Archive Page 2

International Honor Quilt project (by Kathleen Loomis)

You have probably heard of Judy Chicago’s magnum opus, The Dinner Party, made in 1975-6, first exhibited in 1979 and now on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  Widely regarded as one of the high points in feminist art, it is a huge three-sided table with 39 place settings, each one commemorating a famous woman in history with an individualized plate and placemat.  An additional 999 women were memorialized on floormats on which the table rested.

The exhibit toured the world for nine years, drawing huge crowds, and many of the women who saw it were moved to wish that their own favorite women could be included in the show.  At some point Chicago invited submissions from anybody who wanted to make a panel.  Hundreds of panels came in, and on later stops in the tour they were displayed as part of the Dinner Party installation.

The panels covered famous and not-famous women; many people honored their mothers, grandmothers, next-door neighbors and teachers.  Others chose women’s organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women or La Leche League.  Some depicted fictional, mythological or Biblical characters, groups such as farm women or pioneers, or universal themes such as menstruation.

There were only two rules: each panel should be an equilateral triangle, 24 inches on a side, and around the edges of the triangle should be written the name of the honoree and her city and country. Beyond that, the format, materials and techniques were up to the makers.

After the world tour, both The Dinner Party itself and the more than 600 volunteer-made panels went into storage.  Last year, Chicago’s foundation donated the panels to the University of Louisville, and the school is now grappling with the task of properly documenting them. In a moment of some kind of mental aberration, I decided that I needed to be involved with this project, so I’m spending several hours a week with the panels and a spreadsheet, helping the curators with the technical details of textile techniques and materials.

The database is supposed to include information on the panel, the woman or group honored in the panel, the maker of the panel and biographical information about her, the maker’s statement (about why she chose the honoree, how she made the panel, or whatever else she wanted to say), technical information on the panel’s condition, measurements, materials and techniques, and a detailed description of the panel. Materials, techniques and description are my responsibility, while the other fields are being checked and corrected by others on the project staff.

In my three fields, we’re finding that some panels have no information at all, while others have been incorrectly described. For instance,18 of the first 54 we went through had no information on materials, techniques and description!  That’s a lot of blank spaces in the data base. But even the ones that have been filled in by past cataloguers need to be carefully checked for accuracy.  The previous cataloguers sometimes confuse hand and machine stitching and use catchall terms such as “hand sewn” instead of distinguishing between hand piecing, hand applique and hand embroidery. One of the cataloguers seemed enamored of the term “partial machine construction,” which means nothing to me.  “Top stitching” is frequently used as a descriptor, except sometimes it means machine applique, other times it means quilting, still other times it means embroidery.

the cataloguer thought this beautiful padded satin stitch was machine embroidered

The previous cataloguers also didn’t pay much attention to how the edges of the panels were finished — traditional quilt binding, facing, knife-edge finish, fabric from the front or back of the panel folded over the edge and stitched down on the other side, or whatever.  In many cases there was no description at all of the edge, and in others it wasn’t accurate. So I inspect each panel, compare it to what the cataloguer wrote, poke and prod the work to determine what techniques were used, occasionally feel the goods with my ungloved hand to identify the material, and write my own notes.  Then at home I type it all into the database; it usually takes me a bit longer to type up the notes than it did to inspect the panels.

The curators had acquired several pairs of those baggy, limp white cotton gloves to protect the quilts, but I said we needed Machingers to make it easier to work.  I have a long, strong embroidery needle that I use to poke at the work and lift an edge or pull a seam open to see how it was stitched, a ruler to measure the borders and a magnifying loupe to get a better look at the stitches if necessary.

I had to gingerly poke at this one to determine that the tiny orange stitches are made with a punch needle, not french knots

I’m writing more about my adventures in cataloguing on my own blog, Art With A Needle, if you’re intrigued with this project.  Next week I’ll write about an artist I discovered in the pile of panels.

