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.


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029:365 Amidst the Mists

029:365 Amidst the Mists

The fog today was inspiring. I used to love East Asian watercolors and Japanese Ukiyo-E prints that showed distance with faded colors.  This morning’s weather looked a lot like that.  Trees appeared as dark tears in the world while buildings emerged suddenly, foreboding behemoths.

The anger and discomfort of the last few days is fading, and quotidian things take over.  Chop wood and carry water, a ghost once told me.  He was right.  Though the abyss still looms large now and again, observing changes in the world around me and doing things like cooking dinner bring me moments of joy and love to leap across it.

I started the second more square rag rug, though the first isn’t finished, because there are things afoot here, and our forays into flooring have led to more intensive plans than plopping down some pad and vinyl.  If we end up with a loud floor, I guess my beautiful sun rug will be go up for sale, and it already represents more time than most people would like to pay for.

027:365 Suspension

027:365 Jolted

Another emotional one. Tension, illumination, speed.

Complementary and analagous colors used in concert to create visual tension. Red/Orange stands front, blue recedes creating an air of suspension.

Progress on rag-rug has slowed a bit, in part because each circle is bigger and therefore slower, but also because I had to buy more supplies, and am now tearing them up into “yarn.”