I am pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work from “The Threads Project (2001-2007)”. “Threads of Time” will open on the evening of Friday, September 18, 2015 at The World Trade Center’s Offsite Gallery in downtown Norfolk, Virginia and continue until October 16.
After showing many of the pieces from this project since its inception in 2001 in juried and solo exhibitions across the United States, I am happy to be able to have a fairly comprehensive selection of pieces on view. Visitors will be able to see approximately sixty of the several hundred works completed over the years 2001-to about 2007. Included will be textile pieces, drawings, works on paper, unique prints and works on paper derived from prints made at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, paintings, and a sculpture.
The blog covers in detail the history of “The Threads Project” and is a good resource for those planning to visit.
The Offsite Gallery is run under the auspices of The City of Norfolk through their Office of Cultural Affairs. It’s temporary gallery space is in The World Trade Center as its usual space was severely damaged by an explosion earlier this year.
This exhibition is a bit of a homecoming as I showed my work long ago in 1980 for the First Anniversary Exhibit in the original damaged gallery, The Selden Gallery in the historic Selden Arcade.
Of course I never imagined then that I would one day return to Norfolk. Some of the pieces in the exhibition have roots going back to that time. The technique of frottage or rubbing began after one of my first trips to Europe, to London, where I made tombstone rubbings at Westminster Cathedral. I enjoyed experimenting with it over time and when “The Threads Project” began several decades later it proved to be one of the important methods in my work.
“Threads of Time”~an appropriate title for a long journey.
July 31, 2014-August 7, 2014
The 30 by 40-inch painting on canvas, “Origin”, marked the first new work this year. It was a difficult painting, laden with starts and stops and layers of decisions as I built up the surface searching for the final state.
Even as I struggled with this work, I sensed a change. Questions come to mind. Have I finished with this series of dot and stain pieces? If not, where am I going? And significantly, what connections are there to my past work and to contemporary art being created today?
As I mentioned recently, the creative well has been severely depleted. So it is wonderful to be working at all. As in past times of such depletion, I am slowly emerging from the anaesthesia. I am looking at art again, art of all kinds. I am looking at what is happening in the capitals such as London where The Tate Gallery is of course in the forefront of exciting contemporary art. A link from The Tate’s website to the iconic institution WhiteChapel Gallery has led me to their series of anthologies,Documents of Contemporary Art . Historic and contemporary aesthetic ideas and issues are written about by artists, curators, and scholars.
My first two choices in the series are “Time”, edited by Amelia Groom, and “Chance”, edited by Margaret Iverson.
I chose the volume devoted to “Chance” because I had been thinking about the switch about a decade ago from work that was primarily figurative to non-representational work or abstract. I had been thinking of conversations with a colleague who was struggling with her first attempts at abstract painting. I offered the advice to “search for the pattern” in the marks already made in her painting. This led me to analyze my own process, particularly in the ongoing series of stain/dot paintings. I had been thinking of the staining aspect in terms of “chance” and was considering a blog post on this process about a year ago. My tentative title, “The Game of Chance And The Search For Pattern” now seems flawed, at least in reference to my own work.
Rather than chance, especially in this recent piece, perhaps accretion would better describe the process.
The origin of the staining method began with the textile work decades ago. The application of fluid color onto the stretched canvas, a fabric after all, causes a similar result as my old dye processes on silk and cotton. There is a slight sense that the stain begins with no authority of mine, But that’s where any possibility of chance ends. By tipping, blotting, spraying, I guide the flow of color as much as possible. I search for a pattern, yes, but one that fit my sense of composition on the surface.
At some points, it seemed the solution was in hand. But no, the painting was far from the final state. I was tempted to resist the usual complexities of the dots, to leave the composition in a far more spare state of positive and negative.
Here are details of the finished painting~
The process of naming this painting was just as difficult as making it. I really searched my associations for a title which would not be trite or overly suggestive and narrow. In the end, a television program on until now unseen formation of stars gave an idea. Photographs beamed from distant space showed what astronomers called a “natal environment”, a place where a new star might be born. This painting was actually a beginning in a sense. It did record, in the process of its making, the state of chaos that precedes solution or manifestation. So rather than the rather unpoetic “natal environment”, the title “Origin” seemed appropriate.
In answer to my question of whether these dot and stain paintings have come to an end, the answer is no. The blank canvases await.
This new post comes after a long hiatus indeed. Leaving the West Coast for the East, a long renovation on a new home, all conspired to keep me away from my blog activities.
I’ve returned to Virginia after leaving in 1983 for San Francisco. Norfolk was my home from 1977 to 1983. I am happy to mark my return with an exhibition at The Art Works Gallery, sharing the exhibition with Lawrence (Skip) Hollingsworth, a painter, and Zach McKiernan, an historian who brought the work of a collective of printmakers from Chile.
I chose to hang a selection of works from “The Threads Project”, a large body of work which has been extensively documented in this blog. This project marked a great change from the primarily figurative work that I was making in the years I lived in Virginia and has informed the work which evolved and developed since.
