Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Adrienne Der Marderosian

I love the Internet for the connections that it brings. I was thrilled when I received an email from Adrienne Der Marderosian who also had work in the ARC Gallery exhibition Home. In my post about the show and opening, I was not able to get a decent enough photograph of her work and now I get to share them (the first two images were at ARC). She lives in Massachusetts so could not attend the opening. We all know how unpredictable Chicago's winters can be.

 Adrienne shared, "When I saw the call for submissions for the ARC's exhibition Home, I was interested in applying as the curators broadened the traditional definition of  "home" to include homelessness and the refugee crisis. My current body of work investigates how migration to a new homeland affects one's psychological, social and cultural identity so it seemed a good fit." It was also Adrienne's first time entering ARC. I feel like I have met a kindred spirit.  




I am also thrilled that I get to share with you her artist statement for her series. As I shared in my post concerning the exhibition, I wish that there had been an opportunity to read the artist statements because I love learning more about the person's thoughts on her work.  Finding out that Adrienne is Armenian gave me even more insight because I curated and traveled an exhibition of thirteen quilts from Gee's Bend, Alabama, to three different cities in Armenia. While in Yerevan, I visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum which is dedicated to a time in Armenian history (1915-1923) where the Turks tried to exterminate Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. It was estimated that two million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire and one and a half million of them were killed including women and children and the rest were exiled. Images from the museum will stay with me for the rest of my life.  

  

My memory is
the history of time.

Charles Olson

This series of works, entitled Tattoo Trails II, explores the relationship between memory and identity.  As an artist of Armenian descent, I carry a history that embodies not only my past but that of my ancestors as well.  My families’ stories of survival are not only rich and textured but also complex and traumatic.  Their collective history has led me to consider how exiles that are separated from their homeland navigate their lives.  How does migration affect them psychologically? Do immigrants face feelings of alienation, isolation and displacement? How are their cultural identities impacted by their separation from their homeland?

Throughout my work, I investigate these questions and challenge the viewer to consider the strength and endurance of the human spirit.
  
This series is based on a video still by Edwin Wurm, 1995/96.
  
Adrienne Der Marderosian
2016

I you would like to know more, you can read an inspiring interview, here. I love that you also get to see her studio.  Do you agree that learning more about an artist enriches your understanding? 



Sunday, January 1, 2017

She Flies with Her Own Wings

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but the inward significance.  - Aristotle

 I love the new year and the feeling of a fresh start. 2017 is starting off nicely for me as my sculpture "She Flies with Her Own Wings" was accepted in the the Tall Grass Gallery's "Wings" show that opens on January 21. I am three for three with dipping my toe into entering gallery shows. I still cannot believe it. this time I am one of 45 artists that were selected. I cannot wait to see the exhibit. 

This was my first attempt at a large sculpture and I was not at all sure I could get it to work. I just kept plugging along having faith it would all work out. I marvel at ceramic artists because there are so many things that can and do go wrong with this medium. Different clays shrink differently and even the placement in the kiln can effect what happens. I was amazed that the wings fit perfectly especially since the body was sightly over fired. The over firing also caused my matte glaze to become shiny. Sometimes you just have to accept what the kiln gods give you.  I found the flocked sticks online. The piece is 47-inches tall and sits in a corner in my family room. 

In thinking about what I want to accomplish this year, this sculpture does sum it up. I want to concentrate this year on creating and taking risks. I want to be fierce with keeping the focus on art. It will be a challenge, but one that I am ready to undertake. What do you want to accomplish this year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Quilting and Sacred Threads

"Missing" 28" w x 34" h
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I have been asked by several people if I have given up making quilts. Of course not. I do not think I could ever give up making things in fiber and remember I have never just done quilts. I have been working on a new quilt "Missing" for Sacred Threads. The background is a small painting that I had created into fabric. Originally I thought I would just create a quilt with it, but when it arrived, it did not feel right. I had a "ah ha" moment when I decided to make a quilt with chairs. Food and gatherings have always been a huge part of my life and with the loss of so many family members and friends these last few years I thought about the how to express the loss--a theme that seems to be a focus of so much of my artwork--and decided on empty chairs. I even quilted one in the background. Now I need to write 100 words about the quilt. By the way, the deadline has been extended to January 4 so you still have time. 

"Feeling Blue" 12" w x 17" h
Since I can enter two quilts for the entry fee, I decided to also enter "Feeling Blue." This quilt has more to do with dealing with feeling "not enough" and hence, depressed. And even though I do get depressed, I always remain hopeful which I also hope this piece expresses.