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The art of fiber / the fiber of art (by Olga Norris)

Sheila Hicks
Shiela Hicks with her work Pillar of Enquiry/Supple Column (from this review)

With some regret I will not be able to visit the exhibition Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – Present, on at the ICA, Boston now until January 4, then at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus from January – April 5 2015, followed by the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa May 8 – August 2nd. However, I have the next best thing: the excellent catalogue with its informative and thought-provoking essays.

I became generally interested in soft sculpture such as the work of Meret Oppenheim and Claes Oldenburg before developing a particular fascination with fibre art in the late 70s through the Royal College of Art Gaudy Ladies exhibitions which included weaver Marta Rogoyska, and Natalie Gibson (whose print designs can be seen here). Then I also became attracted to the work of Tadek Beutlich who worked with weaving off the loom.
Tadek BeutlichThis opened a window for me, and I started looking more and more for examples of sculptural textiles – which led me to a treasury of delights: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Olga de Amaral, Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, and Anne Wilson among so many others. Interesting that I arrived at Eva Hesse and Rosemarie Trockel directly through my interest in sculpture rather than through fibre art.

The catalogue provides clear photographs of the work in situ as well as close-ups, and the essays are also illuminating. The gulf between the burgeoning fibre art movement and what might be called mainstream art critics’ view of art is pointed out in the first essay of the catalogue: The Materialists by Jenelle Porter.
Despite the gains of the feminist art movement, which included a groundbreaking loosening of confining categories and mediums that has continued to have an impact on artists to this day, fiber’s association with women’s work undermined the abstract, material experimentation of fiber artists – man of whom were women, though not necessarily self-identified feminists. … By using traditionally domestic crafts … On the positive side they acquired a ready made alternative art history, and gained a language of form that summoned up vast realms of women’s experience. On the negative side they found themselves confronted by the questionable notion that craft was inherently female, and by the negative aspects of that gendering.

picFiberICA140930Abakanowicz_0352w
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Yellow Abakan (from this review of the exhibition)

In Glenn Adamson’s essay Soft Power he draws the distinction in bold terms by comparing the gravity-enhanced fibre works with distinct periods in history of the unpopularity of the flaccid penis in sculpture. The distinct lack of critical acclaim for the droopy draped natural forms of soft sculpture compares with the critical successes of upright thrusting forms of hard sculpture. This superficial sounding view is in fact an informative well thought-out argument which has certainly presented a different perspective to the feminist debate.
T’ai Smith’s essay Tapestries in Space: An Alternative History of Site-Specificity discusses how many of the glorious fibre sculptures were commissioned for specific buildings and now many have been destroyed or about to be destroyed because they were not looked after or were no longer needed. Barbara Shawcroft’s Legs joyously decorating the spaces of the Embarcadero Station on the Bay Area Rapid Transport network has been neglected, and is now to be returned to the artist – which at least is better than destruction. (Article about Legs here)
Barbara-Shawcroft-and-fiber-sculpture-Cal-Design-76
Barbara Shawcroft: White Form

Robert Rohm’s Rope Piece has been dismantled and lost, but the exhibition curator Jenelle Porter and a team from the ICA reconstructed the work and it is now part of the show.

Art made of fibre does suffer over time. Maintenance and conservation are headaches for collectors and institutions. Some fibre art once bought is wrapped up and put straight into the cupboard. This has happened with Lenore Tawney and MOMA. the latter pleading lack of appropriate space. At least, that might have been so in past decades, but now with the ubiquity of installations, the maintenance nightmares of sharks in formaldehyde, the vast sizes of iconic museum architecture, perhaps this timely revival of these wondrous constructions will have some positive effect -?

photo-614x460Elise Giauque: Pure Spatial Element (from this review of the exhibition)

But in reading this excellent catalogue/book as well as having been given the opportunity to think again about those historic pieces, and to mull once more aspects of feminism in art, I also ask myself, is it really over-simplifying the case by so much to say that generally, work made in materials which need less maintenance and conservation are in the long run more highly regarded (i.e. worth more) by the art world (critics, curators, collectors)?

