Friday, June 27, 2014

Keeping Busy

Hail Mary, copyright Jennifer A. Schultz 2014

I reworked the Hail Mary from last summer. Finished it too quickly, in order to have it for the solo show last year, but really felt it had some growing to do. So I removed it from its backing, subtracted a few ugly dogs, and worked the integrate the many layered elements a bit better. 

Hail Mary, detail

Plus, having some fun (encouraged by my online communities) continuing my explorations of organic material dyes and silk-on-silk transfer dyes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fiber art and justice continued...

Jam-making to raise awareness of food waste... 

Fabric puzzle-pieces protesting hunger...

Craftivism in general...

Mini Protest Banners...

Hey, THIS is cool! A few examples of political quilt art here, not necessarily great quality but getting closer...

Quilt panels to end AIDS... and a few other examples up there under the THIS Is Cool link. Collective works, mostly. Ann Morton seems more akin to these.

Back to craftivism again.
Where the object is important...but the text is essential. And so, back to the drawing board for me.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Politics and fiber art: Or, who makes quilts about food justice anyway?

copyright JenniferASchultz 2014

I knew already a year ago that imagery with a distinct political message could be difficult to generate in a textile medium. And before you feminists get all sweaty, let me assure you I know the history of fiber arts as part of the women's movement. But I'm talking about contemporary practice. I'm trying to get a grip on something here. 
There are a few textile artists who manage it well --  Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, Terese Agnew, Ann Morton, others -- with humor or without -- who approach the practice from various backgrounds in various media. I mention these artists because they work on multiple levels, with visual impact, but not in a heavy-handed way. This is a goal of my present exploration of food justice using fiber and textile media. The work I did for my "X-Voto" show in July 2013 -- wherein I examined the lives of first-responders and their experience with PTSD --  felt successful to me in some respects. But I also felt the show was uneven, both in terms of execution quality and the unification of message and medium. 

"Portrait of a Textile Worker", 2011 by Terese Agnew.
"Terese Agnew's work has evolved from sculpture to densely embroidered quilts by a process she calls “drawing with thread”. Her themes are environmental and social. Her most notable quilt to date is the Portrait of a Textile Worker, constructed of thousands of clothing labels stitched together, contributed by hundreds of sympathetic individuals, labor organizations, Junior League members, students, retired and unemployed workers, friends, family and acquaintances worldwide. The resulting image is about the exploitation and abuse of laborers, the by-products of globalization and the insatiable American appetite for goods. " (Craft In America)

Agnew's piece pictured above approaches the subject of women's and worker's rights through both imagery and textile medium -- garment labels pieced together to form the portrait of a textile worker -- creating a message piece with unambiguous impact, elegance, and beauty. When I talk about work being "heavy-handed" I'm thinking about pieces that use, for example, unmodified journalist images or lots of descriptive text applied directly to cloth (notwithstanding ex-voto work, wherein the story is an essential part of the finished piece). I think it's important to recognize within the work that the medium is not merely incidental -- quilts and textiles are culture-bearing objects in their own right. If an image works as well or better on paper versus cloth, taking no meaning from the cloth, then paper or some other medium would perhaps be the better choice for the work.  

"Familia Guarani" - Hand embroidery with cotton thread, jewelry effect thread and rayon on fabric. 2009, Leo Chiachio and Daniel Giannone. 
"Chiachio and Giannone are domestic partners in an open relationship that is characteristically full of good humor, a devotion to Piolín, and routine daily work on their labor-intensive collaborative embroidery projects. Like most kids who went to Catholic school in Latin America, Chiachio and Giannone were introduced to embroidery by nuns.  When they met at a cocktail party ten years ago, Leo was already having fun with the embroidery of portraits of porn stars from Honcho Magazine onto the exterior of mens business suits.  It was at the height of the Argentine financial crisis.  Paint, canvas and other typical art supplies were scarce and prohibitively expensive.  Daniel had been working in prints, but their romance blossomed and they began to embroider together.  Since then, they have established the rules of their personal relationship and a professional art partnership.  Two of them are “never work when you are angry,” and “go to work every day.”  Their work has caught on internationally, taking them to other Latin American countries where embroidery is a part of the colonial heritage but has also become entrenched in local tribal handcrafts and identities, (In Bolivia most of the embroidery is done by men!), as well as to Europe and the USA." (ARTSHIFT San Jose blog)

