Second Artwalk with West Main Artists

Thursday February 20, my work will be featured at the West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg, SC, along with the work of Janet Kozachek, Janet Orselli and Nat Wallace. The hours of the event are 5-8.

The co-op used to be a Baptist Church, West Main Baptist, and that history was adapted in the naming of the new co-op. It is a very successful enterprise, filled with studios and other work spaces for artists. It has kitchens and an office manned by the group.

The sanctuary of the former church has become the main gallery (there is also a smaller “new members” gallery). You can see parts of two of the stained glass windows to the right of this image which have been saved by the artists and are an elegant addition.

Where the altar used to be are a group of small tables and refreshments for the opening. The placement of the walls can vary depending upon the needs of the work being displayed.

This casual photo shows four of my pieces, none in fine detail. Notice the bartender in the altar area plying his trade.

Along the wall are a series of small paintings of chairs by Janet Kozachek. To the right are some of Janet Orselli’s small chair constructions and a better shot of one of the stained glass windows.

Come see us! West Main Artists, 578 West Main St., Spartanburg, SC 29301.

Thanks to West Main Artists for the loan of the first three pictures.

Include Triangles In Your Work

Whatever it is that you do.

I bought a couple of really sad Charlie Brown Christmas trees three years ago. We had them inside and after the holidays, out they went. They are growing nicely now, past the sleep, creep, leap stage.

Was looking at them today and the tag from Lowe’s is still on one of them. The tag said to plant three of these to screen places in your yard. As a gardener, as an artist, I know this.

Three of something creates a closed form. The viewer sees a resolution in visual terms. Three of something creates a pattern (which I see as a planet-wide heartbeat) so you are sure of what you see. Two of something does not create an expectation of pattern. EXCEPT (and using a gardening example) if you are dealing in symmetry. Like if the front of your house looks like Tara, you can put a live oak out from each side of your formal front porch.

Two of something may make a line, but it does not set up a pattern.

My husband, also an artist does not believe this and it often comes up in conversation. I said the other day that it has been a long time since I have cut my fingers on the band saw. That I am leaning back further from the blade and planting my legs wide and was more stable that way. He said “Yeah, three point.” I said ” It’s more stable. A closed form.” He said “Stools are more stable than chairs if they have only three legs.”

He knows this stuff but will not admit that three of something or five of something is better in visual art.

Repair
2020
24.5″ x 16″ x 9″

In the last year a nagging thought has been occupying the back of my mind. My chairs, meant to represent women, were becoming more non-chair-like even though the sculptures were still being made of chair parts. Should I move along with what I am compelled to do or double down and strongly suggest the traditional form of a chair with some kind of unique detail in each one?

Radium Girl
2020
36″ x 16″ x 12″

You have to do what you have to do. Making art is like throwing that little anchor to climb up a mountain and slowly reaching that point. It can simply be framed as “what if?”

Here is the inner conversation of an artist with herself: “OK, so I like this piece because of the curve. What if I repeat the curve in the next piece? What if that curve was metal? How would that work? What would have to change for the composition to accommodate three curves in it ?”

This is a conversation that I could have had about “Radium Girl”, above. And this is how work progresses from one stage to the next and one day you turn around and everything is different.

Please notice that the placement of the curves in “Radium Girl” themselves make up a triangle, the most dependable compositional device.

Less is more, y’all!

Work Being Displayed in Richmond, Kentucky

Put a Woman in Charge
2019
31″ x 21″ x 9″

“Put a Woman in Charge” is being displayed in The Chautauqua National at Eastern Kentucky University, in the Giles Galleries between Jan 21 and Feb 15, 2020.

” Balance and Resistance” is the concept the juror promoted for the exhibition and my work addresses it both in physical terms and subject matter.

Women have been in resistance for decades now, but in the last years, the importance of pushing back has never been more important. Our world is off-balance. We need to increase our strength and regain our balance within ourselves and with our allies.

Look to the women to lead.

Current Exhibition in Spartanburg, SC

My work is being exhibited in Spartanburg, SC now until February 29, 2020. The opening is January 16, 6-9 PM during the Thursday night Artwalk at the Venue Gallery 578 West Main St. The work will remain there for the February Artwalk as well. http://www.venue@westmainartists.org

Disguise
2018
29″ x 19″ x 18″

Disguise is the earliest chair in the group, and the one with the most color.

Kitchen Apron
2019
21″ x 19″ x 9″

This piece was shown last summer at Peter’s Valley School of Craft in an exhibition called “Domestic Matters: The Uncommon Apron” and was curated by Gail Brown.

Symbiosis
2019
45″ x 22″ x 18″

In this piece there are two separate elements which can be placed against one another in many ways.

