Monday, July 7

Wyeth love

I took my (somewhat) annual pilgrimage down to the Brandywine River museum along with my aunt and uncle visiting from Virginia. My aunt shares my love of Wyeth, and we very happily wandered the museum enjoying N.C, Andrew, and Jamie. Today this picture struck me:
 It's a watercolor called "Black Water", and I love how the woman becomes part of the landscape, her inner self hidden from view- deep and unfathomable as the water behind her. Or perhaps that's just what I'd like to read into it.
 After wandering the museum we took the shuttle over to Andrew Wyeth's studio. They opened it up last year to tours, and this was really the pilgrimage part of the day. It's amazing to see the place where all the magic happens. You enter near the kitchen and see the public space, then move through a corridor to a library, then the former living room where Jamie Wyeth claimed studio space at some point and where Andrew's huge collection of lead soldiers is displayed. I was enchanted by the view out the window up the hill. The window panes making a perfect graph, revealing proportions of space and color. (Oh how I love a grid) Finally they reveal his studio space.
 A huge window looks out toward route 1 over fields. Light pours in and strikes bottles of dry pigment. An easel sits in the center of the room across from a cheval mirror. Photos and sketches are pinned around the room (no originals here sadly- the poor color photocopies of watercolors and sketches were a disappointment). The ceiling and walls are crumbled, spattered, chipped. (I couldn't resist a selfie in Wyeth's studio) They look just like the textures and colors of his paintings. I stroked the light switch on my way out, to touch something he'd touched. It's silly. My daughter teased me for "fan-girling". But despite the awkwardness of a tour guide telling stories,and roped cordons dictating one's movement, and the slight oddness of a curator's touch, I was enchanted to be in his space and feel his light and sense how he caught moments around him. I understand that.

Wednesday, July 2

View from the hoop

I keep using the word "Monster" to describe my big embroideries. For so long I only made small pieces- less than 8x10. So anything bigger seems gigantic. The recently finished "Welcome" in my previous post and this one in the hoop are about 16x17. It took me about 5 months to finish the last one. This one was printed at the same time, and I started stitching it in April, but worked only briefly on it since I hadn't finished the other. Now that all those french knots are finished, I have time for this next digitally printed embroidery. There's a patch of torn wallpaper on the side of a recently demolished building. So far I've used backstitch, satin, and seeding. Hopefully this one won't take 5 months...

Tuesday, July 1


 What have I been doing since February when last I posted? This monstrous big embroidery on digitally printed fabric. Entitled "Welcome", it is a blend of 2 photos taken from Fleisher Art Memorial: the sunset street scene superimposed with the Samuel Yellin gates to the sanctuary. I stitched the outlines of the gate pattern in backstitch and running stitch. The light shining through the trees are thousands of french knots in variegated perle cotton. I got the image digitally printed by Spoonflower.Believe it or not, it started off as a cell phone picture. It was a bit blurry, but that's where the stitching came in to make things crisper, leaving the background with an almost watercolor effect.
 The piece was stretched on stretcher bars and framed.It's now hanging in te gallery at Fleisher for the annual faculty show. The reception will be Friday, July 18th from 6-8.
 School is out. I have no summer plans. Just taking each day as it comes. Today was hammock-swinging, dappled light from treetops, and cloud-watching.
Oh.. and getting ready to move, preparing new exemplars for an upcoming Basic Design course, and other general busy-ness. I can't totally relax all day.
I'll try to post more often...

Monday, February 3

What do you know... another snow day!

I shoveled... and I stitched on this little guy. It's a mini version of the big blue monster- I wanted to try stitching the tile pattern. Small makes sense. Not sure yet how to scale it up. Should I just keep the one motif large scale or make it smaller and repeat it?
I found a nice quote by Rumi:
"You dance inside my chest,
 where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art."

These are squares and loops but they are more to me. I need to write lesson plans and sleep, bu it's hard to put this down.

