Friday, January 30, 2015

San Francisco colour + Poetic Memory

Painted Lady on Divisadero; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
My new Poetic Memory series is taking shape and I'm looking at colour in new ways. Colour palettes for previous textiles were along the lines of the above Painted Lady.
Doors in the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Poetic Memory has invited me to venture into new colour territory and I've been playing with paint, collage, and some textile piecing to see the colours interact and to learn how to work with them. The two greens of the above doors are part of the new palette; the peach is not.
Leucadendron in Pacific Heights; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Leucadendron is my favourite flower and I was excited to see it growing in a garden a short walk from our hotel. Here in Canada I've only seen it in cut form at my local florist. The above image with its various pinks, greens, and greys epitomizes the Poetic Memory palette.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Myung Urso @ Velvet Da Vinci in San Francisco

Myung Urso necklace Parody; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Myung Urso necklace Parody: hand-dyed cotton, onyx beads, thread, sterling silver, lacquer; 3.25 X 14 X 1.25 inches, 2013

My favourite gallery in San Francisco is Velvet da Vinci. The exhibitions are well-curated and with each visit I discover a new artist. The art jewellery of Myung Urso was part of the Christmas exhibition and I was immediately taken with her fusion of textiles and jewellery.

Having lived in Singapore, then worked along side Korean and Chinese textile artists (at NSCAD and during my Harbourfront residency), and been an admirer of the work of Kai Chan, I've developed a deep appreciation for an Asian approach to materials and processes.
Myung Urso necklace Parody; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Born in South Korea, Myung Urso currently lives in Rochester, New York, USA.
Myung Urso necklace Parody; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Since early December, I've visited her website at least once a week and with work spanning eight years there is much to see. Her inventive use of materials is inspiring me to make samples with things I don't normally use in my studio practice. 
Myung Urso brooch The Flow; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Myung Urso brooch The Flow: silk, wood, thread, sterling silver; 5 X 4 X 1 inches, 2013

All photos taken at the invitation of the staff at Velvet da Vinci.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Quotes: Friedrich Nietzsche

"You have it in your power to invest everything you have lived through –– your experiments, false starts, errors, delusions, passions, your love and your hope –– into your goal, with nothing left over." –– Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German poet and philosopher

Friday, January 23, 2015

Found stripes

Found stripes; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
January is my favourite month of the year. The cold, crisp weather makes me feel alive and fills me with energy. This translates to optimal focus and ambition for getting things done. So far this month I've journalled almost every work day. This has helped me identify a few themes for early 2015, along with strategies to make them a reality. From these I've made lots of weekly and daily to do lists that I take great joy in tackling. Over the course of my career, I've noticed that when I'm researching a new series, to do lists are detrimental. When I'm in a completion phase, they are essential.

I found these stripes during a recent visit to the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Do you know what they are?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Paterson Ewen @ Art Gallery of Hamilton

Paterson Ewen Red Sea, 1989; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The late Canadian mixed media artist Paterson Ewen (1925-2002) has long been an artist that I admire. Red Sea was one of the highlights of a recent visit to the Art Gallery of Hamilton. My last visit to the AGH was about four years ago and I was pleased to see that they amended their photo policy (photos are allowed, except in ticketed shows) since then. Red Sea is monumental. No size was listed, so I guess that the mixed media on plywood artwork would be about 12 feet wide by about 8 feet high.
Paterson Ewen Red Sea detail1989; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Ewen gouged out lines with a router and then painted the raw plywood, knots and all. The cloud is likely made of aluminum and appears to be hammered out so that it bubbles out slightly from the background plane.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Quotes: Rumi

"Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you." –– Rumi (1207-1273), Persian poet, theologian and Sufi mystic