The pieces in the exhibition were selected to illustrate important ideas from “The Threads Project” such as pairs and analogies, “lab pieces”, thread drawing, the “stitch-mark”, and using thread as both subject and medium, all of which may be read about in this blog’s Posts and Pages. Among the works were pieces which have been previously exhibited such as two triptychs, “Three In Red” and “Elements”. Works chosen included paintings, works on paper such as the announcement piece “Pages II (Red)”, and textile pieces.
Also included was “Mind’s Eye”, one of my most recent works. This is a work on paper which is descended from the ideas and relationships in “The Threads Project” that link my fine art to my textile work. I used fluid acrylic in a kind of staining method on paper much in the way that I once used dyes on fabric.
After more than three years, I have updated the Page which previously was titled “Textile Design Notes and Gallery” is now PROCESS AND MATERIALITY~PAINTING AND DYEING.
The new Page illustrates my wish to dissolve boundaries between materials and processes, to broaden the ideas of what defines art as artists, “craftspeople”, designers, and Makers of all creative bents continue to show in the Twenty-First Century.
“Gemstone” is one of the first textiles which I considered as a unique work of art.
The newly-updated Page has links to Posts which show the evolution of early textile work to recent acrylic paintings on paper and canvas.
Painting is back in my life after a rough patch. I have finished two paintings that remained unresolved, one for more than five years, and the other since last May.
My trip to Namibia in late 2005 resulted in so many memorable experiences and images. One of these was the abundance of amazing termite hills. Inspired by the landscape of this sparsely-populated desert country I thought to do a series of work both in textiles and painting. But alas, this tall, vertical painting sat unfinished and unsatisfying until now. The impetus to start again came from the last image posted, “Mind’s Eye”. This employed gold acrylic in two forms on my beloved Okawara paper. The more liquid of the two media happened to be Jacquard’s Lumiere, a paint I have used to great purpose in my textile work. I discovered that it worked beautifully on not only paper, but the rough and textured surface of the painting. I went on to pick up the last of my 30 x 30 inch canvases left unattended for months. Risking overkill, I discovered that Lumiere lends itself to subtle layering with fluid acrylics as well as various mediums.
Here are the results~
NOON: APEX 2013 Acrylic on canvas 48 x 24″ Private Collection
Kurt, Carolla, and grandson were my hosts at their forty-five acre game farm. Carolla and I participated in the first invitational, international art exhibition, Art Action-Seven Fires in Karibib in August of 2005.
As mentioned in earlier posts, one of the pieces exhibited there, from a suite of four works on paper, will now appear in an exhibition at Northern Illinois University’s Museum of Art at DeKalb. The exhibit, called “OBJECTIVE / SUBJECTIVE: Mapping as Visual Language” will show the work of ten artists from March 19 through May 24, 2013.
These works echoed the landscapes of not only the as yet-unseen country in which they were to be exhibited, but a landscape of the mind and imagination sparked by the materiality and process of paint on paper. I carried the four pieces folded into a pocket on the side of my luggage and they were hung in a stone building with clear plastic clips. The same system will display “Interior Landscape” at the museum exhibition.
Sometimes ideas float around for quite a while before the opportunity or impetus for acting on it comes along.
While doing some websearching for exhibition opportunities I came across one for a gallery in London. The timeline was short but the topic was intriguing~”Gold”. A “match” came to mind, the thumbnail from some time back for the shaped drawing for which I already had the title in mind, “Mind’s Eye”. I would use a simple but dramatic palette of black and metallic gold.
Using the familiar and favored Okawara paper, I decided to use a roughly roundish shape with the staining process of recent work. But the addition of gold to the mix caused me to consider my options. I decided to use a metallic acrylic with a thicker, adhesive quality normally used on fabric but perfectly at home on paper. Although it came with a tip that allowed me to “draw” lines with the paint, I used a brush as well.
This is the result~A second work with the same palette on Okawara is in progress.
A BIT OF GOOD NEWS THIS WEEK~”Four Maps For Karibib-Interior” has been selected to be included in the spring exhibition “Mapping” at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. The exhibition will take place March 19 to May 24, 2013.
This piece is one of four in a suite titled “Four Maps For Karibib”. They were created in 2005 on the occasion of an invitation to exhibit for the first international exhibition in the town of Karibib, located a few hours from the capital of Nambia, Windhoek. Nambibia is a sparsely-populated country just west of South Africa. With an land area twice the size of California but with less than two million people, this exhibition was a big event to its citizens. A German colony until the early Twentieth Century, then aligned with South Africa, Namibia is now an independant republic since 1990. It is still a rough and tumble place that attracts people from many countries. Our exhibition was held at a compound in Karibib owned by a Russian ex-pat Leonid Stupenkov. The event was not only an opportunity to show work of artists but a celebration that included bonfires, fireworks, roasted goat, music and dancing. It was truly an international event! In attendance were members of the media, including radio and newspaper, as well as the Russian consul and his wife. Some traveled, I was told, two hundred kilometers to join the festivities.
