I'm going to make sure I pay attention for any future exhibitions she curates.

Sadly, the exhibition closes today, but I encourage you to read through this more detailed explanation of the exhibition from the Met.  It explains many more of the fabulous things I encountered at the exhibition and with great clarity.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Snippets of Textile Beauty at the Met

Today, Natalya and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Matisse exhibition,  Matisse: In Search of True Painting.  But before we could even step a foot into the gallery, we were sidetracked by these beauties along the way:

Tent Divider (Te Saqwit); Sudan, Beja peoples; 19th - 20th century;
Cotton, leather, beads, cowrie, shells, palm leaf

Ceremonial wrapper (Dodot Bangun Tulak Alas Alasan); Indonesia; Central Java;
19th - early 20th century; Cotton, gold leaf, adhesive

Olga De Amaral, Colombian; "Alquimia XIII", Wall Hanging, 1984
Linen, rice paper, gesso, indigo red and gold leaf

"Peacock" Chair,  2009, Dror Benshetrit, Israeli
Felt with powder varnish, metal base

Aren't these gorgeous?  Oh, I could spend days wandering the great halls of the Met.

But, I've been sidetracked again.  The next post will be about the Matisse exhibition including a brief, informal sidebar with the curator (so cool!).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dog Joy

I have to digress from art to share some pictures and two short video clips of my dog, Harvey, in the fresh snow.  How can we doubt the presence of a higher power when confronted with such displays of pure joy?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Kerfuffle Post-mortem

Tree texture
Kerfuffle -- what a great word.  Someone used it yesterday to describe the buzz that sprung out of the new SAQA call for entry to design fabric as a fundraiser for the organization.   In a nutshell, SAQA offered members the chance to design a six to eight piece fabric line under the banner of Urban Textures that would be produced by Andover Fabrics.  SAQA would receive a portion of the sales proceeds (hence, the idea this was a fundraiser) and also retain the copyright of all selected designs.  Like other SAQA calls for entry, there was a fee for submitting an entry.  Finally, artists were not going to receive remuneration for their designs and/or proceeds from the sales.

The call created an uproar.

Kristin La Flamme sent an articulate email to the SAQA Yahoo group, stating that doing creative work without compensation is a big no-no in the graphic design world. She cited the AIGA's aversion to the practice and linked us to their statement here.  In rapid succession, members expressed their own concerns about the organization of the opportunity.

I thought folks were making good points, especially considering AIGA professional organization opinion (as seen in their statement noted above) that reads:

AIGA believes that professional designers should be compensated fairly for their work and should negotiate the ownership or use rights of their intellectual and creative property through an engagement with clients.

A collaborative approach that respects and acknowledges the value of every participant's contribution usually works best.  Of course, everyone would like to get paid more, but even some compensation is better than none.  

I also felt that, if I were to participate in this call, I'd want something more than simply submitting my designs. If I was selected, I'd want to be part of the further process of getting the designs ready for market.  It's not that I believe I have great knowledge to add to the discussion, but I'd want to listen in on the discussion so I could understand why things were tweaked.  With all this in mind, I sent an email to the SAQA group with the following suggestions about a potential re-organization of the fund-raiser:

1) insist that the artist's name would be included in all marketing material to give appropriate credit;
2) ask that the chosen artist be included in design and development meetings with Andover so that the artist could learn from the experience, potentially developing a relationship with Andover; 
3) require that the artist receive some compensation from sold yardage (I don't know what the right number is, but I think there's room for Andover profits, SAQA fundraising, and artist compensation);
3) require that the artist receive compensation -- to be negotiated later -- if replication of the selected designs moves beyond the initial fabric / terms of the call for entry (such as into carpet design or home decorating fabrics);
4) hope that the artist selected would be given the opportunity to share their experience (including the process of working with Andover, as noted above) to the SAQA community in conferences and the Journal so others can learn from the experience as well.

Martha and her team amended the call for entry yesterday, in light of the on-line debate.  You can find the new call listed here.  I think the changes address some of the concerns members had and I'm glad Martha was able to respond quickly.

There are lots of lessons and observations from the kerfuffle:
1)  SAQA is trying to be creative in its approach to finding funds to support the organization.  I applaud them for that.  However, fresh and new ideas need to be more thoroughly vetted before an announcement.

2)  If SAQA is going to join in a for-profit enterprise that asks for member participation, the selected artists really should have a larger role than handing over their creative efforts without compensation or future control over how their designs are used.  This is a personal bee in my bonnet because I would think that SAQA would be working hard to safeguard the rights of their membership, teaching those of us without experience how to navigate business endeavors.  They should be setting the standard on how artists should be treated and this experience didn't really do that.  

3) Marketing is an important part of any successful sales experience.  It's hard to sell something if no one knows you have it.  In the initial call for entry, SAQA stated that the artist's name would be listed along the fabric's selvedge.  As a girlfriend of mine put it: "Wait.  They're going to list the name on the part of the fabric that gets cut off and thrown in the garbage?"  She has a point; a listing on the selvedge is not enough. It's since come to light that the artist's name will be included in marketing materials, but whose?  SAQA's?  Andover's?  I believe it should be both .... and include a paid ticket to Quilt Market so that the artist can talk with buyers about the experience (positive, I'm assuming) of working with both SAQA and Andover.

