Monday, August 22, 2011

strange lady


Having finished blocking and hemming this piece, I finally got her on the wall, the only way I can actually evaluate everything about the composition, proportions, and aura.  I have to say, she is growing on me!  She feels like Buddha, like a fairy, like a serene and happy lady.  Floating.  As yet, untitled.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

children

People always like to compare one's artwork to children.  "How can you sell that? It must be like your child!"  I am thinking about this comparison today as I gaze at the completed tapestry I wrote about yesterday -- as yet, un-named.

Like your children, your art is part of you.  You created it: without you it would have no life.  But what I am thinking today is that, like with your children, it is impossible to be objective.  You love it to pieces; you are overly critical.  You learn to speak less critically, to give pure love, then you worry you will spoil it.  And it is now about to gain its own independent life, your work with it is complete and you have to let it go.  But it is easier to do that if you understand it first.

So I look at this piece which seems incredibly flawed (no photos today!!) and wonder what I have wrought, was it worth all the anxiety?  All the loving care & time lavished on it?  And I have to learn to look at it with love before I can actually see what -- who -- it is.  (I will tell you this: she is really odd!  that might be good.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

how to weave a smile

I am working on another large figurative tapestry. I should point out here that before last fall, when I began this current series, the last figurative piece I wove was in approximately 1974 when I was ridiculed at Kansas City Art Institute for using textile to depict something which should be painted.  This was the era of fiber for fiber's sake, large expressive textural and NON-OBJECTIVE weavings were de rigeur. 

I spent my time at Cranbrook Academy of Art, working on my MFA in Fiber, trying to justify weaving at all, making sure that my subject matter had a direct relationship with the means of execution.  I spent years making tapestries of garden and architectural subjects, both of which used the woven grid as a common language.  Pattern, grid and surface texture were the language of textiles I became most fluent in.

So last fall when I conceived this body of work I was so aware of this old argument in my head.  I set out to make weavings where the thread was as important as the image; the overall simplicity and bluntness of the compositions and spatial relationships were consistent, I felt, with my woven directive of producing textiles which need to be textiles, not paintings.  The most difficult piece to date was last spring's "In My Mind's Eye I am Fine" a nearly full size woven silhouette of a figure.  It was nerve wracking to weave, row by row, bottom to top, as I worried continually about how I could control the form, how expressive my lines might be, whether my lack of skill in rendering this form would become a part of the expression.  It took me months, as worry is the thing that slows me down the most.

I am now nearly done with the next step in that battle.  A few months ago a close friend related her dream to me: that she saw me lying on a bier, as if dead, but I was weeping continuously and smiling.  I was also wearing a fabulous suzani dress, as it happened (my friend is a textile person too).  What an image!  I set about immediately making the warp for  this piece, made scale drawings, threaded the loom, embarked on the project.

First issue: was I going to weave the suzani flowers?  Was this about making my own suzani? (very appealing! but I was concerned it would not do justice to the embroidered reference)  Or was it about the narrative?  Would making an awkwardly woven suzani distract from the real story, the smiling-and-weeping self?  I saw this story as my next step: I am sad but I am fine!  So the flowers were left behind.

Then there was the form itself.  More difficult hands! that stopped me for weeks.  Got them done and then unrolled and saw a comically distorted body.  That threatened to stop the project, but I finally sat down, made a full scale drawing, and got back on the horse.  And today's work, at last, is to weave the very important smile.  One might have noted, my earlier heads have had ears but no faces.  Here we go.  So it is woven, she is my Mona Lisa with, I hope, an ambiguous smile.   I took a break to write this, and now I am off to weave the top of her head.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Natural Dye Workshop with Michele Wipplinger

I have been off line so long you all must think I drowned in all of the spring rains I was complaining of!  It has been a summer devoted more to design than to art, and I write slightly more frequently about that work on my other blog, http://lfntextiles.blogspot.com. However, with a show scheduled at Patina Gallery in Santa Fe this October I am beginning to weave again in earnest and will begin posting about that soon. 

Earlier in June, however, we did have the natural dye workshop with Michele Wipplinger that I had posted about.  It was fascinating to be able to produce such a broad range of colors from her natural dye extracts.  We had participants from New York, Nepal, and Senegal, Docey Lewis having brought in colleagues from these places to catch up on dye technology.  Keith Recker, editor in chief of Hand/Eye magazine was among us too.  We worked in the lovely little Sarah Campbell Blaffer pottery studio in New Harmony, well lit and surprisingly well suited to our task.  We had some glorious cool sunny days and were able to spread out yarns out under a shade tree to dry.  And I want to point out the great fashion statement in the long red & yellow gloves!