Working in Series

I just finished a satisfying series of works. These pieces are related in content: they are feminized chairs that cannot accommodate “a seat at the table” and feature a sort of structural reworking necessary because of some people’s cultural predisposition about women. The chairs are redesigned so they can continue to stand after losing a bit of themselves.

Spine 2019
35″ x 17″ x 12.5″
Somebody’s Girlfriend 2019
36″ x 17″ x 16″

The chairs also explore the same materials. The chair backs actually called “splats” are repeated and so are the spindles. Aprons are repeated and featured inside out, with the series of lines showing. They are simple in design and elements and tilt dramatically. The pieces seem to belong together as the fingers on your hand. Similar but different.

The repetition of these elements in several works allows for a deeper exploration of the relationships.

Domestic Violet 2019
36″ x 15″ x 13

Make no mistake. Even though these works are related, they are strong enough to stand on their own. And for the viewer, seeing a series of works should strengthen the artist’s voice rendering it more understandable.

Wobble 2019
34″ x 13.5″ x 14″

This is the last in the series. Sadly, I have gone on to examine more visual relationships and more comments on the status of women. This series did present me with problems because they lean so forcefully. We have a tendency to straighten things in our mind, and I was doing that. The chairs were not looking like who they are.

Wobble 2019

Here is my photo set-up with an infinity wall. See the white edge of the table at the bottom? It is not parallel with the ground here. All I had to do was straighten this edge so it was parallel with the bottom of the image. Then I knew that whatever tilting I was seeing was the correct tilt.

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Using Text

Makeshift 2019
36″ x 20″ x 16″

There is information invisibly flying all around us, penetrating our bodies, and playing with our minds. It was true even in the days of radio.

To give a nod to this phenomenon, I have used text in my work for years and years. Way before the internet, I was stitching symbols in my work, some unreadable, some not. I made sentences with only one letter per word. “R U M T?” Are you empty?

Digging for pieces of wood at the Goodwill Clearance Center provides me with letters for words/not words in my work. “Melissa and Doug” have a company that makes wooden toys for kids. They are good to stock up on if you work with wood.

In this chair, letters were cut up and applied to the inside of the chair and are not meant to be read. They are just noise, are blackish and work well with the inside of the apron, which is also blackish. The letter “C” sits on the back of the apron.

Because of the power of language, I don’t often compose a real word. It would totally dominate the composition. Even shapes that disguise themselves as being letters, but are not, can be powerful. I sand those letters down, relieving them of some of their power.

Short Colon 2018
42″ x 16″ x 17″

The woman that this chair is depicting is me. The words and letters are not just noise. They are clues. The backward yellow “C” in the front refers to colon cancer, which is why I have a shorter colon than most. Placing it backward and muting its color with sanding cuts its visual strength. I took the word “family”, cut it up, only suggested the “Y”, cut the “F” totally away, and cut the “A” in half, so the word does not overpower the rest of the composition. And so it does not look like a label.

I included this suggestion of “family” because it seems to be our family’s disease.

On the back of this piece, there is another “C” performing a functional job at the top of the left leg. The two other letters here are just noise, a “W” and the “F” from the word “Family” in the other view, presented backward.

Using things backward presents lots of opportunities and allows for a quiet suggestion.

This Spare Little Chair

Folding Chair 2018
35″ x 14.5″ x 13″

Why did I name this “Folding Chair”? Count me absent in so many ways with this piece. When you are next to it, its seat looks kind of triangular, slants slightly downward, and it seems as if one were to try to sit, the whole thing would fold. Perhaps that was the genesis of the name.

But the hanger across the back. Is there any household object (symbol and/or reality?) that better identifies problems that women face mostly alone? I made three chairs in 2018 using wooden hangers and was blinded to the meaning these hangers may have been adding to the composition. Not that I don’t agree with the fact that as our political discussions continue, it would not be a surprise that a hanger could become a medical tool for some women yet again.

But they are WOODEN hangers. I saw them as wooden things that would take a screw (no pun) and therefore as options for my compositions.

Backless 2018
37″ x 17″ x 16″

Above is another chair using a wooden hanger in the composition. I thought the use of the hanger, the title “Backless” as in a dress, a nice coupling of title and composition before this time. Imagine the wooden hanger replaced with a much more lethal wire one. “Shameless”?

