Sunday, March 23, 2008

Women of the Cloth

Women of the Cloth continues on exhibit at the Bunker Hill Community College through April 18. If you have any interest in fiber, go now. You may want more than one visit to take it in.

Laura Montgomery, director, has broadly interpreted the show's tactile and spiritual themes. The 52 pieces explore a range of contemporary textile art. Some pieces celebrate traditional techniques, such as quilting, shibori,and mud dyeing. But most take the tradition and stretch it into new forms, even a silk-screened body bag.

Kasia Bytnerowicz's deconstructed paintings echo with the presence of the body that has just left the room. Laura Morrison's whimsical felted creatures disturb you with their suggestion of growth gone awry. Margot Stage's Flight (pictured below) feels like a model for a huge installation. Jennifer Mecca shreds used clothing only to reassemble it in the model of a regal kimono.

Every piece comes from a deep point of experience.
Jeanne Williamson calls the exhibit "competitive to Fiber Art International," quite a compliment. From a walk on the beach to a brush with cancer, from an empty room to a pointless war, the show explores personal journeys and profound concerns.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Save Our Stories

Karen Musgrave and the Alliance for American Quilts recently teamed up with the Alzheimer's Quilt Initiative to document the stories behind the traveling exhibit of quilts, Alzheimer's: Piece by Piece. She interviewed me by phone last week, and posted our conversation on-line this morning. My words will be in the Library of Congress. What a strange feeling that is.

My quilt, Trying to Remember, is a tribute to my dad, who died with Alzheimer's some ten years ago. Here he is, as a young man, and much later, as I remember him.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

We should meet sometime

Wandering the internet, I found the amazing installations of Rachel Hayes.
Check her out. She'll have you thinking about fabric and place in a whole new way. I was so moved I emailed her, asking about materials. Guess what? She shops at Joanne's Fabrics, just like the rest of us. So it's not the materials, honey: it's the artist that wields them. I can think of a lot of places that would be improved by draping in cloth.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Studio Tour

I share a large studio space in Lowell; my big work, my wet work, happens there. But the commute - three highways over 45 minutes -- means that most days I climb to the little third room upstairs, and cram myself in along with my two sewing machines, ironing board, cutting table, and carefully (hah!) squirreled supplies.

Two walls are lined with bookcases. I've hung sheets on top of these, to approximate design walls, and to cut down on the visual stimulation. (All that fabric saying "Me! ME! ME!!!")

On the third wall is my old faithful: an industrial sewing machine from the last century. Next to it is my bottom-of-the-line Janome, the first sewing machine new sewing machine I've ever bought. Every other machine I've owned has been used, and all but one came to me through friends and family. None had computers. For stitching I want speed, and occasionally zig-zag. That's it. The industrial one doesn't even go backwards, but, baby, it sure is fast. The stacked clear boxes behind it used to hold PlayMobile for my girl.

The fourth wall is all window, facing due east. That wall holds active fabric in wire bins, and, at right angles, my cutting/work table. This is the heart of my days. I collage, paint, print, cut, draw and think here. Often I wish I had tables for each of these activities. O well! One plays with the cards one's dealt. So, instead, this year, I am learning to CLEAN OFF the cutting table each time I leave the studio. Now interrupted projects do not layer like shale. Though still, finding work sometimes feels like an archaeological dig.

When I stand at the work table, the second, built-in bookcase is behind me. It holds less-used materials such as batting and sheets. Because I usually have my back to it, projects posted there tend to get forgotten but at least do not get buried. Along the top, I file inspirational objects. My current favorites are some beautiful tree photos, some old notions still on cards, and this relic, from my childhood days.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Opening Night

Women of the Cloth opens tonight at Bunker Hill Community College. A bunch of us from Lowell Fiber Studios will arrive together - a big help to the Terminally Shy like yours truly.

I've been a Domestic Goddess since I did my taxes. Running errands, doing paperwork, planning dinner, making cookies and even pie. A luxurious calm that results from taking the needle of the "Make Product!" record.

I am also working hard to finish several wall pieces. Surprise: As one piece moves towards completion, another tumbles off the shelves to say "ME TOO!" I had no idea the backlog was so deep. So it's with a special sigh that I post this from today's Writer's Almanac. Thank you, Garrison Keillor. Sometimes I think, if I won a grant, I'd use it to hire a cook. Think what you could get done if someone else took care of the cooking.

"It is the birthday of novelist Gabriel García Márquez... One day in January of 1965, the complete first chapter of One Hundred Years of Solitude came to him suddenly while he was driving his car from Mexico City to Acapulco. He came home that night and told his wife not to bother him and locked himself in a room for eight to 10 hours a day for the next 18 months and wrote the novel. The original manuscript was 1,200 pages long, and García Márquez pawned their heater and his wife's hair dryer to pay for the postage to send the novel out to publishers."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Artists on Art

Pianist Van Cliburn plays at a concert in Moscow in 2004.This is a photo of Van Cliburn playing in Moscow in 2004. For an illuminating, delightful interview, listen to his conversation this week with Weekend Edition's Scott Simon. Amazing, to hear what genius looks like from the inside. It looks a lot like one's own life: struggle, frustration, dry spells, and the inescapable knowledge that, whatever you do, there is more to be done. And then there's the music. My mom was a pianist, and taught me. I don't play often, but I still have the instrument and the knowledge is in there like how to ride a bicycle. I'll never be a Lance Armstrong, but it is good, occasionally, to pedal around the block.

I also recommend Steve Martin's Born Standing Up. With simple and self-deprecating prose, he describes the uncertain path described by a kid who liked to do magic and would work for peanuts. And in a passage that reminds me of the classic Art and Fear, he argues that the most important part of his career was touring as an unknown, making mistakes and learning by just doing, doing, and doing again.

As Leonard Da Vinci said to a student: "Draw, Antonio, draw. Draw and do not waste time."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Gallery in Lowell

The Loading Dock, a cooperative gallery, made it's debut at Western Avenue Studios this week. Adrien Bisson , one of the participating artists, posted photos. Looks beautiful, doesn't it? Two of my colleagues at Lowell Fiber Studio are members, as are Ann and Sonjia at Friends Fabric Art, so textiles will be well represented. With a teenager and a home 40 minutes away, I didn't sign on this round, but I am so proud of those who did.