Davis: Describe your childhood as it relates to your art making and creativity? What were your influences? And how do you think growing up in the Orkney Islands influenced you as an artist? How did living in East Africa influence you as an artist? And likewise for coming to the United States.
Sisto: Our wee croft (farm) was at first glance an ‘art-free zone'...that is until you looked carefully at our layers of warm clothing...each one made of hand-woven fabric, spun from yarn from our flock of sheep. Each skirt or jacket was carefully pieced and sewn by hand from second hand clothes bought or traded for at the Market where we sold our butter, eggs and cheeses.
Even my knee-high stockings were hand-knitted using the same pattern I still knit socks with on four needles. Thick those socks were, and scratchy, but warm and since the yarn was filled with lanolin, they were shower and sea-proof!
I drew, always I drew...drew the faces of my family and animals...drew the wild seas and skies covered in storm clouds...but, unlike children here, I didn’t own colored pencils nor paints, but drew in an old biscuit (cookie) tin lid filled with dry and sifted sand, or drew with a sharp stone on a slate-board. This means of mark-making taught me the im-permanance of all things, which has proved a valuable life-lesson.
My first taste of actual painting came at age eleven. A German tourist who came to paint the myriad of sea-birds for which our island (North Ronaldshay) was famous. He saw me drawing in the hard sand-pan left by a departing tide and when he left for home, he dropped off his paints, canvases and brushes on our doorstep. I used those paints, watering them down for a year until the marks they left were barely discernable!
East Africa was an artistic awakening. The earth was bright red and ochre with a strong perfume. All my life this color had been my favourite. I felt that my whole life had pointed me towards Africa.
The plane from England stopped first in Uganda where I got off, smelled the air, bent and knelt on the red earth and wept for joy. I was finally in a world filled with warmth, color, bright sun...that ochre earth is where my heart began to come alive.
That was the first place where I was greeted with open arms. The Maasai women wore plaids and beads of every hue. They, like myself, saved every cast off scrap be it of plastic, tin or fabric and re-made it into Art. They were walking Altars of beauty and gratitude.
Living Water, Faces of Faith Series, 2009
Davis: What are some of your memories growing up with engaging art? When did the interest become an engaging one?
Sisto: My first experience of Art tugging at me was when I saw my grandmother’s hair which was bright auburn, reflecting like a fiery halo around her in the sunlight beaming through a window. I tried to draw it in the ash on the hearth. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t pulled by some inner need to scratch down the sights and feelings of my world.
Davis: What led you to your choice of medium(s)? And what/who were your influences in those mediums? And how do they relate one to another, if so? What other mediums have you attempted?
Sisto: Fabric was all that was readily available to me as color. We saved every scrap of cast-off yarn and fabric, re-working it into quilts and smaller items such as washcloths. I had little knowledge until I attended a one room school at five of the existence of Art outside of the many books in our home.
I would pour over my grandfather’s Book of Martyrs,...each gruesome detail carefully rendered in pen and ink drawings.
The first ‘real’ painting I ever saw was an old Victorian print of a seaman telling tall-tales to some enthralled children.
I have tried in my middle years to use some acrylic paints but find the colors stiff compared with fabrics.
In Kenya I made collages from colored and dried leaves of banana trees and eucalyptus leaves that turn deep reds and oranges...these were mediums used by the Maasai women to create ‘paintings’ to sell to tourists and when I came to the U.S., I adapted this technique using torn colored paper from magazines. I love this, as it is free and also is recycling, and paper is a fiber!
Collared, Slavery Series, 2006
Davis: Describe your daily art making practices. Include how you approach design and ideas.
Sisto: I awaken at about 4:30, a habit formed in my decades of dairy farming! I love this time of day as the world is still silent and I go right to the studio and begin the day’s work.
I think that I have little or no sense of design. I know what I want to put down, but I generally, fail miserably. I can ‘see’ it, see just HOW it should be, but the earthly colors seldom match up...so I dye and overlay and fabricate. Even with all of this effort I fail more than I succeed, but Art is something that goes on despite ones better judgement! HA!
Davis: Artistically speaking, what challenges do you face and how to you (plan to) overcome them?
Sisto: My biggest challenges in my work are my own lack of talent and finesse, my bad sewing and my lack of sophistication and knowledge of HOW to make Art. I have never taken the time to learn as I have needed to put in the hours every day to make enough art to live on. This is both a freeing thing and a burden. I think most artists who live by their artistic endeavors feel this. Alas, I have no plan to overcome these challenges!
Davis: Do you work in series? Or does each piece stand alone? Share your reasons for either approach.
Sisto: Oh this is such a great question! I LOVE a Series...I love giving myself the permission to delve into and live inside a group of works for an extended period of time. Now, in that series you try to strive to make each of the pieces good enough, or strong enough to stand alone.
As a pattern of Life, I THINK in ‘Series’. By that I mean that I approach life as a series of questions and curiosities. For example, I sat down outside a McDonalds (my fav eatery) with an interesting-looking young Traveller, and I asked him all about his painted jeans and his wee black dog. It became a 3 hour-long conversation about his travels and about Life in general.
That conversation led to a few days of just wandering around by myself sitting in strange places to see and feel what a life of just sitting on the ground brought into my mind. Then I made a group of quilts about sitting, just sitting.
Davis: Share the milestones that mean the most to you as an artist.
Sisto: Oh, the first milestone was my rebelling at age seven from piecing a nine-patch I had been set to sew. Instead of doing that I made my first portrait quilt of a young Tinker (Gypsy) who had come to our farm . I still have that first ‘real’ quilt.
The second milestone was when a beloved friend sculptor Ewing Fahey sought me out as she had seen a newspaper article about one of my Vietnam quilts. She walked into the milk parlor where I was doing the afternoon's milking, and in her wise and gentle way she pointed out to me that perhaps another person could milk cows, but only I could make Penny Sisto quilts!