I wrote about the exhibition in an earlier Page on Webs And Threads. Here is a partial excerpt:
“ART ACTION-SEVEN FIRES” ~NAMIBIA 2005
I received an unexpected email one day in June, 2005, inviting me to exhibit my art in Namibia where a dear old friend, Armand has lived for many years. We met in Virginia in 1979 as he was ending a long journey across America and Canada. He was about to return home to Nuremberg, Germany to continue his studies in architectural restoration and art.
Although we knew each other just a short time, it seemed like the right thing to do when I accepted his family’s invitation to visit Germany for a Bavarian Christmas and what was to be my first trip to Europe. It was to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. We have all stayed in touch since then, in spite of far-flung locations and busy lives.
Armand’s adventurous spirit took him to Africa, where he finally settled in Namibia in the small town of Karibib. There he has worked as a sculptor as well as created amazing mosaics and stonework. Although the digital age means that we now stay in touch more often, the email invitation came out of the blue!. After all the years of thinking about a visit to Africa, the time was right!
There were only a few weeks to prepare my work for the exhibition. I came up with the idea of folded works on paper when I noticed a folded map of California. This turned out to be the ideal solution to transporting art more than eleven thousand miles.
I simply folded the suite of four “Maps For Karibib” and put them into the zippered side pocket of my luggage. On arrival and the installation of our work, Armand strung a stainless steel wire in the stone building where our work was located. I use stainless steel spring clips to hang them like laundry. The beautiful Okawara paper did resemble fabric and visitors enjoyed walking around to see both sides of the four works.
“Rift” is a word which can indicate a split, a chasm, or an opening. A “rift” can describe a crack or fissure in the earth, a break in the clouds, or when relating to humans, a separation.
While working on this new work on paper, I felt that I was foundering. While I loved the wonderful wrinkled texture of my favorite Okawara paper, this piece refused my efforts to find a conclusion. After days of study, turning, observing, late one night I decided perhaps it would be better to divide the whole into two vertical pieces. More study, observation…days of it. The solution came on another very late night when I decided to mount the two, separated from each other. Wetting the paper along a straight edge helped me tear a soft edge, preserving the beautiful quality of the paper. With that, I still debated.
Finally, seeing a half-sheet of the Okawara, I floated them onto it’s beautiful “naked” surface and found the solution. Once mounted, the space between seemed to somehow allow completion in a way I never expected. The two separate sections spoke to each other, complemented each other in a way that the unaltered work did not.
And again, after some days of contemplation, the title suddenly came to mind~”Rift” seems right.
“Archipelago”-a chain of islands, or an expanse of water with many islands. It is the name that came to mind when I looked at this new work on paper. And it is amazing to me that such a title appeared for it is not a term that I often, if ever, use.
But it seems to describe the image that came on the wrinkled, stained, and “dotted” topography of the half-sheet of my favorite paper, Okawara. It calls up ancient landscapes and mythological journeys, or perhaps the topographies of the imagination, of memory, of vaguely-remembered outposts of our dreams. “Archipelago” is a map of these and other invisible landscapes.
The newest painting, “Viridian”, is named for the beautiful blue-green hue that was developed in secret in 1838 in Paris and patented in 1859. This popular pigment was used both for fine art applications by such artists as Van Gogh as well as for commercial uses.
“Viridian green hue” in this new painting is a modern acrylic version of the original pigment. I chose the color solely because of an aesthetic attraction, using it in Golden’s fluid form. The fluid acrylic’s consistency allows me to continue my interest in the materiality of surface and medium. There is the same ability to exploit the characteristics of fluids on both cloth and paper which also defines my interest in color on cloth using pigments and dye processes.
It was after the fact, upon the completion of this painting, that I recalled the relationship of this green to my dreams as well. Many years ago, I had an amazing dream, “the green dream”, in which no specific image was seen, only billows of beautiful green, as though viewing the essence of it, clouds of it. That was all. But it was to be an indelible dream memory and helped me to understand the future dreams in which a “vocabulary of color symbolism” developed. Over the years I began to understand that green appeared in my dreams various ways and signified my creative life. As people from time immemorial have assigned various meanings to colors, I believe that we also continue to use color as cues in our dream life. I suppose you could say that, as in blogs, we “tag” important information for future reference.
“Viridian” holds a tribute then, to the power of this gorgeous color as a signifier in my life of being an artist. Beginning with a color is only the beginning, of course. I decided to use a medium which I have used before, an acrylic absorbent ground, on top of the gessoed surface. Since I had just finished working on “My Country”, using fluid acrylics on the receptive surface of my favorite Okawara paper, I wondered how this ground might approach similar characteristics on canvas. I wanted to continue the staining and dot process. I used only one coat of the absorbent ground, though the product label advised that increasing coats also increased absorbency. In this case I am glad that I made only one coat. The separation of color, the tidemark created, and the interesting crusty characteristic of the thicker dots as they dried must be attributed to the ground. There is a “sinking” of the dots in the buff color which caused me to re-paint and build up the fields of dots surrounding the green explosion in the painting’s center.
