Participating in the Cannon

Summer Sun on top of Sun Rug
Although I would not say that these rugs were inspired by the work of Sonia Delaunay, after a series of drawings I did last year that were circular, someone directed me to look at her work. Of course I knew of her work before, she did both costume and fashion design, and when I was studying costume I stumbled across her renderings of geometrically influenced clothing many times. She was never as famous as her husband Robert Delaunay, but like Josef and Anni Albers, they were both artists of some repute.

Electric Prisms by Sonia Delaunay
An example of one of my inspirations, Sonia Delaunay’s “Electric Prisms”

Her work is geometric, but full of movement. In a book that I have called Cubism and Fashion, one of her circular drawings, a little like the one above is titled “Las Danseuses” (The Dancers), and you can see the circles as the spinning motion of dancers.

I suspect that this drawing, called “Electric Prisms” is about the intersection of people moving, though I’ve read no theory about it, so my guess may be incomplete. I think that because of a video of her from the Centre Pompidou in which she talks about wanting to contribute to the new generation of painters in the way that they learned from the previous generation.  She names Cezanne, specifically.

But towards the end, she explains where her interest lies now in the context of the “We were [working] with color and with rhythm, because all of life has rhythm. [I try] to see it, to feel it, but now, I’m disengaged from the theoretical aspects our research, and I express myself […] like poetry”*

In my own work, I play with color, line, shading, and form to create motion, to evoke emotions, as she says, seeing it and feeling it and making poetry visual vocabulary.  These rugs, though they are practical objects are about more than just pretty things for your floor.  They are inspired by a feeling, a desire to connect both to the older generation, as my grandmother taught me many hand-crafts, and to give something to the future by using sustainable practices as an artist when they are available to me.

 

*The translation/transcription is by me.  That’s why some things are in brackets: to make the translation understood more readily, I changed words that were either inaudible [working], or sound clunky in the informal English context of blogging “Il s’agit de le voir, le sentir” is literally “It acts upon,” but often treated as “The work is about” where I decided on “I try,” because the others felt too clunky.  Towards the end (1:09-1:18 or so), maybe my vocabulary fails me, or maybe it was just difficult to understand until she gets to the end about “like poetry.” Filling in or corrections welcomed.

Concentration

Summer Sun Rug (in progress)

Started a new rug to consign at a local boutique, more about that when I put the rugs and purses in progress into the shop.

Though I love drawing and sketching, often it is not the place where I make breakthroughs. The materiality and spatial relationships of things are somehow distant when they are on paper, and I can visualize something bigger and better, so at some point I just have to “waste material” and make it three dimensionally.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that recycled materials are so fascinating for me. They are cheap, sometimes discarded, sometimes just re-claimed and re-purposed. They are usually cheaper, so if something gets screwed up there is little risk.

Last year I did a series of drawings that were colorful concentric circles, inspired by a variety of sources, not least my own childhood attempts to do Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”  This year those drawings have inspired or perhaps influenced the rag rugs I’ve begun to produce.

I’ve been reading a book put out by the Michigan State University Press about research done on a collection of Finnish American Rag Rugs. Though I never associated my hatred of waste and love of creative re-use with my Finnish Cultural Heritage, the more I read of this book, the more think that it, along with certain habits of humor and prosody, were inherited from my Finnish family.

The book contains stories about how the women, mostly from my grandmother’s generation or older, learned to weave, where they got their looms, whom they taught, and why they wove.

Although my rugs are crocheted rather than woven, it is interesting that, as a 4th generation Finnish American (mixed with other things, though also not more than 4th or 5th Generation on any side), some of the Suomilainen traits have trickled down.

I’ve written elsewhere about going to Finland while living in Spain, but I’ll briefly re-state it for you here and now:

It was half-way through my second year in Spain. Though at this point I still have an American Accent (can one ever really lose it entirely?), my Spanish is otherwise perfect. Nevertheless, every time I go someplace where they don’t already know me, people try to speak to me in absurdly broken English.

So I go to Finland, for a little more than a week, and within hours, people are speaking to me in Finnish, by default. They do not speak to the Germans in Finnish at the cyber cafe where I go for a late night cup of tea. To me, I look just as much like them as I do like a Finn.  When she goes before me in line to buy a pack of gum, they speak in English to the Chinese girl who lives in Oulu and actually DOES speak Finnish.

Finally in exasperation, I teach myself, trying to remember how my grandmother would pronounce things, how to say “I do not speak Finnish,” and “Do you speak English?” At a book store when my oil pastels set off the alarm, I try the first one, and the lady looks at me funny and switches without a beat into English. I explain I’m looking for a bilingual Kalevala. Then at a yarn shop I use the second. This time the girl looks much more confused and starts to reply in Finnish, catches herself, and asks, “But, don’t you speak Finnish?”

A year later, in Brussels, we stumbled into a Finnish Cultural Center. To my Belgian Tour Guide, they spoke in English, to me in Finnish. (It was simple, “Hei Hei” “kaksi euroa, kiitos” “takemiin”). I passed rather than point out that I wasn’t in fact a Finn. They heard me speaking to him in English spattered with French.

Ethnic Identity is funny. At some point in my life it was very important. In 5th grade I did whole projects of study on nothing but Finland and Jewish-ness. As I’ve gotten older, though I appreciate and better understand some of my roots, I also appreciate the freedom of being an American. I pick and choose. I adopt Spanish table manners, and Persian cooking; Japanese paper-folding, and French radio.

But somehow, despite all my picking and choosing, some of my heritage shows through.

Recycled Art Education

Vertical angle of Rain Rug

As you can see, there is progress on the Rain Rug. In the last two weeks, my luck has held out and the various thrift stores have had a variety of sheets in good colors to add to my paintbox. Greens, purple, pink. Maybe we can have a sheet tearing party one of these days in the backyard!

