Dimensional Weaving | Martina Celerin 3D fiber art
I am a fiber artist. I create 3 dimensional weavings using reclaimed and recycled materials. I love to create tapestries that are stories of the world around me - people I've met, places I've been and things that make me smile.
I just never know when ideas for compositions are going to come to me. My last inspiration grew out of a wonderful conversation about monarch butterflies with one of the Sounds of South parents. It turns out she’s a biology teacher interested in monarch migrations. She raises monarchs and commented on my In Transit piece currently hanging at the BPP that features monarchs. It turns out that Bloomington is on a flight path on their migration to Mexico, and we both wanted to see the monarchs in their overwintering grounds. I played out the conversation several times in my head, which got me thinking about how much effort we humans invest in our travels.
We depend on technologies, knowledge from past travels and histories passed down, and we expect our creature comforts along the way. We have many modes of ground transportation, but butterflies just float above everything we do on a predetermined flight every year without external help or directions.
I decided to celebrate the migration of the monarchs by creating a weaving - because that’s what I do. I finished weaving the background canvas and I began to incorporate all of those little markers of human travel into the background. I included a compass, motel keys, aviator sunglasses, watches, suitcases, luggage locks and of course a little travel cash. I needed some travel direction, so I decoupaged pieces of maps of the states over which the monarchs fly on their flight path onto used cut up CDs. I wove those directly into the weaving. I’m currently creating the six butterflies that will be in the foreground but flying over the human travel necessities. I’m hoping this will all come together in the next couple of days. I’ll post a finished image on Facebook.
If you know anything about me, you know that I love pies. My wonderful husband is the official pie chef laureate in our house, which works out well. We’re in a tough season for pie bakers as we transition from ‘no fresh fruit’ winter to a few months of great bounty. The stepping stone pie is the traditional strawberry rhubarb pie, which marries the tart rhubarb base with the sweet and flavorful strawberries. That’s the traditional Mother’s Day pie and since Mother’s Day is Sunday, I’m very hopeful this will appear after a long, pie-free week. After that we’ll be close to the first blueberries, raspberries and tart cherries—I can’t wait!
Of course thinking about anything usually translates into a weaving, so I decided I needed to create a piece called Pie Tools. Of course our house is well equipped with these objects. A piece like Pie Tools needs some fresh fruit, so I’ve felting the little pops of color in the form of cherries, blueberries, raspberries and apples that I’m so looking forward to finding in pies this summer.
In the meantime Jim has been scavenging the best available fruit from the grocery store and surprised me with a blueberry lemon pie last week. It was wonderful! The crust was baked to a golden-ey perfection. The tartness of the lemon juice and zest with the blueberries was just delightful. Of course it’s gone. Soooo sad. Time for Mother’s Day!
It’s been a wonderful week to be home working in my studio. The weather cooperated by not being too nice, so I was ready to get busy and begin a bunch of new pieces. I love carrying ideas for weaving compositions around in my head. There I can modify my designs as I think through technical aspects about which materials might work best and how to achieve the end product. At some point I’m ready and eager to launch on creating the weaving, and that was certainly true of my piece called Barbershop Quartet. I dug out my big container of barbershop related paraphernalia and began laying out the composition I imagined. When I was happy with the layer of tools and barber supplies I pulled out all of my barbicide blue yarns and started the background weaving.
Completing the background brought me to a resting point where I now need to needle felt the four goldfinches. I can do that task on the move, so I’ll probably save the felting aspect until we’re driving somewhere. I was still in full design layout and background mode, so I plowed ahead on completing the backdrop for my piece called Charging Station. Just like the missing goldfinches on my Barbershop Quartet, I’ll adorn the piece with three fireflies with glow-in-the-dark bottoms. I can work on them as I travel too, but I’m finding much less time than I used to for felting projects now that Jacob can drive himself to his activities. For the background on this piece I had a lot of fun creating and gussying up the electrical outlet covers. I also incorporated all kinds of jewelry bits, drywall tape, beaded pull chains for lights and other odds and ends in the background. I find it amazing what paint can do to transform an object from something you recognize instantly into a component that blends well into a textured surface.
