Saturday, December 9, 2017

8 x 8 in 8

Art replaces the light that is lost when the day fades, the moment passes, the evanescent extraordinary makes it quick silver. Art tries to capture that which we know leaves us, as we move in out of each other's loves, as we all must eventually leave this earth. Great artists know that shadow, work against the dying light, but always knowing that the day brings new light and that the ocean which washes away all traces on the sand leaves us a new canvas with each wave.  -Elizabeth Alexander, The light of the World, a memoir

When my friend Barbara suggested that we do an quick art project a day and then share it, I was all in. I loved when I made my 8-minute collages (the time it took my oatmeal to cook). After some back and forth, we decided to create 8-minute collages that were 8" x 8." And so each morning for a month, we created. Some days were easy and others I struggled. I really believed since I had done this before, I would not have any problems.  Wrong! I limited mine to whatever was on my work space plus one box of scrap paper. I loved playing with used tea bags and using my stencils. The days that I struggled had to do with overthinking. I also noticed as time moved on my collages got simpler. I highly recommend projects of this kind. If you can find someone to do it with you, it keeps you honest and it helps create a habit. I will share a few more of my collages next week. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Swedish Death Cleaning and More

It's your road, and yours alone. Others my walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. - Rumi

A few months ago, I read an article about Swedish death cleaning, dostadning. Move over Marie Kondo! I do think this will be the next big thing. Margarta Manusso, the author of "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" will not be available in the U.S. until January, but it has already had a huge impact on my life. Margareta suggests that people focus on simplifying their lives beginning at 65 until you are living with just a few items upon your death thus freeing your children. I am not 65, but I think the time is now for me. My friend Barbara has also been caught up in getting rid of things that no longer are useful or bring joy. 

Margareta feels we should not leave our children to deal with our stuff. My dad made that promise after dealing his guardian's estate. Alas, he did not and I spent hours shredding years and years of old, really old bills. For me, getting rid of things has been a process that has been occurring for years. As an artist, I think it is even tougher, especially now that I am taking things my mom and dad saved and turning it into art. However, I do want to live more simply. I want to have as much joy as I can and so I know this is a process that has a destination.

I am also reading "The Light of the World: a memoir" by Elizabeth Alexander. It is beautifully written prose about the unexpected death of her husband. It is making me cry--a lot. And yet, it is also helping move beyond my losses. She pays her husband's cell phone bill for 18 months because she does not want to loose the text messages. I have not deleted dead friends numbers from my phone even though many are disconnected. And as I write all of this, I realize I am ready to move on.

I want to thank the Northwest Suburban Quilters Guild. They are one of the most caring, wonderful group of quilters I have ever encountered. They helped me renew my love of teaching. I cannot wait to see what the group creates. You have my deepest gratitude.

I want to close with my thoughts on the term one-size-fits-all when it comes to life, art. It plants the idea of "one way-ness," when for most things in life there are many, many ways to achieve, measure and value the things we do. My way might be a good fit for some people, but how can just one size really be considered a viable for all? Your thoughts?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Living, Grieving and Creating

"Hope After Sorrow"
We are going to suffer. 
Ant it is going to shape us
We will become bitter or better,
closed or open,
more ignorant or more aware,
more or less tuned in to the thousands of 
gifts we are surrounded with 
every single moment
of every single day. --Rob Bell

I have not posted for a long time and yet, I cannot remember a time when I have been more creative. The ideas just keep flowing out of me as if I am possessed. If you have read my blog, you know that in 2013, I had nine friends and my mother-in-law die. My dad died the following spring. The death of family and friends has continued. This year my friend of more than 20 years died unexpectedly and my cousin Sandy died from cancer. Sandy was convinced until the end that she could beat it. I suspect that Marti might have given up. I have inherited her UFOs and slowly finishing them and finding places to donate them. I do not think I will ever stop grieving, but I also know that if not now, when? 

And so I have given myself permission to explore whatever I my heart desires whether it is assemblage, printing, collage, quilting, etc. I continue to explore "why do we keep the things that we do?" My mother sent me my great aunt's nursing school apron from the late 1930s. I have been turning it into a piece of art. I have also been entering and getting into gallery shows and admit that every success is a surprise and also encouraging.  For months, I have been exploring eco dyeing and pretend I am a mad scientist. I have made more than 50 napkins because they are fun and my grandchildren adore them. I say, "I love you" often and with meaning. I hope you do too. I spend Fridays once a month creating with my friend, Barbara Wester, and feel truly blessed that she is in my life. Art heals. Art has saved me.  I thought I could walk away from this blog and just concentrate on creating, but alas, it is important to me even if no one reads it. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

What Am I? Chopped Liver?