Caryatid
2019
24″ x 20″ x 17″

A caryatid is a female sculpture on a Greek Temple. A draped figure, they are usually located under the roof line and look as though they support the building.

Wound
2019
21″ x 17″ x 14″
Shadow Limbs
2019
21″ x 16″ x 12″

With this piece I started experimenting with acrylic paint to increase contrast.

Screen Door
2019
35″ x 13.5″ x 17″

As I said in an earlier post, this piece was a “burp” meaning it is much different than the pieces created before and after it.

https://leemalerich.wordpress.com/2019/12/10/calligraphic-or-lush/

Teapot
2019
40″ x 15″ x 11″

The next three pieces are meant to be shown together. It was impossible for me to photograph them that way. I hope to be able to do so at the opening. My husband made a platform for them out of tongue and groove wood.

Basting Stitches
2019
approximately 37″ x 17″ x 14″
same as above
same as above

Never Say Never

Housewife
2019
30″ x 17.5″ x 7″

In an earlier post, I said that I never paint. Lately, making a liar out of myself, I find that painting can do the same job in a work of art as sanding. It can change the value of a wooden element and help establish it in space with reference to the rest of the piece. For instance, on the tallest element in this piece, painting black the sanded areas that once were “wood” color, unifies that element as the furthest from the viewer. It is more comfortably established in space.

Above is an element from another piece which shows the contrast the element discussed once had. With its high contrast, it is bolder and therefore attracts the eye. It would not be a good team player.

Referring to the first image again, the black paint and dark stain applied to the chair caning behind the crutch pushes the crutch visually forward from the apron of the chair.

In a similar (but different) fashion, the medium brown elements here establish a relationship. They are dissimilar in shape, but united by their color, and therefore they seem natural together. Unified.

The thing about sculpture is, this evaluation has to work from many different angles. These things are meant to be viewed “in the round” meaning from all sides.

From this position, we see very dark elements link up. The inside of the “bite” taken out of the tallest element, to the horizontal line under the apron of the chair, to the line of dark dots along the part of the wooden crutch. Even the fasteners used, the pull from an old window and the mirror pivot from a vanity are dark. So is the slot along the inside of the tall element. These darks all relate to each other and justify themselves.

Another source of organization in this piece is the use of the circle and half-circle. Strangely, this use of circles actually started with the renovation of our kitchen! I found a bunch of wooden bowls, crude and rejected starts made by a woodworker and bought them at a flea market. I put them in a kitchen cabinet, and they proceeded to live there more than ten years forgotten. In tearing up the kitchen for a re-do there they were.

And this is so MY way of working: always stimulated by the new “find”. I cut one of the bowls in half and used them to mirror the circular “bites” taken out of the tall element, and the line of small circles in the crutch.

Every composition has many such evaluations made by the artist as the sculpture comes together. There ARE basic rules for the artist, but the thing about Art is that you can break all the rules and come up with something even better. That is why we are all crazy.

No Sex for Fish

Being a woman can often be a problem. I heard a story the other day on NPR about a successful cooperative of women in Kenya.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/12/26/789129312/no-sex-for-fish-how-women-in-a-fishing-village-are-fighting-for-power

No Sex for Fish
2019
34″ x 12″ x 12″

They are forced to trade sex for a subsistence living of buying fish in small quantities, every day, to clean and sell that day to feed their family.

Imagine that routine. They confided one day to a Peace Corps worker, and he started a movement that ended up with their getting a grant for some fishing boats of their own.

They were very strong verbally about the change that this purchase would make in their lives. They named the boats “No Sex for Fish”.

Tell me how you REALLY feel! If you read the article in the link above, you will know that total success in sex-free fish was not at first achieved. A business is difficult to build. Miracles do not happen. But the idea still moves forward.

I sent my daughter to Nairobi for a summer when she was ten or eleven, with a friend and her family. This kind of interaction should not comprise your total image of Kenya or Lake Victoria. My daughter had an employee of the family take care of her things as they moved between the Nairobi house and the house on the coffee plantation.

We are all so different in our cultures, but some things are just beyond the pale. Women everywhere are rebuilding their compositions to deal with their experiences.

This won’t be the last time.

Sometimes Discomfort is Interesting

Curtsy
25″ x 18″ x 10″
2019

Sometimes my work leans oddly. The sculptures are stable on the pedestal, but feature a relationship to gravity that we notice. The stance is unsettling. Such is the case with the piece above.

A piece might lean due to the way the first two connecting surfaces are glued and screwed together. To get a good fit the two pieces might have to connect in a strange way, and this joint dictates the rest of the joints.

It is then that gravity comes into play. The piece must stand; one cannot deny gravity so it is my partner in the rest of the composition. When we look at this work, we sense whether gravity is confirmed or denied.

