I am not ready

I woke up this morning with a clear message from my dreams. (imagine the voice in my ears)

I am not ready.

Fractured focus has taken me down pathways of neglect. In preparation for leaving my studio for a long vacation I flit from one must do to the next without breath between. The end of the day feels like it used to when I was working 12 hour days. And now I realize that they feel that way because I am working 12 hour days.

Research, practice, confusion and debris play little games with my timepieces. Do I go down the rabbit hole of new ideas or focus on this little tendril not yet tamed? Multi-tasking dilutes wholeness. I swoon next to the whirlpool of too much. Am I in the deep end just treading water?

So, yes, I'm not ready. Not ready to focus with intent. Not ready to leave my nest of toys. Not ready to commit to one direction with my art. Just not ready.

Nevertheless, the plane tickets are bought, housing reserved, itineraries roughed in. I can't tie this sewing machine to my back (though I certainly will have some lap work to do in the carry on bags). Traveling will bring new perspective if I let the list grow short. Or not. It could be a way of adding to the pile.

Breathless and anxious. These are both signals for overload. No turning back now.

I am ready.

Shiny things

It's risky to leave my studio. Inspirations can turn my head into a spinning whirly-gig. Traveling to art shows, through countryside that is new, or sleeping in a different bed can birth new ideas or make me lose focus. Sometimes it takes a long time to re-establish balance while focused on so many shiny things that pull my heartstrings.

A mural by Natalia Pawlus found at the parking garage adjacent to the Grand Rapids Art Museum inspired me with its sparse composition and dynamic line work.

The Meyer May house in Grand Rapids is one of the most completely restored Frank Lloyd Wright homes.

The Meyer May house in Grand Rapids is one of the most completely restored Frank Lloyd Wright homes.

And there are so many incredible artists, so many inspirations. My studio seems to mock me with a silence that comes with sorting out what I saw and what it means to my work. I may even question my medium: maybe I should become a weaver? a sculptor? a poet? Why am I focused on fabric and stitch when so many other mediums are full of promise? Would paint free the loose screws in my compulsive practice?

And what inspirations! World class sculptures in the Grand Rapids Meijer Gardens, world-class fiber work at the Muskegon Museum of Art's Extreme Fibers exhibit, a guided tour through a completely restored Frank Lloyd Wright home in Grand Rapids.

This sculpture by Laura Ford hides in tall grasses and pine trees at the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I would go back there tomorrow to see this sculpture garden again.

These barns seem to be buried by corn, a common image all the way home.

These barns seem to be buried
by corn, a common image all the way home.

Not to mention over 1500 pieces in the ArtPrize Seven show. Check out Hanna Concannon, Martha Bishop, Sayaka Oishi, Colleen Kole, Tamara Kostianovsky, Kazuki Takemura, Armando Ramos, MaryJo Fox Fell and many others on the ArtPrize site.

Even the ride home to Memphis inspired thoughts of doing pastoral compositions based on those horizontal farms with big skies.

Eventually I will find my way again -- re-familiarize myself with projects that are almost done and allow for some explorations into new frontiers. For now I will browse the photos and do more research on what I saw, felt and inhaled. Here are some links to new and old artists who inspired me this summer:

  • Maggy Rozycki Hiltner working with found fabric and retro imagery to explore childhood memories.
  • Jan Hopkins working with grapefruit peels, hydrangea petals, eucalyptus leaves and ostrich shell beads to create sculpture.
  • Laura Ford for her whimsical naturalistic bronze sculptures.
  • Kumi Yamashita for her way with warp and weft.
  • Natalia Pawlus for her haunting mural at the parking garage in Grand Rapids; and
  • Jim Triezenberg for his magnificent joie de vivre in his sculpture: Dino-Zar.

Sand in my shoes

As a child my family would travel to lower Lake Michigan for summer holidays. I still remember that slightly moldering smell of my great aunt’s cabins, moss hanging off the roof and long stairways down to some of the most brilliant beaches of my life. Part of the journey to those cabins was watching with fascination and horror as we passed the steel mills and industrial smokestacks in and around Gary, Indiana. There was a smell of sulfur in the air and a certain dread of having to stop there while traveling through. The landscape was muscular, apocalyptic and wholly man-made.

