Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Where is the story?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Succulent, 38 x 32″

Here’s my latest, Succulent. It’ll be at PIQF next month. I managed to finish it just before the submission deadline, battling my sewing machine the whole way. (And have I taken my machine in for repair yet? No, I haven’t. However, I’m still whining about the fact that it’s broken despite the fact I’m now past deadline and could do something about it. It’s a good thing I’ve never claimed to be wholly logical.)

It was interesting. By interesting, I mean that I really hate doing work at the last minute and I’ll do almost anything to avoid ending up in that situation. However, I had a firm commitment for another piece that HAD to be done by a certain date – for a top-secret exhibit, natch – so this one had to be postponed for awhile.

Most of my recent work has been 3D-based. Succulent is a little different, although it’s still based on the output of a computer.

Back in 2009, I saw a plant about the size of my hand and absentmindedly took a photo of it. I think I was at Balboa Park in San Diego at the time; the place is covered with plants.

That photo had a nice abstract quality that has fascinated me over the years. I finally sat down with it and ran it through some custom Photoshop filters to increase saturation and simulate a watercolor effect. I had the resulting image printed onto fabric at Spoonflower, then did the usual batting and stitching and muttering that transforms such things into art quilts.

This piece used thirty-three colors of thread. I have no idea how that compares to my usual work; it isn’t something I normally focus on. My philosophy is that you use however much thread and however many colors you need to, and it usually isn’t worth dwelling on. I always use a lot of thread, but I don’t deserve a freaking medal for using up an entire manufacturing plant’s worth of polyester. When people look at a piece, it either speaks to them or it doesn’t.

However, occasionally – very occasionally – it is interesting. In this case, it’s a reminder of the complexity that can dwell beneath apparent simplicity. When I look at  the quilt, I’m surprised at the fact that the design was able to bear up under so many different hues. Perhaps it’s because the shapes are so simple and bold.

Now I’m dwelling in the land of “what’s next”? My usual work mode is telling stories, either visually or with words. Succulent was a bit of a departure from that. It’s a pretty piece, with its play of light and color, but there isn’t much of a story there other than “look closer and pay attention to the world around you”.

I don’t know which story I want to tell next. This happens after every project, and I hate it every time. It doesn’t help that I can hear that Chuck Close quote in my ears, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

In the meantime, I’ve been taking an online course on fantasy artwork and making things like this:

A winged naked guy is hanging out on a cloud bank. He’s naked because … let me think about this … there’s no laundromat nearby. He tried hauling a washer up there, but it kept falling through the clouds, plus there was no real water supply to plumb it up to. Try not to dwell on the other sanitary implications of that situation.

When he wants to go on a date, he flies down to Target and buys a nine-pack of tighty whities. Not that he needs to, because there’s nothing up front to hide. No geometry, if you get my drift. Which, I guess, really makes dating pointless … having 2.4 flying kids and a flying dog isn’t in this guy’s future unless he adopts. Never mind. Forget I mentioned it.

How many times have you seen images similar to this, with a naked dude or a scantily clad woman hanging out by a cloud bank? Yep. A lot. That’s why I won’t be taking this image any further and making a quilt out of it. That is, unless I get desperate and can’t think of anything better or more original. Then I’ll make up a nonsense story about how the idea came to me in a dream.

This image wasn’t too hard to put together, but the filthy little non-secret about 3D/CGI is that if you work in that medium, you’re going to be fiddling around. Always. Always. Always. I have never had a project that didn’t have at least some minor issue. I’ll want a different texture on one of the models, or the lighting isn’t quite right, or something will outright go to pot and I’ll have to figure it out. I’m a perverse creature and I enjoy that process, but I know some folks don’t.

 

Here, for example, we have one of the early surface designs for Game Over. I thought my little plastic polar bear should have a little plastic scarf. However, it looked awful. Delete.

 

In this snippet of a scene, a bare-chested hottie was groping away at a willing female. Later I discovered that the hottie was so enthusiastic his fingers were jammed right through the woman’s belly. I wish I’d inspected the scene more closely before poking the render button.

 

I was trying to come up with a new hottie. (I don’t remember whether this one is a stock character or something I modified.)

That thing on his head was supposed to be hair. Unfortunately, the hair texture didn’t get applied to it, so it looks more like a shower cap. Perhaps that’s why he appears so unhappy.

 

I thought that creating a realistic velvet texture for one of my scenes would be AWESOME. Too bad it looked like a green porcupine. There was another one that looked like mottled decay. Wish I’d saved a picture of it. On second thought, perhaps it’s best that I didn’t.

 

An early version of the surface design for Gusher. Gosh, wouldn’t it be swell if oil really spewed out of that oil well? It should be straightforward to simulate with particle effects, right?

Whoopsy. That took a few iterations to fix.

 

Lately I’ve been toying with idea of a series inspired by the paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. You know the ones … the paintings where he has chicks hanging out on uncomfortable marble furniture by the water, waiting for dudes to come home on fancy-looking boats.

That should be straightforward to whip up, right?

Oh dear. Her legs are poking straight through her dress. Gee whiz, I can’t fix that in the software I was using. That means I’ll have to take the woman and her dress into a different piece of software.

Or … hold on! Change of plan! Instead of her wearing a Hellenistic dress, what if she has on a vaguely apocalyptic outfit? Think “Mad Max Visits the Mediterranean”. And, um, she’ll be waving a gun around. She hasn’t had her coffee yet and she’s annoyed about the guys on that ship in the background cruising around in her bay. When they clamber up to her marble gazebo, she’ll shoot them all.

Or not.

None of this is working for me. Guess I’ll go make some more naked guys with wings. Maybe that’ll be my new series. Naked Guys with Wings. It’ll be a gender swapped version of Victoria’s Secret angels.