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/Deep Patience @ AGP 12

Dorothy Caldwell Comfort of Fog, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The intimate textiles in this blogpost were situated in a cosy space with deep grey green walls. All five 14" X 18" textiles incorporate plant dyed cotton with stitching and appliqué and are mounted on industrial felt. The textiles diverge from Dorothy's bold palette: they are paler, earthy, and muted. Comfort of Fog is one of my favourite of these textiles. If you look closely, you see that she resist-dyed the background fabric. It reads like the aerial-view of a landscape.
Dorothy Caldwell Complementary Calls, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Complementary Calls is the lightest and subtlest of any Dorothy Caldwell textile that I have ever seen. It needs to be viewed alone to be appreciated.
Dorothy Caldwell Weapons/Listening & Waiting, 2012; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Like Complementary Calls, Weapons/Listening & Waiting is especially subdued.
Dorothy Caldwell textiles & books, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
History of Stone and Red Hill/Black Hill in situ.
Dorothy Caldwell History of Stone, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Dorothy Caldwell Red Hill/Black Hill, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Tonight this exhibition opens at the Cambridge Galleries in Cambridge, Ontario (now called the Idea/Exchange). Accompanying the show is Select Works: From the Permanent Collection at the Design at Riverside Gallery (just across the street from the main Cambridge Gallery and Library site). Both open at 7 pm.
Dorothy Caldwell Red Hill/Black Hill, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/Deep Patience statement

"This space contains artifacts and objects that reflect the experiences working on site during travel and residencies in the Australian Outback and the Canadian Arctic.

As I walked through exceptional landscape, collecting and touching became a way of knowing. Preserving indigenous natural materials including plants, ochre, seaweed, lichen and stones is my way of examining the contents of a place. Man made findings include rusted metal, hewn wood, and even a cooking pot. Some of the collection remains intact as found. Other materials were stitched and altered or used to dye and colour fabric and paper. Creating taxonomies and displays from these collections transformed the objects into artifacts. They became the material history of my experience.

In the Flinders Ranges, stitched cloth was taken to the ochre pit to be worked with earth colour and to literally absorb "place". Rusty metal, collected as mordant for dyeing fabric, often did not make it to the dye bath. Instead the objects themselves became artifacts, holding information and history of early settlers in the area. Wire shapes from the camp in the Flinders Ranges read as a symbolic alphabet, signs of European settlement.

A hike into the Chambers Gorge in the Flinders Ranges revealed another alphabet predating the Europeans. Rock carvings, or petroglyphs, are thought to be over 30,000 years old. To see these ancient symbols made by humans touched me deeply. In honour of this experience, I inscribed my own simple marks on small stones collected at the site.

In the Canadian Arctic fieldwork included walking barefoot on the tundra. It was as if my feet were tracing an ancient forest. A small section of this dense mat was extracted, deconstructed, and documented. Tiny leaves, lichens, reindeer moss, willow and other plants make up the natural miniature pattern of the land.

Field studies include journals. One Australian journal records earth collected each day over a two-month period. A book from a different journey is made from samples of pressed seaweed. Others are constructed from paper dyed with local plants....eucalyptus, mistletoe, arctic willow, purple saxifrage, arctic lupin, and Labrador tea, each with its own subtle colour.

From my traveling companion and fellow artist India Flint, I learned to make string. String has great importance to Aboriginal women who make it and use it to construct netted dilly bags, baskets, and other containers. It is also used for string games and storytelling. Anthropologist C. P. Mountford worked in the Flinders Range in 1940 and described how when asked to draw traditional stories, aboriginal women preferred to tell their stories in string and then trace around them.

The activity of making string, like knitting, became second nature and kept my hands active on long rides through the Outback. The plied string, shown in the cases, is a receptacle for earth colours of Australia and the plant dyes from the Arctic.

The creation of a museum of memories from the experiences of the residencies in the Australian Outback and in the Canadian Arctic is an integral part of the process of imagining this exhibition. I brought cloth and paper to my sites, much as early explorers would bring journals and magnifying glasses. These materials were marked, coloured, and rubbed with daily experiences. At the same time, found objects were preserved, transported and rearranged in patterned memory of the importance of marks to reinforce ideas that will appear as textile art. This small museum is a glimpse into the process of the maker." –– Dorothy Caldwell.