Or “Heartless”, or “Friendless”? One point to be considered is that a wire hanger is a whole different animal than a wooden one. Wooden hangers share their name with wire ones as well as some of their uses. But not all of them.

Or is the word “hanger” such a powerful one that any association, wire or wooden implies the same idea?

Use Waste

High Chair 2018
37″ x 18″ x 19″

Aside from these chairs being made from a warehouse of old chairs on which the elements watered and muddied repeatedly, this one also includes parts of a failed earlier sculpture. Doubly recycled.

Don’t know how I was able to do this. I really believed that mistakes carry their own aura, projecting their miserable selves. They are no good to anybody, anyway. Get them out of your sight. A former instructor advised getting old drawings out of your line of vision in the studio. It was not good enough to simply turn their faces to the wall. They could do you dirty and make you produce more failures.

A kid’s story I remember was how the answers to all uncorrectly worked math problems struggled to keep themselves in the equation and from jumping off the page. Mistakes struggle in the world.

When did the tide turn with this idea? I had a very difficult time during my textile career in recycling work which was not finished. I can only remember putting down one major embroidery piece and then picking it back up years later. It finished with a very unique composition and sold right away.

My husband walked into the studio when I was finishing that failed wooden sculpture. He said “Whoa!”, which is more than he normally says unless I ask for a critique. It was a shocking reaction. The piece looked interesting to me as I produced it, but when finished it was underwhelming and too predictable. It was never photographed.

Above on the right is part of that failure. Can you see the two chair armrests that have scribbling on them made with a Dremel tool? That part is lighter than the rest of the chair. I actually removed the armrests from my personal studio chair for this use. Such sacrifice!

The recycled part is to the left of this image. And below is another chair that made use of the rest of that failed sculpture.

The Dark Side 2018

This one is now on display at the SC State Museum in Columbia.

DEALING WITH THE COLD

Finally, it is cold in South Carolina.  It has not been for long, and the length of the good weather at the end of last year was remarkable and unsettling.  Now over, we have to face the normal chill for a little while.

Our big chill is all my fault, not Glenn’s.  When living here alone, building this house, I chose not to include central heating.  The system I could have bought, it was the monthly bills that scared me.  And it is so moderate here,  I wondered about getting by with a gas log in one of the two huge fireplaces we have.   So that is what I did.

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It really has not affected us much.  There have been really only about four cold days where we did not care to go outside.  But outside is where all the appealing stuff exists, including our art work.  Creating my work is a pathway to feeling OK, and I need to do it.  Running will do that too, but running is tough in the cold weather as well.

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What work I have accomplished is changing.  Getting simpler.  Keep thinking about poetry and editing writing.  An image should contain only what it needs.  Nothing else.

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This piece is called  “Impulse”.  It is pretty spare, but the relationships between the lines are interesting.  I am using three legs in this series, lifting the window off the ground, and importing colors only through objects used.

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Chair legs, spindles and a child’s wooden block are the only recognizable images in the piece.  Other shapes are just odd pieces of wood we have around here. Yes, the piece leans in.  It seems to move.

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Other side.  This window has been several colors in its life time, and that is where the patterning is coming from on the right and bottom of the window.  It is so easy for me to reveal color; to apply it, the worst.

The piece above is entitled “Gravity 2.11.16” for the obvious reasons.  It is woozy in its stanze as well.  Space and time.  Unpredictable?  Maybe not, thanks to Einstein.

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Not a very flattering angle, but this image shows the depth of the piece.  You can see it is a visual cousin to “Impulse” as spindles and legs from the same chairs are used. Work tends to flow in this way.  If work is truly expressive of a temperament at a given time, examples will have common denominators.  Unless you are doing commission work.

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Above is a detail from a current commission.  Only thing in common with my work is the “waste” part.

THE BEST OF THE LATE FALL

So warm here, the work in the barn has gone ahead way to the end of the year. For me, working all the time is the only way to stream innovations.  They jump aboard during creative play.  If play is not happening, they do not.  Innovations do not start in my mind.

For instance, the following.  Glenn had been complaining about the heaviness of my bases lately.  But my aesthetic has always formed around what we know about gravity.  My compositions are heavier or darker at the bottoms because that is what we expect in the world in which we live.

