Monday, 28 September 2015

Quotes: Frances Hesselbein

"It's not hard work that wears you out but the repression of your true personality." –– Frances Hesselbein, American author and leader
Source: via

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Judy Martin: Mended World @ Homer Watson House & Gallery 1

Judy Martin, Trinity, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Mended World is comprised of five large panels, all circles within squares. Four of these panels were part of The Manitoulin Circle Project (2009-2013). One of Martin's daily "journal" textiles, Cloud of Time (2013) was exhibited as well, but the installation was less than ideal and detracted from the strength of it. It's not an easy piece to install in a small space. 

Trinity is the precursor to the Manitoulin Circle Project. Martin made Trinity between 2009 and 2011 for a Liturgical Embroidery course that she took during her embroidery degree studies with Middlesex University in the United Kingdom (2012). It's a subtle textile embedded with a lot of symbolism. In Christianity, the trinity represents God, God's son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The circle symbolizes "eternity and perfection", and to extrapolate, heaven. "The square is the emblem of the earth or earthly existence. ... Its four sides signify the four elements, the four corners of the heavens, the four directions (Reimer, 8)." In Christianity, blue represents the sky, and thus heaven. According to religion, blue may symbolize truth. Trinity, when not travelling, is installed as a pulpit antependium in the sanctuary of the Little Current United Church on Manitoulin Island where Martin attends.
Judy Martin, Trinity detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Martin consulted with Reverend Faye Stevens, the minister of Little Current United Church, about her making of Trinity and, as I noted, this was the genesis of the larger Manitoulin Circle Project. A year prior to this, Stevens had approached Martin to be a volunteer artist-in-residence in the church, but the timing wasn't right. Martin designed the four panels that were made with The Manitoulin Circle Project as part of her degree studies. The making of the panels was completely independent of Martin's degree program: they were commissioned by Little Current United Church, facilitated by Martin as part of her volunteer residency, and made by Martin and more than 100 volunteers over a four-year period. 

Trinity, 2011 recycled linen damask, new silk, Procion dye, hand-stitched; 60.9 X 86.4 cm
Judy Martin, Earth Ark, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Earth Ark is the first liturgical panel completed by The Manitoulin Circle Project. It is made from recycled linen damask (old table linens), silk, and women's handkerchiefs and was hand and machine-stitched. Its dimensions are 228.6 X 228.6 cm. The leaf stitched to the panel is replaced each time the panel travels and I imagine that once the panel is installed in its final destination (Little Current United Church), the leaf will be refreshed as necessary. 

Whereas Trinity is light and ethereal and resembles a rolling triple Russian wedding band ring (three separate interlocking rolling rings that symbolize faith, hope, and love), Earth Ark has a visual weight. The title and visual elements hint at the Bible story of Noah and the ark, the rainbow as a sign of hope, and the dove going out and bringing back an olive branch. To me, the brown half-circle registers as an island. Earth Ark has a pleasing asymmetry with the ark/island off to the right.
Judy Martin, Earth Ark detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
If you take a close look at the above image, you see the sheen of damask table linens. The image below reveals old lace handkerchiefs. In the old days, a lady would tuck a clean lace handkerchief in her purse on Sunday morning, ready to hold a morsel of communion bread. Once all eligible congregants were served their bread, they would all eat together: "the body of Christ broken for you."
Judy Martin, Earth Ark detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
This is the first of three posts. Spending time with the liturgical textiles has been a treat. They are a fine example of non-representational Christian art made in collaboration.

Judy Martin Mended World: an exhibition of the Manitoulin Community Circle Project 
at Homer Watson House and Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada 
May 9 to June 14, 2015

All photographs were taken with permission from the artist.

End Notes: 
Margaret Loewen Reimer, "Signs and Symbols." Canadian Mennonite, January 24, 2000 Volume 4, Number 2, page 8.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Quotes: Elizabeth Styring Nutt

"Art is not hand and eye training, but mind training." – Elizabeth Styring Nutt, principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now known as NSCAD University) from 1919-1943. An English landscape painter, Nutt was hand-picked by her predecessor Arthur Lismer to head the school and in 1925, she renamed it the Nova Scotia College of Art in 1925.

