Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Completing new work is:

Completing new work is always:

  • slow
  • curious
  • exciting
  • frustrating
  • mysterious
  • sometimes expensive

I have finally completed a few new pieces and they have each, in its own way,  ticked all the boxes above.

The first one completed is CASCADE.  It is a multilevel digital embroidery piece inspired by the stripes of Bridget Riley.  The surfaces float at various real levels and cascade to the floor.  The modules are formed around 1/4" plywood.  On the wall they attach to screws with magnets.  On the picture plane, they are permanently affixed with bolts and tubes.  The one little module that hangs off the picture plane is velcroed for safety in shipping and storage.  The floor modules are 2-sided.  60" x 28"

STAX detail
The second piece is STAX, also inspired by Bridget Riley.  It is built of 3-dimensional modules, mounted on a lovely walnut frame.  Had to use my non-existent upholstery skills to make these modules!  However, my old bookbinding skills came into use:  I built the forms from book binder's board, sewed the half tubes and then stretched and upholstered using a curved coptic stitch needle! And then I did woodworking! 13.5" x 47"

This crazy mixed media piece started as Bridget Riley stripes, a color study gone awry. The colors lay dull and flat on the rich fabric.  But after hours of stitching, I could not quite throw it away.  It hung around for quite awhile, indicting me not only on my color/thread failures... but also asking what might be next.

Meanwhile, STAX was in process.  Digital embroidery is always backed with a variety of stabilizers to support good stitch outs.  Think: Pellon or INTERFACING if you sew.  Some stabilizer can be torn off the design when it is done.  In making the modules for STAX, I tore away a series of near perfect stencils;-)  So, I used them to block out new areas of color on this piece and  continued with oil pastels and pastel pencils. It has no title yet, but I do love it.  It has mysterious sense of depth.

The next pieces in the queue are very complex...or at least LARGE.  There is a lot of sweat equity ahead before there is much to show on the embroidery front.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ruminations at the end of the year

It has been, as usual, a busy year.  Somehow, the studio always "cooks."  Yes, there are lulls and times that it feels like a true slog through quick sand, but the pull of the joy of touching materials keeps pulling me onward.

In March, my brother Jim helped me hang Eros and Thanatos in Richmond, VA.  He will do the same at Seminole State College, in Florida, sometime in 2019...unless he is traveling the world.  He caught my parent's wanderlust.

In May, Kim Matthews and I hung our show Platonic Dualities, in Robbinsdale, MN.  It seemed like an unlikely location for a financially successful show...but it was.  The gallery, Kim and I promoted the heck out of it and people came and spent money.  It was a huge push to put this show together on relatively short notice.  Afterwards, Kim and I promptly fell into studio quicksand!

There were 10 or 12 group shows as well, from Alaska to Brooklyn, NY.  Small things, big things, and various things in between.

And now, we approach the new year in some form of transition, also as usual.  Something about the arbitrary change of numbers on the calendar always makes me try to evaluate, muse and plan.  It has only just begun.

The biggest decision concerned my ageing/my studio.  The size of my studio is barely adequate.  The 3 flights of stairs are periodically a lot harder than they used to be, especially in the summer when my arthritis hurts almost constantly.  I briefly thought about developing a property, probably in the suburbs, where I could live and work in vast space. But, I have wonderful friends and neighbors who look out for me here, in this neighborhood.  I also know what it takes to MOVE, to renovate and recreate a daily life. I just do not have the energy to take that risk again!  So, I got in an ageing consultant, made a few minor changes around the house, and committed to stair lifts!  I'm STAYING until the end, or a wheelchair, whichever comes first! And I will never stop working in the studio. Old artists never retire.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

In Consideration of Bridget and in need of feedback

About a year ago, my friend Kim and I traveled to NYC to see the Louise Bourgeois show at MOMA.  While we were there we toured the blue chip galleries of Chelsea and saw a small show of Bridget Riley.  I was blown away and her works stayed with me.

I went on to experiment with some of her colors in thread and in three dimensions.   Here's the problem:

I originally designed the piece IN CONSIDERATION OF BRIDGET 1 to cascade the elements down to the floor.  Now, when you exhibit in galleries you do need to provide an option, a platform, that is perhaps NOT the floor, so people do not just kick the elements by accident.  So, I grabbed a stretcher covered with a hand dyed fabric to see if the SIZE was right to perform as a platform.  It was a correct size.  AND it was lovely all by itself, instantly becoming IN CONSIDERATION OF BRIDGET 2.

Today, I wrapped that stretcher loosely with the matching blue fabric and placed it on the floor as originally intended.  There are clearly more elements than needed for the cascading effect. 

BUT HERE IS WHERE I NEED YOUR FEEDBACK:  Does the floor cascade overwhelm the wall movement?  Is the floor element, even reduced in size and number of elements, a detraction? Should I forget about adding this?

In Consideration of Bridget 1 (@ 60"h x 28"w))
In Consideration of Bridget 2 ( 22h x 17 w, floor or table installation, meant to be handled)
Should this be Bridget 1?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rehearsing changes in Photoshop

In the recently completed series on my studio practice I mentioned rehearsing materials in photoshop.  Boy, did I use this today!

This artwork is a problem child.  I have been struggling with this WHOLE SERIES!  I ran to Joann Fabrics and purchased materials...none of which worked.  Then I went back to these materials.  I had rehearsed at least a dozen different fabrics to hold the center piece.  Here are the 4 real life iterations I settled on today.


