Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just Generally Speaking...

Last week I dreamt about houses...3 separate nights, 3 different houses; my grandmother's, great-grandmother's, and my parent's...and the last one involved my parent's neighbors and her husband leaving her...my mother told me yesterday that she didn't think he was there.  Now I don't have much contact with them other than occassionally being bothered by them parking in front of my mother's house when they have a long ass driveway and 2-car garage that is underused.  Her husband tutored my son in math for a short spell.  I admit being baffled by them as a couple as they are as far different one from another as any 2 people could be.  In all the dreams there was construction going on...building upward.  Since architecture intrigues me, I'm wondering if I should do something around buildings/construction?  I dunno, I'll let it simmer some more.

After bringing some order to my work tables yesterday I pulled out the Tsunieko Inks.  The Sankofa bird (a bird looking back) is something I doodle a lot.  This is on a polyester blend scrap....I'm going to machine free-motion embroider it for some more practice.  It took a bit of slowing down to relate to the layering/blending that these inks seem to require.  I wanted to use more ink on it but I thought I'd see how much the threads can carry in adding depth.


The shrimp and grits turned out okay but I think my expectations of the dish prepared here is ruined by what I had in South Carolina.  I will make it on occassion and for Beverly who asked about the recipe I will post what I did in a few days.  Tonight I'm going to try an asparagus quiche.

On the puzzle front, this is how far we've come since Sunday:


We use to do these a lot when our relationship was young and I had forgotten how addicting and fun these are.  I don't think we've done one since Ade, now 17, was a toddler.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What is this thing called freedom?

I woke up feeling stressed this morning and not refreshed at all.  Not sure what the feeling is about but I'm thinking of Maya Angelou's quote describing tiny annoyances as being "pecked to death by ducks".  My heart is being pulled in too many directions of interests and concerns.  My goal is to not leave home today.  Other than the chores of housework, I'm looking forward to starting on a 1000 piece puzzle with Ade and Peter.


I have some hand work I brought home from my workshop to keep me settled.  I'm adding random x's in red thread in the yellow quilt pictured in the post below and I'm outlining the birds in orange floss on the other piece pictured in the previous post.

For dinner today I have a recipe for shrimp and grits.  Ever since I had this dish in South Carolina many many years ago I've been trying to replicate it without success.  Of course the shrimp I'm buying will never compare to what one gets in coastal areas and I'm using quick grits which I like but REAL GRITS! ummm, nothing like them...they just don't keep well. 

Last night I found this beautiful blog post on artist Xenobia Bailey's blog on her visit to the home of Aminah Robinson.  Over four years ago I read about Aminah Robinson on Serena Fenton's blog and then later saw one of her overwhelming pieces at the Underground Railroad museum in Cincy.  And no more than 15 minutes prior to finding the post on Bailey's blog, I was using a 25 dollar gift certificate from Amazon and debating whether to purchase one of Robinson's books...I didn't.  Don't know what it all means but it just felt like something I had to recognize.  Here is the post: Aminah Lynn Robinson.

More than her art alone, it is the WAY Aminah Robinson lives that brings forth so many affirmations of what it means to know thyself from an early age and what results from having the courage to be true to one's calling in the face of what passes as socially acceptable norms or social dictates.  I think in youth, when one is trying to establish their own identity (conscious or unconsciously) one mistakenly runs toward their own oppression, or substitutes one oppression for another.  Freedom over me, Aminah!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quilted poetry, (sit back and relax with a glass of wine or tea and read on)

Julie and Gerrie helped flush out the narrative in Quinlan's quilt that I discussed in the previous post below.  And I emailed Quinlan because I when I get a bee in my bonnet I need to get it out and move on.  Quinlan's response: While the last administration, I felt, used a lot of diversion tactics to keep the public and press misinformed as it pretty much tried to dismantle the country as we know it.  A kind of "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" Oz like feel. Also, you can read into it a slipping away of our natural resources, and this country's power in the world as well as our children's future. Yes, not a very happy quilt. Thank you Shawn for taking the time to reply.  I also spoke briefly with Kathleen Loomis who sponsors the award and she read it as an overall uneasiness and discontent with the actions and decisions of the former presidential administration.

