Friday, March 17

Mothers to Our Daughters and other exhibits

It's been a long time since I showed any artwork at Philadelphia City Hall, but this month I have 2 pieces in "Message to Our Daughters", an exhibit of female artists with messages of inspiration accompanying the work. I'm most excited about the fact that my daughter, Zillah Elcin is exhibiting her artwork next to mine in the show! Above is "Mother and Child", which includes fabrics created by some of my Fleisher students, and which I started as a sample piece for my Stitch and Surface class. Below is my daughter's watercolor "Hotel Wakeup", a still life representing the tale of a bride who was left at the altar but who goes on her honeymoon anyway.

In January and February I exhibited at the University City Arts League exhibit "High in Fiber", showing 2 of my largest embroideries ever.
Next week I'll drop off work from the summer program at UPENN for a show running through April at the Westtown school.
I've been fortunate to have a great season of exhibits all over the Philadelphia region, and I hope things continue to flow creatively throughout this year. 

Thursday, March 9

Friday, December 30

Thinking out loud

Only one more Daily Notes strip is needed to complete my year of stitching. I need to lay them all out and see what 2016 looked like. Each week I also sewed the scraps together into a larger quilt-top- very randomly. I've done some nui-shibori on it and overdyed it in indigo, and the piece is already being stitched up with imagery related tot he brain and perception. I'm hoping to finish and display it with the Skirkanich work I did over the summer at the exhibit we'll have at Westttown School in March.

That leaves me wondering about next year. I really enjoyed having an "assignment" for myself to work on each week. Although by the time August came it started dragging, I rallied through the Fall to finish strong. It's strange how over the summer, when I have all the time in the world I work less than during the school year when I'm busy beyond measure. 
I've been debating about a project for 2017. I don't want to continue the daily note strips. I want to start something different. The weekly format fit well with my schedule, but the size of the weekly piece must remain small enough to complete in a week.
 I liked the photo collages I made last spring, but the collaborative aspect collapsed. I think I could keep up with a photo a day or at least a few a week. These are 2 versions of a photo collage layering up, filtering, and thresholding images I took this past week during a trip to Quebec. The threshold effect loses some of the imagery, abstracting it a bit. I could print the images on fabric and then stitch over them. I could screenprint them...
 I saw an interesting exhibit at the Musee National des Beaux Arts du Quebec by Diane Morin. Rows of model trees were set up in front of strips of LED lights which projected the shadows of the trees onto a large screen. As the light program strobed sequences of light combinations across the rows, the shadows flickered and shifted, like watching stop motion videos of plants growing or like watching trees fly by your car window on a foggy day. It was entrancing.. she called it "Machines a Reduire le Temps" or Machines for compressing time.
Also at the MNBAQ I saw a retrospective of Pierre Bonnard, whose color sense I have always loved. There were several snapshots in a case, some of which were everyday scenes of people in his life, and others looked like visual sketches working out painting compositions. There were several self-portraits I'd never seen before. He seems to always put his face in shadows so you can't really see his eyes.
Maybe I should do some more self-portraits. It's a way of freezing time. We change so much as we get older. My inside vision of myself and my outward appearance don't really match anymore. My daily notes project started with thinking about each day as a pixel of the bigger picture of life. The final view of all the strips should reveal how my year really was. Perception as a concept is something I'd like to keep exploring...
Another idea I had was to do something called "The Sky is Falling". All the news every day seems to cause a doomsday feeling. I'm worried all the time. If so many terrible things can happen everywhere all the time, what is there to stop it from happening here? But maybe it's just the media playing Chicken Little with me. Art is cathartic. So a thought I had was to screen a picture like this of the sky and stitch my worries or concerns each week- images? words? fragments? a piece of sky falling. Maybe I could print  it large and cut off fragments...

I don't know yet... 
I will finish my last daily notes strip tomorrow.
I'll take photos this next week.
I'll think some more.