Davis: Whether it is the intent of an artist to become an entrepreneur, artists are thrown into the role the first time someone wants to purchase something they’ve created. What advice can you share that speaks to the business side of art?
Sisto: Lordy I am the world’s WORST person to ask. I am terrible at pricing...the only time that I ever got good prices for my work was for a few years when a wonderful gallery in Santa Fe sold all that I could make. Then the woman who owned it sadly died and the person who took over Thirteen Moons Gallery told me that she was not interested in selling my quilts. So my advice is do NOT approach it as I did but educate yourself and join with other artists who can mentor you.
Davis: Some White Artists voice apprehensions about creating work that borrows from other cultures. What do you think accounts for your own abilities to reflect and speak to other cultures in your art work?
Sisto: Again, I am probably the wrong person to speak wisely about this. I think there are two pathways to becoming Universal in the depth of your Being.
One pathway is to become so wise that you are Every-one. The second path is to become so small that you become No-body.
I did not choose this second way, it was handed to me at birth. I grew up in a house with no mirror save for my grandfather’s round shaving mirror tacked to the door in the downstairs room. He was almost six foot seven and so no other person in the house could see themselves in it...so I had little idea of how I appeared, and to this day I feel uncomfortable looking in a mirror or at a reflection of myself.
I was told that I was Nobody, should not even have been born, had no place...and so it was easy to become almost invisible . There was pain in this BUT there was also immense Freedom.
If my chores were done, I could do as I pleased the rest of the time. I would vanish overnight on what I called Sunny-Mooners. I would leave as the sun rose, row away, find a wee cove or shore, play, walk and explore, greet the moon, sleep and arrive home with the new Sunrise. I never remember a question asked, and there was never a word spoken of it.
So I find that I can assimilate easily and find comfort in any place where I find myself.
Perhaps since I am Nobody, the other side of that is that I can be Anybody.
Perhaps though I am simply too stupid to realize that we are not all One.
Davis: You spoke of your recent pieces in a joint show with Ann Larson Adamek as being the most biographical series you've created to date. Describe how that series came about and what it was like for you.
Sisto: I am now 69 and two months and so am living on borrowed time! It seemed a good idea to put down some of the old Selkie stories my Gran always told so that I could look at them through a Crone’s eyes.
I admire Ann and thought that it would make a wonderful show to have her beautiful Water-colors mingle with the Selkie quilts.
I loved sewing a few of them such as ‘Skate’, which shows my big old farm boots, and ‘Rowing to School’ which has my pram-dinghy shown in it. Some of them came harder. It was strange to look back and see the journey through the guise of the Selkie stories. Perhaps the Selkie story belongs to all women, or to all persons who find themselves alone on a land that is not theirs, in a life which remains a wee bit uncomfortable.
Davis: What are your future goals and what should we be on the look out for you in 2011?
Sisto: I hope that my neck, back, eyes and fingers hold together for a few more quilts! In 2011 I’ll show again at the incredible Carnegie and it will be a show of Native American Stories.
Penny giving a gallery talk, 2006.
Autumn for me is marked by time with Penny Sisto...a retreat, a revitalization, a re-centering in the art making as healing, yes. The day was shared with Barbara, a watercolorist and dollmaker, and Gloria, a hand quilter and appliquer.
This time it was all about the long arm. My first real chunk of time using one other than a five minute demo years ago at a quilt show. Penny was aware of the Crowbonics series, thus she had us select from a variety of Crows she loosely had sketched in order for us to use to construct our birds in cloth. I selected these Crows because they appeared to be praying to me and my next Crowbonics quilt is called The Hymnal.
The Crows are fabric snippets which have been placed on wonder under, cut out, then sewed on a background using the long arm. I don't know if a long arm is in my future but I'm now more motivated to use one to complete at least one quilt.
We were all witnesses to the corruption of Gloria...who prior to this day, was a NO-RAW edges appliquer and hand quilter.
Penny currently has a joint show with Ann Lawson Adamek at the Huff Gallery at Spalding University. Penny described her work in this show as the most biographical series she has ever completed. The quilts center on the the myths and legends that abounded on the Orkney Islands where she was born.
In attempts to embrace the changing season I'm changing my routine to reduce my going in and out as much...appointing days to dedicate to learning and being in either the studio or workshops. Warmer temps encourages me to work more fluidly than the colder temps. The colder temps encourage to stay put and focus even more.
I'm re-committing to Learning Curves, my self-directed education program. There is a tab at the top of the blog if you want to see which books I'm using.
I'm listening to Charlie Rose and noted panel discussing the works of Romare Bearden...here is the link...
Also, would anyone like to have this book? It is a small booklet of 31 pages with about 10 or so different projects like cell phone covers, basket liners, book covers, etc. No drawing, just the first to want it in the comments will get it.
There are 2 exhibits with November 1st deadlines which I've just given myself permission to not submit. My focus has been dye painting and screening and my muscles are feeling fatigued and I'm releasing the will to push myself the next 2 days. I did make it to the Open Studios and many artists were in their studios which is always energizing but rest will be the focus for the weekend.
There are 10 pieces of dye-painted fabrics wrapped in plastic that will cure over the weekend, possibly until Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm on the schedule to to do some campaign calls for Monday and will be at my Mother's for bit also. Tuesday I'm on the schedule for a few hours to drive folks to the polls so I'm not sure when I'll return to do the wash out. The piece shown in the post below had very little dye wash out but I dye painted it again yesterday with a chocolate brown. Here it is before the brown was applied:
I'm sold on curing AND steaming.