Following are some Photoshop trials... Rather than pulling  the whole thing apart again and drastically cutting the actual materials over which I have slaved on and off for over a month...  I tried different iterations in photoshop.

Then I resized the  center square

Then I resized the back square.

I am still undecided, but I have not destroyed any materials yet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Productivity: extra credit: "stupid proofing" stuff

Solar Flare 5
I have a penchant for making things that can be easily damaged in shipping.  It is important to "stupid proof" your artwork packaging.  Frames are pretty easy to pack...corner protectors, lots of bubble wrap, and preferably a double box. Sculptural pieces need a little more help.  I have received sculptures back with vulnerable peaks sitting in a pool of settled peanuts, exposed to damaging forces and box crushing. Besides, many galleries will not accept peanuts anymore. I have had things shake apart in transit!  So, a new system had to be developed.

Case in point:  
Solar Flares.  This piece is machine embroidery, pins, hand dyed fabric mounted on various levels of foam core.  Those corners are vulnerable in both storage and shipping.  Today Dale and I built housings for these pieces which can easily be "dropped" in a box for safe storage and shipping.  

Materials used:  Pink Insulation board
                           Leftover cardboard boxes
                           Lock-Tite Power Grab Adhesive

 First I built a perimeter of pink foam around the  piece and glued it to a corrugated backing.
 These pieces were cut to hold the artwork in place.  Power grab adhesive was applied and the card board was wrapped around to form a cover.
This it the completed housing, laid open without the artwork.  It will hold the artwork firmly without crushing the surface nor allowing it to shimmy and shake in transit.
Finally, I printed out a picture of the piece as a label.

When Dale builds these for me, they are neater, fancier looking and usually have a closing flap.  I couldn't manage "higher math" today, so mine have no flaps.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Productivity in the Studio Part 9


How to leave the studio

This one is hard for me!

Try to leave the studio for 24 hours one day a week!  Think of it as a Sabbath.  Do something different. Not research, not cleaning of the studio.  See friends, a movie, cook.... Trust me, you will come back fresher, clearer and better able to work.

Is getting into the studio is more of a problem than getting out of the studio?

1) Make sure you have a dedicated space that can be messy, even if it is just the corner of your room.  Having to put everything away each day is an impediment to productivity.

2) Schedule your studio time and stick to it.  Even if you are tired after your day job, show up!  Make a mark, make another mark.  Answer an email.  Write some ideas down...in your studio, in your set aside space and time.

From time to time I mentor artists who have received grants.  We talk about fulfilling the requirements of the grant, creating timelines, keeping things in perspective.

One of the most important lessons for one artist I mentored was  scheduling studio time.  She worked full time outside the studio, as most artists do.  Just placing her body in her workspace on a regular schedule made a huge difference over time. From simply "showing up" she developed a new, complete body of work in time for her exhibition.

When bound by a day job, it is also useful to think of your studio time in a seasonal way. A sculptor friend, who works 40-50 hours a week in her day job, shows up to labor on her work but also, off hand mentioned one year, as we were all feverishly writing our grants, that is was "grant season." She accepts grant writing as part of the process and shows up for "grant season."  I found that helpful for me as well. Rather than thinking of it as taking away from studio time, re-frame it as a seasonal part of the studio rhythm.

3) Make studio time NON-NEGOTIABLE. It is yours. It is precious.  Do not squander it.

Thank you for reading!  I hope this has been helpful for you.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Productivity in the Studio Part 8


I work on multiple projects at all times.  My work is dramatically multi-media, ranging from drawing to full scale installation in all sorts of materials.  It suits my personality!  There is usually something to work on that suits my attention on any given day!  But how do I manage the list of projects?  among other things, with LISTS.

1) I often prioritize my lists by day and delivery date

2) When I leave the studio at night, I try to leave the work with an obvious next step: e.g. hang a fresh piece of paper and put a mark on it; lay out tools needed for the next step; webpage open to idea sources

3) I use a bookmarking program that allows me to save, offline, lists of sites germane to my research (DevonThink Pro)

4) I leave myself notes pinned or taped to artworks in process, especially  if I need to be out of the studio for a few days, so I can more easily pick-up where I left off.

5)  If it looks stupid, CUT IT UP and re-assemble.  If the time and materials are precious, Photoshop the cutting up process to rehearse it.

6) trick your eye: walk away from a problem piece, then turn and look: what is the first thing you see?  Is that a good thing?

7) put problem pieces away for a while to "marinate."  When you take them out again, you may know what to do next, including recycling;-)

8) turn it upside down and sideways!  Repeat it! What if you made more of them? Your camera and Photoshop are great for testing this.

9) Photograph that problem piece:  the camera flattens it out allowing you to see the composition differently.

10) ask people to look at it:  how does it make them feel, what do they see first.  Ask artists and non-artists.

11) form a critique group

12) always ask "What if..."  Theme and variation can lead to bodies of work ready for large exhibition.

13) I write a list for the next day before I go to bed

14) Create accountability-especially in the absence of an upcoming due date, how do you keep working?  Create an accountability relationship with another artist: agree to gently hold each other accountable to finish works or make progress toward finishing work.

15) When my obligations are complex or unmovable (like when I have a grant to fulfill) I will create a timeline and stick to it.