Warning Signs

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“Acid Tears” – An original work of mine created entirely from used clothing.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working on art for the coming Boneyard Arts Festival. In my last few posts, I have been covering some of the works I am creating for this event, with a large part of the work being drawn from my personal experiences with domestic violence.  I could just continue on with updates on the progress on my work, but before I do, I want to talk a bit about this subject that still manages to plague virtually every society on this planet.

After I wrote my last post (and you can go back to each of my posts in this series – 1, 2, 3, 4), I talked about it with my mother, who responded, “Part of recovery is not to dwell in the past.”  And she is right. It is, perhaps, possible that maybe I’ve never fully recovered. However, I like to think that what I am doing is trying to understand and learn from the past. That is, after all, a large part of why we study history – that if you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. It is also evident that while that particular nightmare has long since ended, others still suffer and there are still large, systemic issues within our society that allow these things to happen. We live in a world where a girl can be raped in a room full of people with no one stopping it and she is blamed and mocked while news reporters are saddened at the diminished futures for her rapists. And then, in an article that was just posted yesterday, it was reported that domestic violence homicides are rising.

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  -Thich Nhat Hanh

A question I often hear is, “Why do people stay in abusive relationships?”, or I will hear comments and statements that criticize victims, such as “I would be smart enough to leave” or “I wouldn’t put up with it”. When you are on the outside looking in, it can sometimes be hard to understand why. While each case is unique, there are some characteristics that can be found over and over in different stories. Often the victim had a low self-esteem to begin with. They often either do not know how to identify that they are in an abusive relationship – and not all forms of abuse are physical – or they believe the abusive behavior to be normal – which frequently happens when growing up with domestic violence. If they do not have a large social network, people they know and trust and can turn to for help and support, it is easy to grow dependent upon their partner and so it can become harder to feel like they can survive away from their partners.

Do you think you might be in an abusive relationship? Check the Warning Signs!

Feminist Majority Foundation provides some important facts regarding domestic violence

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

HelpGuide.org also has some good information available on their site on how to identify, escape and survive an abusive relationship.

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Red Bull Fueled Late Nights – On the Journey from Concept to Art

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A page from my art journal. What started with one idea bloomed into an entire theme.

Right now, it is around 2:45 in the morning as I start to write this. Since I don’t have to work tomorrow (er, today), and I am behind schedule from where I would like to be, I decided to pull a late night working on pieces for the Boneyard Art Fest.  What started out with one idea grew into multiple pieces with an overall theme. And I am paying for it now. Check here to see how it started.

I’ve been looking back into my past and my experiences with domestic violence and have built each piece as various portraits of a woman – a hybrid between myself and my mother, but also extended into portraits of those who’ve had to endure these experiences in general as many of the feelings and themes are, sadly, universal.

The screams and cries

You may have already read the entry on Seeing Sound, or if you haven’t GEyou can go back and check it out. I’ve since hashed out the image I will be embroidering onto that denim hem background. I found a good diagram of the larynx online, and GEwith the help of a nurse friend of mine, we enlarged it to more or less be life sized. I then sketched out a rough (very rough) outline of what the embroidered image will look like. I still need to actually embroider it.

The Cycle of Violence

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Mother and Child planned layout