It dawned on me yesterday that I'm focusing on dark colours...for no apparent reason but if I were to go all hyper-analytical I would say because I'm dreading the onslaught of winter and the need to readjust my activities due to it getting dark earlier. But really that would be over-reading the intent. I think it boils down to 'I'm just dyeing dark colours', (insert shrugging shoulders)
My presentation at the Carnegie last Saturday was a lot of fun for me and hopefully for those who shared the morning with me as well. What keeps coming back to me is the clarity in which I knew that art-making is a conversation with my body and I used the metaphor of it being a dance that allows me to explore my limitations and sense of freedom. The surface applications on fabric is hip-hop and the quilt design and construction is the waltz and modern dance sequels.
This was the last piece I did yesterday and I was tired and don't know where the face came from but right before I did the face I asked myself "what else can I do with the writing?" I've been doodling faces on scraps of paper and looking back over my attempt at faces in old journals...I do think it'll be a long while before faces as a motif makes it into a quilt but I'm open.
November 4th will be my 6 year anniversary of blogging...for 6 years I've been typing out loud about my journey with the main focus being my own art. I hope casual readers and dedicated readers of Seamless Skin find some nugget that moves us closer to kindred spirits that keeps and increases the use of the internet as a fully positive human one.
Beginning next week I'm going to add a new feature on my blog with interviews of local artists. I'm starting with members of Louisville Area Fiber and Textile Artists. When I'm at meetings I'm overwhelmed with all the creative vibes and the group experience that I'm wanting the interviews to be the counter-part and allow me to connect and get to know members as individuals. The first one will be with ceramist and shibori artist Elmer Lucille Allen (see the video below) who has an upcoming show with Valerie White at E & S Gallery.
This piece was dye painted last week. This is the fourth layer of over-dyeing. In this picture it is still wet so I know it will be a tad lighter once it dries. The effect is full of intrigue and mystery and I can see it paired with a smoky gray and a deep red for speaking to the root of turbulence that life sometimes holds.
I've been wanting to get that rich, saturated depth of colour that I see in some quilts. I purchased a red piece of fabric from Nancy Crow and she said she dyed it 4 times with 4 different reds to get it. My piece batched over the weekend and I steamed it today and will wash it out tomorrow.
Last week I batched AND steamed to see if it makes a difference and I think slightly it does but since I was not doing a controlled test, its hard to say for sure. I also was a little heavy handed with the dye powder too, again, not really controlled testing here. I also think I need to get a tighter woven pfd to get the depth I'm seeking.
Elmer Lucille reminded me that Ed Hamilton and Sam Gilliam along with Mr. Gilliam's older sister, Lizzie Miller, were in conversation last Thursday at the Speed. It was 6 when she told me on her way out and I was still dyeing, so hurriedly cleaned up and made it over 15 minutes into the program.
I wanted to introduce myself after the presentation...I know Mrs. Miller from my days of working as she stays active in her church and wider community organizations involving human services. I really would have loved to have a photo with Gilliam and Hamilton but folks swarmed the stage afterwards and I was physically beginning to drag.
These pieces are huge by Gilliam. He said this came about from a question he was asked by a bar mate where he hung out at the time who asked him "why bother to stretch your canvas before you know the painting is good". I recall reading that he kept wanting to get away from the limitations of the "frame" during his retrospective show here.
The other statement I took away from the presentation was the need for the artist to be larger than their art by getting about in the world in order for the art itself to have substance, the ability to speak to the human state. He felt that installation work has gone on too long and most of it lacks substance.
Hamilton still resides here in Louisville and one question he says he gets asked frequently is "why he never left?". His opinion is, "if the work is good enough, it will be found".
I never want to be guilty of over-romanticising the past, but one of the things they spoke of and Mrs. Miller validated about the early years here in the 50's was the comraderie and accessiblitity of artist in the community. I wasn't born until '60 but I grew up being able to identify, even if I didn't know them, artists, poets (who I would come to know) in the community. Is it the same today? Not really sure, but it doesn't seem so.
I've been trying to upload this post since Friday...the problem was the browser...Peter switched over to IE9 which is still in beta and Typepad doesn't support it yet...I'm using Google Chrome and the problem is solved. I'm so very much an end user...I just want the computer to work the way I anticipate is should, ya know?!
Every day for the last 2-3 weeks I've woken up to a different resolve about moving from my current space in Mellwood...take the other space, stay where i am, take the other space, stay, other space, stay, yada yada and on and on. IF I do decide to take the space behind me, it will not be until the end of November. The Tenant's Council is promoting the Friday after TG and I wanted to stay in my current space for it.
Today someone cleaning out there space gave me a great desk that was on its way to the dumpster. I had to move stuff around to accommodate it and today I was like, moving around the corner isn't worth it. I was whooped when I finished and I really didn't do that much! I relaxed enough to clear my head and think about "whats next?" creatively which lead me to writing on fabric. There is a November 1 deadline I want to meet but I'm not sure I'm going to meet this one. I hate to blow it but my focus is split this week over items that require my attention outside of art-making.
Odd, ... I cannot recall ever being this excited about Mondays when I was employed. Sundays now are a signal to re-engage fully as possible with my creative mind. Sundays are filled with thinking about the different pieces of cloth and quilts in their variuos stage of development and what needs to be stitched and the hows and wheres of it all.
Last week I dye painted over previously painted cloth. The cloth was not treated with soda ash and I used Afterfix on it which is used to set dye. I've used this before and was fairly pleased with it...the colours appear to me more muted and toned down then with soda soaked fabric. I keep returning to this method because I do anticipate, possibly, at some point I may not be able to physically handle low-water immersion dyeing. This is the piece I'll rinse out tomorrow if all goes as planned:
Over the weekend I attended a state meeting of SDA members that Jennifer Reiss and Mary Nehring coordinate. This was the 2nd meeting but my first. My membership in SDA has lapsed but renewing it is on my goal list for the coming year. Being around other artists and diverse minds gets me spinning like a whirling dervish and I left there thinking that its not so much the lack of opportunity that seems to describe this city/state (although the description can be dead on) it is the fact that I cannot attend to all the possibilities.
