day in the city

October 23, 2010

Today I saw two wonderful and completely different exhibitions in NYC.  First, at one of my favorite places, the American Folk Art Museum, the first half of an exhibit that celebrates their Year of the Quilt.  Its title, bland but informative, is: “Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum.” It’s not a huge show, but has outstanding examples of a very broad range.  Part II goes up in May 2011.

Hummingbirds Quilt

Hummingbirds Quilt, artist unidentified

African American strip quilt

African American strip quilt, by Idabell Bester

Harlequin Medallion Quilt

Harlequin Medallion Quilt, glazed wool, artist unidentified

Then I traipsed over to another favorite place, the Metropolitan Museum.  Only another week before Big Bambú closes and I had to see it.  No way to get tickets for the tour that lets you walk through the sculpture to the top (had to be there at least three hours early to wait in line), but just wandering around under it was amazing.  This was a sculpture installation on the roof of the Met that has continued to be built during the entire exhibition.  I’ll let the photos tell how that was.

Under the Big Bambú sculpture

Tangle of bamboo

One end of the Bib Bambú sculpture

This is only one end of the sculpture, taken from a part of the roof that wasn't covered with it.

Cords used to tie the bamboo

They had the colored cords they use to tie the bamboo hanging in big hanks along a piece of bamboo. Tops of Central Park trees beyond.

Hanging stone weight

A stone weight hanging in its own cage/sling of bamboo

Cord ties on steps

Cords tying the steps going up into the sculpture

NYC skyline with bamboo

Near sunset, nyc with bamboo fingers

Something that struck me about these two shows is a similarity of construction.  That is, you take one of something beautiful (a scrap of fabric, a stick of bamboo) and gather it and gather it, accumulating, assembling, letting it go where it will, but also watching what it does and guiding too, the ancient conversation between humans and material.  And besides, I just find a large accumulation of multiples irresistible.

shot cotton lagniappe

October 9, 2010

Recently Jude posted a wonderful dissertation on shot fabrics.  Highly recommended!  It induced me to admit my love of a certain brand of shot cotton, something of a guilty pleasure since it’s a popular designer and the fabric is expensive.  A little bonus I love from all fabrics, but most especially this shot cotton, is the ravishing ribbon the selvage makes.

shot cotton selvage ribbons

old wool coils

September 29, 2010

Found these wool binding coils at a tag sale.  They are obviously old, also dirty and partially moth-eaten.  I am not a really experienced sewer, and this kind of wool binding is not something I’ve ever seen.  What would it have been used for?  Upholstery? Blankets?  I’m going to use it for something, but almost certainly not either of those things.  The moth-eaten portions could be kind of interesting to layer with other fabric.  I’m thinking about it.

coils of wool binding fabric

One of these binding fabrics has something like free form embroidery on it. What would this had been used for?

recent pojagi

September 26, 2010

Just finished a pojagi-style piece as a gift for the generous mother of a friend.  Used lightweight linens and cottons, damask, and an open weave fabric.  I was trying for some spontaneity in this one and mostly free-cut and built the composition as I went.  Very badly photographed, however.  Ah well.  Will have to do, since the gift is already sent off.

With light through it, but the colors are not accurate; size is approx. 18"x18"

color is more accurate in this one

The "back" of the piece where I left the french seams not sewn down. Like the texture this gives.

stripe cuts

August 31, 2010

Playing with stripes from a baby quilt I’m trying to finish.  Great mindless stress reliever.  (The quilt does not look like this.  The image is just photoshop rearrangements.)

photoshop collage of stripes from a current project

different kind of quilt

August 26, 2010

While it won’t appeal to everyone, I thought I’d share this interesting weaving and ‘quilt’ project.  The link goes to the Kickstarter site, where the artists are looking for funding to complete the project.  I’m not advocating for a donation (I don’t know the artists), but if you’re unaware of  Kickstarter, you may want to give that a look too.  The project is called 50 Different Minds.  It draws on the history of weaving, going back to the Jacquard loom, through the Albers’s, and lands potently in our own moment of information overload.  It’s debuting in its initial form at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, through October 31, 2010.

50 Different Minds thumbnail

How things continue

August 8, 2010

It’s been a long hiatus.  I’ve been occupied with the passing of a dear person who was much too young to die, and also with the agony of his equally dear partner, who is much too young to lose her love.  Perhaps I shouldn’t share that publically with people who don’t know me at all, but there are things about it that actually do connect here, in the circle of art, design, and textiles.  The mesh of things sometimes gives one pause.

