Friday, April 27

New Horizons

I've been all over the city today! Northwards to Elkins Park for a residency class- when I walked in, the school counselor saw me with my bag of brushes and cups and asked "Are you the watercolor lady?"  Apparently one of the 5th grade students I'm working with has been very excited about painting in math class and has made behavioral improvements as a result (YES!!). It's the best gift I have when working with classroom teachers, creating opportunities for them to see different capacities in their students and positively change their perceptions. (PS- I'm not just a watercolor lady!hahaha!)

Next stop was Saint Joseph's University on the Main Line. The art department was presenting their annual student show. Leading up to Boland Hall were these wonderful wooden crate constructions, each playing with the idea of the rectangular prism. I love art that transforms simple materials and makes us see things differently.
My main reason for going out to Saint Joseph's was to drop off paperwork to the Human Resources Department- I've been hired as an art education adjunct for the Fall semester!! Woohoo! I'm incredibly excited about this opportunity- finishing my Master's program was bittersweet, as I really loved being in the midst of academia, and now I'll be happily back in it again on the other side of the classroom.
This is definitely a season of transition.

Thursday, April 26

Softer Edges: Fiber Artists in the Urban Environment

Aubrie Costello's installation
Check out the beautiful album of photos from the exhibit, "Softer Edges". It closes this Saturday, malheureusement...

Saturday, April 21


I can feel myself hitting the end of an artistic cycle. The Fiber Philadelphia shows will all be finished soon and the unsold work will come back home. All that work over the last 6 months, then exhibiting, and then it's over. I often have a little "post-partum" depression after completing a big project where I don't know what to do next. I feel a little depleted creatively. Add to that the creative outpouring into my teaching lately. I work with about 500 students every week between all my various jobs. It requires a lot of thinking, responding, patience, and love.
I'm glad I have this long cloth to work on- it's a grieving piece. It will become a growing piece, but right now it's still in the grays. It doesn't require much thought yet- I can just stitch and keep my hands busy while my head catches up.
According to Blogger, my last post was my 500th- a landmark I suppose. 500 of one thing (like blog posts and students) seems like a lot while 500 of another thing (stitches, for example) doesn't seem like much.

Monday, April 16

Some drawings

 Stopped on a long solo hike along the Wissahickon to sketch. I pulled out my paint set, but alas! had no brushes or water. What's the survivalist artist to do? I found some pine needles at my feet and fashioned them into a brush, then poured the remains of my coffee into the lid of my cup, and painted some coffee brown into the trees.
 Later on at a diner, with an interminable wait for service, I sketched out some "Sprouts" drawings. My daughter showed the game to me- start with 9 dots, connect 2 dots and add a new dot on the new line, dots can only have 3 lines touching them, lines cannot cross. I was trying to figure out if there was a maximum number of moves. I think it might be 26. Then I was thinking about exponents, fibonacci series, and fractals for an upcoming residency project....
I accidentally shmeared some ketchup on the placemat while I was drawing. Napkins and placemats are the best place to draw.

Saturday, April 14

Softer Edges

Friday was the artist reception for "Softer Edges" at Fleisher with a great turnout. Here are a few more installation shots:
Wendy Osterweil

Jennifer Hunold (l) and Kay Healy (r)
Check out Kay's blog to see installation-in-progress shots of the work above. The gallery is open M-Sat during class sessions and the show will be up through April 28th.

Sunday, April 8

Stations of the Cross in Norris Square

My Station 10 offering for Jesus stripped of his garments "The Shirt off my Back"

 Good Friday was breezy and beautiful- perfect for the Way of the Cross around Norris Square. There was art and poetry performance by both youth and adults. Some high school students from Mariana Brachetti School nearby did paintings. Anne Minich, who got me involved had artwork for 3 stations.
Anne Minich at Station 1- Christ is accused

Pedro Burgos' amazing wood carving at Station 11: his crucifixion
 When it was y turn I described how my piece represented Station 10, and I proceeded to cut apart and distribute stitched sections of the sleeves. Some people were shocked that I would cut apart all my hard work, but for me it was amazing. I felt like I was giving out communion bread, but instead it was a small piece of cloth.
My piece after cutting and distributing the pieces of stitched sleeves

Anne's Station 13: His Body Taken down from the cross. 
Anne's last piece was a small log of driftwood with red-painted ends and large nails piercing it- she wanted the oils of our hands to add to the surface of the wood, softening it. She also passed a jar of beach glass for us to take  a piece. It's wonderful to give away something as part of an artistic experience. Our minds and eyes and hands and hearts are fed by such an act. And being the giver is as good as being the recipient.