In the end, the “sinking” was a beneficial element that led to wonderful layers, glazing, to build the visual texture surrounding the green “splash”.
Staining and dripping fluid acrylic on the reverse side of a roughly cut piece of Okawara paper were the beginning of “My Country”. Misting the red paint with water allowed the pigment to achieve a matt surface as it stained and was absorbed into the receptive, cloth-like Okawara paper. The very thick drops of pigment retained the original gloss of the paint.
After some initial work it soon became clear that the image was failing to meet my expectations. Flipping the paper over I continued by working from the stained image that had bled through from the original side. As with earlier pieces, I decided to use a wrinkling method to add interesting texture. An attempt to accentuate the ridges and valleys of the relatively soft wrinkles with Nupastel was not a fruitful path. But the wonderful texture of the wrinkles created a kind of “landscape” on the paper and the large red stained central image evoked a map and thus the title “My Country”. And as with the previous works, dots continue to create fields of color.
I love the possibilities that wrinkling paper gives and have used it on crisper drawing papers with dry media like Nupastel where I could follow the “geography” of the crushed and wrinkled paper easily.
The qualities of paper and canvas have long been the subjects of investigation and relate to my work using dyes and pigments in textile design as well. (Working with dyes on fabric results in the same elements of staining that appear in these recent pieces.)
Okawara paper has a dual-sided ability to accept both wet and dry media and its durability allows physical manipulation like crushing and wrinkling as well as folding and creasing. (Four Maps For Karibib)
“My Country” continues the investigation of properties and process of materials and media that was more formally begun more than a decade ago.
In this triptych, “Three In Red”, from“The Threads Project” I used red and white to create analogous images using different materials. The section on the left is wrinkled drawing paper and Nupastel. The center work consists of loosely-sewn red thread on tulle, while the right work uses shades of red and pink thread on cotton sateen. Each is approximately 17 x 17 inches.
“Dots” have been used in a long series of my paintings on canvas, such as LUSH“, NEBULA, DELTA, RED DELTA, and the triptych DREAMING OF INDIA. In keeping with my spirit of questioning how material and means affect the outcome of a work, I decided to use my favorite paper, Okawara, as the support for this new work which continues the use of dots.
The strength and clothlike quality of Okawara has provided the ideal surface for many applications in my work, especially its ability to withstand wet media such as the fluid acrylic I used in this piece.
Although I had plans to wind down my obsession with the dots in my paintings, the new, large canvas, titled “Lush”, took on a life of its own and the dots most certainly prevailed.
As with every new work, decisions are made moment by moment. “Lush” demanded an endless number of those decisions, with some hinging on the possibility of abandoning the painting altogether. Some time away usually helped see what needed to be done and kept the painting going. But I lived with it everyday, considering it even when brushing my teeth.
Sometimes I feel, as other artists do, that naming a painting limits the interpretation, but in this case, there is no doubt, in my opinion, of the descriptive power of “Lush”.
The process of making “Nebula” has been one of many starts and stops. And as often happens, there were moments when I asked myself whether to go on or just gesso the whole thing over. The obsessive dot-making exacts a price sometimes, and did so here. The cost is the multiplication of decisions made and even reversed.
Today’s professional photograph marks the completion of that process and provokes the challenge of the much larger canvas waiting. Will the dots continue?
I’ve always been fascinated with the stop-action films that record the creation of a work of art such as a painting, drawing, or collage by filming the smallest changes as the work is completed, inch by inch. This is, I suppose, more interesting when the work involves the kind of obsessive mark-making that seems to rule my work these days.
Like many of the pieces that belong in “The Threads Project”, these paintings recall the process of accretion. Whether using thread in “thread-stitches” that slowly build the object or image, these new paintings accumulate dots of color to create complex patterns. And while the idea or image that inspired them may be apparent, the actual process may lead to other directions, leaving the origins perhaps only faintly discernible by the time the painting reaches its conclusion.
By now the newest painting, called “Nebula”, a word that conjures up the whirling masses of the Universe, has taken many new turns. While the original staining called up far more minimal interests of the past, obsessiveness claimed this work as the process continued.
Works immediately preceding this painting can be seen in a new Page which has a slideshow and gallery of images.
While work continues on the new book of inverted photographs, THE OTHER SIDE OF PARIS, there is also a new beginning in the painting. Although I had thought to move away from color to a pair in black and white, this new work was inspired by the addition of a fresh new color by Golden, Light Ultramarine Blue, one of their heavy body acrylics. While I normally prefer to use only Golden’s fluid acrylics, this particular color is not available in that form. Perhaps this is fortuitous, as I am enjoying the buttery texture and find it blends well with the fluid acrylics.