Saturday, February 1

Smelly but beautiful

 My Stitch and Surface class tried out bleach gel pens for their surface design technique this semester. First we dyed fabrics black and navy. Then this week we all brought clorox gel pens to experiment with bleaching.
 We opened up the windows and I set up a fan to ventilate, but it was a cold night for that!! Some people drew directly with the pen-tip built into the bottle design. Other brought along sponge and rubber stamps to try printing with the bleach gel.
The variety of colors and marks were interesting. One has to work a bit fast with bleach gel, because it should be neutralized shortly after the color begins to change.
I wonder what these marks and fabrics will lead to over the rest of the semester!

Saturday, January 25

Cold... but warm

This winter is so long and dark. Despite my northern ancestry, my blood longs for the Mediterranean.

I had a beautiful morning tessellating patterns for block printing with my adult students at Fleisher. The snowy afternoon chased away my teens, and only 2 showed up for class. But that's special too- having a chance to connect one-one-one with young people who would normally speak barely 2 words to an adult. I wonder if my elementary students connect to their classroom teachers the same way as they do with me in art. Is it art? Is it me? I seem to get their smiles and hugs and best behavior more often than not. It's a privilege to share their joy and creativity and growth.
Yesterday morning after we said the pledge all together in the cafeteria at school, a first grader took my hand and held it as we walked up the stairs with her class. In the evening I went shopping at Old Navy and one of my (sometimes challenging) 3rd graders was there. He rushed over to hug me, and I got to tell his mother how wonderful he'd been doing in class that morning. She looked so happy and relieved- I don't think she hears good things very often from his classroom teacher. I have so many moments like these that fill me up.

I get impatient sometimes for my studio, my needle and thread and cloth and paint and dye. But what's the most effective means of making a better, more beautiful world ? Filling it with beautiful objects that may last beyond my lifetime fills me with some satisfaction of eternity.. or at least longevity. But being a positive element in children's and people's lives, connecting them with creativity, helping them be better communicators of ideas, encouraging them to be empathetic, attentive, and careful may have greater reach in the world.
But I still have to stitch and draw and paint and print.

Wednesday, January 22

And more snow days...

I've been hibernating some more. In the studio it's been slow going on the blue monster, interspaced with more watercolor geometries. I also started binding the edges of my urban sampler that was finished a few months ago but never bound. It's too cold there to be terribly productive. We had another snow day today. Strange to feel weekendish on a Wednesday, but I slept in... had breakfast at lunchtime... shoveled out my car to be ready in the AM... and decided to stay home and paint instead of trying to go the 1 mile of icy road to the Papermill. That's just laziness really.
 I searched around for india ink to no avail... since moving into the studio last year there's a dearth of art supplies at home. But my trucky little Schminke watercolor set was handy for some sketchbook work. I was given this watercolor set by my former classmates from the lycee in France the year I spent abroad when I was 16. I think it might be the best present I've ever received. All those lovely young French people whose names and faces have faded from memory (Regis and Claire- where are you now?) knew even then that I was an artist.
 I have a few images pinned to my Patterns pinterest board that I've been meaning to sketch and paint. So I filled the spread of my sketchbook (oh thank you Michelle for the most beautiful sketchbook I could have ever asked for) by simplifying and combining some of the patterns. This looks like broken down tile, revealing plaster and grate..
It's so nice to paint. It's faster than stitching. But the repetitive focus of painting these circles and tiny diamonds and the patience required for watercolor mirror my embroidery so well. It's all layers and watching something unexpected happen, watching it grow under the brush.
Back to school tomorrow. I will have to wait till I'm very old to live the studio life I think. In the meantime, I'm thankful for unexpected snow days.