In my own art I can say that I now have a focus, sense of purpose, and a vision...a "Karoda" way of working...but I'm also fertil that when I see the art of others my mind automatically begins to push, combine, play, stretch, mix, mingle, and so on, ideas and what ifs and I'm flying or whirling and it feels fun in the moment. I've learned to reel myself back down...took me a couple of years but I'm good to go and can now say to myself "okay, Karen, settle yourself down". I think many artists experience this and in turn are faced with juggling the solitude activities with communal activities and how both impact creativity.
I also attended the tenants' meeting at Mellwood last week and Planet Janet and I will be coordinating demos and activities by the tenants who want to participate in November's Trolley Hop. Studio spaces are getting new tenants and I hope this is some indication that economically people are feeling more daring and confident. Many of the new tenants seem to be more retail/service oriented. A fitness center, photographers, martial arts, florists, etc. I hope this will not eventually increase the dirt cheap rents for the artists like myself who are solely using the space to create in, but overall, it is good to see fresh eager faces and more activity.
Speaking of solitude and communal, I figured out why I'm not partial to listening to music on an iPod. I like my music to fill not just me but the space I inhabit. I want the essence of the sound to rock the cobweb in the corner of the ceiling...I want the vocals to ooze down the walls...I want the rhythms to cover the floor. This just doesn't happen using an iPod. I can listen to podcasts on my iPod, no problem...but the music is too big to fully enjoy it that way...and I'm not talking about the volume of the music but the experience of it...listening on an iPod diminshes the experience of the music, the artistry that went into it. Playing a cd is much more inviting for a shared experience and much more open experience. I mean would you rather go to a museum or look at the art on a toy view finder?
No way did I envision all the fun and joy the past weekend held during open studios for the Mellwood Art Fair! I mean I knew I would have fun because Bev was coming from Cincy to do some art playing with me but she was actually the mortar that held the weekend together between all the smiling and talking and laughter and just overall good vibes that visitors streaming through brought. Some where old friends, like Yodora, who has been a best friend since junior high school and some were new friends, like Nancy, who really got me going with her excitement for textiles. It was just a super fabulous weekend! Bev's departure on Sunday after a meal at Lynn's Paradise Cafe signalled the close of the weekend that is just now hitting me. The studio was left in disarray after introducint Bev to laminating sheers on Sunday. And for the last couple of hours after she left I could only sit and smile at the mess and laugh to myself.
Since Sunday, I've been home rotating myself from the bed to the computer and I'm sitting here now thinking about the wisdom of trying to return to the studio or either my workshop today. I could prolly bear to do some hand beading or hand stitching (although stitching through laminated cotton, a piece I've got going, is more than a notion). I think I'm going to stay home...tomorrow will be a long day filled with errands, studio time, and a meeting.
A photo of Selma Burke, my curiosity was peaked about her after reading about her owning a yacht in a bio of Beauford Delaney
I've been thinking about faces and looking at the faces as well as studying the layers in the art of Kerry James Marshall
Crystal, my SIL's blog, Write With Your Spine
(The back ground music for this post is any song from Laura Izibor's Let the Truth Be Told cd)
The last couple of weeks have been great for being in the studio. If I were to make a complaint it would be being there gets the pistons firing so fast with ideas and there is no way I can work fast enough to attempt them.
Crowbonics: The Scroll came home just as I was nearing completion of Crowbonics: The Hymnal which morphed into something that I had not intended due to being excited and getting carried away with the scissors. After a couple of sleeps I'm okay with now having 2 new pieces instead of the 1 and I'm welcoming the opportunity to start over from scratch with The Hymnal.
The past couple of weeks I've also been finishing up "studies" that have been hanging around, some for over a year. Now they feel less like "studies" as I'm working with intentions towards a vision for them versus "let me see what this will do".
My stamina has been fueled by a new med I'm on for PH. I started on it over a month ago and my ability to take stairs has improved and I attended the art car parade with my daughter and 3 grandchildren (it was a very short parade of about 20 cars) and was able to walk a couple of blocks and back to my car. I'm still contending with mild to intense muscle inflammation caused by fibromyalgia but when I'm in the studio or the workshop I am successful at ignoring and working around the pain and making accomodations by pacing myself. It helps that I'm good at tuning out distractions.
The flip side of distractions is having interesting people visit in my studio. Two watercolourists visited who are also in the building and I learned there is a life drawing class in the evenings and the price of admission is usually a bottle of wine (or diet coke if thats your flavor). Michael, the artist behind me, brings his young daughter, prolly around 2yo, to his studio daily and she has the cutest voice and I love hearing what sounds like endless q & a. Since Janet, a neighbor, has moved in, being at the studio has the added bonus of socializing...after conversations with her, I'm dizzy with fresh ideas. She starts me down the path of brainstorming and I have to reel myself back (but its a super-fantastic issue to be faced with). And yesterday, I had two seperate visits from old friends that I had not seen either of them in six years. I was flooded with memories yesterday of things I had forgotten. But with good friends it doesn't matter the time or the distance...the rhythm of the heart returns and re-connects.
I'm spending more time at the studio than at the basement workshop. Primarily due to my focus of laminating and printing and dyeing which has a better set-up for it than the basement does. The basement has morphed into the area for sewing with an area for painting cloth and silk dyeing with the microwave. With the help of Ade I spent some time re-arranging the studio so that I could print from both sides of the table. Last week I started printing on a piece of jacquard cotton and today this is where I left it-
There are 4 different greens, 2 blues, and 2 reds used here. Each colour dried before adding the next layer and then the fabric was heat set. I'm at a happy point of being stuck so I lifted it off the table and hung in in the window of the studio. I'm going to study it and do a self driven q & a with it before I decide what will happen next. The immediate discovery was liking the backside-
From the backside, the lighter colours do the talking and just the opposite on the front. But right now I'm leaning toward this being a piece that will be cut. If it stays whole there will be a laminated sheer layered over the top.