This and That

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

GirlDragon1000

Tentative title: Do Dragons Like Cookies? (click image to embiggen)

This is the surface design for the newest quilt-in-progress, AKA the latest thing I’m griping about. And gripe I shall. When I stitch, those snowflake wings and the lace dress on the girl are going to give me fits unless I use what I call The Devil’s Thread: clear polyester monofilament.

 

GusherDetail

Yeah, I finally tried that stuff. I used some on Gusher, in the area with balls and cups and such. I feel like it was a devil’s bargain. Yes, I preserved the fine shading of the cups and styrofoam containers and I didn’t have to do fifty thousand thread changes. On the other hand, the texture of the thread itself is yuck, like something I’d cut out of a vacuum cleaner roller with a utility knife. It glistens. It doesn’t have the same soul as the thread I normally use. I know it’s irrational, but I’m terrified that it’s going to spring loose from the quilt and attack someone.

If I’m going to spend weeks or months hunched over a sewing machine, I want the end result to have some poetry to it, even if the quilt depicts a drowning polar bear or an automaton crapping out plastic cups. There needs to be a good reason I chose to make a quilt rather than printing the same design out on flags to sell at a roadside stand. The stitch needs to contribute to the design. Ideally it would be essential. I’m not so sure I’m accomplishing that with The Devil’s Thread.

 

GirlDragon10Wireframe

Anyhow … on to the surface design of the fabric. This is a 3D rendering. If you’ve followed my work in the past, you may be familiar with the process. Create geometry on a computer, barf some textures on it, set up fake light sources, and let the computer figure out what that might look like in real life. If you look at the wireframe, you can see that the scene is extremely simple.

This time I used some purchased assets (3D models) and posed them rather than making everything myself. The little girl is the Skyler model from Daz and the dragon is the Millennium SubDragon LE. I posed them in the Iray Worlds SkyDome.

Much like using The Devil’s Thread, using purchased models is something I wouldn’t have done once upon a time. Instead I would have laboriously spent days creating every blasted model myself, and I would have made sure that everyone around me was miserable while I did it. I also would have bragged about it afterward, and when the thing hung in a gallery, no one would have understood or cared.

Using the Daz assets was nice. I hate to admit that, because I think some of their marketing verges on pedophilia, and there are a couple of things on their site that I find obscenely racist. (Note the afro-wearing gorilla shown in one of the shots for this product. Seriously. Do we really need to go there?)

That said, sometimes it’s nice to grab a pre-made model and get on with it. Daz has a lot of models. Often they’re pretty darned cheap, especially if you consider the labor that goes into them. (Afro-wearing gorillas notwithstanding.)

 

LaceDress

Look at the lace on that dress. I thought I was being real clever when I created that texture. “Oh, it’ll match the snowflakes her wings are made out of,” I told myself, “It’ll be pretty! Visual poetry!” Yeah, it matches. It’s pretty. It’s also going to be horrible to stitch. Either I use The Devil’s Thread on it to hide mistakes or I spend the next two months hunched over it while I stitch with a magnifying glass.

Stay tuned.

 

blueHair

In other non-news, I dyed my hair blue.

Sometimes I hear people complain, and justifiably so, about becoming “invisible” after one turns a certain age. Let me tell you, when you go around with a head full of long blue (or purple or hot pink) hair, you are no longer invisible. People smile and chat with me when my hair’s blue. I get great customer service. My kid likes it. Sure, I get the occasional stinkeye and backing away reaction too, but that’s also fine. It lets me cull out the people who are superficial.

The main reason to do something like hair dying, though, is because you enjoy it. I do. I could care less about growing fingernails and half the time I don’t remember to put on makeup, but seeing blue hair when I look in the mirror cheers me up.

 

HerStory

Here are a couple of new works, celebrating the lives and hard work of Maria Goeppert-Mayer and Mary Blair. They’re slated for Susanne Miller Jones’ HerStory traveling exhibit, along with scads of works from other artists. It should be a good exhibit; the subject matter is juicy, and the other works I’ve seen have been creative and heartfelt.

I admire people who, to use a hackneyed phrase, “do things to make the world better”. It’s easy to plotz on one’s La-Z-Boy and complain, but quite another thing to conceive an idea and bring it to fruition.

Susanne’s doing just that. She’s conceived and spearheaded several exhibits on thought-provoking topics. That gives artists like me a venue to speak our minds, and it makes for provocative, interesting viewing. One of those exhibits, Fly Me to the Moon, is currently traveling the country.

 

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The latest Machine Quilting Unlimited has a few of the works from Fly Me to the Moon. Yep, that’s my rocket in the second shot. Also, check out the articles about Betty Hahn’s work and on pictographic quilting, which are pretty darned cool.

 

OurStory

Susanne is currently accepting entries for a new exhibit, OURstory: Civil Rights Stories in Fabric. Its goal is to “tell the stories of disenfranchised people and their fights for equal rights”. This is another great topic, and very timely.

The deadline is March 8, so it’s coming up pretty quickly. Fortunately, all one has to do by that date is submit an idea, not the actual quilt, so there’s plenty of time to register.

http://www.susannemjones.com/ourstory-call-for-entries/

 

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On a related note, The Artist Circle, a group of well-known quilt artists, is accepting entries for an exhibit to “protest the Trump administration’s actions and policies”.

One only has to skim over the news to see matters of concern – climate change, fake news, education, racism, and on and on. This exhibit is an opportunity to speak out about those issues. The deadline for that is May 1.

http://threadsofresistance.blogspot.com

 

GusherTrim

This thing, Gusher, is finally stitched and faced. I need to do a little inkwork on it, but I think I can call it all but done. Not a moment too soon, either. I don’t know how many years I’ve been working on it. I could look it up, but hey, why don’t I not do that? The number is probably depressing.

