Monday, September 26, 2011

Quilted Nudes Not Quilting in the Nude

Being an artist, I periodically get asked what I am working on. Well, over the past year I have been doing a lot of figurative work which is really lighting my fire, and recently I have embarked on a series of nudes. While I get a lot of positive remarks like " that is so cool," or "what an intriguing idea, " or " Wow, I can't wait to see them, or "here is a website you might like devoted to figurative work." I have also gotten the opposite response. Some people just a give me a blank stare and polite silence, or an "Oh, " or my favorite, " What do you want to do that for?" You would think I had just announced that I was quilting in the nude.

Personally, other than showering or engaging in acts of extreme intimacy, I can't think of many things worth doing in the buff, and at a certain age, the later is perhaps best undertaken in only a partial stage of undress. I have never really gotten the concept of nudist camps. Photos of folks playing volleyball, golf or football in the raw make me wonder about their personal tolerance for pain. Which brings me to another reason why I work in the studio fully clothed, (although if you rang my doorbell on a Sunday morning you might find me sewing in my jammies). Have you ever been in a textile studio? There are all kinds of safety hazards that might sever appendages or otherwise inflict gouging wounds. Rotary cutters, pins, needles and scissors are more like weaponry than sewing accessories. When was the last time you stepped on a needle or stabbed yourself with a pin? My quilts often have a small sample of my own personal brand of DNA from such self inflicted wounds incurred during the sewing process. No way am I exposing my private parts to such potential risks.

So back to the reason for the new series of nudes. In my mind the human body is beautiful, interesting, inspiring and sometimes, just like a train wreck, you can't take your eyes off of it. It is so organic and curvy, a form of geography and sometimes archaeology. The nude paleolithic sculpture of the Venus of Willendorf was the first piece of art I studied in Art History 101 at The Ohio State University some 40 years ago. The Greeks and Romans certainly appreciated the human form. Visit any art museum worth its salt and you will see a plethora of nudes from all periods of history.

My house is full of them. Some are pencil drawings my son drew in his college figure class, others I purchased. I have a nude abstract sculpture on my coffee table. My aunt once asked me, "What is that doing there?" I told her "just sitting as far as I can tell." So it was music to my ears when during a plenary session for a textile exhibition, the director of a local art museum informed me that there was no problem with having nudes in the exhibition, as long as they weren't engaged in the full sexual act, as this might offend the board! Guess I might get a piece in the show after all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adventures of a Textile Artist Abroad

Caricature of a Textile Artist at a Wedding


No, I haven't been abducted by space aliens or been lost at sea, but I have been too darn busy to write for quite some time. I spent much of the winter quilting and preparing for several solo exhibitions scheduled this year, getting ready for my son's upcoming nuptials, settling in to a new position at work, and best of all, travelling. I just returned from a trip to Great Britain last month where I was the Matron (I hate that word, sounds so old) of Honor at my best friend's wedding. More about that later. I have noticed that being a textile artist is somewhat like being a pregnant woman who notices babies everywhere she goes. Babies are cute, but wherever I go, I notice textiles. This trip started off with the purchase of some pretty high end textiles in the form of a custom order dress and hand dyed shoes.

The Road Less Travelled


I spent a month last October looking for the perfect dress to wear to Anne's wedding, who by the way re-married her ex-husband after twenty some years of being divorced. After much trying on of elaborate textile confections, I settled on a design selected from a photo on the Internet. It was so new that samples were not available to try on when I visited the bridal stores. So, with blind faith, it was paid for and I settled in to wait out the four months required for it's creation. I arrived at the store with baited breath for the fitting, and found the dress wrinkled and covered with loose thread ends that I meticulously clipped off. Considering the cost of the dress, surely the owners could have afforded to do this themselves. Other than that I was pleased. It was made of lace and silk in shades of cappuccino and mocha, quite pretty and just the ticket for this special event. The wedding was in Wales, so I had it pressed at a charming little bridal shop made of stone and slate in the tiny village of Cowbridge; it looked lovely. Meanwhile, the run up to the wedding day was filled with pampering and preparation. Chauffers drove us to appointments to get our hair done, to have french manicures, massages and spray-on tans. The last is not an experience I would recommend for the faint of heart.

Welsh Daffs


For this special event, I was ushered upstairs to a storage room containing a three sided camping tent. I was then asked to strip down, stand in the tent and hold out my arms and legs at various angles, while twirling in a circle, etc. as the attendant sprayed me in the face and everywhere else with a cold mist of slimy, sticky orange dye. I was then instructed to stand on a towel and flap my arms about for the next ten minutes to encourage the drying process. To complete this total degradation, the attendant was about 19 years old and appeared to be about a size two. She was probably thinking she did not get paid enough to do this kind of work and maybe she should please her parents and enroll in college after all. The whole experience enhanced my empathy for the inhabitants of Abugrabe Prison...the only thing missing was a few snarling German Shepherds!

Upon arriving in Wales I got a tour of the new marital abode, a country manor house, hey I was moving up in the world. I was introduced to my new bedroom and was pleased to be assigned the "Rose Room," which overlooked the "back garden," a 3 acre field dotted with ancient Elm trees. A pitcher of Welsh Daffodils graced the windowsill, as I arrived on St. David's Day. Over my bed hung a quilt I made for Anne 4 years ago entitled, The Road Less Travelled. Since I had completely forgotten to document this work, I was happy to get a photo to add to my portfolio.

The Pump Room, Bath, England

A few days before the wedding Anne and I took an excursion to Bath, England which is about an hour an half away by train. As we exited the station and made our way towards the heart of Jane Austen territory, I spied a small sign hanging over the door of a little shop. After all these years I have developed a sixth sense about quilt shops, and sure enough, in this land of Roman England, Jane Austen and Georgian architecture I found myself perusing bolts of quilt fabric and purchasing a few fat quarters and some needles with self'-threading eyes for Anne. Oddly enough I had told her about them just that morning when she complained that she was having trouble sewing on a button because she couldn't see to thread the needle. Following this textile adventure, we toured the lovely new museum at the Roman Baths and raised a glass of champagne to Jane Austen as we celebrated the upcoming nuptials and Anne's Birthday with lunch at the Pump Room. As we walked around the corner to the loo, what should we find but a spectacular quilt about 15 feet long and ten feet high documenting all the royal lines of British Kings and Queens. It was a stunning work, but behind glass with a high glare so I was unable to photograph this amazing textile. (Note to self when making irreplacable pieces of art, spend a few extra quid on non-glare glass.)

So, you may be asking, what happened to the lovely silk and lace bridesmaid dress that traversed an ocean and back again to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend? I fear it is destined to become one of the world's most expensive quilts. I HATE it! It was uncomfortable to wear and unflattering. Although I have gained some middle-aged weight, I still only wear a size 10 dress. However, in the wedding photos this little number made me look three sizes bigger, a woman truly deserving of the title MATRON. So it currently resides, rolled in a wad at the top of my closet, waiting to either be dry cleaned or cut up. Another adventure waiting to happen. Cheers!