All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

San Francisco Street Art 2

Valencia Street collage; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
In the six years since our last visit to San Francisco, Valencia Street changed the most. It was teeming with small independent businesses offering handmade home wares, clothing, and fine art. One highlight was a visit to Dandelion Chocolate to sample their fine chocolate. The above collage is over an entire building. It's monumental.
Valencia Street black-and-white mural; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
This Valencia Street black-and-white mural by Joel Roger Weston caught my eye.
Valencia Street mural; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
A colourful mural adorns the entire front of a school or community centre on Valencia Street. 
Valencia Street mural detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The colours give me ideas for a new textile that I'm working on.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Quotes: Theodore Roethke

"Every discovery makes its own chaos." –– Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), American poet

Friday, January 9, 2015

San Francisco Street Art 1

Castro Street rainbow crosswalk; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
During a recent visit to San Francisco the SFMOMA was closed for renovations and the weather was perfect for walking, so we took to the streets in search of art. Castro Street's newly installed rainbow crosswalks were a sight for sore eyes.
Divisadero street art; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
A Divisadero Street sidewalk offered up some goodness.
Divisadero street art; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
So did a closed up doorway on Divisadero Street. This collage appears to be done with abstract vinyl shapes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Studio Series: Big House quilt

Big House quilt © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Big House is a quilt that I don't particularly like flat in image format, but here it is. It's huge, large enough to cover a Queen-sized bed, maybe even a King bed. It looks better on a bed. Why am I sharing this? It's 2015, the image has been sitting in my Draft file for three years and I'm in clean up mode. After Christmas, my husband and I sorted, purged, and filed piles of paper. It feels great to be organized and see my office work surfaces again. The studio is another matter. Rome wasn't built in a day. 

I am also very excited to be back in Ordinary time for a few weeks until Lent begins on February 18 (although I'm looking forward to another season of Lent). The studio is a wonderful place to be right now and I am in project completion mode.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Quotes: Frank Lloyd Wright

"Space is the breath of art." –– Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), American architect

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mi-Kyung Yun Embroidered Textiles

Mi-Kyung Yun exhibition brochure, 2004
Small is beautiful, especially when it comes to textiles embroidered by Korean fibre artist Mi-Kyung Yun. I had the pleasure of sharing a studio with Mi-Yung when we were both artists-in-residence in the Harbourfront textile studio. Most, if not all, of the textiles in this fibre exhibition (at Art Space A-1 Gallery in Nagoya, Japan in 2004) were embroidered while she was at Harbourfront from 2002 to 2003.  Her skill amazed me. Each 4" X 6" doupioni silk textile was embroidered with silk thread, mounted on industrial felt, and framed in a deep IKEA shadow box that she painted a warm off-white. She dyed many of the silk fabrics, and also gessoed them. I wish I had a close-up image of the textile in the top shadow box.
Mi-Kyung Yun Snow Field, 2004
Watching Mi-Kyung embroider was an education. She would embroider a section of a textile with breath-taking stitches, and then cover it with fabric and more embroidery if she didn't like where it was going. She wasn't precious about her work, a lesson that I would learn when I studied collage a few years later. My collage teacher would say that "it's all there," meaning that what was covered was still an integral part of the piece even if others didn't know it was there. 
Mi-Kyung Yun A Wild Flower, 2004
Mi-Kyung earned a BFA (1985) and MFA (1988) from Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, Korea. As of 2004, she was an instructor at Hanyang Woman's College and at Ewha Woman's University, and a textile designer at Kwanglim Trading Company. I've tried online searches to see what she is doing now, ten years later, but if there is anything on the web, it is in Korean, a language that I do not read.
Mi-Kyung Yun Young Green, 2004
In Korea, she learned traditional Korean embroidery in a rigorous program and later served on the "Judging Committee for Korea National Qualification Examination for Ability of Embroidery" from 1992 to 2000.
Mi-Kyung Yun Moss, 2004
Moss illustrates Mi-Kyung's ability to combine traditional and contemporary embroidery techniques. It was a pleasure to work with and learn from her and I think of her often when I am stitching experimentally.