Thursday, November 12, 2015

Seeking a Path: My Artist Talk

This evening there was a reception for my fiber art show, Seeking a Path,  at Hartford's Clare Gallery.  At that reception, I gave an artist talk. This is the text of that talk.

Seeking a Path is inspired by a benediction delivered at the end of Sunday services by the Reverend Jon Luopa, formerly of the Unitarian Society of Hartford, my faith community.

If you see God, may God be with you.
If you embrace life, may life return your affection.
If you seek a path, may a way be found, and the courage to take it, step by step.

If you see God, may God be with you.  But there are times when God seems to have retreated behind a cloud.  In those times, the best you can do is seek a path. 

This benediction won my heart because of that affirmation: when faced with a challenging situation, sometimes the only option is to put one foot in front of the other.  Those are times when the idea of setting a goal, or even considering setting a goal, is too daunting.  When clarity is lacking, and all a person can do is grope for a way, even then, this affirmation states, may the struggling traveler find a way...and especially, the courage to take it. 

This became my mantra, conscious and unconscious, in all the years I heard it spoken in my faith community, and beyond. 

And it inspired me think how our eye loves to travel visual pathways:

Visual pathways.  Why do our eyes crave them?  You can tell me what you think, but I think it’s because those paths give our eyes, and thus our minds and spirits, the illusion of getting away, of going on.  And that seems to offer a sense of relief, if not of hope.

Eastham Low Tide II
I maintain that there’s even something appealing in the natural kind of pathway created by the effect of tide on sand:              

Eastham Low Tide IV

These pathways strike me with their stark simplicity, and that simplicity reflects a sort of eternity:  these ripples are always the same, but always different.  They are simultaneously ephemeral and eternal. They contemplate the intersection of timelessness with time,as described by the poet T.S. Eliot.

Eastham Low Tide, Transfigured.  The sand is transfigured by the heavens reflected on it.

Pathway through winter.  Besides offering an appealing visual image, there’s another benefit, for me, to thinking about pathways. The act of using fiber, paint and imagination to create an art quilt is itself a pathway out of a less-than-ideal situation:  the long Connecticut winter.  When I’m using a photo of a beloved pathway, especially one created by the low tide on Cape Cod Bay, I transcend winter. Snow may be deep outside, but here, inside me, the sun is warm and the sand ripples are soft.

Pathway of persistence.  And the love of the feelings created by those places keeps me going, even when I'm disappointed in the image I create.  For example, I’ve been mesmerized by this image of a sandy path, filled with water that reflects the sky.

Over the months of last winter, I struggled to recreate it, and that struggle became another path.  I was deeply disappointed at my seeming inability to convey the surpassing beauty and mystery of the scene.

In the failed attempt above, the water looked good, but the vegetation beside the water did not.
In the failed attempt above, I had leakage problems caused by the use of water in conjunction with Derwent Inktense pencils.  I think I solved that problem, though. Solution: Use GAC 900 fabric medium instead of water when using Derwent Inktense pencils.  Also, treat the fabric with GAC 900 first.  I use a sponge brush to apply it.  Then let it dry.

The image below was my third attempt to recreate this scene.  I came close to sidelining this one, too, but I liked the way the sky came out, and because of that sky, and because of a little nudge from my friend Siena Kremidas, I tried and tried and tried again to get the rest of it right, and thus persistence became another pathway for me. 

The water was the hardest.  The problem is elementary:  How do you get cloth to look like water?  Even now I think I could have done better.  But I kept thinking of that expression:  don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.  Meaning:  don’t delay a task by deciding that you will finish only when your result is perfect. 

After the Storm, 2015

Learning to use different materials.  Another path I’ve traveled is that of learning jto use different media to recreate images that move me.  Most recently, I learned to use paint to create images called whole-cloth quilts.
This 2015 whole-cloth quilt is called Streetside Lace.

A couple of years ago I discovered and learned the ancient craft of felting, which uses wool roving to create clothing, wall art, and even, in some parts of the world, housing.  The roving is a very soft medium and the experience of placing it on a substrate of silk or batting is both meditative and sensuous.  

This is a felted piece in process, along with a hank of some of the soft wool roving that created it.

Come to my workshop!  I’m inviting everyone to join me on this path—learning new media.  Along with master felter Robin McCahill, I’m going to teach needle felting at a workshop this coming Saturday, right here, from 10 to 11:30.  Participants will use wool roving and a special barbed needle to create a finger labyrinth. 

This lovely felted finger labyrinth was created by my friend and neighbor, Grace Percival
A finger labryinth is an effective meditation tool, not only in the using, but in the making, as your finger follows the soft path you’ve created. 

I’m going to pass around a sample of this project, and I invite people to see what needle felting feels like.  Use the needle to fix the wool roving onto the substrate, and be sure to pull it straight up and down.  If you bend it, it will break. No experience necessary!  There will be a modest materials fee. 

Sign up tonight!  Because I need to prepare enough materials for all participants.  Give Pat Curtis your name.

I’m always, and forever, seeking pathways, and these are some that work.


  1. You are an amazing artist, Diane. I know I've said that before, but it's so true and worth repeating. Witnessing your art journey has been a gift to me as an aspiring artist. Keep antenna high for inspirations like John Luopa's benediction ~ your artist's eye weaves wonders!