I still had another piece in my mind ready to launch, and that was a composition called Changing Gears. It will have a steampunk feel to it with lots of metal gears and gear-like objects that I’ve been harvesting by tearing apart blenders and mixers and pulling brass gears from old clocks. Thursday I spent a little quality time arranging the composition and I’m pretty excited about putting it all together. I’m contrasting the hard metal gears with a helpful grackle in the foreground that will present an alan key in its beak. The timing for this piece and the grackle was perfect because I went to the Fleece Fair last week on Friday and picked up some iridescent green-purple Angelina fibers. I plan to blend them in to the black wool to create that sheen that grackles around their heads. I know that most people are not grackle fans because they steal bird seed and grain in the fields, but I see them as resourceful individuals and kindred spirits in some ways. I’ll certainly post pictures as I make progress on each of these pieces.
Last Sunday Jim and I went to Lake Monroe to try our hand at crappie fishing. We caught enough fish to enjoy the fruits of our labors as fish tacos on Tuesday. It was a wonderful adventure, made challenging by the lake being so high that we needed to paddle the canoe out to a dock that we would normally walk out to. We spent a few hours finding small flocks of fish and getting a mild sunburn in the middle of April. I made charred corn salsa and chili lime aeoli, which combined with fresh fish and arugula on white corn torillas made for a delightful dinner. Oooh, yum! Speaking of food, it was a pie day, but it was a pizza pie on Friday. Jim has perfected the thin crust, whole wheat pizza which he generously covered with vegetables and cheese mixtures. It was really good, but I now have a hankering for something sweet and fruity. Maybe a … pie? Hoo boy—I can’t leave the kitchen for a minute! I went on an afternoon visit with Dawn and Cinny to Indianapolis and I came back to find a blueberry pie! Perfect!
We are finally deep into spring and looking towards summer. The trees are leafing out into soft greens, the redbuds are on full display and the dogwoods are just about to burst. The farmer’s market is underway, and I’m looking forward to one of my favorite things about summer: the fresh fruits and vegetables! I’m sure that people all over the world feel the same way after eating winter fruits that were picked early and lack the rich flavors of summer. To celebrate that approaching yumminess just around the corner I just finished a weaving called "Twelve Forks of Summer."
I had a lot of fun collecting the forks themselves. Some are silver and others regular flatware that I painted and patinaed to enhance the unique features of each pattern. I intentionally painted them all gold to elevate the perception of the object. Traditionally, objects placed in and around gold are elevated in value. A perfect piece of watermelon deserves to be on a regal gold fork.
I also started work on a fun piece that came to me while I was in Michigan staying with Dawn’s friends Angela and Rick. Angela shared with me her vintage salesman’s display box of shaving tools that she inherited from her mother, which is an image that stayed in my head. That sparked a memory of a scrounging adventure with Nancy last summer at the Westbury Antique Market’s yard sale, where I found a fascinating old gold razor.
That had me thinking about musicals like Music Man and costumes, and all together you might understand how I came up with one the next pieces I’ll make called "Barbershop Quartet." It will feature vintage shaving devices embedded in a barbicide-blue background. On the foreground will be attached four goldfinches singing in unison. I warped the loom with silver because many of the barber tools will be silver. I have already collected many of the things that will go into the weaving and I’ve started to work on the goldfinches with different vocal ranges. I’m excited because it’s going to be a fun piece, but it also reminds me about all the places I’ve been and the friends I was with when I collected the objects. Thanks Dawn, Nancy, Charlotte, Angela, Grandma, and Jacob—and Jim for your patience while I scrounge through the oddest places!
I apologize for missing a couple of weeks of blogging, but I’ve been on the road. In early April I participated at the Ridgeland Fine Art Festival in Mississippi. It was a wonderful success—I’m tickled that three of my pieces found new homes. The people responded warmly to my art and I’m excited to put it on my list of shows to apply for next year.
