Try to answer the question ‘what is art’ and find half your audience in a narcoleptic stupor in a heartbeat. But ASKING the question and PLAYING with it in your hands and your lens and your canvas, is a fiery, soulful exercise.
If you make collage using magazine images, you can’t help but feel a little sheepish about matters of originality. When is borrowing theft? And, how important is endurance, anyway? Fade, fade, fade.
I made and framed this collage about thirty years ago. I can’t remember if it’s under archival glass or not (probably not. I was a law student paying for tuition with loans). Does the fact that I covered and cut the images of an artist’s clay masks turn them into ‘my’ work. Probably not, which is likely why I’ve kept this framed piece to myself all these years.
But now — look at the light angling across the glass! The light adds its commentary, without my authorship, and changes the stolen images yet again. Does my capture NOW make it more ‘mine’? And if paper is ephemeral, what is light passing over paper — even if captured in a photo?
“Light eats cloth” commented Mo yesterday. Fade, fade, fade.Part of me shrugs — or even yells a New Mexico YES — because maybe that is part of the point — this mixing up of signature with indices of time.
I once sent a piece of patchwork to Grace in New Mexico. I had pulled some inner knots tight and didn’t know how to undo them. It seemed a simple thing to ship cloth west. I got energized by the idea of some fabric I had pieced together being touched by her, being blasted by the desert sun and sniffed at by goats.
The exercise gave me this idea of shipping sections of patchwork around the world, and asking others to let the elements ‘do their thing’, then return them to me so that I could piece them together into a more meaningful Global Warming quilt than I’ve made to date. (Still just an idea).
Jude plays at these edges all the time. Think – Magic Feather cloth, which gathered up hand sewn bits from all over the world, stitching a community together in the process (and a masterpiece cloth). Think of her play with light and shadows. A recent post showed one of her spectacular quilts with a shadow of her hand splayed over one side. Is the work the photograph of Jude’s hand casting a shadow on the quilt? Or the brief event of the shadow? Or is it ‘merely’ the cloth afterall, but now with a memory of the shadow?
Enough words. Time for a run to a garden center. It is an absolutely stunning day and I have both boys home!! Happy Mother’s Day to me!!! And Happy Mother’s day to all of you. We all mother something — ourselves, our pets, our ideas, and some of us, children.
As I look at this composition, I begin to think about vulnerability… what is transparency, after all, if not the quality of letting oneself be known? (IRS, take note!) I have been looking at other works-in-progress back lit in this manner for many months, so it’s not clear why THIS one speaks of transparency and the others did not. Perhaps it is due to vigorous conversations (with Grace and others) about boundaries, about where to draw the line (a red line, perhaps?) to maintain the necessary sanctuary to create, care giving and its demands, and the desire to be seen.
rectangle with 2 folds = house
scraps from former quilt – many patches are fabric that I bleached in order to whiten
It began with ‘Ghost House’ leftover scraps, and was a conscious attempt to marry two recently made houses – both of which left me dissatisfied (The Red House quilt and The White House quilt) [links to follow – I don’t have much time this morning]. I laid the scraps on white, continuing the exploration of WHITE for my online class with Jude Hill (Spirit Cloth, side bar).
part of the roof is white, with stitch and couching, only, to define
There is white on the base, too, which I might build up all around – picking up on Jude’s idea of moving from white as a ‘background’ to white as a field of interest, with texture, and something to say besides, ‘look at what is on me’. I actually seamed some white fabrics together, to use as building struts in the frame… only one made it into the house – that long vertical to the right of the blue window (and yes, I know the tower has the appearance of a goofy face, a fact I’m going to correct with another window or two).
hanky scrap from Sandy Meegan pinned, center
The red thread is ‘Meditation Thread’ hand-dyed in India. I like the idea of red, with its vigor and visibility standing in as a symbol of a well-maintained boundary (Imagine that! A sanctuary bounded with quiet intent and silent, purposeful endeavor!! Not angry protestations and complaint). I wonder what each compartment holds.
what if the Nine Patch will only be implied and transient?
I see the nine patch and wonder if I have the energy and wherewithall to enlarge this quilt in order to make the nine patch more than an ephemeral creation of morning sun and muntin shadow. I don’t need to decide to continue.
Many more works on the table, pinned to the wall, up against the western glass doors, and laid out on the dining room table for design-viewing.
same thread around White House, unsuccessful, but a spur to new Tower
Here are three exposures of a small quilt pinned to a curtain covering an eastern window. Early morning light. Not summer sun, but not winter sun either. Opening the aperture gives the impression that the color is fading into white*. But it’s more than that. Back lighting the piece lets what resides in back to shine through. I like both these ideas — fading into white and the hidden-coming-forward.
What is happening when ‘what is behind’ shows up? Could it parallel the Jungian process of owning the shadow? Claiming a long-fended-off weakness or strength? Could it be a metaphor for hearing from ‘the other side’?