If you do not know about Sacred Threads, I strongly suggest you check it out even if you cannot enter at this time. It began in 1999 as an exhibition that dealt with spirituality and inspiration. "The show does not emphasize any particular religion or theology but conveys the spirituality, healing and inspirational messages that transcend all people." The shows use to be in Ohio and were run by the founders Vikki Pignatelli and Wendy Bynner. They handed over the reins in 2009 to Lisa Ellis and friends. The show now takes place in the Washington, D.C. area.   Pieces from the show also travel. I did not entered the last show in 2015, but both my quilts that I entered in 2013 traveled which was gratifying.  

I do think it is time to make something with a lighter theme! What themes do you repeat in your work?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Tale of Two Quilts

Women derive a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle. 
― Nathaniel HawthorneThe Scarlet Letter


When my first born requested a quilt, he asked for a "real" one, which meant hand pieced and hand stitched. He grew up watching me bring quilts to soccer, baseball, track and cross country meets where I was either hand piecing or hand quilting. Don't tell him but it was to help me keep my sanity. He wanted a very traditional quilt made in earth tones and so that is what he got. He took the quilt to college with him. I was touched that it was something he insisted upon taking. When his best friend spilled soup on it and asked,"What's the big deal? It's just a blanket," he did not speak to her for a week. Just a few years later, his dog Fletch would eat a hole through it and my offers to repair it went unheeded. I suspect it has been thrown away and while this saddens me, it's just a thing. 

When my second son asked for a quilt, he wanted a contemporary one done in black and white. He choose Karen Stone's paper pieced "Spinning Stars" pattern. When I kept sneaking in other colors, he put his hands on his hips and said, "You just cannot follow rules, can you?" Only later to admit that he really liked that the quilt was not just black and white. 
He is a minimalist by choice. He does not wish to own things but got quite distressed when his quilt started crocking. I will admit to being surprised since I used a Kaufman black, but nothing lasts forever. So I have been doing repair something I do not find particularly exciting and it reminds why I gave up quilt restoration many years ago. It always takes more time than expected. I am surprised that the metallic thread I used to quilt it has held up so well. No breaking or problems. I just figured out that the quilt is 17 years old. Time certainly flies. I suspect more repairs will be in its future until it simply cannot be repaired anymore. Have you repaired a quilt that you have made?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Black or White: You Decide


Opinions are like belly buttons; everybody has one. I never knock a man for his opinion.   

-Shaquille O'Neal


It is interesting that I can have the same conversation with different people over the course of a few days. This time it concerned white backgrounds. "Art needs to be on white backgrounds." "Everything looks better on white backgrounds." I was struck by the passion that went into these statements. "Museum walls are white, so that proves my point." Except I know this is not true. The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago has brightly colored walls and it works. "Black backgrounds on websites suck." I don't particularly like black backgrounds on websites, but one would be hard pressed to say that Apple did not do an outstanding job with their Mac Pro website. I will say that black background sites, do get my attention in part because they are now rare. I remember when they were the rage. My problem with black background websites is that it takes my eyes time to adjust to reading the white text. ClaySpace Ceramic Arts Center has a photography booth with a gradation background- it goes from black to grey to white. Sometimes I like the look and other times it just doesn't work for my artwork, but I know that it is a preference for many of the artists there. They simply do not like a solid colored background.

A friend asked me to photograph some snake skin (Yep, I own snake skin. I found it in my yard more than 20 years ago.) for an art project (sketching) that she had in mind. After seeing the snake skin on black, she asked for it with white so I decided to use these photographs for this blog post.  While I like the composition of the white backgrounded photograph, I prefer the snake skin on the black background.  There is a right or wrong answer. So which one do you like? Do you always use a white background when photographing your work?  What is your favorite background?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Should Art Be Explained: Thoughts on "Home"

Best of Show
Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make. -John Cage

I have been thinking about "Home" at the ARC Gallery since attending the opening. There were had that I loved and pieces I just did not get.  I attended the opening with Barbara L. Wester and I am so thankful that I did. It was good to discuss the art with someone. And maybe I should not have been surprised (I was) that we both had the same opinions!

Neither of us got how the Best of Show related to "home." I know art is suppose to speak for itself. I also know that when I encounter a piece or an artist I want to know more-- thought process, life, etc. When the judges spoke about their process for selection and talked about some of the pieces of art, they did not talk about the Best of Show at all. My favorite part of the evening was listening to the artists talk about their work. Knowing that the painting of the playground by Anitra Frazier was inspired by a photograph her father took. The video "I Need a Hug" dealt with his parents divorcing. I wish the gallery had provided at least a binder filled with info on the artists and their statements about the work.

The jurors, Trevor Martin and Asha Veal Brisebois, did speak at the opening and a written statement from them was available. For them, it was important to include as many different mediums and points of view as possible.  They did not want to just have photographs or paintings. While Trevor was asked to be the juror, he wanted to provide a learning experience for a student so Asha became a juror. He said that he appreciated having someone to discuss the art with and that they did not always agree.