We stayed with cousins Martha and Dave, and they took such good care of us. We finally got to meet Amy and Harold, whom we’ve heard about for years. Amy Head is a make-up icon in the south and has the eye of a visual artist. We had wonderful conversations about the impacts of color and layering colors. I wished we lived closer. As we drove south we left the earliest beginnings of Spring in Indiana and gradually watched as we drove through the blossoming forsythia, redbuds, dogwoods and into the flowering wisteria in Mississippi, where everything was fully leafed out.
My next weekend involved a drive north to Chicago with the Sounds of South, which was the reverse weather experience.
We left the beginnings of spring to remember the cold and snow of winter. The trip was warmed by the people and the performances we saw, including seeing Hamilton and A Chorus Line. The Chicago performance of Hamilton was spectacular, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The staging was crisp, unexpected and engaging. Combined with outstanding performances the effect was spellbinding. This was the first musical I emerged ready to take in again. It was just an extravagant visual display. Walking around Chicago and eating foods we don’t find in Bloomington was a fabulous experience in and of itself.
The Sounds of South kids sang in a church, and the performance was a feast for the ears because the acoustics in the church was amazing. The right setting always brings a new dimension to choral singing. The faces on the kids truly were engaged in what they were doing, making the performance powerful and the memory one of those bubbles in your brain that you tap into when you need to conjure a feeling of joy.
The best part of traveling is returning home. I was delighted to return from Chicago to discover a warm, blackberry pie. Jim was experimenting and did something magical. The fruits were intact and the flavors were bright, so it was unexpectedly delicious. He’s a pie magician.
My newest exhibit (Migrations: Where have you been and what have you seen) is hanging at the Bloomington Playwright’s project until June 9th. The doors are open from 9-5 and longer on performance evenings. It’s wonderful to have only this new set of fifteen pieces featuring migrating creatures all together, which makes the exhibit feel very cohesive. In my studio they have to share wall space with the rest of my art pieces. Nancy Riggert helped me transport the Migration pieces and hang the show, and in the process I realized I never posted an image of the completed ‘Stitch in Time’ weaving, so I thought I would share that here. It was great fun collecting all of the sewing notions for the piece.
Some are old ones that I’ve had for years, while others were discovered on recent scrounging adventures. The featured red headed weaver bird is making an elaborate woven nest out of found objects, and of course threads and yarns are the ideal weft, even for a bird. All of the elements just live together happily in the space.
One of the hats that I sometimes have to wear besides artist is exhibit curator to develop stories within my pieces in an exhibit. Normally I focus on objects within a piece, but curating a show makes me consider how completed pieces interact with each other. The challenge is arranging art pieces, some with shared elements and others quite disparate, into a flow that develops as you gaze or walk along a series of pieces. I want your eye and your brain to create a story from beginning to end.
For my water exhibit there was a natural progression from single droplet that led to an ocean, but in this case I hadn’t yet physically isolated the migration series from the rest of my art. Some of the progression elements might draw you through seasons, from bleak winter through full summer. You will see color and style progressions, as well as some of the deeper cultural themes that underscored the genesis of this exhibit in these difficult times for human migrants.
Concluding and hanging this body of work was a cause for celebration, but it has to be a quick one because I’m off to a show in Mississippi (Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival) within the week. Tommie was home for a few days of his spring break before skipping off to Auburn to spend a few days with his girlfriend. We had conch fritters using frozen conch from our North Carolina vacation, which is a nice way to remember the trip throughout the year. I then had to buckle down to complete a few more pieces for the show, because Jim has been whispering in my ear that he’d like me to revisit a few of my most successful pieces for the three new venues I’ll visit in the summer. And so I did! I find that I’ve matured as an artist, such that these new iterations are even richer and more dimensional than the originals. I made the next iteration of my Garden Walk composition, which is one of his favorites, and it forced me to dig deep into my yarn bins. If you’ve never seen my storage room, you wouldn’t know that all my yarns are sorted by specific color ranges. I have carmines, earthy reds, dark yellows and sky blues all in separate bins, which were flying off the racks to accumulate all the flower colors for the path. What’s also fun in assembling the piece is remembering this history of each element in the weaving. I wove the background in Bloomington, stretched out the weaving in Michigan, needle felted the trunks on the drive home from Kawkawlin on spring break, and crocheted leaf clumps on the way home from Oberlin when I collected Tommie. The piece is warm and happy because it reflects the life I’m living.