I ask the otherworldly question because of that wool challis. Well, that and because of need. Sometimes in life, we just need our mothers. It’s so simple a thing. And so complicated. And it’s true whether she’s around or not.
That maroon floral challis comes from a scarf which in its original, drapey, and fringed incarnation, belonged to my mother. I wore it for a while after she died. It was moth eaten on the edges and eventually I felted it and let it take its lovely place in my scrap bin. Clearly, it means something more than ‘fuzzy’ and ‘maroon’ to me. Placing a moon of my mother’s fiber above what to me is a mysterious door is no accident. I have been thinking about her a lot lately.
Years ago when I showed my mother this tiny Gap vest (below), purchased while D. was in utero (middle boy in photo), she said, “Oh! You’ve found his palette.” That was signature Mom — pointing out the centrality of color to life and perhaps specifically to Mallon-life; assuming we all have palettes; recognizing that a mother might intuit her child’s colorways, even before he was born. It was one of many moments in her last weeks that juxtaposed new life with dying in an excruciating way.
I’d give almost anything to hear one of her honest and shrewd observations right now – no matter how brutal. She had a knack for that. Making pithy observations that knocked you over. In the moment, I might hate her… insist she was wrong… loudly argue back or scoff at her sources. But many times out of ten (I refuse to quantify), I’d have to at some later point admit that she was right — even when the source was Cosmopolitan Magazine (Damn You, Mom!!).
Sometimes the judgment was something I could run with. It all depended.
So, yeah (as my nineteen year old might say), I have been wishing for my mother’s ‘take’ on things — specifically, on this messy business of parenting teenagers. Once we got over what would undoubtedly be her smug satisfaction at my getting a little of what I dished out, I’m sure she’d have valuable and specific insights to offer. She’d say things I haven’t thought of yet. She’d offer reality-based optimism that would make me feel better and would make me feel better about my kids and their futures. She’d call me a worry wart and laugh. Pearls of wisdom would be dispensed like sticks of gum (no big deal). She’d casually address every single thing that is ‘up’ right now — resilience (or its absence), stubbornness, fear, and the unpredictable paths of talent — without having to ask a single question.
February 13th marked the 17th anniversary of my mother’s death. I only know the number of years off the top of my head because she died five weeks before D. was born. Right now, I always know how old my boys are. Seventeen. Nineteen. I suppose that could change, like everything else does. I hope not for a long time, though.
This hung on the west window of my bedroom last week. Here, red threads were stitched in prayer (as has been talked about here and there on blogs that matter to me (links later)). This thread was dyed in India, purchased in Colorado about this time last year, and stitched onto white, then covered with a grey/white silk. You don’t really see the red lines when the cloth comes off the curtain. They’re still there, of course.
That says something on this topic of mothering, doesn’t it? Something about the strands of love that connect us, whether we see them or not, whether they’re live or remembered. These red threads could also represent the strands of genetic code that determine, in part, who we are… representing that strange, perplexing and miraculous way that some aspects of person get tugged through the generations… binding one group to the next (and the next) whether willing or aware, or not.
And then again, it is a series of red threads.
* Like yesterday’s post, “Meditation on White”, I am inspired here in large measure by the online class over at Spirit Cloth
Here she is without body or hair yet – stay tuned! She is actually finished, just in need of a photo.
Do you think she looks worried or amused — or something else? And what about names – I’m thinking about Greta or Elyana.
Could her look be a reaction to the falling away of the season, I wonder…. look how autumnal the light is on our dining room wall! I love fall. Do you?
Just like ‘The Creep’ card that I made last week, I have to sit with this one to discover what suit it belongs in.
The B&W face is actually a hero — Winston Churchill in an upcoming movie. His stern face looks like a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants (of course, that describes Churchill in some measure). I include the face though, not as a hero, but as a figure of compulsion and waywardness. A figure who will do as he pleases whatever the consequences. Does every Abuser have a hidden Churchill? Working with aspects of self does tend to make one aware of the two-sided nature of things.
The screaming Catholic figure comes from a recent article about Francis Bacon, and carries his signature horror. The doll is a piece of fitting Gothic imagery, and it is being held by Marilyn Manson’s girlfriend (model friend?)… I don’t remember her name… will supply later. The red “D” is self-referential.
Process Note — This collage was worked large (about 12″ x 8″) and reduced on the color copier (by about 75%). I used rubber cement sparingly to make the collage, knowing that it would be copied and not need to be totally glued down. I used PVA glue, wiped on with a brush, to attach the color copy to the chip board, folding over the edges, like a present and gluing a piece of decorative paper on the back. This feels like a comfortable way to work for me.
It is not my intention to teach readers about SoulCollage®, but rather to simply share what is percolating in my studio, on my pages, and in my creative process.
To learn about this remarkable process, go to SoulCollage.com, where you can find out about Seena Frost, who developed SoulCollage®.
Or, dive into the amazing work and teaching of Anne Marie Bennett on her website, KaleidoSoul. Anne Marie’s passion for this work is evident on her site.