From the Jurors:

"Home may be defined in a variety of ways: as a place of residence, a place where one flourishes, a congenial or familiar setting, a place of origin, a family unit, even a finishing point in a race.

Home can also be a contested site, marked by monetary, physical, and emotional economies, family histories, and threats from both without and within.

So often, home is defined in relation to others, amid complex equations of community--how one is included, excluded, allowed to speak, be spoken for, how one is welcomed or not, and how power and agency flows through this social fabric. As jurors, these notions of community have been on our minds over a course of recent weeks. How can we, as cultural agents, define and redefine community?

Like-minded souls and communities are not defined by borders, colors, or even languages. This is something we always believed in, and now stand by even more boldly. We are proud that The Home Show represents so many artists, exemplifying the great society that we call home, and the fierce intelligence, creativity, and generosity of multicultural communities, and societal leaders through the arts.

The work of artists---as makers, as provocateurs, as critical thinkers--has felt so important all along and now feels even more urgent and expansive.

In our individual homes, families may have tow mothers, two fathers, or one of each. The neighbor next door is Black, Chinese, Columbian, or Irish American. Some neighbors visit other nations, and we are glad to know one another., occupying the same space, now as countrymen and also as friends.

Welcome to our home. Believe in and work toward this place."


Newbold Bohemia's piece was selected to publicize the exhibition. Newbold considers herself to be a "photographic artist." Both Barbara and I liked this piece. Both of us were bothered that the telephone did not appear to be plugged in. I guess for us the details matter.


I am familiar with Kathleen Eaton's work. She is a Chicago artist.  Her piece Twilight was displayed behind the gallery desk so it was next to impossible to see it up close and personal. This piece did not speak to me even though I am impressed by how well it is painted. I like her urban landscapes so much better. I encourage you to check them out.

Adrienne Der Marderosian's collages were quite interesting. The two pieces had the same images but one had more detail and the other was faint. They were only approximately 5" x 7" framed. Sorry I don't have a photograph but the lighting did not allow for a good photo.

One of my favorite pieces was a book, Faucet, by Sally Schluter Tardella. Unfortunately, only a small portion of the book could be seen and while there is a small photo of the book on her website there is no detail. I did peek at the other side and of course, it was the side that most interested me. It was full of writing and anyone reading my blog knows I love the written word on things. This piece has inspired me to try a codex book.


Barbara and I also both liked this painting of a bar scene. I feel terrible that I did not get the artist's name. It reminded me of a Edward Hopper's Nighthawk. 



Sara Allen Prigodich's piece, Wait, was tucked in a corner at the front of the gallery. It was nice to see a piece of ceramic art being included. I like that while it appears to be soft, it is actually hard.

If you are in or near Chicago, I encourage you to visit the gallery and see the show. I would love to hear your thoughts.  Once again I am reminded how subjective art is and that I am grateful that we are not all the same.

In my conversation with Asha, she asked me where I consider home after I shared that I had lived in a lot of different places. I did not have an immediate answer. I have concluded that home for me is family and not a place. Where do you consider home?







Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Night that I Will Not Soon Forget--Going for a Dream

Last night was the opening of "Home" at the ARC Gallery in Chicago. It was almost a surreal experience. I learned that more than 400 pieces of art were submitted and 36 were accept. When I went to visit my piece, "Mirage: Not Always as It Seems," I discovered that I was one of four honorable mentions. There are also one best of show. If as the evening could not get better, one of the board members approached me about applying for membership in the gallery because my piece was her favorite and she was thrilled when it was accepted. She also liked the other piece I submitted and felt if this indicated the type of work that I do that I would be most welcomed into the gallery. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I am still processing it all. And, yes, I am considering applying because it scares me and I haven't done enough things that frighten me.

I thought I would share the other piece I submitted. I have been creating a series of dresses in cloth, clay, resin and paper. "Not in This Body" has to do with women and transgenders who do not feel at home in their own bodies. I was so proud of myself for actually being able to create barbed wire out of clay and successfully getting it out of the kiln in one piece.

"Mirage: Not Always as It Seems" deals with home not always being a safe place but the outside world does not know this. It's a deeply personal piece so having it accepted then acknowledge by the judges - Trevor Martin (Director of Exhibitions and Associate Curator at the School of the Art Institute) and Asha Veal Brisebois (graduate student in art administration and policy student at School of the Art Institute Chicago)- is beyond words for me. My parents never embraced my desire to create art. They thought I should become a teacher or a secretary. Seeing the world differently was something that made them uncomfortable. Deciding it was time to risk more has paid off more than I ever imagined. What risk have you taken that has paid off more than you imagined?