Living Outside the Lines is a homage to quilt artist Ann Stamm Merrell, who died of breast cancer in 1999. The artwork is extraordinary, but most fascinating about this web site is the perspective of how an artist's work can change and evolve through major struggles of life.
Husband Gregory Merrell writes: "In April, 1993, Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer. This had a profound effect on her physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It also had a major effect on her quilt making as she began to express more of her anger, frustration, despair, hope, faith and joy through her works. Her style changed significantly as a result of the diagnosis. Instead of the nice neat 'stay inside the lines' and 'do everything according to the rules' (well, mostly) type of quilt making that she had been doing, she quickly began to 'go outside the lines'. Gone were the nice clean edges. No more square corners and parallel lines."
The site features over 50 artworks, arranged in chronological order and grouped by developmental periods in the artist's life. The works begin with "Triple Rail Barn Railing", a very traditional piece, to emotional, gyrating pieces, such as The Blood of Christ, Adriamycin and contemplative liturgical stoles.
Ann's words are highlighted in her Quilt National 97 application"Much of the content of my quilts now deals with my faith, especially as it relates to cancer. Even in quilts without overt meaning, the design elements raw edges, quilting 'outside the lines', slicing through already finished sections speak metaphorically of my life post cancer. My technique is driven by the need to keep creativity present as far into the process as possible, and to eliminate as much (of what I perceive as) busywork as possible."
image:Boy Scout for Hire by Ann Stamm Merrell
"Why did Frida paint herself? Her preferred exercise seems to have been shaping and perpetuating the image the mirror returned, enriched by her own art and imagination. Her friend, Alejandro Gomez Arias, a Mexican writer, to whom she gave her first self-portrait, commented: "Frida painted as a final means of surviving, of enduring, of conquering death." On the other hand Frida herself answered this question by saying, "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone. Because I am the person I know best." "
[Espacio, Art Magazine 1983] reprinted from Artdaily.com
image: Frida Kahlo; self-portrait with monkey, 1938 Albright Knox Museum Scroll down on the museum's web page for art exercises relating to the image and Kahlo.
Quiltart has expanded and improved their calendar of arts events for art quilters. Arranged in chronological order, the list gives details on a wide variety of arts opportunities available worldwide. The opportunities on today's list run the gamut from "Artist Residency In India" to "Small Art Quilt Exhibition"
These notices are provided by Quiltart subscribers or are selected from the more extensive listings available at The Art Deadlines List. The art deadlines list is more extensive because it covers all media, not just art quilt and related areas.
It's fun to look at the list and dream. I found one notice this morning for an art and archeology fellowship on the Skagit River in Washington state. I went to college just north of there and it is a magical area. I spent a good twenty minutes daydreaming about waking up to the snowcapped mountains and the sweet smell of the hemlock trees; whitewater rivers with salmon jumping in them. What an opportunity!
(reprinted from Art Deadlines List) ART & ARCHAEOLOGY FELLOWSHIP Artist Fellowship for Washington State Archaeological Project. As a part of its new Community Fellow Program, the nonprofit volunteer organization, Earthwatch Institute is looking for artists from a wide variety of media (including paint, photography, poetry, sculpture, audio, performance art, etc.) to award participation costs to join Dr. Astrida Onat's archaeological project, "Traditions of Cedar, Salmon and Gold," located in the Skagit River basin in Washington State from May 17 - 28, 2004. The concept is that winning artists would be able to incorporate what they learn on their Earthwatch expedition into their art work as a way to communicate their experiences and insights to a diverse audience. Any artist in North America is eligible to apply. Contact: Rachael Dobson, Earthwatch, 978-450-1251 OR http://www.earthwatch.org/expeditions/onat.html OR email@example.com
image: Skagit River valley by Dr. Astrida Blukis Onat
Quilting in America Survey 2003 reveals the Profile Of A Dedicated Quilter (do you fit the pattern?):
• 99% Female
• 58 years old
• Well educated (76% attended college)
• Affluent ($80, 397 HH income)
• Spend on average $1,934 per year on quilting
• Quilting for an average of 12.3 years
• Purchased an average of 100.7 yards of fabric at a cost of $772.40
• Purchased an average of 5.5 quilting books with an average price of $21.80 per book
• Subscribed or read an average of 4.2 magazines
• 25% purchased a new machine spending $1,811
note* The survey was commissioned by International Quilt Market & Festival (divisions of Quilts, Inc.) and Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine (a division of Primedia). The research was conducted by independent firms NFO Research, Inc. and Abacus Custom Research, Inc..
Sarah McEneaney is a Philadelphia painter who creates "creative non-fiction" paintings of her life and environment. The works are small, and created in egg-tempera, a medium made famous by Andrew Wyeth and also used by the early Renaissance painters. Her images are realistic, in the sense that they are identifiable and use naturalistic colorings. But they are fantasies in the distortion and emotion that they convey. Particularly poignant are the paintings reliving her rape: June 15, 1998 I and June 15, 1998 II
McEneaney says of her work: "I have been painting for over twenty years. My paintings are autobiographical narratives. They describe life experiences, physically and emotionally. I paint looking out from within and back inside from my own particular place in the world. My aim is to be honest and straightforward in the subject matter I choose and in how I paint it, to make the personal universal."