My goal is to be filthy rich:
Rich in knowledge,
Rich in adventure,
Rich in laughter,
Rich in health,
Rich in family,
Rich in love.

I have been extremely lucky lately with getting into gallery shows. My latest was Fantastic Fibers at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky (runs until June 17). More than 300 artist entered and 38 were accepted including me. My piece Gathering Stillness was my entry. It was the 30th anniversary of the show so I decided to attend the opening (April 22). It was a nearly 7 hour drive. I am thankful that I had handwork to do in the car and that my husband agreed to go with me. The weather was rainy and cold. There was not much going on since quilt festival did not begin until the 26. We arrived a little early and I identified myself as one of the artists and the person's reaction was, "Oh, then I don't need to tell you anything." Okay, not the reaction I was expecting, but I was there to see the art and hopefully meet people. I kept trying to figure out if there were any other artists present when Pat Owoc approached me. We had a delightful conversation then went looking for other artists. Pat expressed exactly what I was feeling, "Why don't we have name tags?" Once we connected with the other artists present, they too had the same thought. Marianne Williamson  had traveled all the way from Miami, Anita Cooke (won an award) from New Orleans and Roxanne Lasky drove from South Carolina. Roxanne took lots of photos so do check out her website. I bought the catalog because I always feel funny about taking photos where there is one. Silly me. Anyway, I have been to five openings this year where I have had work in the show and only one (Tall Grass Gallery) has had name tags and purposely acknowledged and encouraged the people attending to interact with the artists present. I do not get it. I love talking to artists. I want to know all about the work that they created and why. I was touched when Pat said, "Please tell me about your piece." I bought the catalog so that I could read the artist statements. Most of the galleries did not even have artist statements available. So my question is, don't you want to met the artists? Would meeting the artist have any impact on your purchasing the work? 

And don't get me wrong, I am thankful that I went. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thoughts on Assemblage

Remnants of Everyday Life
I don't think outside the box; I think of what I can do with the box. 
                                             -Albert Einstein

Well my run of getting into gallery exhibitions has come to an end. While it is disappointing, I am continuing to push myself to enter. I have to say that I really thought my piece "Remnants  of Everyday Life" fit the prospectus perfectly for "Common Objects." I am looking forward to attending the opening. 

I do not know why it has taken me so long to embrace making assemblages. As a child I was fascinated by Joseph Cornell's (1903-1972) boxes that were on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. And even as an adult, I always stop by and visit them.

Cornell  is one of the earliest assemblage artists with his work placed in shadow boxes. He had no formal art training and he did not attend college. It wasn't until the 1940s that he started making any significant money from his artwork. He had a fear of strangers and never married. He had a passionate, but platonic, relationship with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama while she was living in New York in the mid-1960s.  Kusama is an interesting person and artist on her own. She is still making art at 87! If you don't know her work, check it out. I love how her clothes match her artwork.

Exploring Pinterest, I discovered the assemblage work of Hannelore Baron (1926-1987) . Unlike Cornell's boxes which invite us into a personal and idiosyncratic universe, Hannelore's boxes are damaged, sealed and forbidding. We are unsure of the exact contents. She escaped from Nazi Germany and ended up in New York. She is also a self-taught artist who was highly successful. I was thrilled when I discovered her. 

Cornell influenced Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008). Rauschenberg created his "combines" series (1954-1964) "using found objects in random juxtaposition in order to unleash the unconscious mind by free association." I do not worry about people's unconscious mind when viewing my work, but this quote has made me think.

I can still remember being in some heated debates over The Bed, one of Rauschenberg's first "combines," by quiltmakers who did not like how he used a quilt. I thought it interesting and elevated quilts. I was more annoyed that the quilt is often referred to as a "blanket." From MOMA's Learning site, "Legend has it that these are Rauschenberg's own pillow and blanket, which he used when he could not afford to buy a new canvas. Hung on the wall like a traditional painting, his bed, still made, becomes a sort of intimate self-portrait consistent with Rauschenberg's assertion that 'painting relates to both art and life... [and] I try to act in that gap between the two.'"

To be clear, I do not think my work holds a candle to the artists I have shared with you today. And it wasn't until I began putting my assemblages together that I realized how much the fascination of certain artists from my youth are now providing me with not only inspiration but courage. 

