Monday, November 19, 2018

New Work: Undersea Colonies

In 2016, I saw a color image in the New York Times that caught my eye. The deep blue against the chartreuse compelled me to study the caption, part of this article, "The 40,000 Mile Volcano." 

Reading about it caused me to include it in my project, HOUSEWORK. Undersea volcanoes and the living creatures that thrive deep below the Pacific Ocean in a neighborhood all their own and foreign to us fascinated me. When the call came out for the theme, "Shifting Tides," quilts pertaining to the Pacific Ocean, the Juan de Fuca ridge, which is where this life exists, was what I wanted to work with.

I started in June with the painted and crinkled silk cloth I had made and written about later here. I liked the pieces in a grid and tried making some oceany piecings around the grid. The project stalled.

Until November, when I did more reading and writing about the Juan de Fuca Ridge.
I printed wood type via letterpress on cotton scraps and the eco-dyed cloth I had made here.

I also had experimented with clamping a metal circle (some people use coins) to a folded cloth and dyeing it, making moons or X-rays, and that resulting cloth wanted a role in the quilt as well. When I was in the quilt store New Pieces to get a little fabric for patching a bed quilt I found this swirly smoky blue cloth that was better than anything I could dye or print. I could definitely use this for the undersea volcanic "black smokers." The materials were finalized.

The form was not.

And then, after a few days of rearranging, it was.

Fragmenting the printed cloth, like reading in an earthquake, appealed to me.
The moons or X-rays or albino animals at the bottom of the sea became the border.
The metallic painted and crinkled silk became accents to help organize it.

Then there was the stitching. Like topography.

Red was calling me. The giant deep-sea tube worms are red.

I tie-dyed/tea-dyed some red cloth and made the binding.

And stitched a little red volcanic activity top and bottom.

The back used up the scraps.


Deep in the Pacific Ocean, where plates collide below the cold, earth’s kitchen builds lava chimneys, black smokers, and a hot hearth hosting life that lived before us and hopefully ever after. That is, unless we pack probing tools and take a wrong turn—intent on dredging and stealing minerals, claiming magnesium, cobalt, and maybe a little gold for our own. While humans are just dots on a timeline, we can still impact what happens to our collective home.

Quilt text:

We will not
be planting
a flag on
Juan de Fuca ridge.

The plates rattled
before dinosaurs.
The volcano will spew
after robots.

Tick tock.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Little Relief at the Oakland Museum: Ray and Charles Eames

This was what our northern California sunrise looked like last Saturday. 

We are not near the terrible fires, but our air quality is so bad it is recommended we stay indoors with the windows tightly sealed, or if we have to go out, wear a mask. It feels like the Apocalypse. We're eyeing all of our belongings wondering what we would take if we had to leave. My heart and thoughts go out to all those who are suffering from the loss of their homes, family, friends, or pets.

Sunday, we were going stir crazy (this phrase gives an interesting image of walking around in circles in a confined space, which is what I was doing), so we headed over to the Oakland Museum. Which is, to get out of their own confined circle-walking spaces, what many other people did as well, particularly those with young children. We found a long line to get in as if a blockbuster movie was playing. Kinda neat, in a way.

One of the special exhibitions is the work of Charles and Ray Eames. There were a few objects that interested me. Decorated envelopes drawn by Ray.

Birthday card and envelope for Charles; enameled sign birthday gift, June 17, 1969

I was moved by Ray's Hermés 1980 diary. The signage says she "used this Hermés pocket diary for 20 years and kept each removable 'trimester' calendar in its original box. Charles Eames passed away on August 21, 1978. Ray marked this day in her diary with his initials, dates, or other inscriptions until she passed away the same day ten years later."

I also liked the hands-on area where you were invited to staple cones of paper together and clip them to a wire behind a light source. This was a way to turn a two-dimensional piece of paper into a three-dimension shape and then back to a two-dimensional shadow.

Eerie, but mesmerizing.

If you like shadows and dance, check out the video and works by Pilobolus here. In their newest incarnation, they turn their collective bodies into an elephant or a little dog, Medusa, and other intriguing creatures. I like shadows. They have potential: potent. Mysterious and intriguing. So many possibilities for imagination. A little relief.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book Art at the Getty Museum 2018

I first became aware of a new exhibition at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles through an ad for its catalogue in the New York Review of Books. Artists and Their Books / Books and Their Artists was the title. Did I need a copy? Through a nice coincidence, I was going to be in southern California while the show was still there.

This is part of a set of photographs on the wall. Tricksy!

L to R: Olafur Eliasson's Your House / Felipe Ehrenberg (see below) /Dieter Roth's Poetrie / Katherine Ng's A Hypothetical Analysis of the Twinkle in Stars/ Keith Smith's Book 91, String Book.