New York Times article Self-Portrait With Epiphany states "Ms. McEneaney's works belong to a prolific tradition of painting that has flourished worldwide for centuries, in blissful ignorance or willful rejection of the vaunted vanishing point of High Renaissance art. It is a longer and wider tradition than that of Western realism, one that has arguably succeeded more consistently at achieving pitch-perfect balances between form and narrative — between the telling and the tale."
With the scale and the liberation of the expressionist realism, Sarah McEneaney's work might be a path of inspiration for fiber artists looking to create representational portraiture.
For those going to Philadelphia for the Art Quilts at the Sedgwick show, McEneaney's paintings will be showing at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art until April 4, 2004.
Still more on self portraits... June Underwood was kind enough to introduce the topic to her Ragged Cloth Cafe group and there have been many interesting thoughts from that list. June has been reflecting on the interest of the face as it grows older: "puddle faced", she calls it. What she is seeing is the reality of the lifts and furrows that we are all gaining each day, in contrast to the slick, shiny skin that we see in the mass media.
Painter Alice Neel celebrates these irregularities in the portraits that she made from the 1930s-80s. Neel's most famous portrait is probably the painting of Andy Warhol, showing the gunshot scars a murder attempt.
Terry Grant posted her wonderful self-portrait doll, which made me wonder why fiber artists appear to be more comfortable with representational portraiture as 'dolls', but often shy away from realistic portraits in 2 dimensions (not pointing fingers at anyone, just a general musing).
A wonderful example of portraiture in quilts that I missed before is Faith Ringgold. What was I thinking?!? Ringgold's quilts are poignant, funny, beautiful sermons on her life's experiences as a Black woman born in Harlem in 1930. They are also exquisite works of art.
image: Faith Ringgold, Picnic on the Grass... Alone, 1997
Linda MacDonald - This Is Not a Self Portrait
Lesley Riley - Self Portrait At 47
Therese May - Therese Quilt
Deb Richardson - Rediscovering Joy: A Self-Portrait in Red
image (right):Rediscovering Joy: A Self-Portrait in Red by Deb Richardson
Other quilters didn't want to examine themselves realistically, but chose to have symbolic representations of themselves:
Blueprints by Marcia Karlin ".. describes the process of making cyanotype prints as a metaphor for memory and the evolution of meaning and identity"
In Imagio Dei by Ellen Ann Eddy
A wealth of self-portraits by the Kansas Art Quilters
I have discovered the fun of the self portrait. It all began with my hometown's exhibit of residents' self portraits. I had only done one self portrait and that was almost 20 years ago. Since I have my tongue sticking out, I guess that was some foreshadow of the fun of the self portrait.
Artists have often done self portraits and some of their most memorable works may be this art of reflection. A short, illustrated paper by Jeanne Ivy The Exploration of Self; What artists find when they search in the mirror offers this insight: "Self-portraits, we have found, can be carefully staged to show the audience only what the artist wishes to project, or deeply revealing, inadvertently displaying feelings of anguish and pain. Self-portraits have been used to test new techniques, make a signature mark, launch into self-study, remember the past, and as a way to release emotion. Whichever way artists choose to construct their images, they are each forced to study their own personas both physically and emotionally"
Some collections & resources to reflect upon:
Self-portrait U.K. - Making a self-portrait
Rembrandt's self portraits
VanGogh's self portraits
Self portraits of famous artists through the ages
image: Serena Fenton, self portrait
Alice Kettle came to embroidery from a modernist art background. In the early 1980s, she graduated from art school, creating abstract expressionist paintings. When she moved to textiles, she began to explore the possibilities of texture, layering and depth. From a review at Otter Gallery: "Kettle employs machine stitch as it best suits her intuitive approach and uses metal thread to add a glistening effect. She creates three-dimensional surfaces by repeatedly stitching over the same areas forming interesting shadows. Kettle constantly explores new methods, drawing inspiration from various sources, such as medieval church tapestries, Russian icons and the paintings of Giotto."
Kettle has a new body of work which is currently touring Great Britain. The show description reads: "Mythscapes is a major exhibition of a new body of work by Alice Kettle, one of Britain's leading textile artists whose machine embroidered hangings are known for their remarkable painterly quality and poetic resonance. The show features a series of works which explore themes contained within Homer's Odyssey. In these figurative pieces she makes reference to universal ideas of hope, renewal and human concerns of existence. Both large and small scale works illustrate her mastery of the materials and convey depth of emotion through an exceptional use of color, line and composition."
The work is far more painterly and abstract than Kettle's previous works. Unfortunately, there are darned few images available on the web. There is a book available of the show.
NY Times review of the 2004 Whitney Biennial has been published. As an explanation to the uninitiated, the Whitney Biennial is one of the biggest events in the contemporary art world. It's the anointing of who's cool and interesting in the art world right now.
