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Getting Political?

Exhibition: Guns Loaded Conversations

  • Today we find ourselves living in a society in which gun violence feels commonplace. Yet an enormous divide exists between people who cherish their heritage of gun ownership and others who are concerned about the rising tide of gun violence. Artists have been a catalyst for difficult societal conversations throughout history. Guns: Loaded Conversations seeks to engage viewers of differing opinions to listen to each other and to encourage community initiatives that may inspire action in seeking solutions.
Everyday

 I made a small quilt called "Everyday" that was juried to a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) global exhibition called “Guns: Loaded Conversations”. The quilt was a picture of my dad and his brother taken around 1913. The two little boys are dressed up as rough riders. Each is standing at attention with toy rifles. Behind the figures is script on a yellow pad with the words every day repeated. The bold text is from the Brady Center which studies gun violence listing statistical average number of children affected by gun violence every day.

When I posted the quilt to my social media feeds after the mass shooting in Boulder,  I thought it was an effective way to share how art can help provide understanding and be a catalyst for thoughtful dialog.  I started my post with the words “My heart goes out to Boulder” and then explained my connection to the city. I had met my husband in Boulder.  I went to college in Boulder and I still have many friends in the Boulder area. Although the quilt was made in 2017, the theme addressed what was topical.

I also had a connection to the shooter although I did not know him or his family. He lived and attended school in the community where I raised my children which is  30 minutes east of Boulder. He was a student in the district where I spent my career as an art teacher. This was the district that experienced the tragic shooting at Columbine high school in 1999. That was the year this young man was born. 

I used the memory of Columbine when I made “Everyday”. My purpose was to make a thoughtful contribution to a visual conversation about gun violence in America that was the theme of the exhibition. I was addressing an issue which some people may over look by pointing out that mass shootings are only one aspect of gun violence. Each day gun violence affecting children is tragic and more deadly than the mass shootings getting so much attention. 

Few of my art quilts that are political in nature.  Each of these quilts was made as a response to a call for entry where I felt a personal connection . When this quilt was exhibited I didn’t receive specific feedback from anyone who saw my quilt so I did not anticipate my  little post would receive a great deal of feedback. I was wrong.

  • There was a larger number of comments. Some were shocking to me. 

Many comments were about a desire to gun control violence through legislation. Other people were focused on mental health. There was a great deal of back and forth on my page and on social media  groups where I shared this post. Not everyone was respectful. There were individuals who wrote long comments that seemed to me, way over the top leading to that all too familiar online argument. 

One group's administrator took my post down and posted a rebuke of political art. Clearly political commentary in any form was not welcome. Latter the post was reinstated when members complained. The administrator was very nice and we exchanged a few messages.   Many people across my social media feed reached out directly to me in support. A few fellow art quilters shared the image.

Throughout the day I attempted to model respectful interaction hoping to add a calming voice. It was a big hoopla. 


In the end, I think that if you look at a piece of art and you feel uncomfortable,

the best response is to ask a question.

“What was the artist's intention?”

“What idea was the artist trying to convey?”

In my case, I was trying to convey the sadness I feel and others feel when a life is lost due to gun violence. 


Until next month. Take care of yourself.
Margaret

It’s March…!

I turned the page of my calendar and I realized February has slipped away.

It's  March already!


 

In two weeks, it will be a full year of isolation. I have recently returned to  entering juried exhibitions. Venues are planning moving online exhibitions back to in person events this year and next. Other aspects of my art life will return to normal. I’ll be taking a workshop in Lake Tahoe in the fall. I am thinking about going to Houston for the quilt festival . My guild will be added to monthly events.  Like most people, I look forward to life without the shadow of a pandemic. 

 


Other parts of my life have been transformed. No longer am I teaching in person. Instead I reached out to the growing online communities of art quilters.  I created two online courses. In the last two months I have lectured via Zoom three times and helped two fellow art quilters through an online coaching session. My social media presence is growing on Facebook and Instagram. I am dreaming of new avenues to explore in this post pandemic world.

One of these avenues is filming my process. Luckily as a creative person, I am not afraid of learning by doing and have been spending hours figuring out lighting, editing and creating files that can be uploaded in the correct format. I added a heavy duty tripod to my studio in order to use my camera in movie mode. The camera is currently directly above my work surface. As I work the camera captures  more of the process  than words could describe. I am liking the results.