Artists and Their Books / Books and Their Artists is an exhibition of primarily large-scale bookworks that have a certain amount of flash to them. The introductory wall text, which is also at the website linked above, is right on: 
Artists' books occupy a creative space between traditional books and contemporary works of art, challenging what a book can be. This highly visual and experiential presentation of some of the most lively and surprising works from the Research Institute's extensive collections focuses on artists' books that can be unpacked, unfolded, unfurled, or disassembled. They are made to be displayed on the wall or deployed as sculptures or installations. The exhibition seeks to provoke new inquiry into the nature of art and to highlight the essential role that books play in contemporary culture.
I like the idea of the "creative space" as a way for the books to define themselves as what they are, not a notion of what others think they should be. And pointing out the "essential role that books play in contemporary culture" shows the wonderful transition of thought; books are not just closed and quiet on a shelf, but open, visible, accessible, "lively and surprising."

A hanging bookwork by Cecilia Vicuña made of wool.
(previous post about her solo exhibition is here.)

This piece links to the work she calls "quipus" (knots), and what her website talks about as "a poem in space." Here, if you were allowed to, you could comb through it with your fingers, untangling the meaning. Texture, text, textiles, and tactility are all connected and interwoven.

Two identical, extra-large vitrines housed a collection of unique books, a project called Bookscape, that seemed to be celebrating language and literature by Johanna Drucker. Titles of the individual books include, "aphorisms" and "oeuvre" and "with respect to form"  and "actual/factual." One vitrine held the books, the other held their slipcases and containers, all shiny silver. Nicely curated so that each and its box were in the same position from one vitrine to the other. According to Drucker's website, the project was meant "to resemble a Neiman Marcus gift box." The playfulness and physicality of this project is quite appealing.

Videos of a few of the books unfolding and being handled are shown at the Getty exhibition link as well. Some essays may be found here.

Several of the artists included are from the longtime book art world, people I have met or know of, in particular: Johanna Drucker, Timothy C. Ely, Daniel E. Kelm, my friend Katherine Ng (I wrote about her new year's cards here), Felicia Rice, Keith A. Smith, and Buzz Spector. And other familiar and famous folks: Chris Burden, Dave Eggers, Olafur Eliasson, Guillermo Gómez-Peña,  Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Sol Lewitt, Ed Ruscha, Cecilia Vicuña, and William Wegman. And those aren't all the eighty names.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Felicia Rice: DOC/UNDOC: Documentado/Undocumented: Ars Shamánica Performática, 2014. Gómez-Peña has been working to push boundaries and cross barriers in his performance work under the name Pocha Nostra for decades. In the early 1990s, he was the first Chicano/Mexican artist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

(Both are photos of this work: above, the props, and the colorful and lovely book, below, which has tons of tiny text.)

Longtime book artist and printer, Felicia Rice of Moving Parts Press will be featured in a new Craft in America.

Andrea Bowers: Sentimental Bitch, 2002. "Loose-leaf binders of sixty-eight Xerox prints of the periodical Bitch: The Women's Rock Newsletter with Bite." An activist who has worked with the Teamsters and the Standing Rock protests, Bowers and her work were also included in a 2017 NY Times article, "Protest Art in the Era of Trump."

Felipe Ehrenberg: Codex Aeroscriptus Ehrenbergensis: A Visual Score of Iconotropisms, 1990. Ehrenberg died in 2017; his obituary describes him as "the Conceptual artist who performed ephemeral actions to take art objects beyond the confines of the gallery space." He was a member of Fluxus, a group desiring to erase boundaries between life and art, employing everyday objects as art. At a residency at Nexus Press in Atlanta, Georgia, he created this book, "an anthology of his iconographic heritage of patterns." Nice double-sided accordion with a very L.A. feel on the back. According to the description in the Stanford Special Collections, the imagery is based on stencils he drew and hand cut, then reduced and photocopied. Each copy of the special edition contains a hand-sprayed image. There are still a few used copies out in the world for purchase.

Very funny Field Guide to North America and to Other Regions by William Wegman. Note the linguistic play: gull / guck / duck and frog / dog / log. 1993. You've undoubtedly seen his photographs and videos of his dog Man Ray, or the succeeding dog Fay Ray, and all the others ever after. This portfolio makes use of a variety of media: a photograph of an idyllic sunset, a checked blanket, several prints, and a photo of the idyllic sunset framed and hung on a tree. A crossover experience to make the viewer smile.

A stainless steel book, where the words dance off the pages, by Wei TianTo Be or Not to Be, 2015. To be a book or a sculpture, to be read or handled. Or not. According to a website, he is interested in opposites, in looking at both sides at once, and the idea of switching.