Source: NSCAD University Annual Report 2011-2012, pages 23-24

Friday, 18 September 2015

Amanda McCavour @ Fibreworks 2014

Amanda McCavour, Black Cloud, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Black Cloud is a radical departure from Amanda McCavour's machine-embroidered installations. It's very sexy in a playful S&M-meets-Kindergarten-art-class way.
Amanda McCavour, Black Cloud, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
At the opening, Amanda told me that she made this work while she was doing her MFA at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She told me that at the beginning of her degree, her instructors would not permit her to use the sewing machine. They wanted her to recapture the mystery of making objects by hand quickly and directly. Her exquisite free-motion embroidered installations require a lot of designing and planning which can take the mystery out of the making process. They encouraged Amanda to experiment with basic materials and basically re-embrace the kinds of artistic activities that she did when she was in Kindergarten. Black Cloud has elements of construction-paper lanterns and crayon scribbles but her use of black removes all trace of childhood innocence. If she were to make this same piece in bright colours, it would read very differently.
Amanda McCavour, Black Cloud, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Although Black Cloud is installation-based, like her much-lauded free-motion embroidery (FME) work, it is different in every other way. It is visually heavy and playfully ominous –– a contradiction. It is also opaque, whereas the FME work is light and transparent. I wonder if and how the essence of Black Cloud will be absorbed with her pre-MFA FME work. McCavour has built a reputation with her FME installations. Will she risk this by shifting the direction and tone of her work?
Amanda McCavour, Black Cloud, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I love how the matte black materials reflect the light. 

Black Cloud, 2014, cut paper, toothpicks, thread, straws

Amanda McCavour artist statement: "This piece is a collection of lines, a drawing in space where materials become the mark. I am interested in a line's duality – its subtle quality versus its accumulative presence. This project came out of an exercise where I made a different work in my studio each day for ten days. I chose simple, readily available materials so that I could experiment more freely and openly. Paper, straws and toothpicks were among my many choices. Black Cloud is the result of gradually paring down, combining, altering, and then expanding the elements of my daily experiments within my studio. Within this work, I play with line, shape and surface."

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Amanda McCavour: Embroidered Spaces @ Homer Watson House & Gallery

Amanda McCavour, Floating Garden; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
I first saw Floating Garden at the 2012 Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and the setting was less than ideal. It was, in fact, a liability to the work. In the Homer Watson House and Gallery, Floating Garden sings. 
Amanda McCavour, Floating Garden; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Amanda McCavour is a master of free-motion embroidery (hereafter FME) and installation work. Each flower module is machine-stitched with thread onto water-soluble fabric. When finished, she immerses the unit into water and the background fabric dissolves. She can opt to not thoroughly wash the module so that some stiffness remains.
Amanda McCavour, Floating Garden; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
I took multiple photos of Floating Garden and it was difficult to share only three. It's an engaging piece in many ways: the flowers move with the air currents and the mass of threads from which the flowers are suspended are beautiful in their own way.
Amanda McCavour, Stand-In for Home; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Stand-In for Home worked well installed next to the old fireplace. It's like a ghostly apparition of what once furnished the space.
Amanda McCavour, Stand-In for Home; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
McCavour's three dimensional FME drawings cast exquisite shadows. Note the yellow roses wallpaper and the electrical outlet.
Amanda McCavour, Stand-In for Home; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Amanda McCavour's Embroidered Spaces at Homer Watson House & Gallery ran from May 9th to June 14, 2015.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Quotes: Cliff Eyland

"It's not hard to make art if you have a steady work ethic –– if you work every day. ... I've always thought that my kind of art is about [the] incremental making of things every day rather than [to] make a giant painting and get exhausted." –– Cliff Eyland (b. 1954), Canadian painter, curator, and writer
* Source: Nora Young interview with Cliff Eyland, Spark, CBC Radio, Sunday December 21, 2014