Suffering for art (by Margaret Cooter)

It is a truth generally acknowledged that artists must suffer for their art. Also, it is widely believed, in the art community at least, that good art has its basis in the artist’s unique personal experience – and, especially among artists and critics, that a viewer is needed to “complete” the work, in that they will bring their own experience to their perception of the work.

 “An exhibition of multimedia pieces created by two artist sharing a professional knowledge of medical environments. This exhibition brings together a series of process driven interrogations into the deconstructive and reconstructive nature of disease.”

“An exhibition of multimedia pieces created by two artist sharing a professional knowledge of medical environments. This exhibition brings together a series of process driven interrogations into the deconstructive and reconstructive nature of disease.”

In “Black & Blue”, an exhibition at the Freespace Gallery in Kentish Town Health Centre, London , two artists have taken the notion of “suffering for their art” to great lengths. For Chris Day, it is voluntary; for Penny Clayden, it is inescapable.

Chris and Penny are familiar with suffering and pain through their work – Chris is a respiratory therapist, treating cardiac patients, and Penny is a nurse, now training other nurses how to look after their backs, for she has long had chronic back pain herself.  They are both nearing the end of their art MA at Farnham, brought together by their medical background and their search for how to integrate their creativity and these concerns with pain, suffering, healing, harmony, natural rhythms.

As well as their working lives in health care, they share textile-related backgrounds and families in which people were always making things, by sewing or otherwise. Chris’s family included tailors and pattern testers; her father and grandfather stitched tapestries. Penny’s forebears worked in couture and costume making; she was given a sewing machine at the age of 4 and was making clothes for people, that they wore, by the age of 8.

With this emphasis on clothes and cloth, stitched creativity, it’s no wonder that they are both undertaking a textiles MA. For Penny, sewing and art have been an adjunct to her working life; some years ago Chris took time out from work for a textiles degree. At the MA level, each student’s experience starts from the project they propose on applying to the course – they have already narrowed down the possibilities to something relevant and absorbing for them. During the course, tutors and mentors help them focus even further, as well as broadening their wider view. It is here that individual experience becomes so important, not just for finding a process of making the art but also in determining the content of the artworks.

Night Waves (2013) Chris Day. Acrylic ink, sea water.

Night Waves (2013) Chris Day. Acrylic ink, sea water.

Chris’s focus is on the interaction of man and nature over time, and the work she shows originates in her relationship with the sea. She has used ink and seawater to produce a series of drawings, often through wetting the drawn lines by taking  the paper into the breaking waves. She works at the seashore throughout the year, and has also drawn while immersed up to the neck, unable to see the drawing on her board through watching for the next wave so that she can jump to stay above it.

 Intervention 1 (2013) Chris Day. Linen, pre-rusted wire, sea water.

Intervention 1 (2013) Chris Day. Linen, pre-rusted wire, sea water.

Her stitched work doesn’t imitate surgical sutures – surgical procedures are presented in a more abstract form, for instance in “Intervention 1” by the incorporation of  wire into a linen cloth that sat in evaporating sea water for more than a year, rusting the metal and precipitating salt crystals as it dried.

Chris also makes felt pieces, using her hands intuitively through long practice with this process, just as she uses her hands intuitively in her work, the intuition developed through years of experience.

 Redacted Revealed (detail) (2014) Penny Clayden. Silk organza.

Redacted Revealed (detail) (2014) Penny Clayden. Silk organza.