Using a black and white filter to check for value, I could see that value is working but it's colour that dances---when I'm working I spend more time thinking about value than I do colour.
I have 2 new neighbors at Mellwood, Janet, a recently retired art teacher. We seem to be vibing quite well and in sync. I keep feeling like I know her from some place else. The other new neighbor is a young man, Emmett, who is a mixed media artist, and who struck me as having "good home training" as my mother would say. I appreciated how he carried himself and am looking forward to seeing what he creates. I'll be saving cardboard for him.
sunshine, and warmer temps (it hit the low 60's today!!!!) makes keeping the faith a whole lot easier!
These dyed silk scraps came from wearable artist Laverne Zielbelski from Lexington, Kentucky. Laverne had a booth set up this weekend at the Kentucky Crafted Market which I attended for a few hours on Saturday. I met Laverne over 20 years ago when she lead writing circles and reconnected after discovering last year that she is also doing textile work for creating her poetic line of clothing. Laverne is also doing Nuno felting and using the FeltLOOM created by the owner of Lan Mark Farms near Lexington. It is a machine that takes the rolling out of Nuno felting. The University of Kentucky Art dept. is looking into purchasing one of the machines...I wonder if UofL's Fiber Art dept. would get one???? Slim chance I think due to budget cuts in the last few years but one never knows, right?!
I worked about 2 hours today at The Basement. I spent about 30 minutes cutting shapes as an exercise from Finding Your Own Visual Language and will work some tonight with mark making on paper using a variety of inks and pens and brushes. I spent about an hour working on the quilt in honor of Crows and thinking about James Audubon. Many times an idea will hit me and I can see it and I think "how brilliant that will be if I can pull it off!" and then weeks later I think the design has morphed into something "too simple" to reflect my ideas and I'm heading for the path of least resistance. The conflict comes in when I create a focal point...when I create an image, in this case Crows, I loose the emotion for a piece. I really like my backgrounds so much better which I describe as emotional abstractions. The questions I posed today are: Should I go for narrative? Should I make the Crows larger? Should I make the background smaller? Should I make the Crows out of felt and sculptural? What if I wanted to return to a total abstraction about Crows...what would it look like? What are Crows attracted to? Should I make the background reflect an urban setting? A practice I took from the Benn and Morgan Workshop back in '08 is to write the answsers to the questions down when I'm stuck...this is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Machine Needle felted by Linda Kempshall <clickable
There are 3 additional pieces in her gallery also. If it was'nt for a little bit of common sense I would head over to the Mellwood Studio and hold up for the weekend ;) Just seeing this piece and thinking about the process and the texture gives me butterflies.
Ade and Peter are on vacation and I've been more home bound and hanging out with them eating ginger snaps and watching movies and lounging and running about. Peter takes the whole month or most of December off and this vacation has been sweet and low key just the way I love them.
Yesterday I did take advantage of warmer temperatures (mid-40F) and head to my Mellwood Studio. I worked on felting the scarf and Peter hung my curtains there before he and Ade went on their merry way and left me to my own devices.
The scarf has a long way to go as I want to kick back the way the colour is laid out all wild-like with a little bit of order with the next layer of wool or yarns or cheesecloth or organza or...
The colours are more grayed in this image then they appear off camera. A hot magentas and rich violets are the actual colours.
The Mellwood Studio is coming along and by spring it should be more work ready. Peter hung the curtains for me yesterday and it makes it a tad bit more homey since there are windows all the way around except for my direct neighbor who has peg board up on his side. I'm trying to come up with low labor way to cover up the peg board...I'm leaning toward decorative paper on those windows.
Three of my quilts and framed poetry by Estella soften the pegboard but I'm thinking a light coloured decorative paper would bring some light into the space and not distract from what ever is displayed in front of the window. The back corner is my "working" and storage area.
Estella has more framed poetry and her books in the window. I like to watch the people who stop to actually read the poems.
The African panels belong to her also and came back with her from various central African countries a few years back. You can see one on the back window in the photo above and the other 3 in the photo below. The panels are for sale but I'm not sure how much. If you're interested, just email me and I'll find out. On the shelves below the window is an exhibit of Memory Boxes by Henrietta Box Brown (email me if you get this one ;) ) and they juxtapose an historical memory with one contemporary.
And this quilt, lord, this quilt was started some 14 years ago and it still is unfinished...its a quotation quilt. I released it from its unfinished project bag and hung it over my quilt frame for inspiration. It was started for a birthday gift and the intended receiver has seen many birthdays come and go and its still not complete. I want to hand quilt it.
My muscles and joints have not let up in pain since mid November. In addition to reading to keep my mind off of the pain (I really need to review here The View from the Studio Door by Ted Orland, digging this! and Screen Printing by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan...outstanding!) I'm perpetually giving praise for the blessing of being able to create art in my life as a triumph over the pain...keep on keeping on and have a wonderful Kwanzaa and Holidays!
I'm having fun..trying to squeeze as much out of the days as I can before the season who will not be mentioned sets in. The last five or so days I've been marinating in the memory of spending time with artist Penny Sisto in her home and studio up in the knobs over in Indiana. Its gorgeous there this time of year and her home is a meditation all to itself...and when you add in her fun and beautiful spirit it was a retreat and vacation from the concrete and wires and metal of a city steeped in commerce that I call home.
While there Penny showed me how she paints on fabric with wild abandonment and then looks into the fabric to see what emerges...very similiar to what Mystele calls "Gut Art". The piece below is what came for me and I fell in love with it and trying to discover just who this was going to be. I had a general idea but it wasn't quite affirmed. On the ride home I kept looking at it but then decided to fold it up in the weathered "teepee" fabric she had given me for a possible background. Well, beloveds, when I arrived hom and unfolded the fabric, she was gone. I've looked all throughout my car and around it...she is gone! I'll employ the Saint Anthony prayer (been using it for nearly 25 years and I know it works...if its not found after I employ Saint Anthony...IT AIN"T TO BE FOUND! I have about a dozen small bags to riffle through and I'm hoping she will be in one of them...but as it stands now she has danced off into the aether!