Friday, 11 September 2015

Cliff Eyland @ Halifax Central Library

Cliff Eyland, Library Cards, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Summer isn't complete without a visit to Halifax where my husband and I reconnect with good friends and spent time in a city that we love. One highlight of our visit was spending time in the new Halifax Central Library. We've been watching its progress for many years. Cliff Eyland's installation of 5000 "tiny paintings" graced a long wall on the main floor and an upper wall on the top floor. A few months ago I stumbled across his work when I was looking for information about Aganetha Dyck and I wrote about him here.
Cliff Eyland, Library Cards, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Have I mentioned that I am obsessed with modules?
Cliff Eyland, Library Cards detail, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Eyland (pronounced eeland) has worked in the 3" X 5" index/recipe/library card format since 1981. I wonder if he ever deviates from this format. Thirty-four years is a significant commitment to one size. It's like a good marriage.
Cliff Eyland, Library Cards detail, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Before the advent of computers, one had to search for library books at a cabinet containing multiple drawers filled with cards. Unless the cards were typed with information, they looked a bit like the card in the above image, sans the Letraset dot inclusion.
Cliff Eyland, Library Cards, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
In December 2014, Nora Young interviewed Eyland for her Spark program on CBC Radio.
Cliff Eyland, Library Cards, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
This group of modules was on the upper wall of the upper floor of the library. The space had the feel of a classy living room with leather club chairs and sofas. The three directional view was spectacular regardless of the weather. When the fog rolled in, it felt like you were floating in a cloud. 

On a practical level, I'm curious to see how these Cliff Eyland modules will age when exposed to so much light. I'm also curious to see how the library maintains them: next summer will I see them encrusted with dust and cobwebs?

If you visit Halifax, Nova Scotia, do explore the Halifax Central Library. How often are libraries tourist attractions?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Ritsuko Ozeki @ Froelick Gallery, PDX

Ritsuko Ozeki, Down Up, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
While in Portland, Oregon, I stumbled across Japanese artist Ritsuko Ozeki's exhibition Distance at the Froelick Gallery. It ran from July 21 to August 29, 2015.

Ritsuko Ozeki is a Tokyo-based painter and printmaker. She studied painting and intaglio at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan and earned both a B.A. in 1994 and an M.A. in 1996. Down Up is massive: it's 98" X 137" and arrived at the Froelick Gallery neatly folded in an envelope. Ozeki printed the artwork in modules of Japanese paper using about six different plates and then joined them together to create one large whole. She employed etching, aquatint, and collage in her process. According to Froelick Gallery director Rebecca Rockom, Down Up references the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.
Ritsuko Ozeki, Down Up detail, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Ozeki's prints, especially Down Up, drew me in immediately and they have had a significant impact on how I think about my work, especially her spacing, line, and repetition of modules. 

Her use of folds is right up my alley too. This week I started reading Sarah Thornton's 33 Artists in 3 Acts and her mention of the folded work of Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco (his Corplegados) and Chilean artist Eugenio Dittborn caught my attention.

To learn more about Ozeki:

Monday, 7 September 2015

Quotes: 18th century Chasidic saying

"Just as the hand, held before the eye, can hide the tallest mountain, so the routine of everyday life can keep us from seeing the vast radiance and the secret wonders that fill the world." –– Chasidic saying, 18th century
*Source: C. Stern, ed., Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe (New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1978), p. 3 via Norman Doidge The Brain's Way of Healing 2015 (unpaginated).

Friday, 4 September 2015

Postcards: Yoonhee Choi @ Blackfish Gallery, PDX

Yoonhee Choi 2013 exhibition postcard; Image credit: Karen Thiessen, 2015
Yoonhee Choi's exhibition, Trawling (June 2015), at Blackfish Gallery in Portland, Oregon was over by the time I visited, but I was able to see three framed artworks that were hanging in the gallery office. The above postcard is from an exhibition in 2013. 

Yoonhee Choi is a Korean-born artist who trained as a city planner and architect before turning her attention to fine art. She uses found objects and obsolete planning and architect supplies in her artworks. I am smitten with her two inch collages (framed size is 11'' square) and installations. Yoonhee Choi is a faculty member in the School of Architecture at Portland State University. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Postcards: Martha Rich @ Wieden + Kennedy Gallery, PDX

Martha Rich exhibition Postcard; Image credit:Karen Thiessen, 2015
I had the good fortune to meet Martha Rich while she was finishing installing her show at Wieden + Kennedy Gallery (an advertising agency) in Portland, Oregon. A few days later, I attended the opening. The work was selling fast. I'll share photos at some other point.