Tuesday, January 28, 2014

trip report - Alexander Calder at LACMA

My family wasn't particularly focused on art when I was a kid. Dad is an engineer and Mom was an amateur naturalist. My first career interest was archeology. I loved looking at the artifacts of previous ages. Surface decoration and handicrafts fascinated me, still do. It wasn't until college that I got my first introduction to fine art. It was a summer class, 8:00 AM, History of Art class. Students would file in, the lights would go off and the slide show commenced. Sounds of snoring were evident after five minutes. Except me. Perched in the front row, notebook open, pen flying, brain on fire. What a nerd.

I collected names, dates, searched out books in the library and committed major works and styles to memory. When we had the chance to see a collection of Alexander Calder's works at the LACMA in January, I was so excited. Sculptures I had previously looked at only in books were right in front of me. 

Known for basically inventing the concept of a "mobile", Calder worked metal into floating, balanced shapes. Standing under some of them at LACMA was a treasured experience.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

trip report - James Turrell at LACMA

Julia Cameron, in the Artist's Way, encourages anyone aspiring to be an artist to go on field trips. A field trip could be to anywhere that features art, nature, or inspiration. Since we were heading west last week, we made several field trips. One was to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

There we experienced the James Turrell Retrospective. Notice I didn't say we saw it, we experienced it.  I wasn't very familiar with Terrell, having only seen some pictures of his Skyspace series. The pieces installed in LACMA weren't quite as big as the Skyspaces, but they were still inspiring and rich experiences. The rooms were immersions in light. Some were small, some holograms, some were total, as in floor and ceiling as well as walls.

I was bowled over by the expansiveness of Terrell's body of work. Here is a dedicated artist/architect/psychologist/physicist who dreams big (really BIG) and seeks to provide not static art, but a dynamic connection with his audience's perception of light.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

why "tiny quilts for living small"?

Living small is one of the phrases referencing the tiny house movement. I have always loved small spaces: inside cupboards, under the stairs, attics, refrigerator box club houses, tents and trailers. Growing up with grandparents living in a travel trailer certainly encouraged my interest.

Several years ago, I picked up the book, Not So Big Houses at the library, and was hooked by the concept that by decreasing living space and possessions, it allowed one to focus on showcasing quality furniture and art, instead of the current popular focus on bigger and more.

I started following some blogs about tiny houses and find myself fascinated by the community that builds and lives in them.  The movement embodies the simple, debt-free, low-carbon impact lifestyle. See this neat infographic on who lives in tiny houses.

There are so many blogs devoted to the tiny house movement that it's hard to pick out just a few, but these are two to get you started.

The tiny quilts I make now are designed with tiny wall or table spaces in mind. I envision them brightening up a tiny loft or kitchen/living/dining space.

Picture a tiny quilt on these walls.

Image from the tiny life blog

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

influences: Nancy Crow

Another formative influence on my quilting practice is Nancy Crow.
My first forays into quiltmaking were copies of traditional designs and perhaps a slight alteration of a traditional design. I just hadn't thought much about art quilts. I started taking classes and, like any exposure to learning, my horizons were stretched. 

Nancy taught a class at Quilting by the Lake on basic structural design. She taught us that a composition has to work in black, whites and shades of grey before we can add colors. The structure has to stand up for itself. 

She is a fantastic teacher and pushed us all out of our comfort zones for three days. She taught me to leap past the traditional designs and trust my own creativity. I'd love to show some pictures of her work (where would I start?), but I respect her copyright on her images. Check her out on Google images. 

She also gave me new insight into fabric selection. Until that point, I had collected any fabric anyone was willing to part with, or anything that looked "pretty" when I had some cash in a fabric store. I had a mess of boxes of inappropriate fabric. Nancy showed pictures of her studio in a huge old barn in the Midwest, with piles of carefully organized fabric that she was actually going to use. I pitched most of my boxes of junky fabric and got very fussy about curating the fabric stash.

The third thing I learned in Nancy's workshop is that she outsourced the actual quilting after she had finished the quilt top. While I do all my own stitching, I was impressed that she focused on the quilt design and didn't have any qualms about having professional quilters finish the non-design work. It's about taking the design creation seriously and not wasting time on work that doesn't move forward one's design practice.

Me (in my Jo Diggs dress, in 1987) with the prizewinning quilt I made after Nancy's class, hung in a show at Schweinfurth Art Center.