The fact is, I’m not one of those gracious people who writes only sweet things or gushes about how many spools of thread they’ve used or how they were inspired by a butterfly tenderly sucking the nectar from a flower. I start projects because I believe in them. Sometimes I get tired of working on them and I finish only because of sheer cussedness. This is one of those projects.

I’ll leave you with a few gratuitous shots.

desk

My desk, or a portion of it. I also call this Still Life with Key Pad, Dust Mask, and Brain Pin.

Sometimes it’s fun to see others’ work spaces. I hadn’t realized how cluttered mine had gotten. It’s taking on a “Where’s Waldo” appearance.

 

Shoes

My twelve year old’s shoe on the left. My shoe on the right. Having your kid outgrow you is one of those rites of passage, I guess. Bittersweet. We want our kids to grow and thrive, and it’s horrid when they don’t, but it would be nice to hold the baby he once was just a few more times.

 

Endcap

Alright. This. (Another “click to embiggen” picture.)

I try to be a decent person. Hopefully I’m a better person than I was ten or twenty years ago, and that usually includes just walking by and not commenting if I see something that I think is nonsense.

I’m going to make an exception this time, though. This was an end cap at one of the local Michaels. It’s for “customizing” slime. Not making slime – there’s school glue, which is an ingredient for making slime, but no borax and no instructions, so I guess we aren’t actually MAKING anything, are we? We’re just taking glitter and plastic crap and mooching it inside a viscous polymer blob so we can, I don’t know, have it fall on the floor, get dirty, and throw it away?

I have clearly outlived my usefulness on this Earth.

Nida’s Nightmare

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Let’s do this.

It’s chilly here in Silicon Valley, where I make my home. I’m in the mood to gorge on the fruitcake I have hidden in the laundry room, fiddle around in the studio, and have a nice soak in the hot tub I don’t own.

However, before I sink into a total state of sloth and dissipation, I have a couple of announcements.

tff124

Issue 124 of Textile Fibre Forum is out. It’s been out for awhile, actually, but you can get a copy on iTunes or via PocketMags if you don’t live in Australia or didn’t see it on the newsstand.

This issue was Neroli Henderson’s last as editor, a fact I mourn and that will probably make her waggle her shoulders to get some stress kinks out. I’ll miss that relationship; she did a bang-up job as editor and was great to write for.

nidasnightmare

On that note, I have an article in this issue, “Nida’s Nightmare”. The story is a followup on the sorry mess that was Kathy Nida’s censorship debacle, with a new twist involving nonexistent penises.

Note the pullquote you can see above, Censorship thrives in secrecy and darkness. If we want to fight it, we need to keep shining a light on it. That’s the best way to keep nightmares at bay. Let’s all keep that in mind, both in terms of our artwork and our lives. I believe we’re on the edge of some extremely challenging times. We’re going to have to work hard to promote a sense of decency – and by decency, I mean things like combatting bigotry and having compassion for others. We’re going to need to shine that light and work hard to keep the nightmares at bay.

The issue also has an interview with Annemieke Mein and showcases a variety of wonderful artwork. Go check it out.

odalisque490

One of my works, Odalisque with Squeak Toy, never made it back from Houston this year because it found a new home. I hope it’s bringing its purchaser and her loved ones great joy!

Yep, I made some more stuff.

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Whee! Look what the letter carrier angrily hurled on my doorstep! It’s the 2016 edition of IQF Quilt Scene! That means one of my quilts must be inside. That means I must rapidly thumb through looking for it – with great care, though, so as to not wrinkle the magazine. I want the magazine to look nice and crisp so that I can leave it out on the table and nonchalantly lure people over to look at it.

showscene1_490

Here we go – page 75, deep in the bowels of the Special Exhibits section. The title of this piece is Leaving Home: Launch of the Apollo 8. It’s one of a collection of art quilts in the Fly Me to the Moon exhibit, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight and humans’ first steps on the moon. That exhibit will be debuting at IQF Houston soon.

showscene2_490

My particular piece commemorates the moment when Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders first blasted away from the Earth and headed toward the moon. They orbited the moon ten times, then returned to the Earth. Although they didn’t get to land on the moon, they were the first to make this particular trip; their mission was important in terms of demonstrating its viability.

The piece was executed in watercolor on soy-sized cotton, then stitched. I wanted to evoke something of the spirit of the works of Ando Hiroshige.

This is only one of the pieces in the exhibit, of course. There are, I think, 176 pieces total in the collection, a portion of which will be at IQF. They have a diverse range of treatments ranging from the literal, to pop culture, to folk art.

One can see a few more in the friends@Festival eZine, a publication of Quilts, Inc. The article is also well worth reading for its interview with Susanne Miller Jones, the person who thought of the exhibit and has driven it.

Also debuting at IQF Houston: Odalisque with Squeak Toy, seen below. It’s supposed to be in the digital art category, so do say hello to it if you’re in the area.

odalisque490

Alas, I suspect it’s another of my pieces that no one will really “get”, at least in terms of understanding how the surface design was executed. On some level, that’s okay. People don’t necessarily have to understand how something was created in order to interact with it, like it, or dislike it. On the other hand, people often are curious about that sort of thing.

As a reminder, Odalisque involved things such as creating a computer-based 3D scene:Odalisque6

 

It also involved simulating the fall of the cloth throw that’s at the end of the chaise, “dropping” it and having my computer figure out what that would look like.

Odalisque15 Odalisque16 Odalisque17

Game Over involved similar activities, such as modeling the polar bear and the water it’s floating in:

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water

GameOverComp

When I recently received a judging sheet for Game Over, there were comments about thread tension and binding. This is standard for work I create, unless it wins an award, so I am sure that the sheet for Odalisque will have similar comments.

