Artist, Designer, Traveler, Writer, Photographer

WEBS AND THREADS TRAVELS

“MAPPING”~SPRING 2013 EXHIBITION

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.

Four Maps For Karibib-Interior 2005 Acrylic, thread on Okwara paper

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.

The four works utilize the triangular “the stitch-mark” motif first developed as part of   THE THREADS PROJECT.


A WORLD OF READERS

EVERY BLOG WRITER HOPES TO FIND MANY READERS. Those who take the time to write a comment or click to show that they “Like” the contents of the blog give a small look into the unknown people who are readers.

But for the most part blog posts and pages are sent out into the blogosphere to invisible readers for whom we as writers hope to provide content that is appreciated and valued. For me as an artist, my blog, Webs And Threads, offers the opportunity to share the process of making art with other artists, art-lovers, collectors, and institutions.

For those artists who are finding their way, at whatever stage of their career, I hope that my ideas and challenges are informative. For those interested in my new and ongoing work and the development of my work over decades, I hope the Posts and Pages provide a bigger picture of the processes, ideas, and results of my efforts.

To all readers, in every country, thank you for taking the time to read Webs And Threads. I especially appreciate those readers for whom English is not their native language.

I am truly astonished at the power of the internet to send blogs to every corner of the world!

(By subscribing you will receive all new posts as they occur.)

Below, the number of page views and the countries from which my readers come, since February 25, 2012~

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WEBS AND THREADS IN NAMIBIA

NAMIBIA is the subject of a new Page on the Webs And Threads blog. It gives insight into an amazing journey, my first trip to Africa in 2005 to participate in the first international invitational art exhibition in the town of Karibib.

“Art Action-Seven Fires” was named for the seven venues at the compound in Karibib, Namibia where the exhibition was held.


“WEBS AND THREADS TRAVELS”

As “Webs And Threads” has grown in its short existence, it has become clear that another blog was needed, a new place for sharing my travel adventures. My trip to India happened nearly simultaneously with the beginning of “Webs And Threads” and was so amazing that I wanted to share that with readers even though the blog was intended as one devoted to art and textiles.

So, finally, the new sister blog to “Webs And Threads” is launched.

WEBS AND THREADS TRAVELS” seems the logical way to create continuity with this blog. I hope that you will visit it as well. There you will find, in coming posts, more about India as well as Morocco and France.

I would like to share some interesting travel experiences from the past as well as the future. As always, it isn’t simply going to a new place but the people and events encountered that make traveling so memorable. I hope you will enjoy some of those that are special to me.


OLD TRADITION, NEW ART

 For those artists who love textiles of all kinds, but especially those textiles from very old cultures such as Asia and Africa,  ancient methods can be deeply influential in our own work.

Recently I have been looking at the work of the past six or seven years, a particularly focused and productive time for me. I have been trying to put a very large body of work, “The Threads Project“, into perspective by looking at the inspirations and influences. 

In August of 2003 I returned to live in California after two years on the East Coast, in Manhattan and far Eastern Connecticut. As I packed my bag for the trip, for some reason I threw a few scraps of cloth along with a needle and thread into a ziploc bag. No scissors, of course. Airport security.

Some time later, I settled into my apartment very quickly but without any of my possessions. I decided to do something with the scraps, but having no scissors at the moment, I used a nail clipper to cut my threads and began working on this piece.

I had determined from the beginning of “The Threads Project” that I would limit the palette to black, white, and red. Somehow, I envisioned a cohesive body of work even early on, and for aesthetic reasons, these choices made sense to me. As time went on, of course, I longed for more (and sometimes less) color but as I started with these scraps of cloth, the plan was clear. What wasn’t clear was how deeply influential was my love of the tall, vertical shape of Japanese scrolls. And what was even more unknown to me at the time was that I was about to begin working in a way that has been done for millenia by many cultures.

MOON, STREAM, FOREST 2003  Cotton and thread  35 x 18.5 in.