And yes, Pie. Jim kept it a secret as to what kind it was as I smelled it baking and waited to test it. This season of the year is challenging for finding pie fruit as we look forward to the farmer’s market but don’t have any fresh fruits. He did a sneaky thing, combining a mixed bag of frozen fruit with a box of fresh blackberries to pump it up. My first bite was of a cherry, which was crazy, and then I hit the blackberries, which were flavorful. The crust was baked to my definition of perfection, which is a deeply toasted wheat flour taste. I hope I see more of those!
The great blue heron is done! And Jim and Tommie got to go fishing, so spring is off to a good start. I’ve been working on my heron piece for several months, and it’s just so fun to have all of the pieces finally come together. The hanging willow branches seen in the foreground were made months ago. Each leaf is attached to the main branch by a thin chartreuse vein. The technique I used for this takes me back about fifteen years when I was first starting out in fiber art.
I came across a spool of thin wire wrapped with a thread of green that I thought was crazy—I would never do anything like that! Still, I saved the spool for a special use. Unfortunately, the green was not quite right for my piece, so I had to wrap my own material. I discovered it’s really not that hard to make, it just looks crazy.
Spring is finally here and I’m feeling happy. The winter hasn’t felt as horrible to me as many of my friends have said or posted. I think that’s because I spent so much time in my art studio this year.
I don’t know if it’s the broad spectrum lighting or the fact that I’ve been creating art every day, but I just don’t feel as exhausted as in years past. Don’t get me wrong, I’m tickled to have spring here, and I’m certainly celebrating with more spring pieces. That brings me to my current piece, which is called ‘Harbingers of Spring’. It will feature a cheerful Robin and several clumps of dandelions, traditional signs of the season changing. Speaking of robins, I can’t believe how many we have this year! It just seems like a bumper crop.
It feels as if I’m avoiding more robins than squirrels when I’m driving these days. Lately I’ve been working on the individual dandelion leaves. I figure that I need to have four to five leaves per clump and roughly three clumps, so I have a few more to make. I struggled a little with getting the proportions right when I needle felted the robin, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.
I do still have a deadline looming for my exhibit called: “Migration: where have you been and what have you seen?” I’m hoping to include my robin piece in that show as part of fifteen new pieces in the big reveal. It will be fun to see them all together and have closure on my migrating animals project. The exhibition will hang at the BPP (Bloomington Playwrights Project)into June, through their performances of “The Jedi Handbook” and “To Quiet the Quiet”. Stop by and see a performance and the fiber art!
My big project on Friday was retrieving Tommie from Oberlin. I set out at six a.m. with an espresso under clear skies in Bloomington. It turned into a harrowing drive through rain, falling slush, hail and white-out snow conditions through western Indiana and Ohio. I persevered and got my little pumpkin. It was nice to meet up on campus with great aunt Marian and Uncle Paul and have lunch at Aladdinin Oberlin. By the way, they make amazing pita pizzas. My favorite is the Farm that is loaded with raw spring vegetables. We got our hugs and hit the road again after a nice visit. The weather turned nicer, with blue skies and puffy clouds all the way home. It’s wonderful to have my family together again, even for a few days. And yes, Jim did get to go fishing with Tommie. It wasn’t a great day, with high, murky cold water. Still, they launched the canoe and fished where they could and caught just a few crappies they released. On the other hand, I suspect that my heron didn’t catch many either.