Everyone who suffers pain sees it differently, say Penny – her own pain is black – and it was this interest in perception of pain that led to her MA project, which was initially to discover other people’s perceptions of pain. She found, though, that she didn’t understand her own perceptions, so has narrowed her focus to her personal experience. One of the resulting works, Redacted Revealed, is a series of prints on freely hanging silk organza, a fabric that had been used inside plaster casts to prevent rubbing from damaging the patient’s skin. The fabric is stained with myrobalans, which as well as being used in tanning leather in India are made from trees that have healing qualities. Hung around a large space, the series of prints represent a day in the life of Penny’s pain, which changes over time and throughout the day. The shapes on the cloth bear some resemblance to structures found on x-rays; some cloths are double, and move across each other in the air currents as people walk past.

Fragmentation series (2014) Penny Clayden. Porcelain, cloth, thread, loofah

Fragmentation series (2014) Penny Clayden. Porcelain, cloth, thread, loofah

Other fabrics used in the medical setting include calico and gauze, bandages and garments, and Penny has dipped these into black porcelain slip. The fabrics are burnt away during firing in the kiln, leaving the hard, but fragile, porcelain; even when the pain goes away, Penny says, she can feel very fragile.

 Fragmentation series (2014) Penny Clayden. Porcelain, bone china, loofah

Fragmentation series (2014) Penny Clayden. Porcelain, bone china, loofah

Penny is aware that these fragile works are likely to disintegrate through handling, so for the life of the exhibition she has put them in drawers and in jars sourced from office and kitchen suppliers. The jars resemble those used for anatomical specimens, with no need for the formaldehyde preservative. The tallest jar holding pieces of her Fragmentation series contains porcelain-dipped pieces of loofah– the soft, spongy shapes, made rigid, resembling vertebrae in various stages of decomposition.

These visual ways of explaining pain were well received by patients who happened to be in the health centre while the show was being hung. One said that this reminded her that people outside the health setting were caring for her in a different way; another, who had been looking very dejected, seemed revived by the activity around him.

The arts in healthcare settings are acknowledged as contributing to patients’ welfare and recovery, and enriching the lives of staff and visitors. A literature is building up on the active use of art in hospitals and health centres, not just traditional pictures as something to look at while waiting, but as part of signage and for orientation within the building; as a focus for conversations between visitors and patients; making the building interesting for children; introducing the healing benefits of nature; and involving patients in creating art themselves. Funding for such art is usually from private and charitable sources.

In both art galleries and health centres, space is becoming more fluid – used for different purposes by different groups of people – for example, to meet for coffee rather than look at the art, or to see the art rather than attend a medical appointment. The gallery at Kentish Town Health Centre is not separate from the treatment areas. It shows art that can be comforting, or can present a challenge to the viewer. When the art is based in an experience that patients can relate to, even a difficult experience like pain, it is their own experience, their perception and recognition of that commonality in the art work, that makes the work complete.

 

Black & Blue is showing at Free Space Gallery, First floor, 2 Bartholomew Road, London NW5 2BX, until 16 January;  see freespacegallery.org.

Perfect copies — but are they art? (by Kathleen Loomis)

Much discussion in quilt/art circles recently regarding two prizewinning quilts at the big Houston show this year.

IQA dorothea lange   

Virginia Greaves, Worry, 2014

third-place winner, Art — People, Portraits and Figures at Houston IQA show

dorothea lange

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936

You probably recognize the image as the famous photo taken in California by Dorothea Lange, documenting the travails of migrant workers during the drought of the Dust Bowl. That photo was black and white, while Greaves has imagined it in color and executed it in machine applique.

On the Quiltart email list, typical for listserv discussions, the focus started on a nitpick: was it a copyright violation to appropriate the Lange image. (Apparently it’s in the public domain, since Lange was working for the U.S. government.) But it quickly moved to a discussion of whether it’s a Good Thing to copy somebody else’s photo(or even your own photo) to make your own artwork.

