Monday, January 30, 2017

Speed Bumps on the Road to Gallery Readiness

I'm passionate enough about my fiber art to seek recognition and a wider audience for it.  That's why I enter my work into juried shows.

In the past few months, I've had my work accepted into shows at two Connecticut galleries, which was thrilling for me.

But both galleries sent me back to the drawing board on my presentation.  Now mind you, I'm not quarreling with their judgment or conclusions.  I'm just telling you what they said.  Because I'm learning how fiber art, viewed in some quarters as an "applied" art, makes the transition to settings usually associated with "fine" art. 

In one case, a juried show at a gallery, I had to take the pieces off the stretcher bars and remount them in a way that appeared cleaner and more finished.  In another case, a gallery show in which I was an invited artist, I was asked to swap out an entire piece and replace it with one that was mounted better.  This time, the rejected piece, Eastham Low Tide, a whole cloth quilt showing a tidal landscape, had a surround of hand painted burlap.  Because the painting on the burlap was uneven, and because the burlap itself had a close association with craft, I was asked to replace this piece with something else.

I have to tell you that Eastham Low Tide has already been accepted into two juried shows, both of them sponsored by local nonprofit art leagues.  I imagine that proprietary art galleries, even art galleries that are co-ops, need to be more exacting about the art they accept because profit is more of a priority for them.  Am I right?

Eastham Low Tide (2015)

I gave the gallery several choices with which to replace Eastham Low Tide, and they chose Foggy Coast because its mounting was superior:  background was a muted neutral color and was not blotchy.

Foggy Coast (2014)
 They also approved of the mounting on the piece below, which is called Penwood Overlook, Fall.  The mounting of this piece has a finished appearance, and the corduroy, despite its utilitarian origin as a home decorator fabric, actually enhances the piece.

For future reference, this gallery is recommending floating frames, and I'm looking into that.  With a floating frame, the idea, if I understand it correctly, is that I would mount a piece on a canvas or on stretcher bars that are exactly its same size.  No surround, just the piece itself, mounted on bars.  (I guess I would have to apply a modest, invisible facing to achieve this goal).

 Then THAT piece would be inserted into another frame that gives it a floating appearance.  Here are a couple of examples.

I think that's the idea.  So, I'm looking into what it's going to take to mount my images in this way. I'm going to start with three--if I can, because these pieces are not standard sizes--and see what happens.

If this is what it takes to make the transition to a fine-art setting, I'm going to give it a try.  But I have to admit that this type of presentation would be prohibitive for my larger quilts, which are free-hanging and not mounted on stretcher bars.  This one, for example, is 40 x 40:

What would it take to put this in a floating frame?  Why should I?  Are the art gallery standards inappropriate for art quilts and fiber arts in general?  And the larger question:  am I willing to make this change in order to allow my work to make the transition to proprietary venues where it will be accepted as "fine" art? 

Have you other fiber artists ever thought about this?  What do you think?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Today in Art: Kenny's Zebra

 The other day, I added the finishing touches to Kenny's zebra.  Kenny is a client of Hartford's Chrysalis Center, and he's been attending my felting classes on Monday mornings at 11 for over a year now.  He seems to specialize in felted images of animals.  So far, in addition to an image of his pit bull, Tank, he's created a panda

And a cheetah

And now, this zebra.  He did all the felting himself, right down to and including the black and white yarn for the mane.

I think he did a remarkable job, given the number and complexity of the color changes.

He did ask me to add a background, though, which I did.  I also neatened up the stripes a little bit, getting stray bits of black off the white part, and vice versa.  I also added a binding.  Here's what I did:

I'm proud of my work at the Chrysalis Center and gratified that so many of the people with whom I work, like Kenny, love needle felting.

I can't show you Kenny's face, but here are his hands:

Which reminds me, I'll be teaching a one-day workshop, The Felted Landscape, at West Hartford Art League in West Hartford on Sunday, February 2, starting at 10 a.m.:

...and also teaching needle felting for a week as part of Arts Week at Star Island:

Do I know how to have fun or WHAT???

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Today in Art: Six Ways of Looking at the Pattaconk Brook, Revealed

A few days ago I reported that I was working on a piece called Six Ways of Looking at the Pattaconk Brook.  This piece will appear at a show at a gallery, Maple and Main, in the town of Chester, Connecticut.  The show, Imaging Chester,, focuses on impressions of the town.  The Pattaconk Brook, which wends its scenic way all across it from west to east, finally emptying into the Connecticut River, is one of its prominent features.

I've been working on this for last couple of weeks, but finally it's done, so now I can show you my work.

Six Ways of Looking at Pattaconk Brook--the name is a reference to the poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, by Connecticut poet Wallace Stevens--is a quilted and threadpainted fabric collage showing six ways of looking at the brook:  two scenic photos, two satellite photos, and two contour maps.

Above is a full view of the piece.  The central feature is a contour map showing the brook criscrossing Route 148, or vice versa, and emptying into the Connecticut River (via the Pattaconk Yacht Club, as I found).

In the upper right and lower left corner are the two scenic views  of the brook, and the rest are satellite images and contour maps. All are done through a process called photo transfer:  that is, the printing of photographic images on cloth.

Below, here's one of the two scenic landscapes of the brook, this one as it passes through the center of town. After the photo image is printed on cotton, it's threadpainted, quilted, and bound, like a mini-quilt.  This one is superimposed on one of the satellite images, itself also lightly quilted.

Come to the opening reception for this show!  You'll love Chester.