Eva Hesse – Contingent


Contingent, Eva Hesse, 1969

This piece has been the focus of my attention for the last several weeks. I just finished writing a research paper on it for my Understanding Visual Culture class. Eva Hesse created this work during the last year of her life, mostly through the assistance of other people, because of her illness due to a brain tumor. She died when she was just 34 years old.

The panels in this work are made from fiberglass and latex over a kind of heavy-duty cheesecloth. Hesse was a kind of pioneer in her working methods, and she turned to working with these materials after creating a solid body of work from more “crafty” stuff like wound cord and papier maché. She worked extensively with the latex even though she knew it would become unstable over time. Unfortunately, most of these works have deteriorated beyond the point where they can be exhibited, so getting to see any of them in person is unlikely.

The assignment for this paper was to choose a work and write about it from a critical and theoretical perspective. We all had to do a proposal before starting the paper itself, and the comments I received back from the instructor for mine indicated that I was going down the wrong path. She told me I was using a standard art history approach and suggested I work from a feminist perspective instead. Well, I was reluctant to do that because I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist and don’t really know that much about it. I know that in spite of how much things have changed in the nearly 40 years since this work was made, there is still a great deal of inequity between men and women as far as status, representation, and earnings. In the late 1960s, though, “making it” as an artist was astronomically more difficult for a woman, whose accepted roles of wife, mother, sex object, etc. were just beginning to be challenged by the feminist movement.

One thing that Hesse did have on her side was her location. She was raised and went to school in New York, giving her access to people and galleries that gave her career a huge advantage. It also shaped her perspectives on what women could accomplish with the proper determination. I doubt whether she would have achieved the same success in the visual arts if she had grown up in small-town middle America at that time.

There was a lot of discussion on the SAQA Yahoo group recently about women and fiber arts, and how neither have achieved the success they deserve. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I do think yes, it would be great if textile and fiber arts could have the same status that painting and sculpture have in the fine art world. On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that whatever success I’ve had so far in my art career has been due to the fact that it is somewhat of a niche market. The playing field is definitely smaller, and it seems the ratio of shows to artists in our medium is greater than it is for art in general. I wonder if I would have any recognition at all if I were doing more traditional paintings? Probably not.

I do think we have an uphill battle as far as educating the public at large as well as those in the art world about our medium. But it’s going to take more than just making a lot of noise about what we deserve.

2017-10-15T16:17:06+00:00 April 27th, 2008|Career and focus, School|2 Comments

Starting to flail a bit …


Between the Lines, 60 x 26 inches (each of two), © 2007

I’m getting down to the wire in the semester; only 4 more weeks to go. But that does mean the due dates are stacking up quickly. I have to come up with a design for a “social issues” poster by tomorrow, as well as finish writing an 8-page paper which examines a work of art from a “theoretical/critical” perspective (as opposed to historical), and get more footage and editing done for my next video rough cut, all within the next couple of days.

My blogging time will be severely limited for a while. But I know my habits, and I know if I let this go for too long, it will be really easy to just blow it off altogether – kind of the way I’ve been known to let other things (exercise, filing, etc.) go in the past. The only way to discipline myself is to keep up the momentum and not backslide.

So, what I’ll do is just put up some brief posts about past work, because obviously I’m not making much new right at the moment. The above piece was finished and installed at the Louisville Library last October. It’s a diptych, but the two halves were installed on either side of a big window in one of the library’s study rooms. This piece was something that really did push me forward into deciding to start a blog, because when it was done, I wanted to publicize it, but I don’t have a quick and easy way to incorporate new things into my web site at the moment. The blog is also great because you can give some background info, instead of being limited to just a caption.

One other side note – the watermark with my name was done with Adobe Lightroom, a new toy I purchased a while back but haven’t had time to delve into very deeply just yet. What I’ve been using it for so far is to get all my images cataloged so I can find things easily. It has a super-easy export feature, which is where the watermark comes in. Now I need to figure out if I can make it a bit smaller – this looks a little more aggressive than I would like.

2017-10-15T16:17:07+00:00 April 14th, 2008|Art, Installations|6 Comments

ArtQuilt Elements & Breaking New Ground


Shades of White, 48 x 48 inches, ©2007 Deidre C. Adams

This past weekend I’ve been at the joint SAQA/SDA conference, Breaking New Ground, which was held in conjunction with the opening of ArtQuilt Elements in Wayne, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. This was a great opportunity for me to meet a lot of people whom I’ve been talking to via e-mail for some time – so nice to be able to put faces together with names.

Shades of White, above, was juried into the ArtQuilt Elements show. This was the first time I’ve ever gotten into this show after several years of trying, and I thought the quality of the work in this year’s exhibit was outstanding – so I’m very pleased to have been included. The conference events included a tour of some of the area’s current fiber art exhibits and happenings, including a stop at the Snyderman/Works Gallery, where the 6th International Fiber Biennial is on view through April 23. This is an amazing show; there’s so much here that it was impossible to take it all in within the short amount of time we had there. Some of my favorites were the pieces by Dorothy Caldwell (see some of her work here and here) and Matthew Harris, whose work I’d seen in Surface Design Magazine, but can’t seem to find much about him on the web.

We also stopped at the Gross McCleaf Gallery to see some amazing work by Emily Richardson and Judith James. Emily’s fabric constructions are very much like paintings, as they are made from painted and pieced fabrics with a wide range of opacity which results in a rich layered effect with an intriguing contrast of pastel and very strong colors. She was there in the gallery answering questions, and I enjoyed talking with her about her process. Judith had been one of the keynote speakers at the conference the day before, so I had seen slides of her work during her talk. What really struck me was their size – for some reason, while watching the slide presentation, I had gotten the idea that they were very large, so I was surprised at their quite modest scale when seen in person at the gallery. They are still wonderful, though – perhaps even more so, for the attention to the tiniest detail and the imaginative way she uses the muted and understated colors of the discharge process in her compositions.

I’m also taking one of the workshops offered as part of the symposium. I thought as long as I was going as far as Philadelphia, I needed it to be longer than a 2-day trip to make it worth the travel. So I’m taking Leslie Nobler Farber’s “Digital Approaches” workshop to try some new techniques in printing images onto various substrates. More on that later – I’m getting very tired of computers. Unfortunately, the timing of this event fell into a very busy time at school. One of my classes this semester is “Video Art I,” and my first “rough cut” is due on Thursday. So I already have my laptop with me since I needed it for the digital printing workshop, but I also had to lug a 500mb external disk drive along so I can work on my video project in my hotel room in the evenings. Some fun!

2017-10-15T16:17:08+00:00 April 7th, 2008|Inspiration, Installations|4 Comments