Another big girl fun time was attending the grand-opening of Earthworks at the Carnegie in New Albany, Inidia...Congratulations to Valerie White,Pat DaRif, and Joanne Weiss (doesn't have an online presence) on a well put together exhibit that also heightens awareness to our MotherEarth and her struggles which are really our struggles. November 7 and December 3 the artists will give a Gallery Talk. This opening drew some of the art heavy weights out too, sculptorEd Hamilton, scuptor William Duffy, and scholar/artist Bob Douglass. You have until December 30th to see Earthworks...get there!
If you've been reading Seamless Skin at least through one season of winter then you might recall how I feel about the season as I do my very best to express my indelible opinion. However, in light of the blue sky I enjoyed yesterday and what looks like another break in the seasonal reminder that winter is a'comin', I'll hold back sharing so early how I feel about winter until the bitter cold sets in.
This past weekend I took a 2-day workshop with the lovely Lisa Engelbrecht and enjoyed myself with the Kentuckiana Calligraphy and Paper Arts Guild. The week prior I was nearing exhaustion and almost decided to lose the workshop fee and stay home to rest but I forged ahead and this week I've been taking it easy. Lisa is a very generous and beautiful spirit and the group is very warm, funny, and creative lot.
The piece with the yellow background, top center, is mine.
I've missed deadlines upon deadlines and meetings but between finding balance in self-care and addressing The Basement (new photos added under Beginning Again album) I have some super-fantastic news forthcoming that I can hardly wait to share...but patience is a virtue and the vision needs more shaping until I can share...but its a good thing, a very good thing!
I really wanted to start this post by reciting Langston Hughes' poem, Mother to Son. You know the one...Well, Son, I'll tell you, life for me ain't been no crystal stair...or his The Negro Speaks of Rivers...I've known rivers. I've known rivers ancient as the world...but, that would have been overly dramatic really...but the emotion in them could capture the holding patterns with the basement as well as provide some comic release.
Did you play red light/green light as a child? You run to get ahead only to be caught in motion and have to return to the starting line. The Beginning Again photo album has been updated and as of today this is the progress we've made.
I did get to bask in the sunshine of Crystal Wilkinson, (Mud Man's partner) who received this year's Sallie Bingham Award from KFW. The award recognizes a feminist artist's contributions to social change in Kentucky. Its pretty damn awesome and the state is fortunate to have Kentucky Foundation for Women and unbelievably, since its inception, its sad to note that feminist philanthropy of this statute has not developed in other states.
Here is Crystal giving her words of acceptance followed by other photos from the event.
There were 4 quilts hanging in this room...please note the one in the next photo. The first name of the artist is Terry (or Terrie) and the last name, if I'm recalling right begins with a D, but I don't remember it. The man on the couch is Muddy, my brother. Sallie Bingham is at the other end of the couch.
Crystal and her beautiful twin daughters.
Crystal conversing with the Wild Woman and long standing feminist artist Mary Craik.
This is not the house were the celebration was held...but this house is sooooooo out of place with the landscape and the older homes and land reminiscent of once prosperous farms. Even the pockets of new subdivisions do not infringe on the landscape the way this home does. On the few occasions I've been out this way this house always catches me off guard. I'm driving along and the city begins to give way to acres and acres of prairie (or what feels like prairie to me) and I'm mellowing out and my imagination begins to soothe down and zen out and bam! this house rises out of nowhere and throws me for a loop! It would be a beautiful home if surrounded by other homes of this kind of opulence, but as it stands now, its just a blight in the hood.
Oh, did I happen to mention my niece in the postcard contest here? I think I did...anyways she did very very well receiving the most postcards and the furthest or is it farthest away and won a 20 dollar gift certificate to spend at the book fair. She was on cloud 9 so I heard. Unfortunately her whole class didn't do well enough to win the pizza party. But 84,000 thanks to you if you mailed her a card.
It seems like there was something else I wanted to share but its not coming to me. If I remember, I'll be back.
Peace,Oh, yeah, Sonji Hunt is blogging again! Yea! I've missed her chatterings. And I've signed up for GUT ART, an online class taught by Mystele...I'm in need of a diversion but with some focus so I thought GUT ART sounded like it would be the prescription I need. Mystele's art makes me think of favorite songs and stories and 2 other favorite artists, Jonathan Green and Brian Andreas.
Acey asked to see the beads I purchased in Athens...here is my lot along with head shots of the fantastic women I shared the trip with. We've kicked around art collaborative ideas for years and one of these days despite the hundreds of miles that seperate each of us, we'll pull something off and it will be first and foremost FUN as well as a unique project that reflects each of us and our shared friendship going on about ten years.
While in Athens I purchased af book written by Zakes Mda, a South African and a professor at Ohio University. The title, Cion, a novel, involves a South African who relocates to Ohio, USA and travels history by way of learning about quilts. Ron and Crystal heard him speak at the Antioch Writer's Conference and knew I would be intrigued. After seeing the cover of the book I realized I had this book in my 45 page Amazon wish list simply because the art that adorns his books is strongly appealing. Rudy gutierrez is the illustrator for what appears to be all of Mda's novels which I haven't started on yet. My current fiction read is A'mercy by Toni Morrison and I'm not sure which I'll dive into next.