Here is how I feel after I’ve spent countless hours on a piece and I get back comments which totally disregard the surface design and whether the stitching compliments it, in favor of issues which are difficult to see except from the back:

Moving on … just finished this piece, Chaos Contained. It won’t be going to any shows, so get your fill of it here.

chaos1

I made it from a variety of bits and scraps, such as fabric and yarn tidbits. The stitching is eccentric and messy, and would utterly horrify the people who congregate at quilt shows and run their ungloved hands over the backs of display pieces.

chaos2

(Click image to embiggen.)

I like it, though. Good enough.

The Annual PIQF Post

Friday, October 14th, 2016

I saw this when I went to PIQF this morning:

brianpiqf490

I’ve been telling people it’s an award for not bleeding all over my work, but I think it’s actually for machine workmanship.

Awards aren’t everything. They’re a polite gesture on the part of the show, and I’m guessing the judges have just a few minutes to make a snap decision about what grabs them by the gut. Get a different judge or have the same people look at things on a different day, and somebody else would have gotten that ribbon. Maybe most of the works in the show deserve some kind of ribbon, because they have good heart and it took the creators some guts to put their work out there.

Nevertheless, this week I got lucky. I really appreciate it. I’ve been in the dumps this week, heaven only knows why. Maybe there isn’t a good reason, other than spending too much time staring into the open running sewer that’s the current presidential election campaign.

I could have gone to the show yesterday. The convention center is six miles from my house, so it’s not as though it’s an arduous drive. Instead, I stayed home and repaired the floor in one of the bathrooms, because nothing says glamour quite like crawling around by a toilet prying up wobbly floor tiles.

Anyhow, went today. Glad I did. Couldn’t stay long, because I’m nursing a mild sprain, but I managed to hobble around the show for an hour. (Bo-Nash lady, I’ll have to come back Sunday to hit you up for fusible powder. You were being nice telling the lady ahead of me all about Angelina fiber, but my ankle just hurt too damned badly to stand much longer.)

spectators

One thing I enjoy about shows is seeing how people interact with the work.

I have a couple of pieces in PIQF this year. One is the depressing, semi-apocalyptic piece on the righthand side of this photo, showing a plastic polar bear clinging to a plastic block of ice. The other is Why Knot.

Almost without exception, people tend to walk by the polar bear piece, Game Over, in favor of looking at Why Knot. That isn’t a knock on the viewers, by the way, but simply a statement of fact. Maybe the composition is just better, or maybe people relate better to children than they do to distressed polar bears who are about to drown.

Among those who look at Why Knot, there’s a group who look at it, smile, maybe study the workmanship, then move on. Then there’s the group who stop and actually read the knot names in the background. Once they do that, they’re usually stuck there for awhile. Let’s just say that I didn’t use standard knot names.

I’m not going to itemize all the work I saw at PIQF – there are plenty of other blogs that’ll do walkthroughs – but I did want to point out a few things that caught my eye.

unknown

The first is this work, whose name and creator I unfortunately didn’t record. Sunday. I’ll go find out Sunday, just before the show closes and I pick up my work, and I’ll post an update. Anyhow – lovely abstract of cheerful colors. Sucked me right in.

If memory serves, the artist is from the U.K.. That’s one of the things I appreciate about the Mancuso shows, the fact that they have a sampling of works created by people from outside the U.S.. The work is often stylistically a little different or depicts subject matter we don’t see over here, such as poppies for Anzac Day or swagmen hanging out with their faithful Blue Heelers. You see, I’m of the opinion that we don’t need walls built around the United States, either physically or metaphorically. We need to instead look outside our boundaries and wonder and learn. Most years, when I go through the entries from the World Quilt Show, I learn something that’s a little new to me, then I come home and learn a little more. Alright. End of that lecture.

cgriner

This piece caught my eye, Le Chat de Mondrian by Connie Kincius Griner. It’s a nice crisp, bold piece with a good heart. I like her background stitching. There’s just enough of it, and it’s large enough to make an interesting, discernible texture without competing with the foreground imagery.

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This quilt is The Three Watchers, by Kathryn Harmer Fox of South Africa. It’s a huge, monumental piece, 72 x 56”, and is all the more impressive when one takes a closer look at her stitching.

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Look at that. I’m going to guess that she’s free-motion stitching on a zig-zag setting, but maybe not. However it is that she’s achieved this effect, it’s given the work a wonderful organic, painterly quality.

knida

Here’s one of Kathy Nida’s works, Part Time Oasis. Always nice to see Kathy’s work in person. I’m going to note that it includes nudity yet, astonishingly, I didn’t see any viewers clutching at their pearls and calling news stations, or any horses getting startled and bolting. Perhaps it’s because we’re in Northern California. The place is probably lousy with aging hippies, and no doubt a few of them quilt. I think I even smelled musk or patchouli when I paid for my admission.

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Yuja, by Linda Anderson. She’s done a great deal with wonderful economy. Look at the marvelous, skilled base painting she’s did, and how expressive the waves of notes cascading around the piano are. I think she won Best Wall Quilt for this, and it was well deserved.

Also, not to change the subject, what is it with people wearing thigh-high stockings with short skirts or shorts? Is this a thing now? Am I just revealing that I’ve gotten past my sell-by date because I’m unfamiliar with this custom? I ran into another example of this yesterday; I’ll post it in a minute.

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Glimmer, one of Neroli Henderson’s lovely nudes. She’s done a number of photo-based nudes, printed on fabric and stitched.

Again – astonishingly – no one seemed particularly shocked or scandalized by the nudity.

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True Blue Mates, by Yvonne Chapman. She’s done a very nice job on this. She’s told a story of friendship with great economy.