This Biennial seems to have focused much more on drawing that any that I can remember, which is good in my view. In the past, there were years where huge self-indulgent photographs and conceptual art were the main viewing options. (review of the 1993 biennial). The inclusion of David Hockney, creator of colorful representational paintings, seems to indicate a lightheartedness may be creeping into the New York Art world.
The Whitney's web site for the Biennial, offers a chance to look at the works from afar. While we miss the experiential light room, we can read snippets of information about each artist and their influences as we view the pieces. The site offers the opportunity to view tiny thumbnail images of the works (see image left) and then view increasingly larger images with more information at each level. Warning: this being New York Art, some of the art works are intentionally offensive and/or shocking.
Come! Read! Mandy Southan has cleared the mud on how to do successful color mixing. (and why if you buy your paints premixed, the finished pieces seem lacking.)
Just a taste: "Most people find working with colour difficult either because they have never been taught colour theory and mixing or if they have, they were taught the old 'primary' mixing system using three primary colours - red, yellow and blue to mix three 'secondary' colours - violet, green and orange. Despite the pioneering work of people such as Michael Wilcox, founder of 'The School of Colour' and author of 'Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green', the old primary system persists, causing frustration and confusion for painters in every field.
(Thanks to Jeannie Call and the Quiltart list for the tip.) image: the right colours by Mandy Southan
A New York Times article by Holland Cotter has exposed the myth that Gauguin found paradise in Tahiti and lived in paradise happily ever after. It seems that there was much more to the traditional story of Gauguin as the banker who abandoned his family and home, driven to paint a primitive beauty and retreat from "everything that is artificial and conventional."
There are some head-turning revelations in this article: "Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) thought of himself as a questing hero. He may even have imagined himself a saint, though he wasn't. In fact, he was in many ways a dreadful man, a bully, a whiner, a conniver, a sexual opportunist who would hit on your wife or your daughter or your son the minute you left the room." Nope, that is not the man that we studied in art history class (though I did wonder why everyone in paradise was young and beautiful.)
Most surprising and possibly most instructive is the revelation that Tahiti was not a pristine paradise in Gauguin's time, but rather was a colony repressed by Westernization. "Tahiti was Europeanized, visually unspectacular (at least what he first saw of it) and expensive. Scant traces of indigenous religion remained; Christian missionaries had seen to that. But what could he do? Turn around and go back? Go back to what? So he stayed and set about creating the Tahiti he wanted in his art."
What we see is not the Tahiti of the late 19th century, but rather the Tahiti that Gauguin sought. He never found it, so he created it. The article professes that Gauguin invented this Tahiti for commercial reasons, but what if he invented it just for himself? What if an artist creates paradise just because they need it?
This tale reminds me of the author Anne Dillard, famous for her Pulitzer Prize winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Dillard has managed to focus on the beauty and wonder of her surroundings, to the degree that most folks never guess that she has written about a small, now polluted, creek that wanders through suburban Roanoke, Virginia. How much, as artists, do we create our own reality?
With exquisite faces and figures that echo the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Lura Schwarz Smith has created a series of art quilts that meld painting and quilting so completely that to is difficult to separate the two. She describes the evolution of this process: "In college as an art major at San Francisco State University with an emphasis in painting and drawing, I became interested in the possibilities of fabric as an art medium, and for my final project in senior painting class I produced my first art fabric wall piece. It was somewhat three-dimensional, minimally quilted, used felt weight pellon for a batting, and was pictorial in content. I thought of it as painting with fabric, using mainly applique and soft sculptural techniques."
Save Our Quilts gives an interview with Smith. In this, she cites her influence from Jean Ray Laury and her Imagery on Fabric book. Smith creates original drawings (she's also a book illustrator) and then photocopies them to fabric and paints them using Versatex fabric paint. Smith also emphasizes the necessity to take classes and learn a variety of sewing/quilting techniques: "I could always use more technique. It’s stuff in your tool box and it’s always good to add to that. I feel that certainly I am still learning, learning, learning all the time. Every piece I do is a great learning experience. Lately I’m having a lot of fun with this free-form curved machine piecing. I fractured these spaces and built the texture freely. I had a lot of fun with that. I like to just cut fabrics and slap them together without templates and patterns. I developed that technique on my own. It’s very fast and direct. But especially in the beginning, taking classes was very important. I started with my guild taking local classes and learning so much. I like to work as quickly and directly as I can, so I love a lot of those techniques."
Connecticut artist, Missy Stevens, creates thread paintings using punch needle embroidery. This technique allows her deeper texturing of the surfaces than she could achieve with traditional embroidery stitches. Her subject matter tends towards nature inspired whimsey and fantasy. Her finished pieces range from two dimensional framed paintings to small three dimensional sculptures, incorporating beads, wire, wood,and polychromed objects.
A New York Times review wrote of Stevens' work: "Using needle, thread and beads, Missy Stevens makes tiny, tightly knit tapestries of riveting optical and material richness. With jewellike colors, satiny and nubby textures, intricately patterned borders and glass-bead fringes, her works look as if they were made by an inspired medieval artisan. Her images may seem whimsically simple-minded, but as in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, formal ingenuity and heartfelt moods ranging from ecstasy to grief give the work a complex depth that belies the seemingly naïve surface."