The other two quilts that I deeply vibed with were Caesura #3 by Marina Kamenskaya...big swaths of solid rich colour in Red, Black, and Green...just vibrated; and a calmer meditative one, When September Ends by Peggy Brown...a softer palette of blues, grays in cotton and watercolour on paper.  The actual quilts I couldn't find but the links are to images of other work by them. 

The two quilts that intrigued me the most by virtue of construction were Crossover by Mary Ruth Smith and City Grid III by Valerie Goodwin.  They where both visually complex but spoke order.  

Form Not Function exhibit blesses me with the opportunity to see quilts of high caliber right in my own back yard and I always look forward to this annual show. 


And from the workshop:

DSCN3975  I love sewing bindings...this is where I sigh with relief  of being finished and reflect on my processes and fall back in love with the fabric.  Most of my quilts still require sleeves and labels which for some reason are pains in the butt for me to do. 

The threads at the bottom in the top photo, the red thread and and the green,yellow,blue thread will possibly be added as embellishment...not sure yet.  The red fabric I'm still writing on it.  The piece below is something I started playing around with Monday.  I'm thinking I'll write with thread, hand or machine, I'm not yet certain.  The man is my FIL who passed away in 1995 but like my great-grandmother, he is still very much present with us.


One of the poems included in the community arts publication was written for Peter, Mo, and Ade to honor his passing.  Here is an excerpt:

2. Ten

One season in ten years

I witnessed your tears twice.

First, at the beginning of the Harmattan

When the nine were executed.

Moral decay of my people, it could have been ten

You whispered and swallowed.

Second, in the middle of the season, Christmas Day.

The call went through.  The line clear.  Your sister spoke.

Father passed away three hours ago.

Unexpected.  Sudden.  Distance.

From his bedroom windown he was looking for you.

Standing at the gate of the compound

He was looking for you.

    Rare does death not bring regrets.

Your manhood is not murky; your soul does not wane.

I have seen people unable to look you in the eye,

Who want your smile on your teeth instead of in your heart.

What you hold is what he has given you--intense light.

Benin masks of eternity reflect

Your piercing gaze and sealed lips.

This of your father in you

Needed to be here in Kentucky with me.

(The editors of A.I.R., Artists in Revolution will be looking into get more books published for circulation sometime in the future.)

Here is another painted quilt:


My soul rests in my quilts, the process of making them...I think it shows in my preferences for low contrast...other areas of life have enough drama. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I can't locate my notes for Form Not Function so the review I wanted to share will not happen, at least not today.  What I do recall is being totally perplexed by the quilt which received the Award for Social/Political Commentary given by Kathleen Loomis.  I've taken 2 different friends on 2 seperate trips to help me figure it out...both who are socially/politically aware and neither of them could grip the message.  The quilt was made by Shawn Quinlan and can be seen here on Quinlan's website.  Ya know it bugs me when I don't get something that I don't want to miss.  Does the flag in the water imply the U.S has drowned? or staked the territory?  Are the children looking for the "fairy tale" of America with themselves not representing America but too naive/self-absorbed to know?  Do they represent stupidity/innocents?  I hope to see Loomis later in the week to get to the bottom of it all. 

Last night was full of nightmares...most related to violence against women.  Peter had to wake me up twice during the night.  They all were the type of nightmares that I wasn't inside of but outside as if I was watching television.  I remember I was banging on a clear thick window that was soundproof trying to yell to warn a group of women not to hide in the back of a truck...crazy sh*t...but I did watch briefly last night Joy Behar sitting in for Larry King and the topic was domestic violence. 

Also since my last post, a friend sent me a link to a NYT review about Jenny Holzer's exhibit at the Whitney and then Jenclair (Jenclair blogs at Bayou Quilts, see side bar under The Neighborhood) sent me video links and a Huffington Post article about her work.  Also I discovered a book I have on my Amazon list was actually a memoir by Faith Ringgold and also found these video links interviews with Elizabeth Catlett which thrilled me!   The Sharecropper inspires me to consider working in realism.  This has been a long recognizable print long before I knew who Catlett was.  I like what she had to say about why she does art..."to know what others think about what I do"...a view that roots the artist within the community. 