Chiachio and Giannone work with masterful command of embroidery techniques while celebrating queerness across cultures and boundaries of traditional Western masculinity. Detail shots of their work are just amazing -- the commitment to detail and quality are obvious.  I admire their decade-long pursuit of a singularly fabulous vision of peaceful equality. 

"Thru the filter of my own experience as a white female born in 1950's America, I explore themes of assumed entitlements, homogenization, marginalization, and human obsolescence – social divides we've come to accept as normal cultural paradigms.
In questioning this acceptance, I recognize the insignificant – marginalized found objects and disenfranchised people. Driven by a desire to make right, the work I do reflects my own handwork, but also orchestrates handwork of disadvantaged individuals or interested community members through public interventions that seek to socially engage the hands of many to create a larger whole.
My work exploits traditional fiber techniques as conceptual tools for aesthetic, social communication to examine a society of which we are all a part - as bystanders, participants, victims and perpetrators." - Ann Morton

The above artist statement by Ann Morton sort of downplays the nuances of "traditional fiber techniques" in favor of a utilitarian approach, but her exhibits clearly benefit from her understanding of these techniques in themselves.  
Google "food justice fiber art" and you'll get a really random assortment of images and links, most of which have nothing to do with what I'm researching (unsurprising). One interesting blog arose from the depths of the web -- 
Fiber Artists for Hope, "a diverse group of artists  committed to creating fiber art that addresses today's social issues, promoting dialogue for change, and fostering understanding." 

Google "art about hunger" and you'll mostly get art about The Hunger Games series (ugh.) And so on. Seems no one has bothered to make much art about domestic hunger since the Depression era.I'm definitely working more from principles than examples. Again, I don't want to look at work from the 1970s for an assortment of perhaps-not-very-good reasons. 
The first three images at the top of this post are images associated with my current project; the center image with silhouettes on green is one its way to becoming a fabric design that I'm printing at Spoonflower. 

More to come...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A little whine with dinner

I have a plethora (however many you think that is) of beautiful books on quilting, fiber art, book arts and the like. They are always at my fingertips, along with certain back-issues of much-loved magazines such as Selvedge or Quilting Arts, not to mention old Gudrun Sjoden catalogs. I have four works in progress laying out in various states of completion, including the crows piece I've had since winter, a Traveler's Blanket (online class with Dijanne Ceval), and two starts on food/justice works for upcoming shows. I also have patterns and fabric out for a curtain I started last December, which I'm being clunky about. I have a nice new work surface, and all the materials I need at my fingertips. And I am dragging dragging dragging my heels. I want to work. I did, a little. I dyed some woven cloth with Setacolors, but my sunprint wouldn't work because the sun went away. And in spite of my heat gun and also a couple hours on the line, the darned thing STILL isn't dry.

I spent the best part of the day being a consumer; and since I've been home, I've accomplished little more than swept floors and a few loads of laundry. I've played a lot of mahjong on facebook. And then a lot of Freecell. I ate a Hershey bar. Made sure the boy practiced his piano, and took a bath. Resolved a few bureaucratic hassles on the phone.

It's been building over the past few days, this muddle. I've watched a lot of TV. Drank some vodka, and some wine. Felt devoid of energy. Could be hormones, partly. Could be the transition between school-year and summer for the family. Decreasing amounts of quiet time, personal space. Seeping angst, and the usual relational struggles (people with lots of ideas about how I could be a better person.)

Art is sometimes a lonely business, and a struggle. It's central to my identity, and when it isn't "right" I feel really down and off. Or maybe it's the other way round?

As a friend said, tomorrow is another day I guess.