Friday, March 28, 2014

A Little Break

My youngest daughter is on Spring Break and she and I snuck a quick trip to Disney World in between her dance company rehearsals.  The two of us had a great time (hubby had to work, older daughter is in college, and son doesn't have the same spring break).  It seemed a charmed trip, with everything working out perfectly.  Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Quintessential view of the castle

Sporting 3D glasses at a show

Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks!

Lovely bird at a fancy bird house

Stillness and motion in the butterfly garden
If there are poppies, I'm taking a picture...

I'm so thankful I could spend this time with my daughter.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reorganization (Re)Discovery - Part II

I'm having a great time doing my studio purge.  It feels good to organize what I need and use, and to get rid of what I haven't used for years.  It's rather alarming how much I have to donate, but it makes me happy to know my things can be put to good use by my friends and in area schools.

There are other things, though, that I'm very happy to find and keep.  My old embroidery, for example.  I started doing embroidery when I was fairly young and whiled away countless free hours in my backyard stitching all sorts of projects.  I made lots of presents; I discovered this partially stitched picture that was intended to be a companion piece to something I'd already made for my mom.

A UFO from my early days
I'd forgotten the joy I'd felt at the start of each project, separating colors and labeling them with homemade tags according to the pattern color schematic.



I also found this, a graduation announcement I had originally stitched for my sister's college graduation.

Karen's graduation announcement
I didn't complete it because Karen went on to graduate school and she couldn't decide which school she wanted me to put in. I waited and waited, and then eventually put it away in a drawer.  It's bittersweet to find it now; I wish I had uncovered years ago so I could have finished it for her.  Still, I'm glad to have found it.  I often look longingly at artwork that includes embroidery and wonder if I can include it in my own work.  Because I haven't embroidered in so long -- and I never did it without a pattern -- I've lacked the confidence to do it.  Maybe seeing this will give me the confidence to try some hand stitching in my work some day.  But for now, I think I'll set this aside for a couple of years until my eldest graduates from college.





And so, the purge continues.  Discoveries and organized shelves await!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Reorganization (Re)Discovery - Part I

Back in August, I rearranged my studio.  I hoped to add some new life to my workspace and I still love how I moved things around.  However, it wasn't enough.  I've been bitten by the spring cleaning bug and nothing is sacred.  A complete studio purge and reorganization is now in full-swing.

First I assembled a set of drawers I had purchased a while back and filled it with my paint supplies. I rolled the drawers over to my painting table (the table that used to have the girls' doll house atop it) and now all my painting supplies are close together and in easy reach.  For years I've either had to clear my sewing table of my machine and accoutrements to make room for painting or I used a counter top.  Neither option was great because I couldn't let things sit; I had to clean things up before I moved on to the next step.  That can really affect your mojo.  But I'm positively thrilled to have a table that's now dedicated to messy work. I'll have to be careful -- the table is just outside my studio and sits on carpeting so I cannot spill nor can I have children (or dogs) knock things over -- but that's a small price to pay to have a second work table.

My painting station,  with a table and drawers filled with supplies.  Here's hoping no one wants to access the toy chest beneath the table too often. 

The top of the drawers keeps everything in easy reach.
I don't know why, but I love the can that I use to hold my paint brushes.

Next, I started to clean out my shelves and drawers.  It quickly became clear that I've accumulated reams of papers over the years: articles, instructions, inspirations, and so on.  What also became clear is that I used to sketch.

Wait -- what?

In recent years, I've held firmly to the notion that I can't and, therefore, don't sketch out my ideas.  I've resorted to jotting down thoughts and questions to help clarify what I want to do.  But as I cleaned, I (re)discovered some of my sketches from years ago.  I'd completely forgotten that I used to take the time to draw things out before I started.  The sketches stopped me in my tracks because it ruffled my image of myself.

I've tossed most of the pages because the ideas they represent no longer interest me, but I've also kept a few of them to remind myself of what I once could do and might be able to do again if I wanted to.  I've also placed my sketchbook close to my sewing table as a reminder of the possibility.  

I remember sketching this pine cone for a tree series I was making for my first art quilt class. 
I drew this eight years ago based on a photograph I took on vacation of a Native American mother and child.  I remember that I hoped to create shapes I could use as a pattern for fusing.  With modifications, I may return to this; it might be interesting to work on this kind of abstraction with my photos.  

This purge is getting fun.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jasper Johns at the Katonah Museum of Art


A new exhibition is coming to the Katonah Museum of Art: Jasper Johns and John Lund: Masters in the Print Studio.  This exhibition will be the first museum exhibit to delve deeply into the professional artistic relationship between Jasper Johns and John Lund, the master printer who is Johns' exclusive printer.  It promises to be a fascinating exhibition and I hope all of you who are in the area will take the time to come and see it.

With KMA intern Shin Yeon Moon, I co-wrote an overview of Jasper Johns that was distributed to docents and will be sent to teachers in their prep packets.  Here's what we've written; I hope it whets your appetite to see the exhibit.  Jasper Johns and John Lund: Masters in the Print Studio will be on display March 22 -  June 15, 2014.

Jasper Johns:
A Lifelong Investigation of Form, Space, and Process

Jasper Johns was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1930.  He grew up with no formal art lessons, but always had the dream of becoming an artist.  In 1949, at the age of twenty-four, Johns decided to move to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design.

