Going with the flow … or is it more of a backwater eddy?

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Untitled, 12 x 12 inches, ©Deidre Adams

When I finished up my spring semester of school back in mid-May, it seemed I had the whole summer before me and many grandiose plans swirled through my brain about all the great work I was going to make and the many things I would accomplish. Well, here it is the middle of July and I don’t have a whole lot to show for it. Instead of going into my studio and working full days with single-minded focus, I’ve found that my time has been thoroughly eaten away with traveling and design work, and artwork time has been limited to popping in for short stints when I just couldn’t force myself to sit at the computer for one more second.

This kind of disjointed time is manifesting itself in serious ADD behavior. Instead of concentrating on a single thing, I’m flitting from one project to another, making small amounts of progress on each. I’m working on a few large pieces in my standard working style, progressing very slowly. It seems the large pieces now require small amounts of painting interspersed with lots of staring and contemplating and decision-making. In addition to those, I’ve also started some totally new small works that I have a vision will contain lots and lots of hand-stitching, something I love but rarely find time to do. And since I’m not distracted enough, I’m getting out UFOs (unfinished objects) and finding little ways to improve them. I’m even taking a few of my older finished pieces that I wasn’t satisfied with and have been making small alterations.

This piece above started as a school assignment. It was part of my final project in Painting IV last spring, which was supposed to consist of 2 large paintings. Since I was taking a total of 5 classes, I knew that I was not going to have a lot of time to complete the work at school. Plus I really did not want to have to schlep huge canvases back and forth to school and home for each class. In consultation with my instructor, we agreed that I could make 6-8 small pieces instead of the 2 large ones. At the time, I had been reading Elaine Lipson’s Red Thread Studio blog, a content-rich source of ideas and links relating to all manner of sewing topics, and from there went to a link for the Sri Threads blog, specifically this post about a boro sakiori noragi, an old Japanese work coat that was well worn and loved and had been patched many times. I loved the story of how it was made:

Sometimes a group of women would pool their meager resources to buy a bundle of rags.  They’d sort the rags, wash them and then prepare them for use as yarn to create these thick coats.  Prior to this, farmers and rural folk would wear what they could forage for and turn that into yarn, so they wore clothing of hemp, ramie, wisteria and the like.

The Sri Threads Gallery has many more examples of these patched textiles on their web site, and I printed out some of them for the “process folio” we’re required to make for every painting assignment. The beautiful stitching was so engaging to me, along with the idea of continuing to repair and keep using an item of clothing, instead of casting it away so easily as our society does. So I had some kind of idea that my pieces would be about wabi-sabi, or finding beauty in the imperfect. I knew that I wanted to include scraps of cloth and hand stitching as an homage to this way of thinking and living. Here’s an image of them in progress:

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The top ones are before any paint is applied, and the bottom ones are in early stages of painting.

The problem was, I ran out of time and was just going through the motions there at the end. I couldn’t figure out how I could possibly give them the kind of dimension I wanted them to have, plus get them all mounted so they would look complete, but at the same time preserve the raw edge of the torn canvas, which I deemed as very important to the work. Since having something you could call finished seemed to have a bigger impact on your grade than whether or not you realized your artistic vision — after all, how could anyone besides the artist really know whether that was achieved — I had to compromise. I ended up making 2 long, banner-like mountings out of canvas and batting, and I laboriously hand-stitched each of these little paintings to them to form long vertical pieces. This image shows them close to done but without the final dark paint that I ended up putting on the background. I forgot to take a picture of the completed paintings — I guess that in itself is an indicator of how excited I was about it.

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Well, these things have been hanging around my studio for months, and I finally got tired of looking at them. I just decided to take the plunge and cut them all apart again, to live as separate paintings as I had intended all along. I’m giving up on the idea of simple beauty, because they were, quite frankly, just plain boring, and that original idea is less important to me than having work I find interesting and complete. I’m working on making them standalone paintings, with texture and color and many levels of layering. I’m much happier with where these are going now. Here are a couple more:

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2017-10-15T16:16:40+00:00 July 11th, 2009|Inspiration, Painting, School|4 Comments

Ghosts from the past

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Upon Reflection, 50 x 29 inches, ©2003 Deidre Adams

Last week, I received two quilts back from a traveling exhibit. Elements from the Front Range Contemporary Quilters was a show of art quilts that was curated by FRCQ member Lorri Flint and handled through Exhibits USA / Mid-America Arts Alliance. The work traveled to various venues throughout the U.S. from 2005-2009.

Since I made this work over six years ago, it was really surprising to see it again. What I was doing then was so different from my current work. In 2003, I was doing a lot of hand-dyeing and discharge, and I was busy making lots and lots of fabric with these methods in order to have a big stash to choose from when designing. Upon Reflection features various fabrics made using the technique of arashi shibori, which I first learned from my friend Shelly DeChantal (sorry, no web site) way back when.

It’s not so much that I made a conscious decision to stop making hand-dyed fabrics, but once I developed my present painting technique, I just found it was a lot more suited to my temperament and the way my brain works. Dyeing can get somewhat technical, with deciding how much of any given color to make, whether to do gradations, figuring out how much dye to use, proportions of other chemicals used, etc. And no getting around it — dyeing is also just plain hard work, especially the hot-water rinsing part. The manual labor aspect of it was kind of hard on the old body. Painting was the answer for me. No advance planning needed, and much more spontaneous to do.

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Silent Witness, 50 x 27 inches, ©2003 Deidre Adams

This is the other piece from the Elements show. It represents a kind of transitional piece for my working style, when I started doing more with paint, even experimenting with painting on commercial fabrics. I also started piecing with larger sections of fabric at this time, as I had become rather impatient with the tedious joining of lots of small pieces that I had done prior to this.

Well, it’s nice to have a bit of history for my archives. I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks on design projects. Hope to have some time to get back into the studio tomorrow.

Side note: Don’t you hate it when you have to eat your words? Less than 2 months ago, I just said I wasn’t going to be joining Facebook any time soon. Well, not too long after that, I got an offer I could not refuse and so, with some trepidation, I went ahead and created my Facebook presence. So far, the sky hasn’t fallen, and my e-mail box hasn’t become clogged with spam. It’s even sort of fun. I haven’t totally figured out all the ins and outs of it, though, as there’s a lot to it. Will Twitter be next? It’s hard to imagine that anyone wants to hear my random braindroppings on any kind of regular basis, but I suppose I now realize you should never say “never.”

2017-10-15T16:16:41+00:00 July 8th, 2009|Exhibitions|2 Comments