NEBULA continues the staining process of the preceding paintings, RED DELTA and TIDEMARK. I’ve decided to document the process a bit and so keep the camera at hand for rather candid photos as I progress. From these the thought process, the decisions that are made, can be seen.
NEBULA –Day One acrylic on canvas 30 x 30 inches
The small white areas are thick drops of fluid acrylic, as in the previous works, standing as gem-like centers for flurries of marks to come.
Some days into the painting brings a bit of intensity to the colors, and a search for pattern.
As I continue painting I realize that the link between the textile work and the painting remains strong. This painting has the range of color and appearance of a long-ago textile, dye on silk that was one of my first efforts. I often remarked that it was actually a painting on silk.
GEMSTONE Fiber-reactive dye on silk habotai
Writing this, I am reminded of something that Louise Bourgeois wrote long ago and which I noted in one of my journals, perhaps mid-Seventies. I was searching then to find “clues” from the thoughts and writing of other artists whose works I found intriguing. To paraphrase, I believe she wrote that as artists “All we do is repeat and repeat and repeat.” These words echo often in my own thoughts as I now look back on my own work. Our repetition may exist but hopefully we find that our “vocabulary” of imagery grows larger and continues to be inventive. The richness of our thinking can expand this vocabulary, to create what I like to think of as “The Richest Expression”. Which all leads back to my basic question, “How do the material and process affect the meaning in art?”
At last, a post. It has been a busy and challenging summer, and somehow painting has not been much a part of the last month or so. Between an amazing week in Paris in mid-May with incredible museums and exhibitions, and family events, there has been little time to do much more than look longingly at the nearly-finished “Red Delta”.
But the painting is finished, joining the series of TIDEMARK and DELTA. “Red Delta” continues the use of textural contrasts, patterns of dots, and the usual obsessive mark-making that began with the series of canvases such as DREAMING OF INDIA.
As with the earlier “Delta”, “Red Delta” is a square, thirty inches by thirty inches, one of my favorite sizes and shapes. Borrowing from an architect’s description, I like the “gravity” of the square, while this size is large enough to evoke a presence without inviting huge expanses to complicate the complexity of layers and marks.
Although the actual act of painting has been fairly absent for a while, the mental work of painting has not, nor is another part of art-making, digital photographs. The next work in painting seems to point in the direction of a pair, one black, one white, but continuing the type of surfaces of the “Delta” pieces. Meanwhile, I have just finished a new book of inverted photographs called “The Other Side of Paris”. I will post a link and information on this project as soon as the initial proof copy has been received.
The new painting, which I call “Tidemark: Clear Blue”, reveals one more example of how work develops and how, over time, links to much earlier work can be seen.This painting follows the directly-previous paintings such as DREAMING OF INDIA, a triptych and related smaller paintings which combine thin washes with thick applications of fluid acrylic “dots” and the rather obsessive small marks which search out and form patterns. The painting is actually a re-working of an early “web” painting, “Clear Blue” which I painted in 2004 but never felt quite sure had reached its definitive state. The original painting’s use of the triangular cream and white stitch-mark is revealed under the thin veils of color painted over it.
This photo shows the middle stage of the painting as I began to layer thin washes which left a darker edge or “tidemark” as the pools of fluid acrylic dried.
I realized as I worked on the painting that the staining and puddles of color and resulting tidemarks were much like a particular technique I used in my hand-dyed textiles years ago.
The next photo shows the technique in textile dyeing for which the painting is named. A tidemark in textile design is often a negative result in which dark edges in the dyed area appear as salts and chemicals dry. I decided to make use of this effect to my advantage and created one of my earliest designs by utilizing this “fault”.
PETRA Fiber-reactive dye on habutai silk 36 x 36 inches
Below, the finished painting with details:
TIDEMARK acrylic on canvas 48 x 24 inches
Allowing the puddles of paint to dry results in edges which form “fences” like the tidemarks in the textile dyeing process. Putting color on cloth in textiles using tidemarks clearly offers similar expressive opportunities in what is thought of as painting in a more formal sense. Without realizing I was again blurring the boundaries of “fine art” and “craft/design”.
I keep a file of ideas, inspirations, and mementos, as many artists do. These images, articles, or hand-written notes may lie around for years before I realize that they have “seeded” an image in my work or may have provided a direction for it.
While preparing for my momentous trip to NAMIBIA 2005 to participate in an exhibition there I began researching this amazing country. Among the interesting bits of information I came across this incredible image taken by NASA and used in a BBC News online article. It shows a satellite photo of The Brandberg Massif, a granite protrusion that broke through the earth’s crust about 120 million years ago in what is now Namibia.