We (Peter and Ade) did an impromptu drive today to Utica, Indiana along the river to go to Hidden Hill Farm and Nursery. It was our first time there and it is a great place to hang out and chill. It is owned by retired journalist from our local paper, Bob HIll...he was kind enough to dig up and give me flowers that have mystified me for about a year or more...they are called "naked ladies" and are in the amaryllis family. I'm going to plant them in my mother's yard. (ssshhhh, she doesn't know it yet). When ever I see these flowers they always get my attention and make me smile. I'll get a photo after I plant them. I also picked up a new mug for tea (I use smaller mugs for tea...coffee demands a heftier mug). I think we'll return, there was so much to take in and absorb.
Recall Lou Rawls singing that song, Groovy People? It describes my time spent in Athens, Ohio and an impromptu visit into Yellow Springs with 3 good friends. My brother and his partner, Crystal, have been telling me about Yellow Springs for a few years. I left here on Thursday for Athens thinking that Yellow Springs was on the opposite side of Cincy and out of the way. I picked my friend Bev up and the first thing out of her mouth was "would you be interested in going to Yellow Springs?" A quick flash of Thelma and Louise in my head and the answer was yes. Yellow Springs was too short but we did make a couple of gallery connections thanks to Bev come what may marketing style. Bev is not a fiber/textile/quilter but she is a highly imaginative artist who works in several mediums.
We arrived in Athens Thursday night and just chilled out. On Friday, Kel, clay artist who is currently working in precious metal clay, and Dee, masterful story teller and poet joined us on Friday. Whenever we're together there is always plenty of gab and laughter. Family, art, health, politics, movies, tv, work, books, the usual.
Friday's highlight was the bead shop Kel took us too and it was a pretty damn awesome shop with wonderful customer service (the shops here leave me cold when it comes to customer service) and the diversity of items this bead shop has is lacking in Louisville shops. I'd have to run around 3 shops locally to find half of what this shop had in inventory.
Saturday morning we spent hours at The Diary Barn oohing and ahhhing...After the first round of viewing Bev had us go back around and pick our favorites for 4 catergories...of course I took notes but since then, they are lost...but from what I'm recalling, I had selected these 3 for the 3 of the 4 categories (can't remember them either): Tunicates 1 by Andree Fredette, Nothing to Fear by Susan Else, and Architectural Squares by Christine Tedesco. As a group we spent a considerable time in discussion on Africa Scarified IV by Sue Ackerman, Ruffled by Jessica Jones, Communicating with the Past by Aaron McIntosh, Little Fish in a Big City by Kathy York, Nothing to Fear by Susan Else, Quilt Drawing #9 by Daphne Taylor, When Nature and Industry Collide by Christine Milton, and one that I thought was entitled Eating Roses that made a direct feminist statement but I do not see it on the QN page.
Bev most frequent question was "what makes this a quilt?" and pushed the question about what materials she could use to push the definition further from the center and toward the edge. Sunday morning Bev posed the question to us about which quilt was still the most memorable and for me it was Nothing to Fear by Susan Else (at the base of my memory lies humour), for Kel it was Ontario Quest Triptych, for Dee it was Ruffled by Jessica Jones, and for Bev it was Quilt Drawing #9 by Daphne Taylor.
I did not buy the book but I'm trying to recall 3 quilts...one was done in shades of gray and had a pyramid and a cross as motifs and the other was a close-up portrait (small size) of a friend who passed away from cancer and another portrait (large size) done in yo-yos that had been painted over...if anyone can tell me the names of these 3 pieces it would be appreciated.
The bead shop is in a house in a residential looking neighborhood off the path of downtown Athens but close by a church turned art center. Another must stop gallery is Passion Works Studio which is a studio/gallery of works by disabled and non-disabled artists. Having been intimately involved with the start-up of a similiar group in New Albany, Indiana, I'm always most interested in artists who are disabled as well as how arts programs reach out to non-traditional audiences. The highlight of dining was The Star of India which was right across from a Mexican restaurant that we ate at the day before. This is the only photo that immediately struck me for a blog post since photos are not permitted of QN.
This is turning out to be a season of opportunity...I'm considering an invitation to do some demo'ing at a gallery in Yellow Springs along with showing some of my work during gallery hop night...just have to weigh the initial investment cost over exposure and potential sales. Also, Lisa Engelbrecht, author of Modern Mark Making will be here in October leading a 2 day workshop, and I'm going to be a resource artist for Kentucky Foundation for Women August 6 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky...for more info, go to their website at www.kfw.org .
As far as taking time to rent studio space to dye fabric for a month, I'm now undecided...just have to repriortize. Is this the time to place my resources in process and materials, education, or exposure??? I'm giving myself 10 days to weigh it and will then make my decision.
glue drying in screen, auditioning fabric, gelatin plate in the making, reference books
I ended the week feeling very productive. I did push it to the limit though but feel it was worth it every second! I did some brush calligraphy, continued with graffiti and writing on cloth, set up some buckets of soda-ash solutions (one for over-dyes, the other for white cloth), made a gelatin plate, mixed dyes for dye painting, and set up a screen with glue resist, and held steady with 3 hours in the gym. I increased my time on the reclining bike from 10 minutes to 30 last week. All which has brought me to today: the hardest thing I'm doing today is rolling in and out of bed. The humidity has increased which is horrible for me so going out I'm not!
My social highlight of the week was an artists' date with friends, old and new. Here is Emma, Pat, myself, and Juanita inside the theme hotel 21C. The theme is 21st century art. The C in 21C could stand for Cutting Edge and Conceptual also. The hotel is a series of gallery spaces. Below we are standing between the elevator interacting with a video tech. exhibit. When you walk around the corner there is this wall screen/camera that puts you into the image of fallilng cascading letters...the letters bounce off of you or your body acts as a blockage to the letters falling. This is highly entertaining!!!!!!! and addicting!!!!!!!!!
This is the lobby of the hotel and the 2nd picture below is a projection on the floor in front of the hotel desk of a couple in bed trying to get comfortable. It is in video format so if you stand there long enough you see them adjusting pillows, checking the clock, tossing, turning.