Violence begets violence. Children who grow up in an environment where there is domestic violence are more likely to learn and repeat those behaviors. This does not have to be fate, however. Cycles can be broken, but to do so takes effort. My mother made every effort she could to make sure the cycle would be broken with me, and I’d like to think that it has, but some days I’m not sure. It can be hard, when you’ve never seen an example of a healthy relationship, it can be hard to know what one is *supposed* to look like and it can be hard to tell if your reactions or feelings are normal and natural or conditioned.
I wanted to capture this generational cycle in another portrait. A portrait of the mother and child in utero. To plan the layout, I had a friend trace my outline onto poster board and I made the abdomen GEwider to incorporate a pregnant womb. It’s entirely possible that I’m not medically accurate as far as fetus size or belly size, but I made an honest attempt. I am currently in the process of creating the surprisingly complicated background for this piece and, once complete, intend to outline the body, womb and fetus with embroidered descriptor words and phrases (I may replace embroidery with a quicker method if I hit a serious time crunch).
For this background, I am using several different fabrics, all used clothing, in shades of black and blue (to symbolize bruising). This is what I was playing around with the other day. I am piecing these fabrics together crazy quilt style, to reflect the shattered lives, emotions and homes that must be stitched back together if we are to survive. And it goes deeper than that. I took a light blue fabric, the lining of an old prom dress, and wrote down the stories, the experiences, the feelings that have been handed down. Because I had to. Because in creating these works, I am digging deep into my own life and those stories needed to be GEthere. And I cut them into shards just like the other pieces and covered them with a layer of sheer fabric. I have done this for two reasons – 1) While these are my stories, they do not belong to me alone and I need to respect that. I’ve made it all but impossible to actually *read* them. 2) Like anything else, these histories are broken apart and distorted from time and perspectives. What I would have to say, what the other actors in these stories would have to say, are likely to be different parts of the same whole. And so, cutting them and obscuring them symbolizes that fact.

More to Come, Stay Tuned

I’ve more to say, but this is getting long and I need to get some amount of sleep. Check back Saturday, March 30th for more.

From Concept to Art – Experimentation

A large part of my artwork is experimenting. Even after I’ve developed a concept and/or laid out the basic framework for what I want to do, there is still the matter of playing around with aesthetics. (If you haven’t already, you might want to read parts 1 and 2 of this Concept to Art series)

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Right and wrong sides of fabric 1

At root, I am self taught. I read books and watch videos, but mostly I play around and experiment with techniques. One technique I wanted to experiment with was to use flour paste as a resist. I first saw this in the book Art Cloth: A Guide to Surface Design for Fabric  by Jane Dunnewold and have been looking for an excuse to try it out. The basic idea is that you mix equal parts water and white flour, spread it evenly across the fabric, wait for it to dry and then do any of your dying. If you want to draw into the paste for designs, do it while it is wet.

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Fabric 2

Now, I have dozens of fabrics to try this out on, so I tested it with a couple. Since the fabrics I started with (both old dresses I’ve taken apart to re-purpose) were already

dark in color, I decided to use bleach instead of dye. It’s also snowing like mad outside and bleach is all I have on hand to try this with. Here is what I learned:

Only one of the fibers used in this black jacquard fabric even responds to bleach. This makes doing a paste resist on it almost pointless. However, when I brush it with bleach straight on, the design really pops out in a nice orangey-yellow. I may juxtapose bleached and unbleached segments.

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The test writing is also barely visible on the second test fabric. However, I do quite like the almost explosive effect on the fabric. Not yet sure what I’ll do. Also, I’ve observed that if too much bleach is poured on, the flour will turn into a kind of watery blob… which may have had some part in the explosive effect.

GEAnother technique I want to experiment with was pyrography. I’ve got an old soldering iron that my dad gave me some months ago and an old leather jacket of mine that I’ve taken apart to reuse somehow after it got too worn out for regular wear. You can see where I have written the word “test” with the iron, branding the leather. Thankfully, you cannot smell  GE the horrid stench in my apartment.

These experiments and their results will help me further determine how I will give life to the concepts and ideas of my mind.

 

What am I working on?

In case you haven’t read my previous posts, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

Seeing Sound – A Step on the Journey from Concept to Art

Materials

I like to use re-purposed materials in the work that I do. Most frequently, I make use of clothing or old bedsheets. While occasionally I will use non-traditional materials such as newspaper or VHS tape, I just prefer working with fabric. Perhaps you may not consider re-using old clothing as doing much to combat the landfills, or you may just see it as a fun hobby to upcycle clothing like the ReFashionista (an amazing site, btw), but you’d be wrong. I actually work for a 2nd hand store during the day, have been for over 3 years now, and I see every single day how much textile waste we create. What I use may not be making much of a dent in huge piles of waste we create, I also do my part to not add to that pile if I can help it.

Working with what I have

GERather than seek out some specific pattern or shade, I have to work with what I have available to me. While there are some constants when working with clothing – denim is plentiful and will almost always be some shade of blue – I cannot always anticipate what I will have at my disposal. Even with the items I have already, I often forget what I have shoved into the corners of my closet so it’s usually a surprise. It is good to learn the basic properties of common fabrics/fibers and how to identify them when there is no label present. There are entire books written on fabric properties/ identification.