As a retired teacher, I had my doubts about teaching without human contact. What turned my thinking around was taking some courses from quality teachers and reaching out to other artists teaching online. What I learned was the content doesn’t change, but the tools of instruction are different. A good teacher has mastered those tools and has matched content with the appropriate tool. 

There are lots of methods for presentation online.  Some learners are most comfortable with a combination of words spoken, written text and a visuals. Others may want to separate the visual from the written or spoken instructions. A smaller number want a very brief overview and then dive into making. This group often uses their mistakes as a form of learning. (I am in this group.) The teacher needs to create and deliver content in written, verbal and visual formats.

Online instruction gives each learner an opportunity to decide how they want their material delivered. The learner is in charge. This is why quality courses have handouts, verbal directions, slides with summary concepts presented in words and pictures; and video. My students can look at the video and ignore the handout. They can carefully read the handout, then watch the presentation three times before making anything. 

My next course on painting on fabric for the art quilter should be out on or before mid March. I have experienced the ups and downs of learning how to segment instruction so that it makes sense and (the hardest part) can be uploaded smoothly onto the Teachable platform. I had to overcome the shock of seeing hands that looked like my mothers. Too much sun and too much work in the garden is showing up on film. The challenges have been worth the struggles.

I hope to continue to share what I do and encourage others far and wide to create and learn.

 

 Until Next Time.....
Margaret

Finishing Touches


This morning I posted an image of a quilt made a few years back on social media.
As I cropped the picture  I saw, for the first time, the error of my composition.


 

Alamo Gate

I have been consistently posting on social media. Each morning I post an art quilt to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. (You can find these posts by following my hash tag #metaphysicalquilter ). Everyday I share one of my quilts on Facebook groups like Art Quilts or Textile Art. This morning as I was posting “Alamo Gate'', I saw an issue that needed to be resolved.  

This quilt was accepted into very few juried shows. It was one of three quilts I made after a trip to San Antonio. Although rejection from a juror is not a final word on the success of a submission, I enter enough shows to know when something didn’t hit the mark. This is a key factor in my relative success in the world art quilting. Juried shows provide valuable feedback and have helped me improve over time. The jurors had told me that Alamo Gate needed more work.


Claude Monet, the impressionist Master, commented that the “finishing touches on a painting might seem insignificant, but to the painter they are much harder than one would suppose.” 


Claude Monet was absolutely right. My finished projects are much better when I let them sit on my design wall for a period of time. I look, look again, take a picture with my camera and wait until I know. In the case of this quilt, I didn’t make those finishing touches. I rushed onto other projects and the result was an completed, but unfinished art quilt.

One reason I moved onto other work is because landscape is not my area of emphasis. The bulk of my work is figurative. Landscape quilts hold my interest as reminders of favorite places. Some I make to hang in my home like “At Dusk”. This quilt has been rejected in several juried exhibitions probably because of the lack of contrast. It hangs near my front door. I love it.

“Alamo Gate” is a quilt I finished without feeling it was done. It has been hung in storage until now. Today I know why  it didn’t find a place to show off. I can fix the composition’s problem with paint. A little paint over the lantern and it becomes the stone wall.

The problem is the lamp as a center of interest. This composition is visually engaging because of the tree and its wild growth pattern. That’s why I selected  the photograph. The gate is not a visual or thematic focal point. It’s the tree. The tree is amazing. It has lived in that spot for hundreds of years growing with twists and turns. Surviving through the twists and turns of history, this tree thrives in the courtyard of the old mission.

My quilts are stitched painted photographs. As artworks they float between defined categories. This gives me the freedom as a creative to ignore the rules of any discipline. So I am going to paint out the lamp and quilt the stone wall pattern. The back would confuse the quilt police. So what! I am also going to rename the quit “Live Oak”. It has a new life and possibly will find a new place to live.


 Until Next Time.....
Margaret 

2021 has Finally Arrived!

Like many of us, I am glad to be moving forward.

Exhibitions were cancelled.

My art quilt retreat refunded my money.

Lectures went virtual.

Workshops became “Zoom” groups.

It’s not all bad.