Hilarious (and a little kinky) shower curtain by Dave EggersA Monologue on a Shower Curtain; THE THING Quarterly, no. 16. 2011-2012. Although known primarily as a writer, Eggers was trained as a painter, and he exhibits widely. This is a fun object that combines a conceptual art piece with writing with an everyday object. Art and life merge.

In front: Lisa Anne Auerbach: American Megazine #2: The Age of Aquarius, 2014. The megazine you may have read about in the NY Times a few years ago: "So Print Is Dying? Don't Tell the Megazine." That's right: MEGAzine. The size of the coffee table itself, or rather, the dining room table. Art school always encourages its students to "make it bigger." In this case, bigger form equals larger presence.

On the wall: American Qur'an by Sandow Birk, 2005-2014. Birk's project is "to transcribe and illustrate all 114 chapters" and includes his contemporary urban illustrations. According to his website he is interested in social issues, and he has traveled widely, studied mural painting in Mexico, and won many grants and awards.

In the last room of the exhibition was a wonderful and extensive selection of works by Dieter Roth, including one of his infamous "literature sausages," which were shredded books he "can't stand or from authors I want to annoy" mixed with gelatin or lard and spices and stuffed in a sausage skin (1961-1970). All of these bookworks may be seen as photographs in a book, and that is primarily where I have seen them: Dieter Roth Books + Multiples: Catalogue Raisonne. Roth, born in Germany, but lived in Switzerland, Iceland, and the United States, worked in all media, from jewelry to designing posters, books, sculptures made of chocolate and birdseed, printmaker, filmmaker, musical composer, and more. He died in 1998.

You might notice that these books and their artists are interested in pushing, crossing, merging, blurring borders and boundaries with their works. There's another example of that "creative space," mentioned in the introductory wall text. 

I can think of two more perfect examples off the top of my head that could easily fit here (but are not in the exhibition or in the Getty special collections, so I'll just add them in!). Julie Chen's A Guide to Higher Learning (among others) is one that has "rigid pages" that are thick walls which open and unfold into a complex object as you "learn" the content, and Charles Hobson's Fresnel's Tower is another; the nested cylindrical forms can stack to become a lighthouse. According to Hobson's website, Augustin Fresnel "overcame learning disabilities to develop the complex lens for lighthouses." Okay, three books. Chen's Listening, is in the library's collection, and it would also make sense here, as the thick pages of the flag book can wiggle and clack to make sounds, and the book ties together with a ribbon to make a headress/hat. Book or hat? Silent or noisy?

With thousands of artist books in their collection, it is a wonder that The Getty Research Library was able to choose only eighty artists! But it was well done and with humor throughout, with just enough work so the viewer could understand the overview and be able to remember the works, and it was presented clearly, with space devoted to each. I haven't bought my catalogue of Artists and Their Books / Books and Their Artists yet, but I'm definitely tempted. The exhibition continues for another week, through October 31, 2018. I don't always exit a book show energized, but this time I did.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

You Can Build a Bridge If You Can See the Other Side: New Quilt

Last January, when I was working on the quilt, What Are We Becoming? a few scraps of hand-dyed cotton fell into place on my work table and spoke to me. They whispered that they wanted to be something, perhaps a pillow, perhaps a quilt. They neglected, however, to tell me what subject they were touting. 

I humored them for a few days. And added more scraps the beginning of February.

I played with them.

And finally used Heat 'N Bond to stick them down. I pinned the top to a backing with batting in between. I  hung up the quilt-to-be in the studio, still puzzling about it. Minimalistic. No printing or words. Yet.

Would I hand sew it? Embroider it? I had thought of using stencils of people's shadows, but I saw the boxes were too small for that. After I finished the Crows and Cons quilt in July, I turned back to the mystery quilt in August and machine stitched the box edges.

I sewed on the binding. And I began focusing and turning over ideas. Boxes. Being outside the boxes. Not being a checkbox. Thinking about not fitting a prescribed role or idea. But most of these were rectangles. Bridges? I turned to drawing and writing in my journal. This tussle we have with communication is always on my mind.


The ideas were circular: "not what are you but where are you not what are you" and "you can build a bridge if you can see the other side you can build a bridge." I added embroidered xs, then the silver threads connecting the rectangles, then the circular embroidery in yellow.

September went by. Once the Where Is My Home When My Home Turns Against Me?  jacket was finished, the slates were cleared. I finished the embroidery today, October 23, 2018, nine months after conception.

Sashiko thread was nice and thick for the cursive embroidery. I like the hand-dyed, gradated color.

This quilt was an interim project, to be worked on when things were quiet, and with no deadlines. Once again, some for better and some for worse, I learned about materials, sewing craft, and color contrasts. And lastly, I was pleased to use up more scraps. The freedom to choose everything, including the timeline, made it a little more challenging to focus. But here it is, finally finished.