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Look how she’s conveyed the water sort of bubbling over with the stitching she did around the rim of the billy can. That’s the kind of clever work she did throughout the piece. Oh, you say you can’t tell how nice it is because my photo kind of stinks? Alright. Come Sunday, I’ll see if I can hobble alllll the way to the back of the ballroom and get a better photo. Her workmanship deserves to be seen.

 

barista

So a minute ago – or, rather, a few paragraphs ago – I was grumping about the possible trend of people pairing thigh-high stockings with short skirts. This is where I first saw it, on a picture for a 3D model of a “trendy coffee shop barista outfit.” I’m guessing “trendy coffee shop” really means “Hooters with caffeine”, but perhaps that’s just the fuddy-duddy in me speaking.

I’ve been using more readymade 3D models lately, since I’ve been cranking out book covers that use a lot of human imagery. Oh, it’s not clear what I mean by a 3D model? Um, here. Maybe this’ll help:

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This is Michael 6, a Daz offering. Sadly, he has no privates. (Click the image to enlarge it, if you’d like to verify this for yourself.) He had a tragic encounter with a viewer at a quilt show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and that put an end to his aspiration of being able to digitally urinate while standing up.

I’ve usually made my own 3D models, as with the bear for Game Over and whatnot, but sometimes it turns out to be incredibly convenient to be able to download a model of a guy and pose him like I would a real human model. This is how I crank out tawdry book covers, for example.

Alas, some of the models get a little pricey. I’ve had my eye on the Scott 6 Pro Bundle, for example, but I just can’t bring myself to puke up $135 for the guy. He’s really dishy, though.

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Just look at him, holding his helmet. Oh yeah, Scott 6. You can hold my helmet any time.

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Here he is patrolling a subway car for manspreaders. I feel safer knowing that Scott 6 is out there with his digital gun, ready to shoot anyone who dares to use more than his fair share of seat space.

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He also moonlights doing surveillance, I guess. Ah, Scott 6. Is there anything you can’t do?

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It’s sad. I think I have a crush on a 3D model. However, it could be worse. I could have a thing for Harpoon Girl, who stands around in a bikini and a pair of stylized spats, thinking wistfully about stabbing fish.

Pulling Out Too Soon

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

One thing I’ve learned: if you create innovative, thought-provoking work, at some point somebody’s going to crap all over it. They’ll say things like “This is ugly; I want to see pretty” or “Somebody sure had a lot of time on their hands” or “You couldn’t pay me enough money to have that in my house.” It doesn’t matter how objectively good the work is. You can make a piece showing how people were transported on slave ships during the rum trade era, and somebody will whine about it because it made them think for a split second and their brains couldn’t handle it. I’ve seen it happen.

Works with nudity really get this treatment. If a piece includes nudity, real or imagined, somebody will have an apoplectic fit while they’re crapping on it. Sometimes, if the work is exhibited in a show, they’ll have their little fit all the way to the show’s organizers, then maybe hang out and wait for a TV news crew so they can be offended on camera. If they’re really good at being manipulative, they can scare the show’s organizers into taking the work down.

 

TFF

A few months back, I wrote an article on this type of thing. I interviewed Annabel Rainbow, Randall Cook, Kathy Nida, and a couple of other people who didn’t wish to be identified. Their stories of censorship are truly chilling.

The piece appears in Issue 122 of Textile Fibre Forum. I recommend checking it out, not only for their stories, but because TFF is a nice, crisp, high-quality publication. That issue also includes articles on the work of Grayson Perry, Charlotte Kruk, and others. Electronic back copies can be purchased on iTunes or via PocketMags.

 

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I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket, © Kathy Nida

Alas, censorship has reared its hysterical, pearl-clutching head again. One of my friends, Kathy Nida, just had work pulled from AQS Grand Rapids because a viewer THOUGHT she saw a penis in it. Here’s her blog entry. ***

I happen to know that the visitor didn’t see a penis. She didn’t see a penis, because there isn’t one. I’m posting a photo of the work for yourself, so you can verify that there is, in fact, no penis in it. That’s right. We’ve reached a new level of censorship – having work censored for something that isn’t there!

Based on this event, I think there’s some confusion about what a penis looks like. This worries me a little, because about half of all mammals have them. Chances are, no matter how sheltered you are, you’ve seen a penis. Dogs and horses don’t exactly walk around in tighty-whities, and most women have had husbands, boyfriends, or at least changed the occasional diaper.

However, I will concede that it’s possible this woman had never seen one, given the state of sex ed in Michigan’s school systems. Apparently it’s optional, and is given to things like pro-abstinence speakers.  Therefore, let’s have a little chat about what a penis looks like.

MrHappy

Mr. Happy

Here is a representative penis. I call it “Mr. Happy”. It’s a nice, non-threatening toilet paper holder and Kleenex dispenser that I made it for an art show a few years ago. I thought it was apt because it’s rendered in fiber. Maybe the AQS visitor was confused about what a penis looked like because she was looking at fiber-based artwork.

Mr. Happy depicts some of the standard characteristics of a real penis, such as being longer than it is wide and getting shorter and longer. (One adds and removes rolls of toilet paper to achieve that effect.) It even has furry testicles. I will admit, though, that the eyes are not true to life. If I saw eyes on a real penis, I’d probably flee as fast as my legs would carry me.

I hope that helps clarify things a little.

 

Show organizers, your censoring of works has gotten old. Real old. Even if the woman had seen a penis in Kathy’s artwork, so what? There’s been nudity in artwork for the past 50,000 years or so.

You know what I do when I see a piece I don’t like? I move those funny pink blobs at the bottoms of my legs and I walk past it. Personally, I found the picaninny quilt that was exhibited at PIQF a few years ago deeply offensive. And it won a prize. (Evidently it was a kit quilt, too – what a marvelous world we live in, when you can buy your very own kit for making racist quilts!)