The most recently finished painting, “Delta”, continues the new series of work such as the triptych called “Dreaming of India”, featured in the last post, Following The Thread. These paintings are inspired by the vivid colors, textiles, and jewels of my trip to that country in late 2009. I had begun to think of the clipping long ago saved in the inspiration file. But I did not look at it, merely thought about the idea of the way the rivers fanned out into a kind of delta. I had forgotten completely about the massif shown. I began the painting with just the idea of “delta” in mind. The same linear marks combined with intense color and obsessive dots and patterns.
DELTA 2011 acrylic on canvas 30 x 30 inches
When I returned to the file to scan the long-ago clipped photo of the Brandenberg Massif I also found this image from the same article:
Here the image seems to resemble the staining and marks not only of these recent paintings but also call to mind the original “maps”, Four Maps For Karibib, made on folded Okawara paper for the 2005 exhibition in Namibia.
FOUR MAPS FOR KARIBIB-NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST 2005 acrylic on Okawara paper
An interesting footnote to this post is the information I found on the Wikipedia page on Brandenberg Mountain (Massif):
Origin of Name
“The name Brandberg is Afrikaans, Dutch and German for Fire Mountain, which comes from its glowing color which is sometimes seen in the setting sun. The Damara name for the mountain is Dâures, which means ‘burning mountain’, while the Herero name, Omukuruvaro means ‘mountain of the Gods’.”
Tourists brave the dramatic desert climate to visit this northwest area of Namibia and to go to The Tsisab Ravine where thousands of ancient rock paintings can still be seen.
It seems fitting to discover that the landscape holds art from millenia ago and continues to inspire art in the 21st Century.
Artists are often asked how they know when a work is finished. The same question can be applied to a long-term endeavor in which a body of work develops over time such as my six-year plus project “THE THREADS PROJECT“. In this project I attempted to bridge my interest in fine art and textiles. This also adressed what I felt was then the disparity in value given to works created using textiles, thread, and materials related to them.
Nearing the latter part of this project I began to do drawings that I could see evolved from the theme of “stones” in the project that I used in textile pieces, works on paper, drawings, and paintings.
BLACK DRAWING I
These relate in particular to “The Black Drawings ” which are pastel drawings that derived directly from the theme of “stones” in the Threads pieces. The imagery was removed from the context used in the Threads pieces and taken to another level of meaning, as I described in my statement for The Drawing Center\’s Viewing Program :
THE BLACK DRAWINGS
THE BLACK DRAWINGS continue the theme begun in 2001 in an extensive body of work, THE THREADS PROJECT. In this project I wanted to combine my interest and experience with textiles and surface design with my fine art practice. I combined textile elements with drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed-media works on paper, books, and digital drawing.
RIVER, STONES 2003-2004 (see detail below) is a significant textile work from this project which used acrylic and thread as drawing elements. The stone motif was black cotton. This stone motif appeared also in drawings and paintings in the project and has continued. In the 2007 BLACK DRAWINGS the shape of the stone has been removed from the original context and found new permutations. These black images recall not only the solidity of the earth but also summon human imagery, both seen and unseen. These are images of change and transformation, whether within the physical realm or beyond.
Over time it has become important to me as an artist to trace the “history” of ideas and works. Even though my work involves many media and techniques, there is an underlying aesthetic that marks the work as my own. When the long-term “Threads Project” began to wind down after more than six years, I found it interesting to see what direction the work would take and in what media. At first glance these new paintings seem very different from those earlier works, but on second look, there are strong relationships between the textile-oriented works and the new acrylic on canvas paintings.
In 2008 I began a new series of paintings. These became intensely-colored works using fluid acrylics on canvas. The first pieces were small, rather like the experimental “Lab Pieces done early in The Threads Project. I suppose they could be called studies but they are completed works which begin the exploration on a smaller scale.
“Small Dreaming of India” 2008 10 x 10 inches
I began by pouring the fluid acrylic onto the canvas with thick drops that were “melted” with sprays of water. These and other thick drops of pigment were allowed to dry before proceeding with the complex process of layering of marks began.
The obsessive layers of small marks relate strongly to the textile pieces in which stitches are built in much the same complex process to create the image.
detail from “River, Stones” 2003-2004 Tulle, cotton, acrylic, thread on silk mounted to cotton 35 x 68″
“River, Stones” 2003-2004 Tulle, cotton, acrylic, thread on silk mounted to cotton 35 x 68″
“Dreaming of India” 2008 One of three in the triptych of the same name, acrylic on canvas, each 36 x 24 inches
The triptych, seen in a recent exhibition, “Colors of the Universe” at Mishin Fine Arts , San Francisco. (The exhibition also featured a selection of paintings from THE THREADS PROJECT.)
The title of the triptych, “Dreaming of India” reflect the gorgeous and intense colors seen on my first trip to India taken just as the series of new paintings were under way.
An important idea about relating the textile works to the paintings, drawings, and works on paper is that they respond to a basic question that was a foundation of my search in “The Threads Project”, “How do the material and process used affect the meaning of a work? One could also ask “How do the material and process affect the value, the perceived value of a work?”
