This morning I sit reading reports of Thomas Kincaid's death at 54 while next to me, Rock Hushka engages in his morning ritual of stitching knots. I realize that I too could be working as we sit here chatting. I recall my friend and "lady novelist" Ruthie Knox saying in a recent interview that she gets up at 3 a.m. every day to write before her son James gets up. Ruthie has written something like 3 romance novels in the past year or so. I meanwhile have been waiting.
Waiting - in the early 1970's Faith Wilding did a very moving performance piece for Womanhouse, in which she talks about waiting. She lists all the events of a woman's life in terms of waiting. I am waiting, but like my reaction to the Wilding piece I'm beginning to wonder what for. I believed it was for a "good idea." But I have no shortage of ideas these days. Maybe I have been instead waiting for an opportunity - but I know perfectly well I've had opportunites, and could have made some opportunities (like, HELLO! you have a curator embroidering right here on this very couch!) but I've let these pass, because I've been...waiting? I even recently acknowledged that I am waiting to retire to "hit it big" in my art. That's somewhat ridiculous, since I know perfectly well I'm not going to be able to retire for another 20 years. Am I going to wait 20 years to make art? Not likely.
So I guess in short, what I am waiting for is for myself to get off my own ass and get some discipline. I mean, if Kincaid died at 54, there's no guarantee I will live till my own retirement. I cannot let the fear of unsold art overtaking my house have such a stronghold. I can't wait to be "discovered" if there's no work to serve as a conduit to "discovery." Expecially since I already am known to many individuals who - while I've been waiting - have gotten to really good places in their careers through hard work and discipline and have reached the high places of which people speak when mentioning "friends in high places." (Okay, so I don't have a friend at the Met or MOMA but there are a lot of other places one can show their work.) In the meantime, I will wait for a few other things, like that article I wrote about Rock coming out in the summer issue of Surface Design Journal, and our next crop of flax to go into the ground, and for summer...
I have been busy - but today, the last day of Spring Break, I finally found some time to post these images from our recent 4- person Faculty Show, Oddly Wound Up at the Lawton gallery earlier this semester. These works are a continuation of the bathing suits, of which I've posted a couple here previously. This is a set of 5 knitted bikinis designed to follow specific locational knitting traditions; maps and ephemeral research materials are displayed on bulletin boards behind the suits, so people can see where the traditions came from, and get a sense of what the weather might be like in a place where knitting would become a really solid part of the cultural identity - and how global warming could threaten the production of material culture.
If you're from a really small remote place yourself, you'll probably enjoy the fact that Fair Isle is a tiny place in the middle of the North Sea, but their knitting traditions are still prominently represented in fashion today.
Cowichan bikini, "The Dude" based upon native interpretations of Fair Isle knitting brought over from Europe by the Sisters of St. Anne in 1860.
Aran, Guernsey Gansey and Fair Isle 'kinis.
Aran installed next to Cowichan, with maps mounted behind each.
Guernsey Gansey Tankini with Fair Isle string and Nordkini in background.
Guernsey Gansey Tankini and Fair Isle share a map.
Map and Nordkini.
Highlighting the Fair Isle String, inspired by Elizabeth Zimmermann, and the Guernsey Gansey Tankini, instructions and visuals from "Knitting the Old Way."
Aran and Cowichan.
Map dots, ephemera highlighted.
Just showing off the skirt on the Fair Isle string - Okay, I'm pretty proud of that one. And it was fun to make!
Today one of my students confessed an attraction to a particular scene in Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. "When I read about the girl who baked rat poison into the pie and then her grandmother ate it I couldn't stop laughing." It's only funny in context - the girl had meant to commit suicide and instead had committed homicide. This led to a discussion of a calendar my mom gave me a couple Christmases ago - Edward Gorey's Neglected Murderesses. My favorite murderess was December - a woman stabbed her daughter-in-law to death with a crochet hook, then used the hook to craft the dead woman's shroud in a snowflake pattern. Death in textiles is a pretty common thing - Freddie Robbin's Knitted Homes of Crime is a good contemporary example, but there's a lot of death portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry too - headlessness, impaled horses, really bloody kinds of death. And what better place to portray violence than in a textile? After all, everything textile art is, is made with a sharp and pointed object - we wield blades, stab at fabric and yarn, boil pots of color up with caustic solutions and acids, rip stuff up, spend hours twisting and tying and manipulating things to our will. And for those who are faced with a mystery fiber, there's always that search for a match - set it on fire and the make-up of any yarn is revealed. Just yesterday I found a photograph I'd purchased of a man shearing a sheep - one wonders if this is where Sweeney Todd got all his ideas about how to make a man into a pie?
Anyway, there's much research to be done on why in particular women do this sort of thing, and why men in particular often show a tendency to feel uncomfortable in the Textiles studio. Is it that it's too girly, or is it that they prefer violence as a spectator sport? And why does it bother my spouse when I knit during NFL games on television?
I took a little mini trip recently and visited some artists who I've known for a very very long time - since the beginning of what we might call "my art career." It's always a good recharge to the batteries to go back and have a talk about art with people who know you very well, and whose aesthetic is both familiar, and similar to your own. One of my artist friends teaches in an even more remote location than I do. He used to have a lot of time to make art up there, but lately has been distracted by just generally life. I could say the same for myself. Anyway, after I left the artists, and came home, I realized I had not shared with any of them some of the great stuff that I've been finding lately and that has me often thinking of each of them individually. So here's a quick tour of a few things that make me want to call other artists up and share. (Even though, with my aversion to telephones, I don't.) I'm not advocating any retail therapy or endorsing any product - these suggestions are just for Idea Harvest (i.e. inspiration.)
Old letters as raw materials for art, and my dog. Yes! My dog. He's authentic, visually compelling, intense, and has a real attract/repulse aspect to himself that is something I think more artists should aspire to in their works.
Little Peregrine drawing with caption
On the curious to see what happens list of interests we have Work of Art contestant Peregrine Honig (I like her pre-Bravo work, eg. image left of the donkey - and am curious about her sculpture now that the bastard Jerry Saltz has suggested that work was more compelling. Since Peregrine is a successful lingerie store owner from Kansas City, I can see the 3-d thing happening, and if they let her near a sewing machine...well, I'm interested to see what happens next, as they like to say at Bravo.) Also, I think baskets are going to break in the craft world in a minute. The last contemporary basket book was published about 9 years ago, as far as I can tell, but they just finally came out with 500 baskets. And there's an important basket show of selected works from the Lieberman's collection at MAD Museum thru Sept. 12 in NYC. That usually heralds a big re-awakening. I'm a little ahead of the curve on that one, having found an old copy of Ed Rossbach's "The New Basketry" last winter and well, you know what happened there.
Sometimes people ask me what I'm working on, or what my work looks like. It's pretty much all over the place this year, but I have some newly generated images of recent (within 2 yrs) work, so I thought I'd go ahead and post for feedback. This would be the more sculpture side of my work, since I think I've been fairly good about posting those wee recycled baskets as they get into shows (except the one here, which is in Pittsburgh right now, "Cream Puff".)
If you've been paying attention, you may notice that no progress has been made beyond the initial 2 Global Warming Swimsuits, but I've been put on notice that I will be in the faculty show in January, so I will be working up at least one more, but hopefully up to 3 more, of those in the next few months. Anyway, give me your feedback on this batch of images, I trust your opinions.
MFA University of Washington, Studio Art/Fibers
Associate Professor, Art and Women's Studies
Exhibiting Artist, collector of things that could be used to make art one day. I'm a woman with a lot to say, and I have a lot of needles with which to say it.