Show organizers, you need to get clear on a few things.

What type of show are you running? 

Are you holding what’s essentially a bigger version of a county fair exhibit, where people gather and look at patchwork and say things like “Look, Paw! That shore is some plum purty stitchin’!”? Or are you going to support the growth of the medium into an art form? *

What type of work do you allow in your show?

Do you allow in artwork? Can the artwork include nudity, or just stuff like kitty-cats popping their heads out of pumpkins? How about you get real clear on your policy, and be up front with exhibitors like SAQA and the rest? **

What is your policy on pulling work out of the show? 

If it’s met your openly stated standards for being exhibited, are you going to do that? Are you going to pull work if someone complains about something imaginary? Are you going to deprive the rest of the paying visitors the right to see a piece of artwork simply because somebody else didn’t like it and didn’t have the self-control to walk by?

Allowing in artwork, then getting scared and pulling it when someone blanches and clutches at her pearls, isn’t working out. It’s bad for all of us.

Also, the next time someone threatens not to come back to your shows because of some damned thing she imagined, maybe just say “I’m sorry to hear that,” politely wish her well, and consider yourself lucky to not see her again.

 

* Edit: I now see that this paragraph implies that patchwork can’t be art, which isn’t true. However, I’ll let it stand, since that’s the way the majority of people have seen the post.

One of commenters also made a good point about my using “country speak” in a ridiculing manner. She’s right. Probably I shouldn’t have done that. On the other hand, “country speak” comes natural when you’re a first generation descendent of hillbillies and rednecks, and have used an outhouse more than a few times when visiting grandparents.

** Another clarification: I don’t want to revile AQS or any other show if they really don’t want to get in the business of displaying art. If art-lovers aren’t a key part of their business, so be it. But clearer guidelines would be useful for everyone.

*** Kathy has written a second blog entry which shows some of her base drawings and analyzes a variety of things which could be construed as penises. I think that from now on, whenever she has an umbilical cord in her work, I’m going to squint at it and refer to it as a penis.

 

Update as of Monday, 8/17: Per Kathy, “So AQS made the decision to pull my quilt I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket with the nonexistent penis from QuiltWeek in Chattanooga and Des Moines. They are now considering whether my other piece, Fully Medicated, which has zero complaints, should also be pulled (still no penis). Please let them know how you feel about either decision at the link below.

I am so disappointed and frustrated by their actions…please share this if you think it will help. I appreciate all your support…”

Here’s AQS’ contact form.

 

Beyond the Surface

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

 

 

postcardprstfrst_5x7_front

This exhibit is currently happening, a show of cool, innovative artwork by members of the Northern California branch of the Surface Design Association. It can be seen at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

The opening reception is tomorrow, January 10, from 1-4 P.M. Deborah Corsini, the juror, will be speaking. There will also be an artist walk-through. I have work in the show, so I’ll be around. Maybe I’ll even mumble a few words about my piece, which involves 3D/CGI and concerns polar bears drowning.

If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to see some cool, innovative artwork, be sure and stop by the museum sometime between now and February 28. SAQA’s Earth Stories exhibit is also currently at the museum, which makes for a nice “twofer”.

While others were at IQF Houston …

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Random photos spliced in throughout post …

WhyKnot

The big quilt show in Houston, IQF, is over. I learned that my piece, Why Knot? received third place in the digital category.

Immediately, of course, I began to see frank, dampening comments on blogs and mailing lists:

“Photo-realism wins the day in Houston. Frankly, I have never entered that show because, yes, I am a snob who considers it the same as a pipe and drape show, only larger. Art? Uh – no. Unoriginal work – yep. That eliminates all the artists I know.”

“… when I look at most of the other works my first reaction is ho hum… Yawn..boring.. same old, same old. I do not know what the others entries were but the winners are sadly without much interest.”

Sorry to hear that.

It’s true that IQF isn’t an art show per se. Although it does show some genuine artwork that happens to be made of fiber and is quilted, the show isn’t on the radar of the larger Art World, as far as I know. If it was, the “Husbands’ Lounge” (I assume that was still there this year?) or events like the costume contest or tiara parade would knock it clean away.

It is, however, enormously popular and many people love to go there, or dream of doing so. It provides an enjoyable escape where people can browse, admire others’ workmanship or artistry, do a spot of shopping, and bask in the font of natural beauty that is downtown Houston. Many people make a week or weekend of it, staying in hotels, eating out, and socializing.

IQF Houston is the world’s largest quilt show. I aspire to create work that is original and interesting (see comments above), and I like having my work in bonafide art shows. However, I also just plain like to have my work seen. It’s nice to have my work on display at the world’s largest quilt show, where fifty or sixty thousand people attend, and I appreciate receiving an award. As my husband frequently tells me, “Not everything is curing cancer.”

Itt

This is Serious Art. Give me money now.

Art – sculpture, painting, fiber, you name it – is not a meritocracy. There is no governing body looking to see whether, say, an entrant is re-rendering borrowed or stock photography without acknowledging the original sources. There are no absolute rules about what does or does not constitute art, and whether or not something is decent. There are no overseers looking over the entire universe of work and saying “Well, yours is the best. Here; have some publicity, some accolades, and a bag of money.”

What there does seem to be is a great deal of posturing. People joining organizations with the word “art” in the name and jockeying for position. “Hooray! These people, who coincidentally need membership fees in order to keep their organization afloat, have designated me a Professional Studio Artist and juried me into their organization!” People writing reviews of shows on their blogs, including only their cronies, and sort of not mentioning the fact that their own quilt was hung upside down and they didn’t notice for an hour. People writing pompous opinions of what does or does not constitute Real Art. People having vicious arguments on mailing lists, or hosting exhibits in which they’ve glued fabric on ancient AOL disks and have strung the disks together with fishing line. “It’s a synthesis of technology and tradition!” “Check out my latest piece! I coated teddy bears with house paint, laid them on fabric, then ran over them with the steam roller I keep handy!”

pumpkin

More Serious Art.