The man and woman at the desk where just as stoic as the figures above their heads, as if they, too, are figures in the art.
The art in the hotel is not just compatible or complimentary, the hotel is more gallery space from every nook and cranny, than hotel. Even the bathrooms provide an ecletic artistic experience with projected video words in the mirror and one way mirrors that allow you to see out in the hall ways of the hotel.
Local artists are represented along with internationally known artists.
digging this white on white embroidery
one of the galleries held a solo exhibit of lithographs by Kara Walker's grotesque antebellum imagery. This is the 2nd exhibit I've seen of her work. I've read a dissertation turned book on it and I'm sorry to still say, the full meaning escapes me. For work to be so intense and disturbing, and it is to me, I still can't fully grasp the intent of the artist.
We also headed to the headquarters of the Embroidery Guild of America to see the LAFTA show. Here are just a few shots from the show:
And sometimes it all boils down to a sense of humour! This is a bust by Alyce McDonald:
We ended the outing at the Carnegie Museum of Art and History in New Albany, Indiana where Penny Sisto's newest solo exhibit is hanging. I'm always so engulfed and interested in her work but this show, a series of portraits of faith/religion, left me feeling mediocre. Even hearing her give a gallery talk some weeks ago did not tie me into the work beyond a cerebral/academic connection.
I'm looking forward to returning to my workshop next week...it will be my first time doing a gelatin plate and using glue as a resist.
Peace and blessings, immeasurably.
Our weather has been really nice the last week...humidity not as high and temps in the 80s with dipping into the 70s at night. Some spots of rain but nothing troublesome...even the gray overclouding we had I found relaxing.
I can actually say now that going to the gym is habit. I don't feel right when my routine breaks as it did on Saturday. For those who know how I
feel felt about exercise CAN I GET A WITNESS?! Last week I went up to 30 minutes on the reclining bike with the programmed hills. The exercise aggrevates the fibromyalgia but not to the point that I can't move or don't eventually feel better on the days I don't go. And it really all boils down to my philosophy of "if I'm going to be uncomfortable or in pain, I might as well be so while doing something I want to do or have fun anyways". That waiting for the perfect time or when things are just right or all the lights are green just doesn't happen...
Congratulations are in order to MudMan, my brother. But I can't say why because there is the need to keep it hushed for reasons personal to him. I've been bursting at the seams wanting to share it here since it relates to his life as an artist. pssst, family and friends, email me for the news on the downlow ;)
As for me, I'm working into a groove but not quite there yet. I've made this cover for my iPod and was proud of myself for figuring out how to put the snap on. Its a project from Alissa Burke's book, Canvas Remix. It (the case, not the book) is coated with polyurethane which makes it feel coarse. I'm going to make another one without the coating.
I'm still playing with the graffitti look on canvas and the combining of techniques from the online class, Graffitti Chic, taught by Alissa. I love the Ning format for taking online classes compared to the other formats I've taken.
Taking this class has got my eyes tuned to graffitti as I drive around town. Yesterday I found myself wanting to make a sudden spontaneous stop to get out of my car and walk across a large gravel parking lot of a industrial business, cross train tracks to get a closer look of some very ornate lettering on parked train. I didn't. But I experience that urge daily whenever I come across graffitti now. I like to think of graffitti artists as calligraphers who think really big.
I cut this stencil out from a photo of Peter when he was a young fierce teen-age warrior for the revolution. ;) (incoming divergent thought: we already know that the revolution will not be televised...but, will it be blogged?) I might do another stencil of him as the now aged fierce tomato grower. I get a daily tomato plant report with such detail and passion. He is so cute with his serious passion for his tomato plants. Reminds me of the days when we spent hours sitting in the Afro-American Reading Room solving all the social and political ills of the world when I decided he wasn't as square as I thought he was. Oh my words, I'm cracking myself up here.
This piece has gone through some changes. The base is silk paper. Its been beaded 3 different times. Yesterday I removed the beads and painted inside the squares with pearl-ex powders mixed into a textile medium. In spite of really liking it just as you see it here, I'm leaning toward making it a cover for a journal. It is 3 layers, but the edges of the silk paper which I didn't want to tame extend beyond the bottom 2 layers which end at the sewn line.
Right before leaving my workshop yesterday I sat and took in the space that I've been in now for a little over a year. I sat reflecting on the on-going challenges of health, finances, deferred dreams, family conflicts, etc. and felt thankful for the Grace which is allowing me to have a space and abundance of materials to explore my imagination and artistic heartbeats.
To top it off, I came home to Kyra E. Hicks' new book!!!! I waited patiently to open the package while I listened to Peter's tomato report but just as soon as he finished I ripped it open and was like "look, look, look"! I had to explain who Harriet Powers was to him and why the book was signficant and then I saw the pink sticky notes...couldn't contain my excitement...Kyra is kind enough and gracious to have blessed me by mentioning Seamless Skin. Seeing myself and my blog referenced gives me an ethereal feeling. Do you ever ponder humanity from a soul-physics point of view? My mind is too small to grasp it but I do ponder it often...even tring to conceive how each individual small inhale and exhale we take effects change across the globe and if one breath has impact then what can be said of our breaths compounded. Have you ever seen the African cylinder sculptures of humans interlocking to form a tower? Maybe this is the way that particular culture or artist(s) understand what I ponder...how our small individual lives connect to form spiral cylinders that increases our humanity for the greater. Lord know that scholarship on Harriet Powers is not exhausted and I never could have imagined or envsioned that my small breath would ever be of assistance. But we can only see what we can see and living life larger means keep trusting the process and stepping out on belief (i.e. what I cannot see but know to hold truth).
I'm going to commune with some trees today with a grand-sistah-poet and tomorrow will be hanging out with Juanita, my quilt guru, who is here teaching some classes! All praises to the Most High!