4)  Folks were likening this experience to the Quilting Arts calendar -- you pay for the opportunity to be considered, but don't receive compensation if selected.  I don't see this as the same scenario at all.  In my opinion, the QA calendar allows the artist the opportunity to gain exposure through a juried, print exhibition, AND the artist retains the copyright to the work.  QA does make a profit from the calendar, but they cannot license any images from it for anything.  SAQA, on the other hand, does control the copyright and in the current scenario, they can decide to put selected designs on tote-bags as another fundraiser .... and have no additional obligation to the artist that made it all possible.  They can also license the design out to other business interests, again without obligation to the originator of the design.  I guess I'm willing to pay for a bit of exposure  -- a very nominal bit that might be different for every artist (certainly paying for inclusion in a juried exhibition counts in this format)--  but not also to relinquish my copyright and future potential earnings.  (Sue Reno shared an interesting blog post about exposure and pay for artists on the Yahoo group.  You can read it here.)

5)  This kind of opportunity is also a great chance for selected artists to understand and gain access to a part of the fabric business they might otherwise not see.  I'm disappointed that SAQA couldn't negotiate on behalf of the artist(s) that they "audit" design discussions.  I don't know that any of us can compete with Andover's understanding or market research that directs them to what colors are "right" for the Urban Textures line, but it would be great to be a fly on the wall.  Since education is part of the SAQA mission, I hope they will remember to see opportunities such as this as learning experiences, not just for the ones involved, but for the entire membership.  I hope that they consider putting some element into future calls that require selected artists to give back what they've learned to the SAQA community.  I realize not every call will allow for this, but I imagine there are some that will.   

6) If SAQA is hoping to help bring art quilts into the mainstream art world, then it would behoove the organization to be a bit more knowledgable about how different aspects of the art world approach the business of making and selling art.  I know I need to learn more.

7) I was a bit hesitant about posting on the SAQA group; as an on-line community we're not always the best at offering a-emotional responses to a differing opinion.  However, taking a stand and letting folks know your opinion can affect change.  It's a blessing in our society that we feel so free to share a dissenting point of view.  I'm going to have to remember how lucky we are that we don't have to accept, as a whole, that "that's just the way things are".  We can speak up.  I realize this issue isn't anywhere close to the same as speaking up about meatier topics like homelessness or immigration or budget cuts, but we can almost always find a way to be heard and that's still pretty cool.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Onions in the Pot

The other day I was at the stove, stirring the boiling pearl onions I needed for my balsamic braised chicken.  As I stirred, I noticed that the water had taken on a gorgeous russet color.

I dashed upstairs to my studio, grabbed a piece of PFD cloth, and stuffed it into a plastic bowl,

just in time to drain the water from the onions. (Here's my in-the-sink-draining set-up.)

I kept the cloth in the water overnight, where it cooled and became

viola, a piece of "eco-dyed" cloth!

After rinsing it's not as vibrant as it once was, but I still love the variations in color, with the splotches and dots strewn about the surface.  Who knew?  Well actually, I've since learned that onion skins are frequently used to dye cloth and Easter eggs.... but for me it was a fun discovery.

I'm so excited by the possibilities of combining two of my loves -- food and fabric --  that I went on-line to buy India Flint's Eco-Colour book to keep handy in my kitchen.  Who knows what I'll do next?   (I'm thinking it might involve blueberries.....)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Museum of Monterey Exhibitions - Part III - Photographs of Jeffrey Becom

Since Before the Moon Appeared: The Painted Legacy of Latin America is the final installment in my description of exhibitions I saw at the Museum of Monterey. Sadly, it's also the exhibition I had the least amount of time to enjoy.  The clock was ticking and I didn't have the opportunity to really appreciate Jeffrey Becom's photography.

Jeffrey Becom is a "local" photographer to the museum; he's from Pacific Grove, a nearby community made famous as a resting spot for migrating monarch butterflies.  Though trained as a painter and an architect, Becom now uses the camera for artistic expression.  Many of his photographs linger on the simple lines of structures that are emboldened by the use of color.   I didn't have time to snap photos in the exhibition, but I was so taken by the color and composition in what I did see that I quickly bought a book of postcards in the gift shop.  The postcard booklet is actually a compilation of some of Becom's images from his book, Mediterranean Color (Abbeville Press).  If you'd like to see some of the images that were in the museum's exhibition, please refer to the Santos y Almas gallery in Becom's website.  In the meantime, here are scanned images from the postcard collection for you to enjoy.  (All blurs and color fluctuations are my fault only.)  Aren't they lovely?  I think Sky Wall is my favorite; what a perfect title, too.

Yellow Wall   Pisa Italy

Green Door   Apricale, Italy

Running Girl   Lagos, Portugal

Sky Wall   Espinho, Portugal