Here is what I’ve learned: with few exceptions, nobody cares. Nobody is watching. There are many, many people creating artwork, and most of them are busy doing their own thing. We have to take care of ourselves. If we’re lucky, we get to connect with a few other people and we get to appreciate others’ work.

Do whatever it is you like. In a hundred years, it won’t matter one way or another. Exhibiting in Houston or not exhibiting in Houston probably isn’t going to affect one’s art career. If one is born female and one’s medium is fiber, chances are there isn’t going to be worldwide recognition from the Real Art World anyhow.

One of the things I like is having my work seen. One of my series is comprised of portraits of my son in various situations, both real and imaginary. It isn’t on par with Wyeth’s Helga series, but the boy and I enjoy collaborating and we both get a kick out of seeing his portraits published or exhibited. That’s the majority of my work now, while he’s young and enjoys it. If my work is shown at Houston, I can figure on 50,000-60,000 people attending. Of those, I can estimate maybe 25,000 will walk down the aisle with my work and maybe half of those will take a good look, and hopefully enjoy it or get a giggle. That’s 10,000-15,000 people I got to share some joy or a joke with. That’s probably far more than saw my work when it toured with Quilt National, much as I treasured that experience.

Alas, I wasn’t able to go to Houston this year. Actually, I could have gone but didn’t. My husband would have bent over backwards to watch our kid for a few days. Unfortunately, barring one of those statistically unlikely “Drop everything; you’ve won a top prize!” situations, going just isn’t practical when one has a kid.

cookies

These will no doubt get me barred from providing class cookies in the future.

IQF Houston often occurs around Halloween, you see. I’m going to go out on a limb and state that their target market is largely comprised of people with empty nests – women, middle-aged to elderly. They’re mostly white, mostly conservative. Not entirely, mind you; I always see a few men and some younger people when I’m at a show, and I don’t mean to imply that quilt shows are trying to exclude non-whites. The demographics may also skew depending on the region of the country. But mostly, when I go to a quilt show, that’s who I see: middle-aged to elderly women who probably don’t have kids at home. People who don’t need to worry about staying home for Halloween.

Cupcakes

These cupcakes went to a party.

Cupcakes2

These cupcakes stayed home.

The Festival is wildly popular and, I assume, wildly profitable. The people who run it have quite a bit of practice and know what works for them and most of their attendees. It doesn’t work for me, though, and probably won’t for the foreseeable future.

For example, going to the Winners’ Circle celebration on a Tuesday involves a day of flying, hurrying to the convention center, then having the next day wasted because exhibits don’t open until Thursday. The last time I tried it, my intestines were coiling up and threatening to spring out of my body during the award ceremony.

WiiMote

WiiMote costume

It would have been nice to have seen the show this year, but on balance I’m glad I didn’t go. I would have missed my son’s Halloween party, school party and costume parade, zombie dance number with his Cub Scout troop, and of course, Halloween. Kids grow up. There are a limited number of years when one can bake cookies for parties or make Wii controller costumes.

Thriller

My kid is the one with the cone on his head. Of course.

The Festival will simply have to wait a few years.

goody

Making goody bags for Halloween, part of my master plan for clearing excess junk and craft supplies out of the house.

goody2

PIQF 2015

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

PIQF1

I went to PIQF today. It’s a decent-sized show which takes place in a convention center about five miles from my house, so I look forward to it each year.

Unfortunately, it didn’t hit me right today. I don’t know whether I was in an odd frame of mind, so I wasn’t as receptive to the exhibits as usual, or whether the general level of work just wasn’t as good as in years past. After an hour or so, I had a decided feeling of “meh” and left. I’ll take another look at the exhibits on Sunday and see whether I feel differently. Maybe I’m being harsh. I hate to be overly judgmental about work people have poured their hearts and souls into.

That said, there were several artists whose work I greatly admired.

Else1

Susan Else was one of them. I’ve been internet-stalking her for years, hoping to get a chance to attend a lecture or class held by her. PIQF had a special exhibit of her work, including the skeletal family above. Despite my statement of “meh” above, simply seeing a display of Susan’s work is worth the price of admission, and I’m so grateful to the Mancusos for slotting her in.

I’d show more photos of her work, but it’s really better to visit her website or buy some of her postcards. Come to think of it, I should have bought some of her postcards today! If she’s around on Sunday, I’ll do that.

 

Loughman1

Gloria Loughman‘s work is another treat.

Loughman2

Aren’t the bold, crisp lines of Loughman’s work lovely and designerly, as is her contrast of warm and cool colors?

 

Watson1

One of the aspects of PIQF I look forward to each year is the traveling World Quilt Show exhibit, which includes entries from around the planet. As I once told a border control agent, who was asking me why I was visiting his country, “I want to see and learn about things that aren’t American.” I find that the style of the works from overseas can be quite different, and I find that refreshing.

The triptych above, Cathedrals, Castles & Ruins, is from Camilla Watson of New Zealand.

Watson2

In her artist’s statement, she tells us that each panel is created from photos taken during her travels. That’s a neat way to display one’s travel photos, isn’t it?

 

Grassroots

This wall hanging, Energy of Fire, was made by the Grassroots Guild of South Africa. It was inspired by the works of the glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Grassroots2

Here’s a closeup of one of the panels. It isn’t unusual for artists to be inspired by another artist and explore that person’s work by, say, copying it or by stitching over a photo printed onto fabric. I have to compliment this group for instead taking it to another level, interpreting the works of Chihuly in a fresh, energetic way and creating something new and unique.