In 1954, the Leo Castelli gallery discovered Johns and offered him his first solo show.  This breakthrough work occurred in the early 1950's with his "Flag " painting series (1954-1955), solidifying his position as a major American Artist.

Johns utilized recognizable, representational subjects in his early work such as flags, targets, and numbers.  The popular artistic style of the time was that of the Abstract Expressionists, who attempted to depict emotions, ideas, or a story through the exploration of shapes, colors, and physical movements.  Although many viewers have been inclined to categorize Johns as a Pop artist, Johns himself has denied that he ever was.  Being ahead of his time, he was simply interested in expressing forms and symbols without any referential background.  Since the images he used were instantly recognizable designs and not something he had to create, they were the perfect platforms for other explorations, such as brushstrokes and the spatial limits of the canvas.  He says, "They are just the forms that interest me and which I have chosen to limit and describe space."

In 1960,  Johns began to work with prints and explored a variety of techniques that utilized his existing imagery.  By recycling his imagery through reversing, repeating, layering, resizing, re-coloring, and transferring his older pieces back into his newer work, we find unique variations on past works that gain prominence in a new piece.  In the mid-1960s to the early 1970s Johns explored various techniques and uses of materials to produce larger works.  By 1974, he was experimenting with a "cross-hatch" pattern, which became one of his signature forms of expression.  In the early 1980s Johns began to incorporate more autobiographical content (such as his childhood photos) as well as elements of inspiration from Pablo Picasso's work.

When considering the evolution of Johns' work, it is critical to keep in mind that Johns has always been interested in form and how those shapes appear in space, whether painted on a canvas, printed on paper, or sculpted.  Printmaking offered challenges and opportunities for expressing forms and lines.  He says, "In them [prints] I'm able to use images and ideas I work over in painting and subject them to transformation.  It's a different physique entirely."

Johns has always appropriated themes and ideas from his own past artworks, transforming them into entirely new art.  Reading meaning into those resurrected images can be a mistake: "It has basically nothing to do with the subject itself, but with the work process, the way you will work, the direction you will take.  Sometimes all of this becomes clearer for me if I choose a subject I feel very comfortable with: then I feel free to concentrate on the work process, the print technique, the material or whatever the case may be." Once Johns finds a form he wants to explore, he manipulates the image in as many ways as interest and excite him.

Form, space, and process: these are the elements that have captured Jasper Johns' imagination.  His work as an artist has evolved in so far as the subjects of his explorations have changed, but he has remained consistent in how he manifests his curiosity throughout his career.

Be sure to go to the Museum website to get all the details about the exhibition and other fabulous opportunities such as a trip to ULAE, the printmaking studio where John Lund first met Jasper Johns.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Enormous shamrocks in the shadows

Monday, March 10, 2014

Patchwork Professional

Back in August the fiber art group I belong to, FiberArt Northeast (FANE), had a show of our kimono-inspired creations at the ArtQuilt Gallery in New York City.    From that exhibition, the editor of Patchwork Professional in Germany contacted us and wrote an article about our artwork.  The article is written and the magazine is now on the sales racks in Germany.


And look at that -- we share the cover with Paula Nadelstern and Luke Haynes!

The editor has sent me copies of the magazine and I'll post photos of the article as soon as they arrive.  I can't believe my work is published in Germany!

Woo Hoo!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Here's Something New

On Wednesday I wrote that I had some fast approaching deadlines.  One of them was for the group CLAW.  CLAW is a group of about 20 artists and we make quilts based on challenges set by the group moderator, Karen Musgrave.  The work on my most recent quilt -- due Saturday -- was delayed because of my fractured tailbone and then my sister's passing.  However, I got it done just in time.

This most recent challenge was called Twenty Words.  Each of us selected a different word from the list and created a piece that somehow spoke to our interpretation of that word.  I chose "connect" and decided to return to one of my favorite motifs: hands.  Here's a picture of my piece, titled "Your Choice",  along with the statement.

Your Choice,  © Vivien Zepf, 2014

In today’s world of ubiquitous high-speed telecommunications, many people feel that we’re more connected than ever, but are we? 

More and more people rely on texts and emails to communicate, opting for the impersonal connection of the computer to avoid difficult phone calls and/or face-to-face meetings.  Pushing away from personal connections seems more prevalent than personal efforts to talk and reach out.

Are we better off?  It’s your choice.

I thread sketched and then filled in the images with water soluble crayons. I need to do a bit of work before I feel more confident with my watercolor skills,  the blending is a bit blotchy, but it's not so bad that I can't exhibit the work.  If I had had more time I might have redone the sketches and selected the better one, but that was not an option.   Still, I think the combination of the images and the statement are enough this time around and I'm pleased with this effort.  I've received some interesting feedback and critique from friends and I might explore this concept further, using their ideas and suggestions as jumping off points.

Detail, Your Choice, 2014
I think the blending worked better on the smaller area of the hands than the larger arms.

It feels so good to have something new completed; there are more items on my short term to-do list so stay tuned.  I've also caught the organization bug (I seem to catch that every year).  I have ideas about small changes that might help make time in my studio run a little more smoothly.  I've already implemented a small change: I hung my scissors on the wall behind my table.  That might seem insignificant, but I did a little jig when I did it.  It solves the problem of my overflowing supplies box and makes everything easier to find.   I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before.  And now, too, I'll know if anyone is borrowing my scissors. Egad!  Not my fabric scissors....!