Somebody pointed out another big winner at Houston, ironically in the category of “innovative artistry,” which was a replica of a painting.

summer wind IQA houston

Maria Landi and Maria Lucia Azara, Summer Wind

winner of $5,000 Baby Lock Master Award for Innovative Artistry at Houston IQA show

summer wind painting

painting by Anna Bocek, La Playa series

When these quilts were first discussed on the list, one commenter put the subject to rest by suggesting that the show entry form should require that the artist has gotten permission to use any text or imagery. This strikes me as a solution to the wrong problem. Among other things, it would forever rule out quotations from the Bible or Shakespeare, not to mention remixes of Vermeer or Picasso. And I think the point is not whether you have somebody’s permission to work from their original, but whether you should.

So is it a Good Thing to copy somebody else’s photo or painting? And then is it a Good Thing to enter it as your own work in a big show?

One Quiltart reader said “to present it as a faithful reproduction but in fabric is a form of cheating. In my opinion there is little difference in this than using a commercial pattern. This is not the same as inspiration. I can download most any image from the net and with Photoshop turn it into a pattern of any size.” Similarly, a bunch of art quilters with whom I shared a meal the weekend the Houston winners were announced thought that Photoshop-enabled translation of photos into quilts was nothing more than “paint by numbers.”

But other readers defended the practice. One wrote: “I liken rendering a photograph in a different medium (such as fiber) no different than a singer covering a brilliant old song. Even if the rhythm and lyrics are the same, even if the very same instruments and arrangements are used, it’s a new artistic work. It’s an homage to the original.”

One wrote: “So what if these quilters use photographs taken by others? Have you honestly tried to render an image in fabric? It takes an artist’s eye to translate the spirit of the photo into another medium.”

Someone else wrote: “Ginny Greaves’ quilt based on the Lange photograph seems to me to be in the tradition of artists who are influenced and inspired by other artists’ works. Translating a photograph into an entirely different medium, such as fabric, seems sufficiently different to make it unique.”

But another reader wrote: “Simply interpreting it in the fabric medium doesn’t really bring anything new to it. They don’t sing with a distinctive style of the quilt artist. They are just copies. And I simply do not understand making art, copied from someone else’s photo, that you wish to look just like the original! That story has been told!”

Another: “Copying a photo slavishly is NOT a particularly creative endeavor, especially when the goal is to make it exactly like someone else’s original. In the case of fabric medium, it is a very clever and dedicated workmanship issue to get it perfect. But NOT a personal expression of a creative fiber artist.”

Which leads to a final question, is it a Good Thing for the judges to give a big prize to a quilt that reproduces somebody else’s image? Arguably the Houston judges didn’t know that Landi and Azara’s quilt was so closely based on a painting, although the signage says “original design inspired by a painting by Anna Bocek.” But the judges would have had to have lived all their lives in an aluminum-foil-lined box to not recognize the Migrant Mother as a copy of Dorothea Lange’s famous photo.

One of the Quiltart readers wrote: “at the risk of sounding testy, what about the word “Original” do the judges and jurors not understand?”

Someone else: “How can fiber art ever be taken seriously if blatant copy work is what is rewarded at our top shows?” Another responded: “We often gripe about quilts not being taken seriously as an art medium and being excluded from ‘art’ shows, and this is one of the reasons why. It’s not just about copyright and legalities, and it’s not just about quilt show rules — even though both of those things matter. It’s about raising the conceptual and emotional level of the work itself and pushing past the quilt world’s emphasis on a certain type of technique.”

Another: “I was shocked… that these quilts… were even accepted. In my opinion, composition is one of the most important parts that make a successful work of art. When an image is copied exactly, you are using the original artist’s composing ability.”

Somebody else: “Art quilts should be original work that comes from the mind of the creator. Variations of things where the artist has incorporated her own interpretation would be acceptable as long as… you can actually see the artist’s fancy has taken some flight. An exact replication, regardless of how it is technically achieved should not be part of the art quilt vocabulary. I am not a fan of most things from photos. I can understand using a photo as a jumping off point but where is the vision, creative spirit, and color sense in copying something in front of you?”