I have had conversation after conversation with friends about how our children have no interest in our "stuff."  My assemblages are filled with family "stuff" that was passed down to me or I dug out of the trash. I wonder why these items were kept while others with thrown or given away. Remnants is full of these items.  Robert's (my father's legal guardian) last pair of glasses. My grandfather's shaving brush. Why did my dad save my first pair of roller skates then wait more than 40 years to give them back to me? What happened to the child's spoon? Who ate with the fork? When "Mirage" hung during ARC Gallery's Home exhibition, I was happiest when I saw people lean into and spend time looking at it instead of just glancing and walking by. I want to draw people in. I want people to think about the items they keep. What do you have stored away? What memory does it hold?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Valentine's Day and a Giveaway

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. -Charles M. Schulz

When my friend Barbara asked me to join her in a day of making things for Valentine's Day, I jumped at the opportunity. She suggested we make Valentine hot pads. I had not made hot pads for a long time so I made a test one before our play date then cut out several to bring along. When I got to Barbara's house, she excited told me that she had come up with an idea that would take us about an hour and we each could have five gifts. Well, three hours later we did each have five necklaces done. We moved on to making Valentine's. I finished first because I made simple ones and moved on to making hot pads. By the way, Barbara still has not had one. At home, I decided to use some wooden hearts that I bought to make some tags to go on my gift bags. One of my missions this year is to use the things I have purchased. I am going to need to live for a very long time. 

I think it is important to take time to just play. Katie Pasquini-Masopust  shared with me that she has a group of friends that get together once a year and make log cabin quilts. This mini retreat is all about friendship and doing something that they all love--quilting, but just for fun.  

I find that after doing this kind of crafting, I feel recharged and ready to tackle something more serious. It is also fun to be able to share. Shoot me an email (musgrave.karen at with your name and address and I will send you a Valentine.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thoughts on "Wings" and "Seeing Red" Exhibitions

I feel truly blessed lately as my artwork has been embraced like no other time in my life. I truly did not know what to expected when I went to the opening of "Wings" at the Tall Grass Gallery in Park Forest (south suburbs of Chicago) on January 21 in the afternoon. The gallery itself was beautiful, but the mall it was in was just about empty. It was also 61 degrees! Well, I was blown away. The space was packed with people. The artwork was incredible. All the artists were given name tags and asked to stand near their work for questions. There was a nice spread of food with a variety of drinks. I binder with artist information was available. The president of the organization (Tall Grass Gallery is a nonprofit gallery run by volunteers) was kind and invited me to become one of their juried artists.  I loved the variety of artwork that was in the show- 45 artists from 8 states. This was the largest call of entries that they have had. I was thankful that the jurors were open-minded when it came to "Wings."  

There were paintings, watercolors, a charcoal drawing (won an award), sculptures, a collage, photographs, and an assemblage. Here are just a few that spoke to me and I was able to get a photograph. I liked the dragonfly monoprint on mylar, Navigating the Familia by Kim Laurel and was not surprised it won one of the awards. The gentleman in the painting with wings was present but not very approachable.  I have always admired Laura Lein-Svencner's collage work and I was taken by her assemblage piece.  By the way, the wings are from a real crow that she found dead on the highway. Lindsay Sanbothe's acrylic painting Cinerors Vulture was amazing. She also won a prize. The gallery presents first, second and third place awards and three "Awards of Excellence." It was a great experience and I left feeling appreciated as an artist. 

On Friday night, I traveled to ARC Gallery in Chicago for the opening of "Seeing Red." All the pieces had to be 18" wide or less and this was an open call so no jurying. This is the second time I have had a piece in the gallery so I was excited.  I entered this time to be supportive of the gallery. ARC Gallery is also an nonprofit gallery, although a women run one, that is more than 40 years old. I have visited exhibitions at the gallery for more than 30 years and never imagined that I would ever have a piece hanging in the gallery. I was surprised, although maybe I should not have been, with the number of political pieces that were in the exhibition including a DVD for sale of the Women's March in Chicago. 

The gallery quickly became full of people, but I was struck by the contrast between the two experiences. There was not a book with artist statements, no name tags so no way to know if other artists were present and two fundraisers was going on- a bake sale and decorated masks from Michael's. Maybe the fundraisers should not have bothered me, but they did.  I was greeted by a member and we talked briefly. My piece is hanging in a great spot that can be seen from the gallery's windows. My friend Barbara Wester's piece, Seeing Red, is two pieces down from mine and I thought how great serendipity can be. I found the exhibition interesting, but I was left wanting more.

Both "Wings" and "Seeing Red" will be available for viewing until February 25. If you have a chance to see either, I would love to hear your thoughts.