Lake Michigan beaches are crowded with families this weekend.

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hugs this coast and nestles in with the muscle-bound industry here at the base of the lake.

Botanists, politicians, scientists and neighbors all fought for the unique ecosystems represented here. Bogs and wetlands, black oak forests carpeted with ferns, rivers, ponds and of course, the dunes. Mountains of dunes. Dunes that swallow trees, dunes that shelter wildlife, dunes that build and move relentlessly with the action of the wind. Dunes that actually created beaches for the people in Chicago.

My walk today was in a black oak forest at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

I will come to know this area better by spending these two weeks in residency. The National Lakeshore is a string of pearls, preserved and collected piece by piece into an assemblage of unique ecosystems. Though I am still stiff with judgment of how the land has been treated in the past, I see some reluctance on the part of the park rangers to condemn the industry in their midst. I am hopeful that the scientists are paying attention and that the politicians are working hard to save even more of the natural landscape.

Can industry honor the earth and provide jobs at the same time? How does nature adapt to intrusion? The employees of this national lakeshore are here to witness and maintain the sweet origins of the landscape. They educate the public, observe the changing landscapes, and continue the work of the people before them who recognized the richness and diversity of this unique ecosystem.

all packed up

I'm taking this road show north. What tools are essential?

Leaving behind: that ergonomically correct table and chairs, the custom ironing platform, movable cutting table, large design walls, backyard garden, fabric stash, home library, large screen computer, a good music system, family and familiarity.

Taking with me: scraps of fabric, my sister-in-laws machine (because my Bernina is being temperamental), Black thread, white thread, a pouch of notions, batting, three books of poetry, my camera, my ipad and some scrap paper. 

I am not taking any works-in-process. I am not taking preconceived ideas. I am not sure it will all work. But it all fits neatly into this tub. I wonder if trimming excess will build inspiration?


The St. Louis journey

St. Louis University Art Museum with the Quilt National banner

Just returned from seeing the Quilt National 2013 opening at the St. Louis University art gallery. The imposing structure on Lindell Blvd. looked like a museum which had the effect of adding a sense of importance to our art. The opening was well attended by the sponsors from 4-6 pm and they got most of the tidbits upstairs at the wine bar. Once the public was allowed in at 6, the sponsors seemed to disappear. I'd be interested in their take on the show since it revolves around raising funds for the Safe Connections shelter for women and teenagers. Their efforts to include the show over the years has been successful. There will be more news about this posted to the Quilt National artists website in the future.

My quilt, Round and Round It GoesNormally I hate openings. It is very difficult for me to be in public speeking about my artwork. I have always threatened to install a web cam where I can see how it went from a safe distance. This time however I had a good friend with me who bolstered my confidence and encouraged me to participate. I met several people who applauded my work and posed challenging questions about it.

A bonus of seeing the exhibition was that there was a second floor gallery with some surprising pieces by Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Richard Serra, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol. Imagine that, art quilts in a main gallery of a collection like that. In addition they had a Speaking of Fibers 2013 exhibition of works from Missouri artists which had some compelling statement pieces within it. .

Main room of the gallery with reception chairs for the donors.

The central section of the galleryI did have some reservations about the show. The quilts seemed very crowded on the walls. Some were stacked (as on the wall on which my quilt was hanging) and some were hanging from the ceiling that allowed people to see the back of the piece (probably not intended by the artist in some cases.) Diane Firth's wonderful translucent piece, Storm was hanging on a gray wall that didn't help the viewer see the dimension this quilt can have with good lighting. The curator of the exhibit said she did not receive any instructions for hanging the art from the QN administration which affected my piece significantly. There was a droop at the top of it where the piece was supposed to be a convex curve. They were using round poles for hanging and the bulge was apparent in most cases. I think we might want to think about new ways of communicating to curators when the show is sent to other galleries.

All in all, though, I was happy to attend the opening and met some folks who were enthusiastic about the art form. I very rarely got that annoying question or statement about grandma (though most people still ask how long it took to make it). If you are anywhere near St. Louis make a point of stopping in. I think it is free to the public. (and just blocks away is some of the best Italian food I have tasted in a long time with hard to resist Italian bakeries nearby to take some calories home...mm mm good)