One of the books, okay truthfully, I've been vegging out on 2 of my poems included in a community arts project, a book of poems, essays, letters entitled Artists In Revolution (A.I.R.).  There isn't an ISBN number as it was a community arts project initiated by Estella Majozo to create space and place for writers to be present together.  I made a brief mention about my experience here.  I'll get to the rest of the writers in the book in the coming weeks.  The 2 poems I selected where chosen because they reference my children and I thought it would be good for them to know how much they've inspired my work.  One is the often mentioned 725 West Saint Catherine poem that frequent readers here will know I'm currently writing on cloth and the other is a poem in 3 parts entitled Soulful Symbiosis that pays tribute to Peter's father who made his passing on Christmas day in 1995.

I've not set goals for being in the workshop next week...so my plan is to show up and see what happens.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Painting Quilts and Politics

I painted two other quilts, one here, before I left the workshop on Monday to return home.  I believe its finished but I did bring a blue bead stew home with me, just in case its not. 

Shortly after the notion popped to paint the quilt, I thought of the Kemshall's title, The Painted Quilt.  This morning as I was having coffee with this quilt, I remembered Denise Furnish, a local artist, who paints on found quilts.  And then there is the High Priestess of painted quilts, Faith Ringgold!  If you happen to know Ms. Ringgold personally, tell her I'm waiting for the serious autobiography of her life!  As I've searched in my library and at Amazon, I've concluded that there is a serious void in autobiographies of women visual artists...where are the Arnold Rampersad's for women visual artists?!





One of the exercises Laurie Doctor had the class do was writing black on black.  So I applying that to stitching I'm playing with hand-stitching black on black.  The back is acryllc felt.  The center square is a double layer of silk and silk organza that I'm scanned the writing exercise from the calligraphy class onto.  I'm going to try wrapping this around stretcher bars...the size is 14"x14"


My next entry, sometime before Sunday, will be share my impressions of the Form Not Function...so much great work year after year, sure would be nice if a catalog was for sale for this annual show!


Impeachment off the table and now single payer healthcare...Sen. Baucus' reasoning made no damn sense!  This is where President Obama needs us to make him accountable as he, himself, requested!"  Healthcare Lobbyist sure know how to spread the "love" in Washington, don't they?  This will have to be a grassroots efforts yall!

Real people writing blogs!

Rayela at Fiber Focus invited me to be a guest blogger.  I tried to expand on the motivations behind the poetry/quilt connection beyond what I've shared here at Seamless Skin already.  It falls under the heading of "tell them so I'll know".  I have noticed a decline in my writing skills and even speaking, although I've never been one to talk a lot.  But often times I go back and re-read something I wrote and I'm like "what the hell where you trying to say?"    Being a guest at someone else's blog felt weighty but in spite of the numerous re-writes I still think I could have been clearer and more concise...go take a read and tell me what you think...if something isn't stated well or an idea not clear...ask me questions to help me improve...thank you for your time.

I hope when I'm in Paducah next month that I'll be able to me Rayela in person.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

this marketing thing

if you look over at my sidebar under the heading literary matters, you'll see that i'm reading 2 books on art marketing.  the stanfield book I just cracked open and I'm about 1/3 through the other and not only have I not been that ambitious around selling work, but I'm questioning IF i want to be.  my goal is to sell some work and last night I asked myself how much would make me happy annually...and I thought 500 then boosted it up to 1500 because I thought I'd like to sell enough to pay for taking 1 workshop each year.  the huge change from not working in the last 4 years and the peace i made with this disability came by realizing i had the freedom to get into my own rhythms and thoughts and processes and didn't have to spend most of my waking hours in the service to others and that was okay.  Most of my adult life i held 2 jobs and sometimes 3...not to accumulate wealth but if you know anything about working in social services, no explanation is needed.  it was a big help when peter's company restructured and he went from salary to hourly allowing him to get paid for all the overtime and the last 3 years i worked i held only 1 job, many times the hours where very long but it still felt decandent to only have 1 job.  my parents were an integral part of helping out with picking up and feeding children and entertaining them but they have aged and their circumstances have changed as well and thank the lord my youngest is 17.

i had designated 2009 as a year to concentrate on marketing based on the notion that "if i'm a serious artist, i should".  for me, and i've long known this, the process of making is the I AM statement of my life.  i'm all about process!  my footprint, my archaelogical presence and identity. this is the celebration (sometimes bittersweet) i try to mark this blog by. 

this pondering about marketing has me asking how much time investment in marketing is required to sell 1500 annually?  does the time factor impede on anything else and how committed do i want to be?  can i recoup that amount by squeezing my budget (something i have more control over than the market) even more?  