Another, very important event, that will raise money for Art Education outreach in Ypsi, Ann Arbor, and Westland, is a “Studio Workshop” series on creative re-use at FLY Art Center in downtown Ypsi (see the map below!) on July 6 and July 13 at 2:00 pm.  There are other classes and open studio opportunities as well.  It’s a fun thing to do on a summer Saturday, so come on down!

Latest up cycled t-shirt back Tetrahedron floppy rag bag prototype.

The first workshop will feature instructions about how to re-mix a tee-shirt from baggy dad-shirt into fashionable fitted cuteness. It will give students (adults are welcome too!) an opportunity to learn the basics of crochet, and then to work up to the second workshop which will show how to make a small rag-rug project, most likely a coaster or a placemat, but advanced students might try a bag or basket.

I’ve been volunteering with FLY for a little while now, (only 2 events, but who’s counting!) and really enjoy their mission. They go into schools mostly armed with every-day objects and help kids harness their creativity by letting them loose with a theme or problem to solve at the “art buffet” with their cafeteria trays to select their supplies. The students are free to follow the direction or make something new, and always with the support of FLY staff and volunteers.


View Larger Map

Peace for Gezi Park

Kissing in Taksim Square

Last Sunday afternoon, after the Eco Ride, I participated in a local event to support and share more information about what’s going on in Turkey since 31 May, 2013. The above is one of two stained-glass-collages (and accompanying stencils) that I made to highlight some of the iconic photographs that came out of the protests. If you are in the area, you can like the organization page on Facebook.  If you aren’t local, it is still an interesting page as they review both Turkish and international press and provide some translations and summaries of articles you wouldn’t otherwise see.

At first I did not want to directly illustrate any of the violent responses because by showing violent reactions in a beautiful way, it in some way romanticizes that violence. The first drawing that I did was of a couple kissing next to some burning rubble. The love of individuals becoming apparent even in the context of the flames of conflict. Taking artistic liberty, I turned the flames into the leaves of the trees that must now be re-planted in Gezi Park.

Kissing in Taksim Square
Seeing choreographed blood and explosions in movies can be exciting, though real blood and real destruction, even from animals killed by the side of the road is disturbing. Part of the reason that works of film are exciting is because they are not real. Things don’t happen that way, and we know it. Many of the photos of the violence that has been going on in Taksim Square have been graphic and disempowering. Turning them into stained glass would not show solidarity, it would romanticize the ugliest parts of the goings-on.

What changed my mind was this photograph.

We cannot see the face of the woman in the original. She could be you, she could be me. She stands, ready to face the impending impact with arms wide as if she is going to hug the water. Powerful like the Nike of Samothrace.  Nike, for those who haven’t studied as much art history refers to a personification of Athena as goddess of victory in battle. Unlike some other images, that I won’t post, it does not show the moment when she falls, but rather the moment when her peace faces down the violent onslaught of water.

Nike of Samothrace (Louvre Official Catalog)

In my version of the image, I made the area surrounding the woman lighter and more green than the rest, hoping to show that out of this moment perhaps new green space and a hard look at the political problems that Turkey faces will grow up. Perhaps this small act of resistance will be a first step into the victory of non-violent protest, spurring political action against corruption.

For the protestors in Turkey

Goings On About Town

Big things are in the works. Baby steps!!!

Though my drawing a day project has once again fizzled, I have in fact been making art nearly every day.  When I started the project, my intention was to do all kinds of work, showing progress, drawings, sketches, and finished work as it went on.

But as the project went on, my parameters got more and more narrow.  First, somehow, I decided it had to be a drawing. Then I decided it had to be a drawing on a particular size of paper.  But as an artist, I’m all over the place.  I do several bodies of work in several media all the time.  All those limitations are not how I work, but somehow I talked myself slowly into that consistency and regularity.

Some of the work that I do as an artist is less photographic.  Like the above shot, a photogenic rearrangement of something much less exciting to look at: making the “paints” for my “paintbox.”  Each sheet has to be torn and in order to use them more efficiently be rolled into a ball so when it comes to making the carpet, no detangling is needed.

In any case, I wanted to outline for you some of what I’ve been working on, though each of these things will get more attention as time goes on this summer, perhaps you would like to know the whole list of “what’s up” in Adventurous Art land.

Recycle Ann Arbor had an Earth Day Art Contest, and my “Sun Rug” was selected to be a finalist.  Though the turnout was small, I stuck around for the Public Reception and made some good connections to people in the community.

My small success in that contest persuaded me to shoot higher and I’ve been working on a proposal for a larger series of rag carpets to be displayed in narrative series from Cloud, to Rain, to Rainbow, to Sun.  The first proposal contains some mistakes and omissions, so we will see.  In either case, I’m excited about the project and you will see some progress shots soon.

One person I met through the program was the Outreach and Zero-Waste coordinator for RAA with whom I’m coordinating the translation of some of their materials about how to recycle in Ann Arbor into Spanish.  It’s cool to get to do some translation work, if only as a volunteer.

She also introduced me to someone at the Ecology Center, and I’m volunteering with them to do an interactive recycled art table at the Eco-Ride on June 23 at Riverside Park in Ann Arbor.  Yes, Ann Arbor, not Ypsi.  I’m going to do a whole entry about this since I made them a video and I think you’ll enjoy our project, even if you can’t attend the Eco-Ride.

Another of the people I met through the Recycle Ann Arbor Earth Day Contest was the director of FLY Art Center, an Ypsi organization that does outreach to under-served public school children.  We met up and I’m going to teach some “Studio Skills” classes (one about no-sew upcycled t-shirts, and one about rag rug coasters or placemats), and do some volunteering for them in their outreach and public programs.