So these questions are interesting to consider when looking at the evolution of ideas and the means used to achieve them. Would these paintings be perceived differently if they had been created using a similar kind of imagery but executed in fabric and thread? Would there be a different aesthetic response? Whatever the answers are it is clear that the unifying element of the hand and mind of the artist, the intention, form a unique and cohesive body of work over time.
Just a short note to send those interested to a pair of new Pages. For an addition to my textile work, go to RECREATING MAO where you will find the story of an early textile piece about Mao Tse-Tung! And for an easier way to see experimental work done with thread, textiles, and etching processes at Crown Point Press, go to THREADS AT CROWN POINT PRESS. This is a gallery page which gives the opportunity to see images in one place with the ability to click on for a larger image.
One of the major themes of ” THE THREADS PROJECT” is the concept of analogies, things which look alike or share similar characteristics. The idea for using analogous images was one of the original methods in The Threads Project for blurring the distinction between art and craft by pairing images which used elements from both. The viewer would then find it difficult to make an immediate judgment of value when viewing the work. This idea expanded over time to go beyond pairs.
With the analogy idea in mind, I decided to begin a tall, vertical series of pieces that would combine paper and cloth supports and combine fine art materials and techniques with textile elements. In my original notes of 4/4/2003, I list many options for materials and methods such as paper, canvas, organdy, Pellon, and screenprinting fabric. I contemplated using resist and discharge methods, sgraffito, layers, frottage, and collage. With these I considered using acrylic, airbrush ink, pastel, molding paste, crayon, and thread.
I envisioned the series as four, six or more vertical pieces, each roughly six feet high by three or four feet wide and relating to each other perhaps by motif and color as well as a mix of media and supports. The first completed piece was a pastel and acrylic paper on my favorite paper, Japanese Okawara, titled “Analogy I-Forest”.
ANALOGY I-FOREST 2003 Pastel and acrylic on Okawara paper 72 x 39.5″
The branch-like motif relates to earlier work using a twig-like motif in textile pieces and drawings (see “Old Traditions, New Art”). The layers of “stones” at the lower edge of the work would be a theme for many works in many media in the future.
The branch-like motif relates to earlier work using a twig-like motif in textile pieces and drawings (see “Old Traditions, New Art”). The layers of “stones” at the lower edge of the work would be a theme for many works in many media in the future.
“River, Stones” (below) was intended as the second in this series. Here I began by using a tightly-woven silk and black fluid acrylic paint, making gestural strokes on the surface. Over a period of six months, with many moments of uncertainty, I began to build up the surface. Black cotton for the “stones”, layers of various colored tulle and stitches binding all together. In the end, I realized that this could not be a vertical piece; it was in fact, a memory of a little river I had lived on shortly before. I had stood overlooking it watching the schools of fish, aquatic plants, and sunlight playing through the currents.
RIVER, STONES 2003-2004 Acrylic, cotton, tulle, thread, on silk mounted to cotton 35 x 68″
I realize, looking now at the professional photos taken of this that much of the dimensional quality of the surface is lost. So I have taken detail photos to eliminate the flat quality and give an idea of how the surface is affected by the stitches and the paint. There is, in fact, a more relief-like effect created by allowing these methods to react to the silk.
The next two works in the “Analogy” Series would not come until some time later, with “Analogy II-Shards” and “Analogy III-Terrain” created in 2006.
ANALOGY II-SHARDS 2006 Acrylic, pastel, marker on unprimed canvas 79.5 x 48″
Here the “twig-mark” motif has given way to the motif which evolved from the “stitch-mark”, the triangular stitch that began in textile pieces and soon morphed into drawings, paintings, and works on paper.
ANALOGY III-TERRAIN 2006 Acrylic on Okawara paper 72.75 x 39.5″
CROWN POINT PRESS
PAIRS AND ANALAGOUS IMAGERY
Some of the earliest works that were “breakthrough” pieces were made or begun at a workshop I attended at Crown Point Press in San Francisco in the summer of 2001. These are etching workshops in which the participants have at their disposal the expertise and facilities of master printers in one of printmaking’s premier workshops.
In the 2001 workshop the ideas which were to result in more than six years of continuing work found a fertile ground for development.
I noticed that the surfaces of aquatints bore a close resemblance to some of my hand-dyed fabrics. This inspired me to use this information in my search for a means to develop my ideas for blurring the borders of “art” and “craft”, in this case, using textiles and textile-related elements such as thread.
I decided that I would use the format of pairs and analagous images to prevent the viewer from making judgments of value based on material and process. The discovery of the similarity of my cloth and the aquatints gave my my first opportunity to do this.