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Heaviness at the bottom of the piece anchors it as gravity plays on that mass.

So recently I tried this.

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Dancer, 2015.  Pulling the window off of the floor animates it.  Having the weight of the piece on three legs stabilizes it.

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True, this piece needs much more space to stand on, more than the former window-based sculptures.  And true, Dancer looks like it is going to flip.  It won’t.  I have been scrawling the names of the pieces in pencil, as at the bottom of the window above,  and then making aluminum name tags with the date and my signature, to the right of the word  “Dancer” above.  Signing the tag with a Dremel tool is not easy.  Sometimes spelling my name incorrectly, I just leave it.

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This is called “Escher Poem”  2015.  Not a surprising name with the bit of a staircase-like wooden construction that I found at the Goodwill Clearance Center.

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Of course, this is in no way as complex as Escher.  This is his work, loved and digested by me,  spoken in my visual language.  Bought 27 lonely legs for thirty bucks at one of those antique grocery stores with booths.  They are proving to be worth the big price.  Waste, you know.

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“Friends” 2015 is scrawled across the top here.  More of those fine legs are included.  This piece is made from a much bigger window, and uses larger legs.  Three of the largest.  It measures about 47″ x 31″.

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Animal friends, these are.  Colored wood is added to the supports for the panes.  I use the sander to take color away or lessen it on some shapes.  All is highly varnished.  Some gouging with the dremel is used on the little cat at the upper left.

 

CONFUSED LOUISE?

Some works fall a bit out of the norm for any number of reasons.  They could fail.  They could examine a compositional point that the artist has nothing more to say about.  They could feature one of a kind materials.  They steadfastly refuse to be grouped.  Some of these satisfy those guidelines.

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This was the first piece in the series on which I am currently working; the first to use an upright rectangular window frame and chair legs.  I thought, when working, that it was beginning to look like a mantel.  It looked like a fake mantelpiece we had in our family room way back when. Associated with that mantelpiece is a great story.  We adopted our Siamese Polly from a house in Blackjack, Mo.  Brought her home.  Later, my mother bought our fake family room mantelpiece from the same home.  Polly and the mantelpiece were reunited, and she happily surveyed her domain from the top shelf of it.

Another personal thing about this work is the use of the croquet balls and goal piece and wickets. A guy tried to give me this stuff at a flea market.  I refused and paid him.  Why would you go to all that trouble and just give stuff away? Anyway, one of the only things I have which belonged to my dad, who died so long ago are croquet wickets made out of old wire hangers.  Fashioned by him.  This piece reminds me of that.  The name of it is “From Blackjack to Florissant: Polly and her Mantel”, 2015.

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The piece above, “F. Scott”, 2015.  This piece was created in response to the fine little wooden touring car the universe sent to me.  As in the people that Fitzgerald writes about, this car is poised to crash and burn.  A slice of the passenger side of the car has been whacked off.  I also had fun playing with white painted lines on some of the elements, which is unusual.

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This piece is more about formal composition.  It is all about circles.  And it tilts to one side.  Unnerving.

This piece is about 6-8 inches shorter than the norm.

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The following piece was reviewed for my current exhibition at USC Sumter.  It was created very early in the chair series and I wanted to see if the chair could be cut up and basically reconstruced  within three rectangular windows.

http://theitem.com/stories/evocative-creative-usc-exhibit-also-timely,257175

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LOUISE-MUSE

Dear Louise, some of the pieces have more complicated bases and therefore are not as simple as those in the last post.

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Flood,  2015.  From the side, this piece looks fairly simple, and very different than most. It was created during the time of our recent thousand year rain in Columbia.

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Pushing the bases beyond any kind of norm is really fun.  So is using hardware in an unusual way.

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Male/Female,  2015

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In this piece shapes were composed on a plane to have enough diversity to anchor the window. Then the bookends were placed for added strength. Wooden figures found at the flea market populate it, a bent wood section of a chair encloses an alligator reaching for a shape at the top, while two croquet mallets without their heads frame.  The longest diagonal line is actually a hardened wooden vine from our woods.

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Above and below are two sides of a piece currently on exhibition (but to come back in ten days) for which I have forgotten the name.  It has a complicated base that contains the front two legs of a chair, plus the front seat base with holes for wicker.  A portion of that base with holes is also the crown of the piece.