 


I tried an Etsy Shop and found that my work was lost in an ocean of other sellers.

I also placed fabric on Spoonflower but didn’t find my niche.

My efforts at booking in person workshops and lectures fizzled

Quilts accepted into AQS shows were returned unseen.


What has been surprisingly successful was my online class:

Photo 2 Fabric.

As a retired art teacher, putting together a class is definitely within my skill set. I want to share what I know and build up the community of art quilters.

My approach is different from a typical quilt project class. I provide a framework for  people to build their confidence in making their own design choices. My job as a teacher is to facilitate learning. To support students ideas and not to set hard and fast rules.  My goal is to have students become independent of me and my process. When students understand and apply core design concepts they can follow their own path to achieve their desired results.

I don't want to provide a set of instructions to follow.

I want to present a wide array of possibilities. 

Yesterday I posted my latest class. It’s super fun.

Photo 2 Fabric: On the Go!.

This course uses your phones’ photo editing software and  Picsart. Picsart is one of my "go to" phone apps. In Picsart there is a set of filters called Magic. This group of 30+ filters can totally transform any photograph. It took me several weeks to put together a series of presentations. Along the way, I learned so much and hope that my discoveries will inspire others. 

Whatever I do, I am constantly thinking to myself “Where will this lead me?” That is the gift given by this tumultuous year. Plans were set aside but new possibilities appeared. There have been many days at home, but very few days where I wasn't challenged to figure something out. Looking back, it may have been the year I rediscovered my passion for teaching. 


I want to wish everyone a wonderful and creative New Year.

I’ll leave you with a few quotes to inspire your journey in 2021. 

Until next time....
Margaret

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.

―  Pablo Picasso

More important than a work of art itself is what seeds it will sow.

―  Joan Miro

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works

―  Marc Chagall

Art Yoga

Art Yoga

I know some of you are reading this blog post with snow and cold outside your doorstep, but I am happy to be living in a warmer climate.

Even in Winter I can sit on my patio most days and draw in my sketchbook.


I have been posting my sketchbook pages on Instagram and Facebook with the words ART YOGA superimposed over the drawing. The hardest part of this ritual is taking a photograph of the drawing and seeing a mistake with my composition. Maybe the color is off or I have failed to fill in an enclosed shape with color. Sometimes there is not enough visual interest. I need to add texture or change the values. 

There is a quote from Scott Adams “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”  Adams created the Dilbert character. Dilbert is an office worker surrounded by strange co workers, incompetent bosses and assigned to work on outrageous projects with ridiculous expectations.  

I read the Dilbert comic strip most mornings in my digital edition of the Salt Lake Tribune. The cartoon strip is placed on page two with the news of the world. I believe the placement is for people who are never going to have the time to get to the end of the paper who are probably working or have worked in an office  like Dilbert’s .Dilbert’s office is not unlike the culture of administration at the school district where I worked for many years.

Without a doubt creativity is coping strategy in stressful work environments. Luckily I now do not have a place of work that includes a boss or coworkers and no stress.  Creativity is the core of my business . Recently I have committed to sharing not only the finished and polished products I make, but the unfinished and messy mistakes that allow my creative process to grow. 

I am almost finished with my most recent sketchbook. As I look over the little drawings the sketches of vegetables and people with umbrella’s have possibilities. The landscapes that are disappointing. Pages filled with patterns need work. Taking the photograph allows me to see my composition from a distance as if I was a person looking over my shoulder. It also allows me to share my process with my audience.

Using my cell phone and photo apps, I can make adjustments to my composition before I post an image. Digital cropping makes it easy for me to change or add a center of interests. Using filters I can apply texture. Changing the contrast I am able to adjust the values. In a couple of minutes I will have multiple versions of a little drawing.

After I have a digital image, my next step is to post that image to my Facebook and Instagram story. The images disappear in 24 hours on social media but I have a collection on my devices. Some of these would make interesting yardage. Others could be used in combination with photographs in a digital collage.


 Not every sketch is worth keeping. Every sketch is worth doing. Artists, I believe; need to incorporate routines that are designed to create without any predetermined outcome. Adding accountability to the routine will increase the likelihood that it will become ingrained and open up new avenues of exploration.

Possibilities grow with each day I work on my art yoga.

 Until Next Time.....
Margaret