And hooray, it was another pie week! It seems like the fruit gods dropped a huge load of inexpensive blackberries on Bloomington this past week, so a nice blackberry pie appeared. Yum. I have one slice remaining until the hourglass timer gets flipped over and the sands reverse direction.
At least they are blooming in my art studio, along with butterflies fluttering. In my mind, spring is in full swing! I’m steaming up on a real deadline with an exhibit scheduled to hang on March 26th at the BPP. This will be the first showing of my migration series called “Migration: where have you been and what have you seen?” I’m currently finishing pieces that have been in progress for some time. The latest example is my ‘Monarchs in Transit’ piece. I actually started the weaving four or five months ago and I’ve been slowly accumulating components since then. Last week I assembled the first of the flower heads, and yesterday it all came together. I’m quite fond of the monarch heads with embellished guitar strings for antennae. I put a tiny drop of hot glue on each antenna tip and painted them matte black to create the effect I wanted. I first bent the strings into a ‘V’ shape to embedded the structure in the head to anchor it. I especially like the magical monarch that’s flying above the flowers looking for a place to land.
I kept art progress moving forward this past week when we visited Grandma in the cold of Michigan for spring break. The weather really wasn’t that bad and we did a lot of hanging out as a family. We had an unexpected visit from Kathy Rulli, Jim’s cousin —it was great to catch up with her. I spent a lot of time stretching out weavings into frames for the BPP show, although I’m also trying to finish a few other pieces before I head down to Mississippi to do the Ridgeland Arts Festival in early April. I’m excited because this is a new venue for me and I get to visit with more cousins - Marth and Dave in Madison. With two shows on the horizon I won’t be able to get to the garden for a while, because as soon as I return from the Mississippi show I’ll travel to Chicago for a long weekend with the Sounds of South group. After that I’m definitely going to stick my fingers in the dirt!
As soon as we got back from Michigan I went full force in the art studio. After completing the monarch piece I’m hurrying to complete a piece called ‘Thinking about Fishing’. Jim is a wreck over the winter when he can’t get out fishing, so he spends a lot of time thinking and planning for the time he can get back on the water. January and February are the hardest months for him, and this cold, wet March set back his mental calendar. I can tell he’s ready to go when he drives out to the lake to check out the water color and level. On Friday he saw a great blue heron waiting for spring fishing too, which matches the bird I’m creating for my piece. My heron will be examining the water and deciding which fish or amphibian would make the nicest lunch.
My family timeline is heating up too, which includes a drive planned for Friday to Oberlin to pick up Tommie for his spring break. It was a little sad not to have my little pumpkin along for our spring break for the first time. I miss him, but it sounds like he’s doing well and having a wonderful time—he’s right where he needs to be. Cubba just gets twice as many hugs and kisses and it doesn’t seem to bother him. And Grandma baked me a pie! I didn’t get a picture, but it was a mixed berry peach pie, and it was tasty! I had a slice each day I was in Michigan. Now the countdown begins in Bloomington!
It’s always hard to know when the last snow of the season falls, except in my art studio. I decided to celebrate the last snows of the year by completing a piece I’m calling Glistening Snow. This is another composition sparked by my trip to the Museum of Modern Art in Chicago where I passed through a dense curtain of cascading pearls to enter an exhibit. I was thinking about the pearls and how striking they look accented with black and red. I wanted to create a weaving where the snow is gently falling on barren tree branches that look strikingly black against a pale winter sky.
Adding a pop of red is something I like to do—it just brings some joy and life to a winter landscape. A bright red cardinal fit perfectly over my snow-pearl background amid the stark black oak branches, and Glistening Snow is complete.
Of course I rarely focus on just one piece, and I certainly need more color in my life. I have spring on my mind as it wanders to thinking about spring planting in the garden. Last year Jim tried very hard to establish a patch of Mexican sunflowers, but the darned deer kept mowing down the tops of the plants when they began to bud. Optimistically we would think that it would just make a bushier plant, especially if we sprayed with deer repellent.