Playing Around

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine paid me to hem several pair of jeans for him. As I often do, because I hold onto GEeverything and have nightmares about turning into a hoarder, I saved the scrap bits that I’d cut off from the bottoms of the legs. I decided to take them apart and flatten them out. When I did that, I noticed something interesting. The creases and crinkles of the original hems create a pattern which, to me, looks something like sound waves. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. Immediately, my thoughts are turning to the sounds of screams and crying – the sounds of arguments late at night. Of course, the sound wave patterns created by screaming look quite a bit different, so I’m going to claim a little bit of artistic license. My next thought is to isolate the throat, the organ that creates sounds. I do an image search for throat scans and throat xrays to get an idea of what they look like. Sure, I could go with the tongue and tonsil image I see when I open my mouth in the mirror, but I want to go a little further, I want to see the voicebox itself… And so it is that I will spend (waste) half an hour or better just looking for just the right diagram or image that I might want to incorporate…

What am I working on?

In case you haven’t read my previous post, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

From Concept to Art – The Beginning of a Journey

Each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival.

Concepts

It is hard to say where concepts originate and as this is a work is progress, it is hard to say where it will end up. This is where making use of a sketch or art diary is quite helpful. There have been a variety of ideas and images floating through my mind, as well as personal conflicts and issues that I’ve had to deal with (or in some cases, will likely never cease wrestling with) that all influence each other and as well as my art. So, as it currently sits, these are some of the keys concepts influencing my art – a window into the inner workings of my mind, if you will:

  • The Mind Itself. While I have always had an interest in psychology and how the mind works, the more I learn, the more fascinated I become with it. I have a BA in Anthropology, but while I was in college I also took some courses in cognitive psychology and a course in cognitive anthropology in my final year that I keep looking back on. I saved all of my notes/recorded lectures/books. I’ve been re-reading some of those books for fun. It’s amazing how much more sense they make when I’m not trying to scan for class content or cram dozens of pages in overnight. I actually have time to take it in now.
  • Domestic Violence. Both as I read articles online and as shadows of my past run amok in the recesses of my head. Experiences I had as a child are part of who I am as a person today. Memories have given me many nightmares. They color the lens with which I see every romantic relationship. It is not that I choose to wallow in painful events or that I haven’t been able to let go, but that I accept it as part of my composition as much as I do the schools I went to or the communities I grew up in.
  • Human Anatomy and Biology. I’ve been watching a lot of House this month. It is one of my favorite shows of all time and I’ve only this past week gotten to watch the 8th and final season.

    The wound man was a figure from medieval medical books depicting various battle injuries. I’ve actually been intrigued by this since my high school days. Image from Retronaut.

    S0, I’m kind of keen on x-rays and MRI scans for their aesthetic value as well as various organs. I’ve always been a fan of eyes and anatomic hearts. However, beyond that, I am also interested in their functions – both biologically and symbolically. While we know it is not scientifically accurate today, I kind of find some old medical texts and ideas to be interesting – things like the balancing of the humors or the different functions and attributes placed upon various organs.

 

2013 Boneyard Details – At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

Reflecting on Hatch

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I was gearing up to work on entries for the Hatch show and I’ve been MIA since. Hatch was this past weekend and it was fantastic. Now that it is over, I want to get back into the blogosphere. What better way to jump in than to share with you all of my wonderful experiences from this event?

What is Hatch?

Hatch was a creative-reuse art happening in Champaign, Illinois that was put on through the I.D.E.A. Store. There were 2 components to this show: the Art Exhibit and the Art Fair. Please see the official Hatch page for the full list of participants and their contact info! The exhibit is hosted at Indi-go Artist Co-op and will be on display through March 17, 2013. The fair was a one day event that featured over a dozen vendors.