Another wrote: “I find it embarrassing for the artist to simply lift the image — verbatim so to speak — and present it in a major show…. What were the judges thinking? … I know some may think I’m an art snob… but we can’t have it both ways. Is artquilting an artform or a nice hobby?”

The opposing viewpoint: “All I’m saying is, if it transports out of your daily grind, it if challenges you creatively, who are we to judge the arty-ness of a piece?”

The response: “The jurors SHOULD be judging the “arty-ness” of the piece. This is important to those of us committed to making ART from fabric… Yet the big awards are still going to copies and Hallmark card compositions as long as they are brilliantly constructed.”

What do you think?

Check out the whole roster of Houston winners here.

This is cross-posted to my blog, Art With a Needle.

The fascination of ferrous oxide (by Olga Norris)

I have been thinking lately, what is it that gives rust its seductive visual power? Why are so many creative folk increasingly drawn to using rust and rusting in their palette?
I suppose my first thinking about rust in art was in response to the sculpture of Richard Serra and Anthony Caro.
Caro_DreamCity_1996The colour of their iron blends so much more easily into Nature when the surface has rusted, so the otherwise perhaps harsh appearance of slabs, fragments of towering metal is softened. There is also an indicator of change and decay embodied in the rusting process of these sculptures: perhaps a warning to the skyscrapers in front of which the sculptures often stand, that time will destroy us all.
Perhaps the rusted surfaces of monumental sculpture are similar in their effect on us to the sight of ruins, and that we seek reminders of time past and passing. (See my previous RCC post on Time here.) Hence the overwhelming number of photographs of rust – just put rust into Google Image!
I first saw the effect of rust on cloth at the 21:21 exhibition of fabric by Reiko Sudo and the NUNO studio. They had designed and made lengths of cloth marked with rusty nails. Reiko Sudo gave a master class after that exhibition in 2005 – designed to have a cascade effect, with all the participants themselves agreeing to give workshops to others.
Alice Fox SpurnIn 2012 Alice Fox used rust transferred onto cloth to help capture the past and the current aesthetic attractions of Spurn Point during her residency there, and she continues to use the marks of rust in her work. She now gives workshops helping others such as Mags Ramsay to achieve interesting results.
cqws green tea pliers
Rust printMaeve Coulter who works in textiles and in printmaking has made Rust Prints which echo the visual and emotional effects of sepia in fading early photographs.
sally-hirst-gasholder1-1024x618Printmaker Sally Hirst uses oxidised iron filings to colour the paper on which she then prints images of old iron structures such as bridges and piers.
Judd rustJean M. Judd has a section on rust dyeing process on her website, and a generous soul has offered Free Rust Texture Stock Photos for designers, so there must be quite a demand. Is it because we are almost engulfed by technology which we no longer comprehend – so few of us can make the clever things which glide us through daily life – that we reach back to signs of a time which we think we understand.
It is good also to feel that those tools from past technology, now discarded, can be used to make something beautiful before being thrown back onto the scrapheap – or recycled, as seen in the rustnstuff blog.

Messing about with books (by Margaret Cooter)

Artists who alter books by using their contents, rather than making books from scratch and filling them with their fresh ideas, have a material starting point: a physical book, or its text and/or images. This post deals with three artists (one Canadian, one American, one British) whose theme is to explore the ambiguities of communication, and who use textile techniques to alter texts.

 

 

Sylvia Ptak makes faux-texts.

An experienced weaver, she removes threads from fabric and adds simulated script. Plucked, ink-stained, and distorted “weave structures” become word shapes.

ptak1

For this image, from a 2008 exhibition called The Unicorn and The Date Palm, based on renaissance herbals, she used heat-transfer to add the illustration after the thread “writing” is in place. At other times, she has used inks, or coloured threads.