Monday, January 6

Snow days

 Winter break is just about over. It has been ever so wintry. Snow is beautiful... and annoying... but mostly beautiful.
 The snow hushes the city. Nobody wants to drive. All you hear is the crunch of your boots.
 Icicles grew to massive proportions the day after the storm. Its a marvel that there is melting even in below freezing temperatures.
 I've been trying to spend lots of time at the studio despite the cold. It only made it up to 41 degrees there today... here's my studio wall:
I've been moving between little geometric watercolors... vibrating circles... and quilting the blue monster (still). I wish I could just be there every day. Something different would develop. We underestimate what happens during sustained time.Time to think, absorb, reflect, encounter chance. When I only go in for a few hours and stitch- it's too direct.
But little children await me this week. 500 pairs of bright eyes and eager hands and imaginations. It's a different kind of development. The paint and cloth will wait for me.

Saturday, December 28

Noyes and Forsythe

So nice to escape the city for a day, and actually get out and do something during this vacation time (although the studio has seen a bit more of me than usual this week). We drove down to Absecon to visit the Noyes museum, which is this great little art museum that features New Jersey artists primarily. They have four main gallery spaces. One is featuring a solo exhibit of fable-inspired portraits by Victor Grasso- while well-painted, some were just annoyingly... well see for yourself. Another gallery had a member show, and a third had an exhibit of impressionistic pastels by John Pierce Barnes. In the hall was a great window installation by Karen Guancione, filled with suspended card catalog cards- all these once-useful indexes flown to the wind.
 A final gallery had an exhibit about Noise (noise- Noyes, get it?- yeah it's a little silly, but it was perfect because my daughter asked on the way down- will it be noisy there? Oh we love a little pun....) I'm not a huge fan of multi-media art exhibits because half the time the media devices aren't working, and they weren't. There were headphones connected to a typewriter and an old trestle sewing machine, but no sound came out, and an ipod was dangling from a phonograph-like sculpture, but no sound poured forth because the cord was disconnected. And were these sculptures meant to be interactive or not? No signage granted permission, but the works seemed intended to be interactive. I love the Noyes, but this exhibit seemed sadly neglected. Despite the media flaws, there was an INCREDIBLE piece by Eve Ingalls anchoring the show. From afar it appeared like a charcoal drawing:
but up close it revealed its incredible 3 dimensionality. Entitled "After Sandy", it embodied the crash and thrum of pounding waves and the crunch of sand covered asphalt, all while sitting quietly on the wall. Perhaps its success was that it did not set out to make sound or incorporate sound literally, unlike the rest of the works in the show. It was a great noise through visual expression  and interpretation. Visual artists can get in trouble when they try too hard to be something more than visual. Ingalls captured it just right. Check out more of her incredible work.
 Is it any surprise that my favorite works were fibers-related?
 Much to my surprise, the Forsythe national wildlife refuge was RIGHT NEXT to the Noyes (who needs gps?) and our adventure continued to the great outdoors. It seems more of a vehicle-friendly place than walker-friendly (ugh... NJ car culture), but we took a short hike down to gull tower pond and climbed the observation tower. I took some panoramas and sketched from the close-up views of the swans and egrets you could see with a telescope up top. The sun-spot above obliterates the Atlantic City skyline with its windmills. I love windmills. From the aerial view, the wildlife seemed so much more abundant than from our roadside hike vantage.
 Although, we were wonderfully startled by an egret who suddenly leapt from his hiding place about 10 feet away from us as we walked. I love the marsh grasses and their reflections. The broken stalks below remind me of a Harry Callahan photo. I wish I could stumble in and weave a living basket of them.
Winter color is subtle.Winter light is crisp. I'm more inspired by the beauty of nature than the man-made beauty in the museum. I can't help myself but to go and make art myself... but it is a poor reflection of the wonder of the world.

Sunday, December 15

When in doubt... Stitch

With all the flurry of weather and other changes in life, today was the first time over to the studio in 3 weeks! Yikes! It was 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but with hat, scarf, studio sweater, fingerless gloves, and the space heater next to me I was able to work for about 3 hours. There is nothing like stitching to let the mind release worries. With my fingers busy my brain can still and I can be in the present moment. The rhythm of the needle and pop of thread through the taut fabric is music that calms and sustains me. The bleak midwinter is outside my window, but my center is warm and bright.