Detail “MOON, STREAM, FOREST”

Artists the world over find the creative in the cast-off materials of their cultures. But in every culture of the world there is a tradition of wasting nothing, particularly in rural societies. We seem to have forgotten this in our own culture of the 21st Century, but not so long ago, for example, our Depression-era families also made use of things we would throw away today.

As a child I was blessed to have Grandparents who lived on a farm. Modern conveniences did not enter their lives until I was a teenager. This self-reliant life meant that food was grown in the garden, soap was made on the wood stove, and things were re-cycled for another use.

As in many rural homes, there was a button jar where all buttons from outgrown or worn-out garments were kept. There were plenty of ways to use old rags and scraps of cloth from discarded garments. But there was also a place for the beautiful as well as the useful and utilitarian things were also made beautiful. My first stitches were made on the farm, under a Grandmother’s instruction. I learned simple stitches, with inspiration from embroidered aprons and handkerchiefs.

These are things long-forgotten, but now, looking at textile pieces that were made decades later, I begin to see that the simpler life of my own childhood is probably deeply connected to textiles made in many households in the world. My work is considered art, or perhaps craft, but its reason for being is far removed in intention from the frugal lives of those who came before us.

As I began with my scraps and needle and thread, I was not consciously aware of all these elements of course. But I did know that there were some important things that I wanted in this piece. I wanted the process of the needle and thread going in and out of the cloth to shape it. I wanted to leave the edges unfinished and allow the in-and-out of the needle and thread to create a texture, responding to the “threadness” of the thread and the “clothness” of the cloth. So I was not “embroidering” in the more traditional sense; rather, I thought of this as “thread drawing”.

The stitches used in this piece have a direct connection to a series of drawings made about a decade before.

FORCE FIELD-THICKET   1991    Colored pencil, charcoal, on paper Approximately 54 x 53 inches    From “The Force Field Series”.

This very large drawing was made using a little twig- or branch-like motif, repeated in thousands and thousands of little marks. Layers and layers of this motif in various colors built an image that was meant to “invite” the viewer into another dimension. This same motif was then to serve as a “thread-drawing” in the textile piece, “Moon, Stream, Forest” nearly a decade later. This type of “obsessive” mark, whether in thread or pencil, is a method that evolved into  the “stitch-mark”, a triangular motif used in The Threads Project textiles as well as paintings and works on paper. 

I made the shapes of the scraps serve my intention and the image evolved around them since I was unable to alter them by cutting. The stitches served not only as a “thread-drawing” to create the image but as a practical method of holding the pieces together.

In the cultures of Japan and India, for example, this same idea has prevailed for centuries. The traditional re-using of cloth to mend or patch garments and household textiles in Japan is called boro. Today these re-purposed scraps and mended textiles are admired and avidly collected. Now removed from their original purpose, whether in the first, or last incarnation, we see the beauty in the utilitarian that bears the mark of the hands that transformed the mundane and worn. The history of the cloth is tied to the maker, from the growing or gathering of the fiber, to the spinning, weaving and later mending and patching.  Some of these textiles have been artistically and beautifully dyed and printed. Another cycle of life was thus given to things used in daily life, and now, in our time, these things are elevated to the status of art.

In the boro, we find that the stitches serve the same practical purpose of holding the pieces together, but as with the farmers of rural America in Depression times, the functional could become beautiful as well. So the boro surpassed the functional by use of stitches to create beautiful pattern. The instinct for design and color and texture in ancient rural life in Japan, in India, and cultures throughout the world found an expressive way in even the humblest of materials and simplest of methods.

The ralli quilts of India and Pakistan,also rely on the re-use of scraps of fabric and stitching to create functional yet aesthetically beautiful textiles that have great meaning in their culture. 

In American and other Western cultures, the idea of re-using has given us a great quilt tradition as well,  giving a new life to the old and raising the functional to an object with aesthetic and symbolic meaning.

Looking at “Moon, Stream, Forest” once more has led me to see that I did not come to make this empty-handed. Indeed, the traditions, history, meaning, and processes that came before are significant and deeply influential.