In the end, though, the deer won and we just ended up with plant stumps in the ground and very happy deer. To fill the void I’ve been working on a weaving that will feature Mexican sunflowers and monarchs feeding on them. I’ve been slowly making the individual flower petals and I finally accumulated enough to assemble the flower heads. I did the background weaving a couple of months ago, and I’ve even created the leaves with detailed veins. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be able to assemble all the pieces. Watch this space.
The other big news is that I finished and shipped my commissioned felted tiles to their forever home, and the owner seems very happy with them.
I really enjoyed the process of working on the small scale format, and I think that once I have all of the pieces finished for my next two exhibits I will create some individual tiles for the summer fairs. Those exhibits will be good places to see my recent collections. One show is local (Migrations: where have you been and what have you seen) at the Bloomington Playwright’s Project (BPP) going up on March 26th. I’ll also be at the Ridgeland Mississippi Fine Arts Festival on April 6 and 7. I’m hoping there will be some spring flowers on display by then.
I can honestly say I don’t have any pie right now. I did have a slice of a delightful tart cherry pie for breakfast each day this week, which was wonderful. This morning I had *sigh* toast. It was homemade bread that made really nice toast (thanks Jim), but it wasn’t pie. Between the time I launched this blog and now, a tart lemon pie has appeared, but I think it’s intended for the Second Saturday Soup event tonight rather than just for me. Maybe there will be some left over and I can have a slice for breakfast tomorrow morning?
As the snow storm approaches I find myself working on another winter scene. The story behind the piece is a little complicated, but I wanted to extend my series featuring migrating animals. The champion travelers are arctic terns, which have the longest path known for any animal. Each year they loop from Greenland in the North Atlantic to the shores of Antarctica, or about 43,000 miles! I decided my composition would feature a lone arctic tern perched on a weathered wooden post surrounded by ice-covered snow on a beautiful cold day with a crystal blue sky.
Before I launch on a piece I need a good idea about the color story and the materials I’ll use. I started collecting ice and snow for this piece many years ago, even though I didn’t know it at the time. The boys and I rented kayaks on Lake Monroe and paddled around to various landing sites to scavenge the beaches, play in the water and enjoy the sun. On one of our stops we discovered giant piles of beach glass that we collected in a back-up t-shirt that doubled as a collecting bag. I brought back the pieces and soaked them in peroxide and later detergents to get them as clean and clear as possible. I’ve used those bottle fragments, collected around eight years ago, to create the sheet of ice layered over snow.
I still needed a color story, and a memory clicked into place as I considered this piece. For years I have driven past a billboard on the way to the airport that always caught my eye. The featured lawyer wasn’t memorable, but the color story featured shades of grey and orange that I’ve always wanted to interpret. Although the warm color component in my piece is a deeper red to connect the tern to the background, the overall color story feels the same. It’s weird how objects and ideas get linked together in my brain, which often happens based on colors and color stories. So I have a beautiful arctic tern with beach glass ice from lake Monroe connected by the colors on a billboard on the road out of town!
This past weekend I did the Garage Sale Art Fair in Kalamazoo Michigan with my friend Dawn Adams. We loaded up the van with both of our art displays and headed north. We had a delightful stop in Angola Indiana for panini at the Caleo Café. We then strolled through a couple of antique malls where I found some interesting vintage treasures. The one that really sparked my interest was a pie crust crimper. The shape was interesting, and I thought it would make a great present for Jim—and that sparked a great new idea for a weaving. The art piece will feature all things associated with making a pie—the tools and the ingredients.
When I got home I dug through all of my vintage-ey cooking tools and started building a mental composition. I’m seeing a slice of pie on a lifter, three forks with fruit, a pie crimper and a vintage dough slicer. I’ll probably put blueberries, cherries and an apple slice on the forks. I don’t have the full color story yet—I guess I have to keep an eye on the local billboards, but you never know where the spark for a color story might be hiding.
This week I also finished up the last of my felted tile pieces that will make up a six-panel commission. I was down to the last details of the animals, and I had to create a baby painted turtle climbing up onto a lily pad.