Physically, if the piece stands, then it is true to gravity.

Another feature contributing also to the unsettling stance is value.

Above is the front of “Curtsy”, photographed dead on so the textural element seen in the first image is missing. Reading a book in about 1981 when I was a young instructor at Columbia College, I had no idea that the discussions from that book would play such a part in my work. I did not record the name of the book, or the author. All I remember is that he taught at Yale. His theories have ruled my work all these years, whether 2-D or 3-D.

As anyone who has ever taken an art appreciation class knows that colors and values have visual weight. Dark things seem heavier than light things. That is the expectation due to the rules of our physical world. Therefore, if you are looking for a stable and understandable composition, place the dark areas near the bottom.

If you want drama or tension, deny this notion as to how we view the world, and place them at the top.

It pays to reflect. Think about what you already know.

Stays
23″ x 15.5″ x 7″
2019

So I am thrilled at the comments received from my most recent post (scroll down for that one). A conversation started. I was confused; an artist in need of a critique. This is not at all unusual.

When out in the studio last night, thinking about what I had written and looking at the simple piece about which I had written (belatedly I realized was made of FIVE chair parts instead of the FOUR stated in the former post), it occurred to me that my problem was in the process of being solved.

And why? Because I had written about it.

Writing that post yesterday, describing my problem was the first step towards solving it. It brought to mind something I used to know. When teaching at Coker College in Hartsville, SC, years ago, an educator was brought in to conduct a workshop. He was well-known, and his focus was writing for classes, no matter what discipline was being taught.

I can remember this example very well. When this man was in the classroom, he taught math. And he always maintained a question box in the room as one way students could communicate with him and ask questions. He cited one example where the student, writing his question, answered it for himself within the body of the question. He posed the question and said in real time, “oh, now I get it”, and then went on to something else. It was the writing of the question that got the problem installed in another part of his brain, and it was then dealt with in another way and answered.

This was the basis of his support of writing enhancing understanding. In writing the post yesterday, asking the question of how a very simple “calligraphic” piece might end up a winner, I got my answer when in the studio last night.

The answer was to enhance the surfaces of the simple construction. Thanks, y’all for letting me write!

Calligraphic or Lush?

I used to say that sometimes a work of Art will be born as a burp, and that meant that it had no place in the spectrum of my current work. These works of Art are too different from ones that came before or after them. A wild child. Projectile vomiting.

When making art with stitches years ago (as seen in the insert on my masthead), I lusted over simple, calligraphic work. It seemed my stitched work was way overdone, and the truth was that each piece took FOREVER to create.

Shield
2019

In “Shield” above we see where my work is currently. I am heading towards making a piece that might be described as calligraphic. But not quite yet. There is detail in the piece that might not need to be included. Currently on my workbench is a piece with just four parts of a chair, reworked. If that chair finishes as a winner, maybe the c term can be used.

And that’s how artists work; on a continuum. You make a piece, finish it, and then ask “What if?” For me, the process goes—ooh, I like that part, what if I can make it do this in the next piece? But do it better?

And also I like to think of a piece of work as a poem. Nothing unnecessary is used. The form is stated in its essence.

Above is the back of “Shield”. It is quite different from the first side. I like that to happen too, and as I sit and write this, it occurs to me that if my work were to get more calligraphic, there would be less of the contrast of two or more sides going on in the piece. Hmmmm.

Screen Door
35 x 15 x 21
2019

So here is my burp. What the hell am I doing? Is this lush or what? I like the repeat of the swirly shapes, I love the aluminum screen porch door elements. But there is a lot going on here.

This is not like a poem. It is like an orchestra. It satisfies my textile sensibility only in wood. But should I want a textile sensibility in wood and aluminum?

Gail?

I Wonder If I Still Have My Writing Voice

I may have sacrificed it in a monsoon of working my visual voice lately.

Put A Woman in Charge
31″ x 21″ x 9″
2019

This piece has been invited to Eastern Kentucky University for an exhibition called “The Chautauqua National Juried Exhibition: Balance and Resilience”. It takes place in January and February of next year.

This show was right down my alley as my rebuilt women are continually doing so, navigating a culture that can be tough for them.

My woman-chairs have become triangular of late.

I was listening to one of my favorite NPR music programs a while ago, “Mountain Stage”. A person unfamiliar to me belted out this song, “Put a Woman in Charge”. I live in that world! Looked it up and Roseann Cash wrote it. I am crediting Roseann Cash for this inspiration. Thankyew.

In place of one leg of a chair, there is a baseball bat. That’s a tool some women use. The “crown” at the top of the piece is actually part of the apron of a table, not a chair. But close.

I started working with wicker on this chair and am loving its ease and its texture.

There is just so much great trash. It overwhelms me.