This young man was a designer I worked with, who arrived four years ago with so much potential, and even quite a bit of accomplishment for a 24 yr old.  But still, I believed some of his portfolio showed he still needed to develop.  In particular, I found his use of a butterfly icon on his personal website to be a likely indicator of some unsophisticated choices.  Well executed, I thought, but still a butterfly.  Over the years of knowing and working with him, I began to think – and now completely believe – that he was actually rather courageous in this choice and that he knew quite well how to select his icon.

He was a deeply modest and gentle person.  He went about his work with everyone, even rude and demanding people, as if each had some germ of authentic need that was worth respecting. Difficult people responded to his gentleness by gentling their own behavior.  Less anger and frustration, more respect and trust.  It was amazing to watch.  Of course it helped a lot that he was also quite expert in his work, but that’s not enough in itself to inspire civility in some people.  His life manner, it seems to me now, was something of a butterfly effect.  That is, the subtlest movement in South America changes the weather in Central Park.  Astonishingly, he changed our work community with mildness.

But he himself was also changed.  It was the right environment for him and he came so fully out of his chrysalis, developed his skills at such a speed, it was dramatic to watch.  This too we always assign to the butterfly.  Transformation.  He transformed, and he was transformed.

The most difficult challenge in these last weeks and months of his illness has been how to even begin to understand why someone so talented, loved, respected….and young could be taken away so suddenly. There just seems nothing right about it.  Then, the morning of his memorial, I came across this famous line from Rabindranath Tagore, words that before had only peripheral meaning for me:

The butterfly counts not months, but moments…and has time enough.

When I got home from the memorial, there was mail for me, a consoling note from a loving family member, who did not know anything really about my lost friend, but did know my pain.  It was a very comforting note, and on the cover of the card was a simple, hand-stamped butterfly.  My heart broke open seeing it.

Then, that same evening I decided to stop by Sri Threads blog, which I’ve been too distracted to do for a long time.  Stephen always posts something so beautiful I am filled with joy, and I really felt a need.  What did I find?  You should take a look at this butterfly, so very different than any saccharine representation one might come across.  He will stare back at you in a most unnerving way.

As an artist, I’ve long believed we must look again at all things, irrespective of how mundane, banal, or overworked, to be truly conscious of the world.  Some things are very hard to re-understand: hearts, kittens, flowers, and butterflies are among the most difficult for me.  But there is nothing that cannot be seen again with a fresh view and profound meaning.  Perhaps that is finally all we are really left with in making art.  To experience again what is too well known.

Kantha show

March 15, 2010

I was hoping to see the kantha exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which they claim to be the first exhibition devoted solely to kantha outside of Asia, but not sure that trip is going to work out in my schedule.  On the website you can see several of the works in the show.  One that caught my eye was very different from the others, just rows of little circles.  The simplicity is as bold as some of the other far more complex and ornate examples.

Kantha example at Philadelphia Museum of Art

detail of center of kantha example

detail of corner of kantha example

It’s sort of sampler-like, isnt’ it?  Even if you can’t get to Philadelphia to see the show, the website has many beautiful kantha works to examine.

Art museum day

March 7, 2010

The Agnes Martin galleries at DIA:Beacon are very good, but I’d like to see more than the 20 paintings they have there.  And I’m sorry to say that none of the iphone photos I took when no one was looking were any good. Martin’s work doesn’t really reproduce well, even with better equipment.  It has to be seen in person.  But I was pleased to find in the museum shop, on the cover of an old exhibition catalog, these words of hers:

The silence on the floor of
my house
is all the questions and all
the answers that have
been known in the world
The sentimental furniture
threatens the peace
The reflection of a sunset
speaks loudly of days

Also at DIA:Beacon is an amazing set of massive Richard Serra steel sculptures that you can walk inside of.  He’s done others like this that can be found elsewhere, but these are the ones I know and love.  If you get a chance, go see them.  (There’s a train up from Grand Central in NYC.)

serra in sun

steady on

March 3, 2010

This week trying to regain some rhythm and restablize a bit after being without power for a few days due to a double-whammy storm that hit this area last Thursday night.  Everything melting and dingy and wet now, but last weekend it was drama.  Now just trying to get my head back to projects underway.  Things that will help:  the Japanese indigo stripe has finally arrived and will shortly become a trim little border to hold the indigo table scarf.  And DIA:Beacon has recently installed some Agnes Martin paintings from its collection that I’ll try to see this weekend.  I really like Agnes Martin.