I also made a green frog crawling along a fern branch to see if it can get a better peek at a nearby bug. The challenge for both animals was getting their mottled skin textures right. As I was looking for just the right material to convey that texture, I opened one of my green bins to find some fleece I that I picked up years ago at the Fleece Fair, before it was called the Fiber event. The dappled olive, forest and lime greens in the fleece was just perfect for my project—what luck!
My weekly report wouldn’t be complete without a pie update, and yesterday I hit the jackpot. Jim made a tart cherry pie, my absolute favorite, with an amazing crust. The cherries were from a June farmer’s market trip, and yes, he used the vintage crimper to get a nice look around the edges. I guess I need to find another crimper to encourage more pies.
I have several pieces approaching completion, and my piece featuring vintage sewing materials is approaching the finish line. I like the way it’s laid out as a collection of treasured objects, but just as importantly it features groupings of tools within the piece that speak to each other. In the past I would have considered the piece complete, but I think my experiences in the theater now demand that the composition have both a plot and a lead character. I’m reminded of Gwen, the director of Sounds of South, asking me how designing costumes for musicals impacted my art, and there definitely is a connection. I discovered that I wanted to dress characters that connected in some important way in costumes that had an identifiable theme or color. The costumes always had a story to tell that complemented or extended the verbal tale. I discovered that I wanted my art to have a plot and a lead character that connects with the basic design of the piece. In this weaving called ‘Following the Pattern,’ I’m going to include a red-headed weaverbird pulling at some of the threads incorporated in the weaving. These birds construct elaborate nests using small branches and found objects, so I can imagine one competing for the fibers in my art. To connect the faded red head and a cream body, I intentionally incorporated faded red objects into the weaving. I even included the classic tomato pincushion with a dangling strawberry, which is used to sharpen needles. Once the bird is in place I’ll have to tweek the composition to see if I need to incorporate more red or other elements to connect the piece to my main character.
My new year’s resolution was to do more art ventures. I’m hoping to do one at least once a month, like taking a trip to a gallery or art exhibit. When I’m not doing art fairs I feel like I need to consume art, either for inspiration or education or just to make me happy. I got off to a great start in Chicago by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute, but the grip of winter left me wanting for more. This week Dawn Adams and I made time for the hour long trip to Indianapolis and spent a day beginning at the Long-Sharp Gallery, which is part of the Conrad Hotel, and the gallery turned out to be closed. Luckily, the concierge asked us if we wanted the security guard to open the exhibit – yes, please!
To our great surprise we walked into a David Hockney exhibit, which was an amazing collection of etchings and prints. The abstracted bowl of fruit was my favorite. As we exhausted the accessible art rooms, we were peeking into a banquet room where they were setting up for a reception. A friendly staff person asked if we wanted to see the artworks in other areas, which took us into a room with four Miro prints to greet us! They were happy, fun works that just made me beam and smile back. We went from one wonderful experience to the next as doors were opened before us.
Our next stop on our art adventure was the IndianapolisMuseum of Art at the newly named Newfields campus downtown. I told Dawn I wanted to visit the contemporary art first, then modern, then see the impressionists. She’s such a tolerant friend!! I love all the other artworks and styles, but it’s easy to get bogged down trying to see too much. A fun surprise was that they had the orchid show going on at the same time, so within these galleries were fantastical orchid displays.
There were too many provocative art pieces to describe, but I want to describe two. One of the highlights was a piece by El Anatsui, whom I had seen in a television special but the live art is so much more powerful. He uses all discarded objects and enlists the help of local artisans to create luxe appearing objects out of the simplest materials, such as the metal wrapping that seals liquor bottles. The combined effect of the draped materials is enchanting. A second piece, ‘Floor,’ by Do-Ho Suh, had a powerfully affected me.
