Thursday, December 28, 2017

Triangular Notebooks

We can’t script every detail of our lives. But we can solve the riddle of fulfillment when we plan ahead while simultaneously embracing the surprises of each moment. 
― Gina GreenleePostcards and Pearls: Life Lessons from Solo Moments on the Road

Christmas evening had me anxious to create something and too tired to do something that took a lot of thought. Now don't laugh, okay you can laugh, I was thinking about Valentine's Day and what I could make as gifts when I remembered a triangle book I had seen on Pinterest. However, Pinterest didn't have a how-to so I did a Google search and turned up a nice post by Making Lovely. The instructions were clear and easy, except I could not get my stapler to work and my notebook would not close. Instead of continuing to be frustrated, I sewed the pages into the books and I added a button and fiber closure. I am so happy! I think this will make nice gifts and I used supplies I had on hand (one of my goals for 2018). It also helped me feel creative again. I went to bed feeling really good. Are you planning ahead? What goals are you making?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Plans!

One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of what you can't change. - Unknown

A few months ago I developed a lump about the size of a pea on my right side. When I went for my mammogram, I was told it was a cyst and not to worry about it. I had it checked out during my physical on November 30. My doctor said that he could easily remove it, but recommended that I wait. At the time, I thought, "why not remove it," but trusted my doctor. Well just 12 days later, I started to have problems. Went back to the doctor, got antibiotics and told to apply moist heat. To make a long story short, the antibiotics did not work so the infection got much worse. New antibiotics and lancing had to be done. Needless to say, I could not use my right arm much. I could not sleep well. This has been a long two weeks. I could not do much so I decided to plan out 2018.  I put together lots of lists. Things I want to explore. Things I need to do to prepare for my artist residency. It has kept me hopeful and surprisingly happy. I am so thankful that I was ahead of the game this year or it might have been a different story. I do hope that your holiday was wonderful and that you too are looking forward to 2018. I cannot wait to share it with you. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Putting Stretch Marks on My Comfort Zone!

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. - Neale Donald Walsch

Yesterday as I removed the cover on my yogurt the message was "Think big. Dream big." It made me smile. Last month I decided it was once again time to do something that scared me so I applied for an artist residency with A.I.R. Studio in Paducah, Kentucky. It was my understanding that acceptance was heavily placed on artwork and project. Only four people knew that I had applied (three were my references and Cathy Neri, who had pushed me to apply). I spent a lot of time telling myself that it would not be the end of the world if I did not get accepted. When the email arrived, it took me an hour to get the courage to open it. The message started out by thanking me for applying and ended with my acceptance! While I did not get my first choice for time (May), I did get my second choice (September 2 - 15). I will have lots of time to put together a plan to maximize my time in Paducah. The mission is to add to and fully complete a body of work that explores loss, memory and the things we leave behind when we die. While I always begin each year optimistic, 2018 is already looking pretty good to me. It is my hope that it will be the same for you. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

More 8 x 8 in 8

To get through the hardest journey we need only take one step at a time, but we must keep stepping.  -Chinese Proverb

I am surprised at how many people said to me that they could not do artwork in 8 minutes. My response is, "Have you tried?" Don't think of it as making great art. Think of it as play. Teaching in places like Georgia (country not state) and Kyrgyzstan, taught me that having limited resources is actually a good thing. I limited my resources so I had fewer choices which helped me create quickly.  I kept things simple. I decided it was fun. I also allowed myself, if the spirit moved me to create in a series, which also made things easier. I am sharing part of a series that occurred about nine days into the month

I think it is important, no vital, for me to do things that put me outside of my comfort zone. Each time I do that I learn more about myself and what I am capable. I think we are all happier if we know ourselves.  And one closing thought, just because you make something does not mean you have to share it. I will tell you that there were days after I finished my collage that the trash can was the best place for it. I am glad that I resisted this urge and let the work rest because pieces that I thought deserved the trash actually have provided me with the need for further exploration. So be kind to yourself and just create. 

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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Loss and Finding Meaning

You are not accidental. The world needs you. Without you, something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it. -Osho

The world has lost another talented quiltmaker--Sue Garman. I met Sue 23 years ago when I moved to Houston. Whenever I move (which was quite before moving to Illinois nearly nearly 20 years ago), I would find a local quilt shop and sign up for the first available class that even moderately interested me. That way I find out about guilds and other quilt shops. I found my way to Quaker Town Quilts in Friendswood. It was a mostly traditional shop so I signed up for Sue Garman's Halloween vest since it was just one afternoon. It involved cute applique. The women in the class were a lot of fun and I got lots of information on guilds, teachers, classes, and other quilt shops.
Sue was patient and kind. I only wore the vest once at the show and share at a guild. She was a member. If you don't know Sue's work, you should check it out. She learned to quilt from her grandmother and I don't think I ever saw her not working on a quilt. I found her amazing. She was the assistant director of NASA, a mother of two, a wife, and a pattern designer. She personal quilts were amazing. For me, she was one of the kindest people I ever met. In October, she shared that she would be having a test to see if she had a year or two to live. Unfortunately, she only had months. She will be missed. 

I had been struggling to come up with a piece to enter into "Red" at ARC Gallery in Chicago. Nothing seemed to be working until I picked up Carolyn's dress. Carolyn was my husband's only sister and my in-laws first child.  She only lived a few days but her life impacted a family deeply and not always in a positive way. I was touched and a little shocked when my mother-in-law gave me all of Carolyn's handmade dresses. It took her many years to get over her son marrying me. My children will have no interest in the dresses so I am happy to give them a new life and even more pleased the "Not Even a Memory" will be a part of the exhibit (February 2 - 25). My husband says that he thinks his mother would not approve, but I am not so sure. I think she would be pleased that others will know that Carolyn once was among us.

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

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?