 

Henderson1

Coco, by Neroli Henderson of Australia. This is a very tactile work which captures the personality of the artist’s sweet-faced Bichon Frise.

Henderson2

Around the portrait, we can read a bit of Coco’s biography. This bit about her having had twenty puppies grabbed my eye. Anyone who’s had even one child gets a pang of sympathy at that thought!

 

Tang

Mega Postage Stamp, made by Betty Tang of San Francisco. “A seven year journey and over 10,000 pieces”, the artist’s statement tells us. This strikes me as the fiber equivalent of making a Buddhist sand painting, the sort of thing which drives one to strong drink.

Tang2

A close up of a section of Tang’s work. She is made of sterner stuff than me.

 

Jones

Some of the best design work was in the Wicked exhibit, an array of squares in black and lime green. Jacamar Eye, above, was made by Elaine Jones.

 

Dinelli

She: A Self-Portrait by Lynn Dinelli. Boy, do I relate. That’s the face I see pretty much every morning when I get up.

 

Brown

Here’s my thing, The Thief. The lights in the convention center killed it, utterly sucked the life out, plus it looks like crap with the bend at the top from hanging. You’d think I’d remember that and increase the contrast in my work to compensate, but I never do.

Some of the bad from PIQF:

No work from Charlotte Kruk, or if there was some, I didn’t see it. I’ll look again on Sunday. Charlotte makes the most amazing examples of wearable art I’ve ever seen, painstakingly pieced together from the packaging left from consumables. I first fell in love with her work when she displayed a matador’s suit of lights some years ago; it was made from M&M wrappers which she’d beaded and sewn together. Since then, I’ve looked for her work each year. It’s one of the key reasons I go to PIQF.

No work from Kathy Nida, either. One of her figures is in SAQA’s Oasis exhibit, which was to be at PIQF. It wasn’t, though. Heaven only knows where it is … maybe on a truck or a loading dock somewhere. I was bummed.

However, there was work from someone from my past.

Years ago, I took a paper-piecing class. I was young, dewy, and still had a waistline then, working in a menial capacity at a job which didn’t pay beans.

One of the unstated requirements of the job was enduring repeated sexual harassment. I didn’t know how to handle it at that time. After all, hadn’t my father drilled it into my skull that “those gals” who complained about that kind of stuff were usually exaggerating? Therefore, I really didn’t know what to do when I landed in a work environment where one of the men I worked for liked to undress and hang out in his office with the door open. (That was in addition to the poster on his office door, which showed a nude female torso done up as a face, and the gynecologically detailed posters in the tool crib where I went to inventory parts.) Later there would be verbal invitations and harassment of a physical nature. It was not just from one person, either.

I sought others’ advice. I sought advice at home, where I was told that I “must be doing something to cause it”. I sought advice from a friend, who told me “You just tell them that we don’t do that kind of thing back in Texas!” Finally, feeling utterly alone and running out of places to turn, I asked the quilting instructor what she would do. Please keep in mind that this was a person who was very proud of a quilt/traveling exhibit she’d spearheaded about the struggles of women around the world.

She bridled, informed me that her husband worked at the same place, that the people there were very nice and professional, and that no such thing could be happening to me. It was incredibly painful, one more insult piled on top of the nightmare in which I dwelled at that time.

Now, of course, I wouldn’t take my problems to random people, but at the time I was quite alone and quite desperate. Although my problems really weren’t hers to solve, she could have avoided accusing me of lying. It would be an understatement to say that I formed a lasting, negative opinion of her. And, although I generally try to be open-minded or accepting of others’ work, I’m afraid that I get great pleasure from looking at hers and thinking “My work is quite a bit better than yours.” Also, I inwardly hiss like a movie vampire exposed to sunlight.

Oh – and in case there’s some young, dewy creature out there who isn’t quite sure how to handle harassment, here are some of my personal take-aways:

  • Don’t be surprised if the company/organization doesn’t address the issue, particularly if there’s a power imbalance between you and the harasser.
  • Thoroughly document the situation.
  • Be direct and matter-of-fact, even if it feels uncomfortable.
  • When harassers proceed to touching or, say, laying on top of one while one is working, smashing them in the face with a flashlight does wonders. So does a knee in the crotch. Profanity and very loud yelling are also good.
  • If someone implies that the harassment is your fault, unless they reverse their attitude pretty quickly, they don’t need to be in your life. That includes boyfriends, spouses, and relatives.
  • There are environments in which even a broom dressed in a skirt would experience harassment. This doesn’t make it right or mean one should accept it, though.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

Nice news

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

This is nice. The latest edition of Textile Fibre Forum is out. It has a profile of Annabel Rainbow with, yes, some photos of the matter-of-fact, unsalacious nudes which many magazines are too immature and squeamish to print. It also includes a fascinating article on curation by Brenda Gael Smith, a profile of Denise Lithgow, and a shot of one of my pieces over in the reader gallery.

Rainbow

Reader

Me me me me me me me. My work my work my work.

The Australians have a nice tradition of fiber art, much of which we unfortunately don’t see in the U.S., so Textile Fibre Forum is refreshing and a delight. Neroli Henderson recently became editor of the magazine, and her hard work is evident.

I haven’t had much luck finding Textile Fibre Forum on newsstands here in the U.S. Fortunately, it’s available on the iTunes store for a pittance, about the same amount I’d pay for a venti caramel latte at Starbucks. That, plus the fact it’s free of calories and cholesterol, make it a pretty guilt-free treat. I believe it’s also available on the Android store.

 

WhyKnot

This piece, Why Knot?, will be at IQF Houston next month. I’ve received some nice news about it. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the trip to be present on awards night. I’m very happy for whatever award it receives, though, as well as for the other people who have work in the show. I’m sorry I won’t be there to celebrate and view the exhibits.