Thursday, September 19, 2013

Real or virtual classes?

I've got two new classes coming up:

Working in Series online with  which starts this Friday and is an exploration of what, when, why and how one should work in a series.  It's a really different kind of class and one that can only be done online, for it involves research, and taking time to think deeply about where you are (artistically speaking!) right now.  It's a perfect kind of class to take virtually.  You have till Sunday to sign up for it! By the way this is the last class I'll be doing with Quilt University as QU closes at the end of this year - however....many QU teachers (including me) have signed up to continue teaching with Academy of Quilting.

Abstract Art for Quiltmakers in real 3D life! in Falmouth, MA This class runs for 5 full days from October 14-18.  (please contact Linda Gallagher if you're interested, there are just 2 places left in the class).
This is a new class for me - I've been admiring and analyzing the many varied styles of abstract art made by female artists since early in the 20th century.  Many of these women were attached to male artists who are much better known - however the women's work is just as good - sometimes better!  It deserves to be studied and there is so much inspiration to be gain from such a study.  This class is a design class with specific instructions on how to design many different kinds of abstract art.  We're also going to dye the fabric!  And construct 2 quilt tops!  Plus lots of one on one instruction, even (with luck) a few witticisms from yours truly!

Advantages of Online Class:  no travel, cheaper, easy to fit into your daily life, time to think between classes.
Advantages of Real Live class: one on one real contact with the teacher, getting immediate help and feedback, concentration: being able to (and compelled to!) focus just on making art for several consecutive days, meeting other quilt artists and learning from them.

I don't see these two different kinds of workshops as being either/or - there are some things and some points in your life where one approach will work better for you.  comments?

Feedback!  As I studied abstract art for the Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class, I made a number of small quilts based on my findings and you can see these below...I want to choose a couple of these ideas to develop into a series - so please let me know which you find the most interesting and engaging - and why!  which are the freshest ideas?  Which attract you the most?

Footfalls in the Memory


Four Rooms with a Window

Highlands, Fall

The First Machine

Brush or Scissors?

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How come you’re not in the work?

Went down to the university art department again yesterday for another artist talk:
 Tony    Martelli   whose work is said to "suspend   time and disbelief with a peculiar aesthetic tension". 
  A nice little   bit of art speak!!  And probably meaningless!  Or rather, so vague of meaning as to be 
worthy of a horoscope!  However, the work is definitely strong and provoking and he has a very distinctive
 point of view.  
He began his talk by describing how in graduate school he really wanted to "project his intellect", to appear very 
smart and knowledgeable and as a result the work was "dry, textual, monochromatic, dull" and overly 
manipulated. His studiomate said to him one day - "You’re an interesting guy, but your work is dull;
how come you’re not in the work ?"  That remark changed everything; he decided to be a different 
kind of artist and deliberately put more of himself into the work.  He wanted "to give form to his
feelings, anxieties, hopes,  and dreams as the Romantic artists had done", but he wished to do this in a way "that made sense to a contemporary audience."

 His first piece after this epiphany was an empty cardboard box, an old battered empty cardboard box 
labelled with his name.  A good title will save work from being cleared away by the janitors (yes, that 
has happened!) and the box was entitled:  “My soul-searching finally paid off “.   His aim was that the 
box would stand as a metaphor for himself: empty but ready to receive. 

Tony Martelli
Being a "newly romantic artist" he told us that he thought about "romantic tropes".  (As an aside, I've been 
dying to use the word trope which means "a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression".)
 of Martelli's most successful tropes has been his sculpture of himself as a sleepwalker.
He described how this sculpture works as a perfect trope when placed in a any boring museum settings!!

He's also done a lot of "self portraits" made from vegetables or hunks of meat (these are meticulously rendered in silicone or bronze by the way (including the flies) but look entirely realistic - more tropes!).
So he both literally and metaphorically put himself very directly into his art.   And it came alive, and much more compelling.  How can we as quiltmakers do this?  I've often been surprised by people who make pieces in a random haphazard way hoping that the colors and textures will come together to make an interesting whole.  Or even
stranger,  people who work from a photograph that they just came across yesterday and they think looks
quite nice - how can that be meaningful for you?  I think I've always tried to make work that related to my
own life  - now that doesn't necessarily mean I've been successful...but I have had that aim. For me, there's
always a story behind the quilt.  Here's a couple of recent pieces:

Brushes and Scissors

 In Brushes and Scissors,  I'm contemplating my somewhat segmented and confused life where I can't decide whether to focus on make fiber art, or I guess this is a Real Trope - if metaphors can ever be seen to be real..the scissors do seem to be in charge of the action here having cut up several of those brushes!!