It is a long, low artwork that forced me on to my hands and knees to recognize that the tiny, colorful objects holding me up were actually small figures, all working together to support the surface. I was encouraged to walk on it, which felt a little sacrilegious, but it was a powerful experience to be held up by so many people, unwavering in their task.
Although there wasn’t a fresh pie this week, I did have slices of my tart lemon pie each weekday with my espresso for breakfast. It was so good! That tartness for breakfast is nice, so I’ve continued the pattern with grapefruit, but it just isn’t the same. The long, draining wait for the next pie has begun.
The weather has been crazy in Bloomington and all across the Midwest. Of course each event in my life seems to spark a new design for a weaving, and the snow and cold of two weeks ago did the trick. On our trip to Chicago two weeks ago we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. On the third floor we entered an exhibit through a cascading curtain of pearls that was really quite striking. It felt like walking through crystallized, pearlescent snow. That sort of stayed in my head for a while. While I was working on my migrating bird series I got to thinking about birds that don’t migrate and have to manage the polar vortexes, heavy rains and high winds of Indiana.
I immediately thought of cardinals and I decided I needed to make another piece to capture cardinals in snow. You have to stay with me here, but somehow I got to thinking about the pearls that have been part of my life for the past year and a half, creating costumes for the musical Guys and Dolls. Because it is set in the early fifties, there’s a lot of pearls in the girl’s costumes for the Runyonland scene. Later, pearls are featured prominently in the number ‘Take back your minks, take back your pearls’. I still had a small treasure chest full after completing all the costumes, which consumed a lot of pearls—the actual show pieces will likely appear at the senior banquet, so they are off limits. I decided I was going to create my own display of falling snow pearls and began weaving a piece horizontally so I could incorporate them. Eventually I’ll rotate the piece to let the pearls cascade to the ground as snow. My plan is to have a cardinal sitting on a dark branch that is snow covered. Now that I’m into creating the piece, I really like all the variety of pearls that glisten much like the ice and snow does.
I have also been advancing my commissioned piece of six felted tiles. This week I worked on the goldfinch in the apple tree. Upon careful inspection of apple leaves, I was intrigued by the prominent main vein. To emphasize that feature I needed to create a strong crease in the needle felting process. I really like that they truly look like apple leaves to me. The finch is sort of tucked in there, providing that wonderful pop of color, like a little burst of sunshine packaged in a song.
I also invested some time on collecting adventures, stopping in at JB salvage. Who knew they were an art supply store! I found some great vintage electronic gadgets for another piece that is still in my head. I think the pressure of driving to Denver to show my work at Cherry Creek Art Fair is putting some real pressure on my artistic output! Or maybe it’s just the cold and rain of winter, keeping me focused in my art studio. Anyway, I have a mental sketch featuring fireflies at a charging station. I know that sounds a little odd, but I think it’s going to work. I’m imagining a blue black gradient backdrop covered with vintage outlets with a Victorian/steampunk feel and the fireflies plugging themselves in for recharging. I came across some glow-in-the-dark fleece last week on Etsy and I’m pretty excited to make their little bums glow!
At home we have fallen back into our family routine. Tommie finished his winter term and is back in Oberlin. Jacob has re-engaged his packed schedule of school, teaching taekwondo, working on kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and studying for his SAT. On Friday night when peace settled over the house, it was nice to have a fire in the fireplace and have a ‘crackers and cheese’ dinner to slow down, unwind and begin the weekend process of restoration.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the five and a half inches of rain that doused Bloomington on Thursday. I’ve never seen anything like it! Having survived many unfortunate water incursion events into my art studio I was prepared for the absolute worst. The backyard became a giant water-covered swamp and rivers with category 4 rapids forming on each side of the house. If there was a real bright spot to the week, it was that the only water I took on was from the manageable, localized seepage I get when the ground is saturated. My heart goes out to my local art friends who suffered damage, but this time Nature spared my work space.
If that wasn’t a good enough omen for the future, the smells of a lemon pie wafted upstairs as I was waking up this morning! I had been a whole week without a pie, and I was getting worried. I bet it goes well with espresso!