Sunday, February 23, 2014

Work in Progress: Diving Into Mysteries

I'm working on three pieces simultaneously these days, part of an experiment to see whether projects worked in tandem can cross-fertilize one another.

I have a preliminary hypothesis on that.  I'll get to it in a minute.

Working on the three pieces has had me diving into some mysteries, like the eeriness of an unresolved chord, the majesty of a nebula, and the enigma of a gnarled figure crouching in the crotch of a tree.  Here's where I am on these three challenging images.

Unresolved Chord.  One of the three projects is Unresolved Chord, which I've just finished quilting:

The quilting lines just follow the lines in the appliqued optical illusion, which is very much like the traditional tumbling blocks pattern.  Mine are made of shimmering silks which, themselves, are illusions:  shimmering one color when held in one light, and another in another.  Then there is another illusion, one created by the appliqued blocks themselves:

There are four basic blocks here, but if you look carefully, a ghostly fifth block emerges and hovers just below the middle of the piece.  See it?

This is a visual image of an unresolved chord, the term used to describe a piece of music that gives the impression that it hasn’t ended properly, that leaves a conflict unresolved. or lacks a sense of closure.

Are there four blocks here or five?

What key are we in?

Unresolved Chord is for Jazz Tones, the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective's upcoming show, which will hang in Hartford's Pearl Street Gallery this summer from June 15 to August 23.  Check it out:

Wild Thing.  The second of the three projects I'm working on involves this image, a woody thing growing in the crotch of a tree by a watercourse called Trout Brook, a few blocks from my home:

In my last blog entry I described the process of making a tree bark-like background for this piece on pima cotton:
Now I'm working on the figure crouching in the crotch of the tree.  I've renamed it Wild Thing:

I knitted a two-legged creature, stuffed and wired it, and got ready to work on the head.  I've now made one with the help of felting teacher Robin McCahill:
How about this?  I think it's a good start:

Next, I'll needle felt more features for the face.

The mystery here surrounds the nature of this creature:  is it friendly?  Wise?  Strange?  Aggressive?  Malevolent?  I'm going to show it as an enigma.

A Love Supreme.
The third of my three projects asks: If the concept of A Love Supreme were to take on visual form, what would it be?

That paradox is flowing like snowmelt through my mind these days.  If I can find a visual way to convey this idea, I'll not only have created a piece for Jazz Tones, but I'll also be honoring jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.

Coltrane composed A Love Supreme on the heels of a religious experience in 1957, during which he acknowledged his dependency on drugs and alcohol and their effect on his creativity and creative output.  So, as the story goes, he quit both cold turkey...solo.  A Love Supreme issued from that abyss, and some folks think that it is a nod to the concept of a higher power, so important to the workings of Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step groups. Word has it that Coltrane quit on his own, but whether or not he went to AA, he was a very spiritual man.

In his own liner notes to A Love Supreme, Coltrane says,
"During the year 1957, I experienced, through the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.  At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.  I feel this has been granted through His grace.  ALL PRAISE TO GOD. [...]

That's pretty powerful stuff, and I want to find a way to reify it for Jazz Tones.  I now have at least three ideas in my mind, one of which is also in production.  This one:

I made this tie-dye piece with my daughter Lucia one day a couple of summers ago.  The spiral on this piece of tie-dyed pima cotton puts me in mind of a whirling nebula in all its cosmic majesty and mystery.

Why not?

I quilted it with silver metallic thread and thought about what to do next.  Then I remembered some beads I bought at a tag sale.
 How about those colors?  So I decided that the next step after the light quilting would be to apply some of these tiny beads.

At the moment, I'm applying them in routes that follow the spirals of the tie-dye.  The beads are tiny and the needle is very fine.

What's it like to work with these materials?

Zen, baby.

When three projects are worked on simultaneously, do they cross-fertilize one another?  No. These three projects are  too different from one another.  I don't see any cross-fertilization going on.  Of course, I can't say what happens when I leave the room.

But...working on three simultaneously does keep the chi flowing because I don't have a chance to get sick of any one of them.  I move back and forth between and among them and they all stay vital. 

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