Do you try to put yourself into your art?  do you try to make work about your dreams, and feelings and hopes and nightmares?
(yes some of Martelli's work was pretty nightmarish! - for example the sculpture of the "Fucked Couple"  who had had limbs torn off because a grand piano had fallen on top of them ......)

Is making one's work about one's real life important?
 Or is it better to appear smart and knowledgeable?
Opinions, please!!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Art: a world of hypothesis and dreams

I love going to talks given by artists - especially those who have had long and successful careers - there is so much to be learned.  I'm fortunate in that my local university presents many such lectures  and everyone is  welcome.  It's fun to be in the middle of a large student gathering - the girls in incredibly short shorts with their legs twisted up beneath them, the guys draped like drunken daddy long legs! - ahh youth!!

Last night's talk was by Kendall Buster who makes giant installations for large atrium spaces.  She was talking about living in the "crazy creative field" that is art, where design is an object, a peep into the world of hypothesis and dreams.   Like many of us, her first medium and first love was fabric.  When she first started to work with metal, she folded, bent, overlapped and  "stitched" the panels together with screws! She felt that looking back it was possible to recognize your style early on in your practice -   a thought which opens up possibilities for cogitation in a further blog!

 The first work she showed (right after grad school) was rather solid  looking  building shapes that you could walk into but soon she replaced the metal panels with fabric:

Garden Snare, 1998, Kreeger Museum, Washington, DC, shadecloth. steel
She was very open about her design inspirations: she was exploring two things: the idea of skeletons - the metal wire covered with mesh (initially she used paper, but soon began to use various synthetic fabrics that were much more translucent).  The original shapes were based on shells, cells and membranes.   She played with the idea of inside vs outside...are you vulnerable inside?  as in a fully lit glass house at night?  or are you hidden and protected when the light is on the outside, and the dark on the inside. Field vs ground, negative vs positive space.

It wasn't long before she turned to using all white fabric and "floated" the structures off the floor - initially at only about 4 or 5 fit and the viewers had to crawl around under them to see them!!  It would be fun to suspend quilts like this - horizontally with the light behind.  You would lie on the floor and see the quilt floating above you - a great reference to the original idea of quilts as horizontal covers above you.  (hmm...I wonder if I could propose this to the next venue that wants to show my work!!)
However, boring things like insurance regulations, soon  had the white structures elevated into atriums - suspended by steel cables, sometimes from existing beams, as determined by the architects.

Ms Buster didn't mention fungi as an inspiration but her strata series really made me think of the horizontal tree fungi I've seen:
Topograph, 2010, San Francisco International Airport. .
New Growth/Stratum Model, 2009, Suyama Space, Seattle, WA.
Kendall talked about being inspired by strata showing us a detailed contour map and then describing the challenge of working from line to plane, AND doing this within the context of architecture  very often all about the grid.  Her stratum structures are individual planes with the edges indicating line and the cables referencing the grid - a wonderful way of combining all the elements to create unity.

  She prefers to work in white, describing herself as chromophobic!! But with such textures created by the layers of fabric and light, there is no need for color -  the artistic vision is fully realized without it.

Much to inspire, and much to be in awe of - not the least being the incredibly complicated details of designing, fabricating and mounting such structures.  Fascinating the fact that she has dealt with some of the same design inspirations as I have been interested in: inside vs outside (are we looking in, or are we looking out) and as I've seen students in my workshops tackle:  Elaine - remember your fungi??

So - if you have a chance - do check out the lectures at your local art school - and, if you have been, thanks for reading!   All comments will be thoroughly read and enjoyed!!  Please do not restrain yourselves!!
PS - I'm looking forward to my workshop on Cape Cod in October (see side bar for details and contact info) - we're going  to do a little dyeing, and then explore abstract art.  Lots of designing, lots of one on one - you can make one quilt and finish it, get two pinned together, or work on designs!