(photo from here)

(photo from here)

 

ptak3In “Commentary”, a 2004 exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library,  she slipped between the pages of a number of the library’s rare books her own “pages” of abstracted, text-like shapes carefully woven into sheets of gauze. You can see from the image above (via) how they mimic the ancient pages of the real tomes.

Close-up of gauze with its “text” (via)

Close-up of gauze with its “text” (via)

Sylvia Ptak says she is interested in “the multiple meanings that texts generate” – the incomprehensible language of her texts reads like everything and like nothing. “We have such faith in the printed – or handwritten – word that we feel it must be saying something,” said the reviewer of her show in the Globe and Mail. The “handwritten words” are something other than text – they are drawing, literally, in that a thread is drawn out of the fabric.

Victor Hugo, 2013, gauze, pigment, 10 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (via)

Victor Hugo, 2013, gauze, pigment, 10 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (via)

Her new body of work (2013) is inspired by manuscript pages, handwritten and extensively edited, by authors including James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf – pages that bear witness to their creative process, showing additions, deletions, and corrections. As well as gauze, Sylvia Ptak has been using a variety of paper, such as vellum and player piano rolls, to translate manuscripts into gestural marks, which although not legible, still retain the essence of each author.

 

Jen Bervin has removed words, rendering the remaining text in stitch.

bervin1Her “Dickinson Fascicles” are based on the punctuation (the “non-meaningful” marks) on the pages of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts. She says on her website:
“I wanted to see what patterns formed when all of the marks in a single fascicle, Dickinson’s grouping of poems, remained in position, isolated from the text, and were layered in one composite field of marks. The works I created were made proportionate to the scale of the original manuscripts but quite large—about 8 feet (240 cm) wide by 6 feet (180 cm) high—to convey the exact gesture of the individual marks.”

Jen Bervin in front of a Dickinson Fascicle; sewn cotton batting backed with muslin (via)

Jen Bervin in front of a Dickinson Fascicle; sewn cotton batting backed with muslin (via)

These marks were omitted from typeset poems and only became available to scholars when a facsimile edition of the poems was published. Since then there’s been a lot of literary theorising about them.

Jen Bervin, detail of The Composite Marks of Fascicle 19. Cotton and silk thread on cotton batting backed with muslin

Detail of The Composite Marks of Fascicle 19. Cotton and silk thread on cotton batting backed with muslin

Jen Bervin also says: “I have come to feel that specificity of the + and – marks in relation to Dickinson’s work are aligned with a larger gesture that her poems make as they exit and exceed the known world. They go vast with her poems. They risk, double, displace, fragment, unfix, and gesture to the furthest beyond—to loss, to the infinite, to “exstasy,” to extremity.”

She spoke about her poetry and how her work is made in 2010 at  writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Threads.php; you can listen online.  “The Desert” was created as an editioned work, for which she hired sewers via Craigslist; they worked shifts in her apartment on as many sewing machines as she had available.

“The Desert” uses stitch to erase passages of text, making a new meaning with what remains.

The Desert, Granary Books, 2008 (via)

The Desert, Granary Books, 2008 (via)

Jen used a text erasure technique in “nets” to make new poems out of Shakespeare’s sonnets – see an excerpt here.

 

 

Sylvie Killgallon is “translating” Homer’s Iliad into coloured stitches.

kilgallon1

Book 1 took 73 days to stitch (via)

Each greek letter will be a stitch (a cross-stitch), with colours changing throughout the books, starting with red and moving letter by letter so that the final book is blue.
Book 1 – of the 24 books – is finished; she’s now working on Book 2, and it’s the longest book. “I need to stitch faster” she says on the project blog, Stitched Iliad.

In progress - any embroiderer would love to see the back (via)

In progress – any embroiderer would love to see the back (via)

From the Guardian newspaper’s article:

“I started the project in response to a curator showing me a newly built, empty gallery space and asking me what I would put in it,” she said.