Saturday, October 1

Skillshare class #2! Scrap Collage: Kantha style

The past month has been very busy for me- jumping back into the school year with 6 more sections than I had to teach last year, Fleisher classes starting up, and work in a show at DaVinci Art Alliance.
I sold a piece through the DaVinci show! Soon I'll have 2 more pieces in an exhibit at the Kimmel Center, and I'm presenting 2 sessions at the Pennsylvania Art Education Association State Conference next week.
Somehow with all of that happening, I managed to film and publish another Skillshare class!
In this class, I dive into my burgeoning scrap pile and show ideas for composing, stitching, and finishing a fabric collage. If you are interested in enrolling in the class you can sign up at this referral link. Skillshare has a brand new Crafts course selection, and new classes pop up every day. I love seeing how other artists work and share their process. So even if you don't want to make a project following along with the teacher, you still get to watch amazing artistic processes and glimpse other artists' studio practices. I hope you will check it out and try Scrap Collage Kantha style!

Friday, August 5

New Skillshare class!

I am so excited to share that I have created a class on Skillshare, and it is now available!
Skillshare is a fabulous community of teachers and learners that works on a subscription basis just like Netflix. You can sign up through this referral link for a special deal on subscription and take my class!
I created a class called "Stitch Your Pics: Printing and Stitching your Photos on Fabric", and if you sign up you can view all my tips and tricks for getting your photos out of the cloud, stitched, and onto your wall. The videos include how to pick out good photos for embroidery, how to print them onto fabric, how to practice 5 handy embroidery stitches, how to match stitch textures to photo imagery, and how to frame your work.
I know some of you out there miss me teaching my Stitch and Surface class at Fleisher, but now you can get all my words of wisdom on Skillshare whenever you want!
I hope you'll join me--> Click here for Skillshare

Saturday, July 9

Skirkanich 5

When I think about the brain and MRI imaging I always thing of Rorschach blot symmetry. We have bilateral symmetry in our bodies, but not every function in the brain occurs bilaterally. Activity may be localized to one region of the brain in charge of a particular specialty, but even then information passes all over to communicate to the body for movement or the mouth to speak, etc. During our lecture on force networks the idea of paper crumpling came up as something that creates a network of folds and tension points. I wanted to combine these to ideas visually but I didn't want an folds or crumples in my final paper. I started some inkblots on a piece of folded mylar, then transfer printed it to watercolor paper (I might want to try a different, smoother paper as I didn't like the resulting texture in this one) I made  bunch of those, adding some watercolor by reprinting over the india ink. I did try crumpling one of my watercolors, but guess what? Thick watercolor paper doesn't like to crumple!! I folded a piece of newsprint in half so my crumple would have bilateral symmetry, then overlaid it on my inkblot and used a seam ripper to poke holes through the papers to transfer the crumple nodes to my painting. Finally I stitched black thread to create edges between the poked nodes. I'm going to take all my experiments with me on Monday to share with the group. Depending on feedback I may continue doing these or maybe continue my polka dot nodes instead.
However, there is still something dissatisfying with these. I'm really only exploring the basics of what a network looks like in these pieces. There is no corresponding data resource that I am trying to visualize. I feel they would be more meaningful if they were connected to a data set in the real world.... But what should that be and how will I find it?

Thursday, July 7

Skirkanich 4

Something about all our talk of networks and topology and brains made me think about hyperbolic structures and crochet. Crocheting mirrors some network structures. I think of a crochet stitch like a little pi symbol, with a loop at the top (a node) and two legs (edges). A hyperbolic surface curves to maximize surface area. In physical space it takes up 3 dimensions, but topologically it is flat. If you have an endlessly branching network (each node subsequently branches off to two new nodes ad infinitum) eventually you run out of physical space to place the next generation of nodes as they branch outward and the surface begins to curve. The brain appears to have folds and ripples like this- it's one way to pack a lot of surface area into a small space. I made this small hyperball in a rainbow variegated yarn, which when complete reminded of the fMRI colorations showing activity and connection. I might make another in white and then stain specific areas.

