Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fiber as sculputure

With the air dry and cool, I am putting the last details on my sculptures. Long-ago lessons in making armatures reawaken. Plus secret knowledge gained years ago, when I interned at the RISD museum's textile department, about how bustles stayed up.
Both pieces are thoughts made visible. What is memory? How do we assemble our identity? How to we incorporate loss?

I also made a series of sticks and stones wrapped in old lace and fabric. I have disintigration on my mind. The real shock is how large-scale ideas emerge as I finish these smaller ones. I want to make whole trees from fabric. I can see them in my mind. Lace, sheets, silk. I can see it. How to get them to stand up? How to move them? Where to install? First I have to solve the problem of hanging these.

Friday, July 30, 2010


With no air conditioning in either studio space, and the temperature in the high 90s, I've retreated to the local libraries. Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word is a diatribe against the late 70s NYT assertion that for art "to lack a persuasive theory is to lack something crucial." Wolfe inverts this statement, and claims it means that "without a theory to go with it, I can't see a painting." His rapier wit felt cooling on a hot day. Wikipedia tells me the book got Wolfe called a fascist, eunuch and worse. Probably he chortled all the way to the bank.

I've hauled home huge volumes, looking at the work of artists mentioned during my too-brief painting course this spring. Most recently I read The Art of the Real: I've never studied the biographies and artist statements like this before. It is eye opening, to see a life laid out against the work. Franz Kline, Roger Muhl, Charles Burchfield, Wayne Thiebault. So many interconnections and resonances. So much work. Interesting to note, too, where a mentor or a sponsor shows up. Not to mention the wives. I think I would like to read more about them, too.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Evolution: sculpture

The weather - and the studio - have cooled off a bit, in time for me to finish a sculpture piece for 2010 edition of the Lowell exhibit, The Fabrication of Imagination.

Have you noticed how long ideas gestate? The mind is a womb of dreams. Half a dozen years ago, when my mother shipped me almost weekly boxes of clothes from her past, I took a lace prom dress and dumped it in the dye bath. I used the dress to make purses, but the bodice was too haunting to cut up. It went into the Idea pile.A few years later, a drawing I did became a major element in my printing: One edition of it, on an over-dyed dish towel, went into the Idea pile too, along with old aprons and frayed scarves. By then my mom was in assisted living.My work and my visits to mom take me repeatedly into nursing homes. The residents mostly are old women. I think about all the dreams inside of them, all the memories. They wear their pearls, they remember their children, their childhood. All those memories, invisible and yet present. "I'm still 22 in my mind," my grandmother puzzled, weeks before shes died.

My piece, "She was Married," is almost done. You can come see it in the ALL Arts Gallery in Lowell, August 7-29.

Gallery hours: Saturday 11-4 and Sunday 12-4
with extended hours for the Lowell Quilt Festival:

Thursday, August 12: 10-8
Friday August 13: 10-6
Saturday August 14: 10-5

Reception Saturday August 14: 2-4

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Field Trip

To celebrate my girl's 16th birthday, our family got on the Bolt Bus and went to NYC for three days. No photos, just a mind crammed with memories.

The heat was high but the humidity mercifully low. We walked ourselves silly, marveling at people, stores, architecture. Our first thought was "there's a parade!" But it was just normal folks, so many of them, out for Saturday afternoon.

We walked a street fair, had lunch at Grand Central Station, stayed at a wonderfully old-fashioned hotel. We walked the halls of the Met until I was on visual overload. And, because we love live theater, we broke the bank and saw two shows:

At their core, both shows are about love, about existing in the moment. But one does it with feathered flamboyance, the other with existential rawness. Both are brilliant. A stunning contrast. As rich as good food.

Now its time for a nap.

Friday, July 16, 2010


From the blog, Ecoterre, a wardrobe grown from bacteria.
Suzanne Lee , senior research fellow at the School of Fashion & Textiles at Central Saint Martins in London, developed a technique to fashion fabric from fermented green tea.

BioCouture, Suzanne Lee, wearable technology, eco-fashion,  sustainable fashion, green fashion, sustainable style, London, bacteria,  eco-textiles, sustainable textiles

I would love to touch these. Do you suppose they can get wet?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big floods, good chocolate

It rained like the end of the world Saturday. Water was running UP our little hill. It flowed off roofs in solid sheets. One town over, flash floods had people standing on the roofs of their stalled cars. Traffic ground to a halt, and streets turned into rivers.

Wndsor Street - outside the Taza Chocolate Factory

Taza Chocolate factory, a great little business, was 16 inches deep in water:

retail Store

They had just remodeled: no flood insurance. (Who expects to be flooded out in the middle of a city?) Production capacity has shut down, and cash flow is a challenge. The good news is, their inventory was on the second floor.

Drywall damage 16inches high

So if you like a good cause, a scrappy young business, and good chocolate, buy some Taza Chocolate. So they can keep making great, mindful chocolate, come hell or high water.

Watch video from Channel 5 about Taza and the Somerville flash floods here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Memoriam

John and Amber in the studio. Photo by Ashlee Welz Smith

John Greenwald, painter and colleague, died yesterday. He worked across the hall from me at Western Avenue Studios. He always had a smile, a critique, an opinion, a welcoming hand to share. I miss him so much.

Here is his own description of how he got started. To enjoy his rich, energetic work, visit his website, please.

I drew my first nude as a 16-year-old high schooler in New York City in 1959. A classmate took a small group of us to open life drawing at the famous Art Students League in Manhattan. There, for less than a dollar, we drew the figure for two hours with a few dozen other artists.

I had never seen a live nude model before, but after a minute or so of trepidation, I began to draw. And immediately I was hooked. There was something about the abstract beauty of the figure — plus the model's inherent humanness, sensuality and personality — that I wanted to capture.

In time, I saw the figure as a template for experiments in color, expression, abstraction and playfulness. That's where I am now, using the figure to explore a wide visual vocabulary. People have called me an abstract painter, an expressionist, a fauve, a colorist and Matisse-like. Who knows?

Some of the artists where I have my studio, in Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, Mass., wonder why I use different models. “All his models look alike,” they say. But I need models. They are my collaborators, whose style and personalities influence my paintings as much as their torsos, limbs and faces.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

AM with paint

When something seems a little off, try turning it upside down. This is the piece I posted yesterday, rotated and reworked with acrylics. Who knows where it will stop?

Instead of production sewing, I kept painting. I am a neophyte. The marks of brush and color continuously amaze me. And it is wild to have so flexible a medium to hand.
The last was made wiping up what was left on my palette. I took prints off it, a la Catherine Carter, and liked what was left behind the best:

My cat, now painfully thin but still crazy and loving, kept me company.

I often find acrylic paint on her tail these days.