“My mind immediately sprang to the Iliad.I’d been researching translation, transmission and reception of text issues, so my immediate question to myself was ‘Can I produce a translation of the text that allows an audience of non-classicists to appreciate it without understanding the text itself?’ The colour translation was my solution.”

The initial red colour scheme was inspired by the war, anger and bloodshed featured in the Iliad, which is believed to have been written between 750 and 650 BC.

Research has shown that cultures generally follow a similar order in developing names for colours. Black, white and red appear first, while blue is one of the last colours to be named.

Kilgallon said this was the reason the project starts in the primal colour of red before transitioning to blue, a colour indicative of a more technologically developed society.”

 

 

Silvie works on her Iliad in public places, “prompting conversations and interactions with an audience receptive to both the story of the Iliad and the story of the stitched Iliad.”

Previously, for a project starting in 2011, she stitched Book I in various ways, aiming to do it “twenty-four times, each time highlighting a different method of analysing the text. My first translation is a simple letter-for-colour substitution, which each letter of the alphabet being substituted for a different colour. When the Iliad was first written down all those years ago, it would not have had the breathings, accents, spaces, or lower case letters which modern classicists would now be familiar with; thus, my translation contains no spaces, punctuation marks, accents, or breathings. Later translations will focus on syntax, metaphor, location, character, etc. Hopefully when it is finally complete, it will be a work of spectacle, aesthetic beauty and complexity worthy of the title of epic.”

For instance, here is that work in progress in March 2012 –

kilgallon3The colours are to do with names of characters and their interrelation through family trees.

Later in the process, doubts set in … “The aim of the first translation and the aim of all the rest is also different: the first translation dealt with metaphor, and how it reveals but also obscures, it dealt with appreciation and understanding. At the moment, I feel like all the rest are just… infograms. They’re just colour-coded charts showing the frequency of names and places. They’re analysing the text in a way which is supposed to be understandable, which seems almost completely at odds with my intentions in the first piece. … Why do the same thing 24 times, unless you feel the idea is developing further each time (and I don’t think it will)?”

And so the project changed. It will look amazing when it’s finished – perhaps this sample of two of the Book I’s will help you imagine it –

kilgallon4

 

 

Still Lifes of Georgio Morandi (by Clairan Ferrono)

Still Life 1956

Still Life 1956

 

I was introduced to the work of Georgio Morandi several years ago by my friend Barbara Fitzpatrick, who is an architect, painter, and now my drawing instructor.  At first I was puzzled by her enthusiasm for what looked to me like dull, repetitive, almost monochromatic, paintings of bottles and boxes? painted chunks of cement? blocks of old cheese?  I couldn’t even always make out what the objects were.  But Barb assured me I should keep on looking.  So look I did.  And the work began to intrigue me.

 

Still Life

Still Life

 

And I found myself going back to look again and again. The paintings are quiet, deceptively simple.  The objects can appear both flat and 3 dimensional at the same time.

 

Natura Morta II

Natura Morta II

 

Despite the apparent lack of color, there are many subtle shifts of value.

Still Life 1946

Still Life 1946

Still Life 1952

Still Life 1952

 still Life 1955


still Life 1955

 

When I first started drawing with Barb as my teacher, she had us look at Morandi carefully and attempt to draw one of his still lifes.   And it was then that I really started to look at the relationships among his objects, the shapes and volumes of his forms, the spaces between the bottles and boxes, the shadows, the subtle textural shifts, the places where one object almost, almost fades into another, but just doesn’t quite. or perhaps, in fact,  does.

Still Life 1960

Still Life 1960

 

But the aha! moment really came very recently.  I had been working on a piece and I knew it was close to finished,  but I was reverse appliqueing shapes to a background and I couldn’t get them quite right. I was satisfied with the shapes themselves and the background was good too. But they wouldn’t come together.  And then, the Morandi moment. . . . I remembered to look at the negative space.  And that was it.  Bang, they came together.  Thank you Morandi (and Barbara).

 


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