Happy Easter everyone. May the new season bring renewal and hope.

Thursday, April 5

Stripped of his Garments

Tomorrow for Good Friday, I will share this piece (literally) with the participants of an artistic interpretation of the Stations of the Cross held by the West Kensington Ministries on Norris Square at 3 pm. Entitled "The Shirt off my Back", this piece will represent the 10th station of the cross when Jesus was stripped of his garments and lots were cast for them. I purchased the small white man's shirt at my local Circle Thrift store a  few weeks ago. Stitching the sleeves took the longest- done in block of alternating direction running stitches. The body of the shirt bears an anatomical heart with radiating lines.
During the walk through the Stations of the Cross in the Norris Square park, I will cut apart the blocks in the sleeves to distribute to those present. I believe it symbolizes sacrifice and generosity. To "give the shirt off one's back" is a phrase that demonstrates our ultimate sacrifice for others, but it pales in comparison to Christ's sacrifice.
It's very meaningful for me to participate in the centuries-long tradition of church-sponsored artistic expression. I'm sometimes uncomfortable with the monetary/business side of being an artist. I make things because I must- it is a natural outpouring of my creative spirit, so to have a spiritual purpose for the creativity is greatly fulfilling.

Wednesday, April 4

Art Quilt Elements 2012

I avoided opening night of Art Quilt Elements 2012 knowing I'd much rather be there when I could have unfettered views of the beautiful work. So I went the day after it opened instead!  Overall, it's a good show, but I wasn't as blown away as I was for the 2010 exhibition. Of course, that may just be that I'm more familiar with many of the artists. This year's selection seemed to have fewer artists exploring surface design or stitching, and more hearkening back to quilt traditions. The following works were the stars of the show in my book, for their interesting structures, use of color, and interpretation of quilt arts. 
 Eileen Lauterborn's "Climate Change" graces the postcard and catalog cover, and it's easy to see why: there is an explosion of color and intriguing textural technique. There are layers and layers of thin strips of cloth overlapped and zigzagged. Normally I'm a diehard for hand-stitching, but the machine stitched zigzagging echoes the movement of the strips for a perfect marriage of form and function. The complex surface sucks you in, and you are lost in the labyrinth of lines.

 Marianne R. Williamson's quilt was another piece with lush surface color and texture. She layers raw edge scraps and densely stitches them down in free-motion stitching so that the fabric almost looks felted. Her color is gorgeous with an impressionistic effect.
 One of my real favorites in Art Quilt Elements is Betty Busby's "Organelle". Her quilting stitches were really like an intricate drawing of the enlarged microscopic view.
 Across the gallery from Busby's organic piece was Beth Barron's "Implosion":
 From afar I was fascinated by the unusual form and jagged edge. Up close there's an "EEW!" factor- the entire piece is made of FOUND bandaids appliqued to the cloth surface. I really don't want to think about the sanitary issues of working on something like this, but the resulting wound-like piece is incredible. There's no bandaid to cover up a wound that big.
 One artist utilizes the traditions of quiltmaking, but brings them to new heights by combining and juxtaposing myriad piecing patterns. Mary Shell's "Colors Unfurled AKA if Betsy Ross had my Stash"  combines quilt arts with Jasper Johns, with a separate quilt pattern to represent each stripe and a starburst for each state.
 Commercial fabrics were pretty common this year, but none so transformed as by Shawn P. Quinlan:
 Motifs from various commercial fabrics were appliqued to create a narrative composition of commercialism gone haywire. Careful, baby, there's sharks in the water, and the toy store's on fire!
 I enjoyed Mary Ruth Smith's piece, below, for it's emphasis on stitching, and I really like her layering of transparent cloth over digitally printed images and perhaps even paper. I'd love to be a fly on her studio wall sometime. But technique aside, she uses  newspaper clippings- text, crossword and sudoku puzzles, comics, and story illustrations, which show the onslaught of media information we must filter through. I much preferred her subtle comment on media and current events over a nearby piece with the words "War sucks" emblazoned over the cloth.
 Newspaper and media references continued in Jette Clover's typographic exploration (left below).
 I most enjoy the technical virtuosity of work like Ilene Pearlman's (right above) which combined reverse applique and trapped found objects o create a dream-like atmosphere, and the unusual format of Brooke Atherton's "I feel free" (below).
 As I've recently been stitching on found garments, I enjoyed seeing the yellow blouse stitched into the quilt- apparently it was something worn to  friend's wedding. With the marriage no longer in existence the cloth's memory is tarnished, so it has been repurposed- it practically flaps away in the internal wind of the piece.
Art Quilt Elements 2012 is on exhibit at the Wayne Art Center through May 13th, and is well worth the trip.