The Art Fair – Highlights

I was only able to attend the art fair for the last hour, as I had to work most of the day. I wasn’t able to take it all in in such a short time. However, from what I saw, it was a good show. These were some of my favorites-

Phyllis Hughes
Phyllis was such an interesting person to talk to. I loved her crazy quilts and the Indian batik work she had brought with her from her time spent in India. She lived there for 2 years. I’m entirely jealous.
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Sheila Daniels
Sheila makes jewelry from various odds and ends. Her work is exquisitely beautiful *and* she’s a fan of Doctor Who! You can’t go wrong!

This Image from Cheeky Magpie

Vintage Karma
Based in Tuscola, Vintage Karma sells handmade items from a variety of local artisans. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos here.

Karen Pritchett
Karen doesn’t have much of a web presence, but she does have a Facebook and is based in Columbia, Missouri. She makes really cute and upcycled outfits.
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The Art Exhibit – Highlights

So much amazing artwork at this exhibit. Michelle Stitzlein came in from Ohio with a couple of pieces from her Moth series as the “Artist-in-Residence”. She held a slideshow Friday night during the opening reception and it was pretty awesome. She even went to one of the local elementary schools to work with kids on making murals with bottle caps.

Some of my favorite works on display:

Melissa Mitchell
Melissa, not only an artist, but one of the volunteers that helped to make the event happen, works with assemblage art. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her studio before. There isn’t much she creates that isn’t interesting. And wacky. And sometimes just very, very wrong (but in a good way)!
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Cindy Blair Sampson
While she claims she disconnects herself from her artwork, she manages to create some very moving pieces. I found this work in particular to be very deep and moving. When you open the book, you find a key pressed into beeswax. As she said during the gallery talk, she feels the uterus to be the center of the universe. Also, the boob turns. Seriously. Interactive art!! +5 points!
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Laura Wennstrom
I will never look at security envelopes the same way again. She created a “quilt” from envelopes. I have to admit, when I first saw this piece, I was unimpressed. However, after hearing her talk about her piece and looking closer at the patterns stamped into these envelopes that we routinely ignore, I have to give her credit. You’ve opened my eyes to something new, Laura. And now I want to make knitting charts that resemble security envelope designs.
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Lawrence Agnello
While I didn’t really get the chance to meet him, I was impressed by his work. As the work holds it’s own, I give it to you with no further commentary.
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Deborah Fell
Another artist I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to, but her artwork was too cool for me to overlook. I have no intelligent words or critiques here. I just simply find them interesting and captivating.
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Fabric of Society and My First Juried Show

This show was also a very big deal for me, personally, as it was my very first juried show. I entered into the fair and 2 pieces for the exhibition. One of those pieces I stayed awake for over 35 hours working on. Only 1 piece was accepted (not the one I lost sleep over, haha). However, I feel thrilled that I even made it in at all… I heard that there were over a hundred applicants. I was able to participate in a gallery talk on Sunday, where artists were spotlighted and able to discuss their artwork and answer questions. I had a lot of fun with that. I even managed to sell my artwork that afternoon, and in talking to the people who purchased my artwork, I am overjoyed that it will be going to someone that truly appreciates and *gets* the concept.
I suppose you’d like to see the piece? I call it “Fabric of Society”. I’d shown it previously at 3T: Third Thursday Art Show, and I have to credit Adam Perschbacher for the initial photos that I used for the application. I honestly think his photos made a difference in getting accepted.
FabricofSociety FabricofSoceity1

This is me trying to sound smart while talking about my artwork.

This is me trying to sound smart while talking about my artwork.

I spun strips of newspaper into yarn and knitted this placard, which, when looked at closely, reads “TRUTH?”
The artist’s statement underneath reads:

The News. We count on reporters to give us facts and report the truth. Based on this information we make a myriad of important decisions… some personal, some public and having important effects upon others. We’d like to believe that we can trust the journalists and reporters to be objective, most of us know better. We are, after all, only human and so we are prone to biases. Whether intentional or not, what we claim to be factual and true ends up twisted and distorted, spun to serve some purpose or other. Like fiber spun into yarn. It is these twisted truths that are knitted up, unrecognizable, to create this fabric of society. And we wrap ourselves up in it, like a blanket, for comfort and warmth. But what is truth? Could we Recognize it if we saw it? Can you?