the one word that triggered this line of thought was "career".  stanfield speaks of an "art career" and i shuddered.  i don't want a "career".  i don't want to run on such a traditional track.  what i do want, and this became clearer to me yesterday and i'll blog about in a few days, is a sense of artistic community (within myself and with others) and freedom and this is what i'm serious about.  possibly this is a throw-back to my idealistic leanings but all-the-more that is who i am.  being in exhibits serves the sense of community and if a piece sells that is a miraculous blessing!  my personality is more in alignment with the simple quiet peasant woman who continues to can jars of food when the her gardens and her neighbor's gardens are overflowing with abundance because she knows everything is just a matter of time ;) 

you know, there just isn't that many serious autobiographies/memoirs of women visual artists and it gets even narrower if looking for bio's of African American women artists.  It would be wonderful to frame my discussion within this body of literature...any recommendations?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Woman disposes; Spirit proposes

And this IS working with a plan!  (Or maybe this IS as much as I can plan?).

Here is the quilt after I finished quilting it.  This is hanging on the 8 feet wide design board.


In writing my observations at this stage I had some definitely-do-different next time ideas but it was the puckering in the green panel that grated my last nerve...so I decided to cut out the red and the yellow for 2 seperate smaller quilts.  I came to this idea quickly as a result of having prior study work with these:

From the Workshop

In my last post I wrote about having an interesting background and the piece not being successful as the whole quilt as a focal point.  Yesterday I used one of my spirit images and stamped 3 times in the upper left hand corner in dark blue...made me bounce and then a scene from the book Beloved came to me...child size ghost hand prints on top of a birthday cake...so I stamped a child's hand print in 2 sizes leading to the ghost heads...I was NOT bouncing....all I could see was those turkey drawings made from the imprint of one's hand.  The longer I looked at it the longer it offended me.  I didn't even want to be reminded of this disaster by cutting the piece into postcards.  After some deep breathing and meditating I heard the words "painted quilt".  Immediately got up from the comfy chair went to the cabinet and with not too much deliberation picked up the blue paint...don't believe I did it, do you?  Well let me layout evidence article labelled #1025 before you:



Then Sam Gilliam's pieces came to visit me...3 pieces I saw in his retrospective show that where solid colours that encouraged me to explore monochromatic pieces.  I was dancing and singing...I was barrackin'!  Settled down to meditate on it and my cheeks carried the weight of my smile and then from out of nowhere I got up and stuck this scrap that was on the table from another piece and stuck it onto the piece and I thought I was going to have to lay back on the pillow and smoke a cigarette after my heart returned to its regular beat.



I love this!  Ilovethis!! I LOVE THIS!!! 

I received such a boost from this piece that I started on the next quilt by writing on fabric.



Sunday, March 1, 2009

Eat, Pray, and Stitch

Outside looks inviting with the soft blue clear sky and the soft brightness.  Based on appearance I could think it is pleasantly warm outside.  The temps actually read too-cold-for-Karen-to-be-out.  My goals today included 3 things; eat, pray, and stitch.  I've been successful.  While sewing on a binding I reasoned that what I do well in my quilts is create good backgrounds.  When I start I aim for the entire quilt to be an all over focal point (it has a name but I can't recall it at the moment but remember it from Lorraine Torrence's book on design) but and once it is finished I become unsettled thinking it needs a more easily read focal point.  Here is a section of the quilt that I scanned.  The entire size is 24ish x 30ish.  I placed a 1/4ish binding around it. 


Some options I'll consider is adding beads in blues, a couple of circles in metallic or light blue threads in blue, and words from the poem in larger lettering using Scribble paints in blueish/grayish.  Also on tap for next week is picking up my Janome Jem from the repairman (don't ask, sad story), and selecting some hand-sewing I can do here at home and practice some calligraphy on paper and working through the artist's workbook on marketing.   

For all who might be interested I've started a Calligraphy and Creative Lettering group on Creative Souls (see sidebar).  It is for anyone at any skill level who has an interest in the graphic possibilities of writing, script, by hand or digital.  Also, I started reading Cherryl Floyd-Miller's latest book of poetry, Exquisite Heats.  Cherryl is also a quilt artist and her blog is here.  A beginning review of the book has been started on by book blog (see sidebar), My Eyes Have Seen the Coming of the Word.