Fiber Philadelphia isn't over yet!!
This Friday, April 6th, several shows are opening in Old City, including "Strings and Things" at 3rd Street Gallery with Melissa Madonni Haims, and the 2nd part of "Stitch Witchery" with Melissa, myself, Rachel Udell, and the late Maggie Brosnan at the Painted Bride as part of Inliquid. Come out to First Friday from about 6-8 to see it in person!
The following Friday, April 13th from 6-8 will be the reception for "Softer Edges" at the Works on Paper building at Fleisher Art Memorial. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 1

Synchronicity and other things

I've been to 8 different galleries in the last 3 days to catch up on Fiber Philadelphia! After an afternoon out to the Wayne Art Center (more on that later), I happened to drive by Highwire gallery and saw an opening in progress. The aptly named "Synchronicity"  boasts work by Melissa Madonni Haims (with whom I'm showing at Nichols Berg Gallery last month and the Painted Bride this month) and Natalya Aikens (whom I invited to exhibit in "Softer Edges" at Fleisher this month). There is some great art quilt-based work in the show, making it feel like an extension of the wonderful work in Art Quilt Elements out in Wayne.
 Natalya Aikens "St Petersburg Lace" has the bold graphic quality of the wrought iron fencework that inspired her, but also a rich and mysterious surface of layered color and texture in the surface.
Jill Rumoshosky Werner has several works in the show which take art quilts into sculptural forms- often with a humorous take in a series that illustrates specific verbs. Her piece above, "Grieve" reminded me of the piece I'm trying to do for the Cathedral- long, thin, mostly black and white. She makes subtle transitions between all the various patterns, a study in black and white pattern. The small line of red and blue along the binding relieves the austerity.
 Jette Clover has twin pieces exploring text and texture in monochromes, with a pop of red here and there. Seeing text makes one want to decipher it, but these remain coded. What I was excited about was to see works incorporating screenprinting in art quilts. Many fiber artists are jumping over to digital printing for more technological experiments, or shifting back to slower hand-dyeing, rusting, and compost dyeing. I hope to show these to my screenprinting students next semester. If you missed the artist reception, then come out to the First Friday event next week!
 From Fishtown, I hopped up Frankford Ave to Port Richmond to see the "Paper Fortress" show at Pterodactyl. It's too bad this show is hidden away in Port Richmond, as it is one of the best exhibits I've seen in the last month but not many people are likely to venture out. There were intriguing parallels between the fiber and the paper/book world. Both genres have a tentative place within "Fine Arts", but it allows paper and fiber artists room to explore without caring too much about what's "right".
 Karen Hardy's piece is like applique, with couched sheets of dyed paper on  a larger sheet of plain handmade paper. Raw edges in paper seem so fresh- raw edges in fabric usually feel unfinished.
 Alexis Granwell had several pieces. I liked her map-like etching on the mottled paper. The little dot could have been french knots. (check out the first page of her website for a view of the plate for this piece!)
 She also had a sculptural piece using found materials which echoes the map structure of her etching. It also reminded me of all the half-built constructions one sees around the city. There are complex bones under our structures that we take for granted and trust, all relying on the engineering and skill of the builder.
 I think my favorite work in the show was Lisa Murch's sculptural formations. From afar, this piece looks like a wasp's nest, an organic encrustation over the wall.
 Up close, one sees that it is made of sewn-together  cardboard egg cartons. I love transformations of everyday objects, and I also appreciate the massive time that went into making something like this.
Finally, I was pleased to see Book Bombs (with Mary Tasillo and Michelle Wilson) had another take-away zine, "Horizontalidad", one of which was attached to a paper-cut out bench made of invasive plant fibers. It was a satisfying combination of street intervention art brought into the gallery environment, but encouraged viewers to take it a step further by adding their own story. Sorry no picture, but visit the book bombs site for more info.

So, Fiber Philadelphia continues into April. I'll have more on Art Quilt Elements in another post, and news about "Softer Edges" soon as well. I hope people take time to get out to all these great shows this month!