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Confused, dear Louise?

NEW WORK

Have been buying old chairs for several years now.  Luckily, we have enough space in the barn for the horde.  One just has to buy them when the price is right and for me, that price is two bucks or less.   For a while it seemed fun to dream about  mixing the parts of these chairs to make funky examples.  But the path of art can change things.  I knew chairs were in my future, but not this way. They are being layered into my windows.  Just noticed this diversion.

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Bought six of these chairs many years ago for five bucks apiece.  Two have been broken, four are still around our computer table.  Love the bentwood design.  They are from an old restaurant, and have a kind of bad habit, especially when it comes to teen aged boys.  If one is too rough, the support for the back rest breaks.  That happened, but nothing is wasted around here.  Notice the chair leg below.

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Up to this point, my typical 2-D orientation stuck.  I layered windows on the wall.  And chairs, as it turns out.

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It was making work for the “Envisioning O’Keeffe exhibition that got me thinking about working in the round.

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Above is my piece.  Called “College Bound” I intend to sift together my experience of teaching at Columbia College with that of Georgia O’Keeffe.  Neither of us lasted too long.  Anyway, it was fun to work on both sides of this dangerous piece.   A new game!

The piece is a smooth and shiny as it looks here.  Layers and layers of varnish have been applied. To me this surface suggests that this collection of shapes in intentional, not an accident of collection.  To make the objects work together better, they have been given the same “skin”.

Other pieces came later that have the same “feel” to me, and the same shiny varnish.

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“Thinly Orchestrated”  2015  This is the second side of the first image discussed.  It has a bent wood leg, and two armrests from another chair.

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The two images above represent both sides of “From Blackjack to Florissant:  Polly and Her Mantel”.  There are two pairs of chair legs in this piece.  The story behind this is as follows:  As a child, our family adopted a Siamese cat from the small town of Blackjack, near our home.  A couple of years later, my mother salvaged a mantel from the same house, to install in our family room. The chair legs here to me seemed like a mantel.  Again, layers and layers of shiny varnish to make all the parts of this composition seem intentional.

The following are just studio shots but you can see the idea keeps having legs.

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MARCH WORK

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Why do this?  To see if it could be done.  The origin of my work is always with the materials.  They inspire new ideas whether it was back in the day when I stitched reacting to a wonderful new pattern, or whether, in this case, when my husband gave me a fine set of wooden casters.  Who knows why he rejected them, but they gave me all kinds of ideas.  This piece stands around 34 inches tall.  The wooden high chair within the system of windows is for a doll.

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The wooden windows are screwed together in a “Z” conformation to a depth of about 24 inches.  An old toy wooden hammer and toy ladder make up the rest of the elements that serve to embed the chair within the windows.  Initially the chair was purchased for its wooden parts, but the more interesting question became the merging of the two compositions together.

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The seat of the doll chair has luminous single digit numbers and bits of paper under layers of varnish.

The former chair then inspired the next chair, which made itself into a gift for the baby of my baby, Benjamin.  It started as a reaction to the first chair, and then became HIS chair as the universe presented elements to me, over and over again, which represent his first trip around the sun.

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I bought the little chair without a back years ago.  It became a plant stand.  I loved the peeling paint, and for this piece it has been preserved with layers of varnish.  The bit of brownish paper on the right front leg came with it; as the chair began to form and use so many warm browns, I added the rest of the newspaper bits, from an old St. Louis paper.  Have to get his heritage into the work!  One bit just says “boy”.

Glenn has lots of rusty metal farm parts for his work around.  I love the hay rakes and the way he stretches and curls them in his work but here one is used intact, minus the handle.  The bird couples had all been secured at the flea market at one time or another.  Interestingly when looking for dowels to use there was the little wooden plane at the bottom of the dowel box.  Perfect for a little boy’s circle of the sun in his first year.  All the circles used in the composition refer to this trip as well.

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The arms constructed for this chair are fairly complex using a mismatched pair of wooden swans, same with wooden birds (mismatched), and a  spoon and a fork.  They are finished with the inside and outside of an embroidery hoop with a nod to his grandmama, the former stitcher.  The tail of the little plane moves, as well as the rotor.  We shall see how he feels about this (un)toy.