Just as I felt a need to explore the topology idea in my previous post, I also want to explore different network structures. I played with "inking" this polka dot stamp I had with gradations of watercolor. It's beautiful, subtle color. The polka dot stamp creates a consistent and reproducible field of nodes upon which to play. I first did a little pencil and watercolor work (below) inspired by some discussion of the "Plinko" game.
Then tried a branching network, stitching the edges and then painting in the resulting negative space- the holes. I didn't quite understand the lecture we had that discussed brain topology and "holes". Have to think about ti some more. I'm still playing.

Wednesday, July 6

Skirkanich 3

I'm sure we were given an intro to topology during our lecture week because it helps consider networks as something to be analyzed independent of physical space. To think about connections and networks in the brain, you might need to pull them out of their tightly clustered physical confines and examine them simply in terms of numbers. But the concepts of topology itself blew my mind! I'm accustomed to the middle school level of geometry and understanding the structures of cubes etc in physical space. Imagine being able to stretch apart the vertices however far necessary to just look at the structure of vertices connected by edges. The visual possibilities sparked my curiosity.

On the way home on the last day of our lectures I happened upon the overflowing dumpster outside of the School of Design. Among the discarded sculptures I found a little model of a tetradecahedron made of thin cardboard. It seemed such a perfect little model of the math ideas we'd heard about over the week. I was reminded of Joseph Kosuth's One and Three Chairs piece, and so I painted the cardboard form in a complementary gradation, painted a geometric version of it unfolded, painted a topological version of it stretched out, and painted its definition. They are all visualizations of the same object. They all represent a tetradecahedron (or cuboctahedron). Which version would allow someone to understand the object best? Do you need to know what something is in physical space? Would a definition provide enough information? If you saw it topologically would you make the jump to geometry easily?
I think where I am going with this is that this is why we are involved in this internship at Penn. There is more than one way to understand information- and maybe you can't fully comprehend a science until you look at the information backwards, forwards, flattened, stretched, and insideout.

Tuesday, June 21

Skirkanich 2

Today marked the beginning of my internship in network visualization at UPenn. Our cohort of 6 artists and 6 high school students listened to lectures on creativity, networks and cognition. My favorite was Scott Barry Kauffman from the Positive Psychology center and the Imagination Institute 
He spoke quite a bit about the development of creativity and the personality characteristics associated with being a creative individual. He related much of what he explained to children and teachers, which made it all feel very relevant to me. It's ok to daydream. There's lots of kinds of intelligence and paths to becoming successful. The "foot in the door" is a good way to find your path towards your dream. And the noise or default mode of the brain is where imagination and creativity thrive.

Speaking of creativity...
Executive function in the brain may inhibit creative response. If we can turn off the quick parts of our brain that want to name things and filter out unnecessary information, then the slower daydreamy side can do its thing much more easily. Think of a everyday object. What is it's purpose? Boom!--your executive function just stormed in and got right to the point. A bat is for hitting a baseball, a chair is for sitting, a push pin is for holding papers to a board or wall. If that part of the brain can be reined in, the visualizing parts of the brain can play and make unexpected connections. A bat could become a railing on a staircase, a chair can become a bookshelf, and a pushpin could help you hold a miniature cob of corn to eat! I'm reminded of the artist Victor Nunes.

The toughest part of the day was comprehending our into to networks. It's really just a way of visualization information related to groups and their relationships. A group may be an individual, an idea, a organization, and they are represented as nodes. A relationship may be shared experiences, a social connection, a geographic relation,etc. and is represented as an edge or line connecting the nodes. Some nodes are more important than others in how they influence the dynamics of the system, and some system dynamics are better than others for transmitting information across the network. Proximity, bridging, popularity, and frequency all effect the influence of individual nodes. Ahhhhhhh my brain is about to explode thinking about all these things. I made the collage above to help me resolve the chaos of information...or maybe it just illustrates my chaos.
If you like visualizing information check out this website.

Tuesday, May 31

Conversation 6,7, & 8

Catching up on some "Conversation" photo blends. I've been doing this for 8 weeks now. I've been staying more in touch with my friend, but we haven't been sending as many pictures to each other every week. So there's less to play with.