RUST I 2001 Hand-dyed cotton, aquatint etching 4.5 x 3.5″
TULLE I (top) and TULLE II 2001 tulle, thread, hand-sewn to blind-embossed paper, and colored pencil on silk, with chine-colle’ Each image: 14 x 12.5″
This pair resulted in my attempt to chine-colle’ a fabric composition to dressmaker’s silk onto the Somerset printmaking paper. I had created a folded and machine-stitched piece of tulle, a material used for bridal veils. The layers of tulle, silk, and paper with a traditional adhesive were run under the press. (A first for “bridal veil material” I was assured by one of our master printers.) This was the last day of the workshop and all were hurrying to complete our projects. With the idea that I would later create an “analagous” drawing or other work to accompany this piece, I quickly blind-embossed a blank sheet, making a well into the paper that would provide the place for the future drawing. The workshop came to a close and our last works were put on racks to dry.
When I returned to pick up my pieces the next week I discovered that the nylon tulle and thread had pulled off the surface of the silk. Left behind, however, was the imprint of the fabric and lines of thread. Later, looking at this and realizing that I also had the blind-embossed sheet of identical size, I added light pewter green Prismacolor pencil to the silk to highlight the imprint. I then hand-sewed the released fabric composition in the well of the blind-embossed sheet.
ONE RED 2001 Thread on aquatint etching, mounted to paper with pumice, acrylic Image: 14 x 12″ Sheet: 30 22″
Detail: ONE RED 2001
The fortuitous discovery of “thread-like” imagery on a colleague’s discarded aquatint proofs, found in the trash, led to an unusual “collaboration”. My colleague, Joe Novak, had tossed out a number of aquatints because of undesirable “thread-like” lines in them. But these inspired me to want to “re-purpose” them into something suitable to my own work. With his permission, I began experimenting with a number of proofs of various sizes. Included were aquatints and soft-ground etchings.
“One Red” resulted when I trimmed Joe’s proof to just outside the platemark and added several black threads and “one red”. The piece was rather “un-anchored” so I mounted it to an earlier, unsuccessful drawing and then added a crusty black pumice to the margin around the etching.
THREADS: TANGLE 2001 Thread on etchings, hand-sewn Each 6.75 x 5″ (Joe Novak)
THREADS FOR JOE 2001 Threads, acrylic medium on aquatint mounted to paper 10 x 6.75″ (Joe Novak)
THREADS: SURFACE 2002 Acrylic on aquatint etching 17.5 x 15.5″
“Threads For Joe” was one of the first uses of actual thread to create an entire image. The surface of etchings on the beautiful Somerset paper also proved to be wonderfully receptive to painting with fluid acrylics, as in “Threads: Surface” done on one of my own aquatints in the 2001 workshop and altered later in 2002. Many more permutations of these ideas were done using etchings, my own, and Joe’s to explore the possibilities for threads imagery.
I also made a number of “straight” etchings during the workshop, including this unique impression:
THREADS I 2001 Softground etching with manipulation of the ink on the plate 14 x 12.5″
This etching uses soft-ground etching, a method in which a soft, receptive coating is applied to the plate. Objects impressed into this under the pressure of the press can then be etched, inked, and printed giving finely-detailed image of the objects. I used a thread-like material first and when inking the etched plate, manipulated it so that the resulting impression was unique (or “one-of-a kind”). (The process is actually similar to what happened when I tried to chine-colle’ the tulle-thread piece in “Tulle I and II”.)
Most of the impressions made during the Crown Point Press workshop were done as unique impressions, with the exception of a series of the Rust impressions. With these I experimented none-the-less, printing in various color combinations and as single images without the fabric mate.
The wonderful atmosphere and respect for individual needs and aesthetics in the workshop helped tremendously in facilitating my work during those five days. The workshop helped set a tone of inventiveness and the synthesis of new methods for what was to eventually become “The Threads Project”. Many more works of a similarly-experimental approach were to come, but the use of pairs and analagous images was first established here.
My book What The Surface Reveals-The Threads Project 2001-2007, which documents “The Threads Project” will give a more complete look at this work. This can be seen in its entirety at the Blurb.com Bookstore.
As I continued on from the beginning of ” The Threads Project”, not only did the definitions of “art” and “craft” become less distinct in my work, but the ideas of what were the borders of painting and drawing. The introduction of the term “works on paper” definitely provided a place within which many these new kinds of works could reside.
“New Alchemy” is a work in which I chose to use tracing paper. The paper’s translucent characteristic, the receptiveness of the surface to acrylic paint, and the crispness and slightly rigid quality allowed me to shape the edges and collage shapes onto its surface.
NEW ALCHEMY 2007 Acrylic on tracing paper 38 x 18″
As is my habit, this work is part of serial thinking and the use of ideas and motifs in various sizes, materials, and formats.
The “stitch-mark” evolved into a circular, wheel-like variation in “The Alchemy Suite”, three of which are seen below:
ALCHEMY SUITE-TWO 2007 Acrylic, pastel on paper
ALCHEMY SUITE-THREE 2007 Acrylic, pastel on paper
ALCHEMY SUITE-FORMATION 2007 Acrylic, pastel on paper
One could ask, “Are these drawings or paintings?” Is “New Alchemy” a drawing? A painting? A “work on paper”? Or all of these?