Sunday, February 10, 2019

Snow and rain and pearls, oh my!

The weather has been crazy in Bloomington and all across the Midwest.  Of course each event in my life seems to spark a new design for a weaving, and the snow and cold of two weeks ago did the trick.  On our trip to Chicago two weeks ago we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art.  On the third floor we entered an exhibit through a cascading curtain of pearls that was really quite striking.  It felt like walking through crystallized, pearlescent snow.  That sort of stayed in my head for a while.  While I was working on my migrating bird series I got to thinking about birds that don’t migrate and have to manage the polar vortexes, heavy rains and high winds of Indiana.  
I immediately thought of cardinals and I decided I needed to make another piece to capture cardinals in snow.  You have to stay with me here, but somehow I got to thinking about the pearls that have been part of my life for the past year and a half, creating costumes for the musical Guys and Dolls.  Because it is set in the early fifties, there’s a lot of pearls in the girl’s costumes for the Runyonland scene.  Later, pearls are featured prominently in the number ‘Take back your minks, take back your pearls’.  I still had a small treasure chest full after completing all the costumes, which consumed a lot of pearls—the actual show pieces will likely appear at the senior banquet, so they are off limits.  I decided I was going to create my own display of falling snow pearls and began weaving a piece horizontally so I could incorporate them.  Eventually I’ll rotate the piece to let the pearls cascade to the ground as snow. My plan is to have a cardinal sitting on a dark branch that is snow covered.   Now that I’m into creating the piece, I really like all the variety of pearls that glisten much like the ice and snow does. 

I have also been advancing my commissioned piece of six felted tiles.  This week I worked on the goldfinch in the apple tree.  Upon careful inspection of apple leaves, I was intrigued by the prominent main vein.  To emphasize that feature I needed to create a strong crease in the needle felting process.  I really like that they truly look like apple leaves to me.  The finch is sort of tucked in there, providing that wonderful pop of color, like a little burst of sunshine packaged in a song.  

I also invested some time on collecting adventures, stopping in at JB salvage.  Who knew they were an art supply store!  I found some great vintage electronic gadgets for another piece that is still in my head.  I think the pressure of driving to Denver to show my work at Cherry Creek Art Fair is putting some real pressure on my artistic output!  Or maybe it’s just the cold and rain of winter, keeping me focused in my art studio.  Anyway, I have a mental sketch featuring fireflies at a charging station.  I know that sounds a little odd, but I think it’s going to work.  I’m imagining a blue black gradient backdrop covered with vintage outlets with a Victorian/steampunk feel and the fireflies plugging themselves in for recharging.  I came across some glow-in-the-dark fleece last week on Etsy and I’m pretty excited to make their little bums glow!

At home we have fallen back into our family routine.  Tommie finished his winter term and is back in Oberlin.  Jacob has re-engaged his packed schedule of school, teaching taekwondo, working on kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and studying for his SAT.  On Friday night when peace settled over the house, it was nice to have a fire in the fireplace and have a ‘crackers and cheese’ dinner to slow down, unwind and begin the weekend process of restoration.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the five and a half inches of rain that doused Bloomington on Thursday.  I’ve never seen anything like it!  Having survived many unfortunate water incursion events into my art studio I was prepared for the absolute worst.  The backyard became a giant water-covered swamp and rivers with category 4 rapids forming on each side of the house.  If there was a real bright spot to the week, it was that the only water I took on was from the manageable, localized seepage I get when the ground is saturated.  My heart goes out to my local art friends who suffered damage, but this time Nature spared my work space.  
If that wasn’t a good enough omen for the future, the smells of a lemon pie wafted upstairs as I was waking up this morning!  I had been a whole week without a pie, and I was getting worried.  I bet it goes well with espresso!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Bright spring flowers and warm Chicago galleries

The polar vortex may have chased me out of my birthday trip to Chicago last weekend and forced me to miss a week of blogging, but I’m back on track and creating spring flowers to remind me of what’s ahead. The compositions reflect what I learned about each flower in my garden.  Two weeks ago I was working on Black-eyed Susans, which is part of my six-tile commissioned piece.  

In our garden, the Rudbeckia are very aggressive and spread as a dense carpet, meaning we had to weed them to keep them in check.  That’s why I made them so plentiful on the tile.  To make the petals I stiffed and molded the petal shapes out of felt to get the apparent pleating.  The brown centers are needle felted cones that capture the right shape and color.  I’ll do three image views so you can sense the depth.

This past week I focused on the last of the three flower tiles that features Shasta daisies.  The story behind the art is that years ago, when we spent much more time in the garden, Jim carefully prepared a garden bed and planted daisy seeds.  He nursed them along and we had one bumper year before the patch faltered. 
Every year, though, a few persistent volunteers will appear.  They just feel dainty and traditional and each one is special to us.  This will be the tile with the fewest flower heads on it, but plenty of buds because they need to persist. 

In between tile making came a wonderful weekend adventure in Chicago.  Jim had to visit for a recruiting weekend, and I tagged along.  I decided to make it an art weekend, so when we arrived on a snowy Saturday afternoon we drove straight to the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I enjoyed the exhibits, but we both agreed that the shaggy rug pieces of Jessica Campbell were the most provocative.  They were colorful and the designs were not complex, but you had to look closely and take them in.  They were at once enchanting and comforting but disturbing.  
After checking into the hotel and being upgraded to a forty-first level corner room with a spectacular view, we ventured out to a wonderful dinner to celebrate my birthday at Eddie V’s.  The cold and snow outside did not deter us from having wonderful time, and our waiter Vladimir was entertaining and helpful in finding a perfect entry, and treated me to champagne and a delightful dessert flambe.  
On Sunday morning Jim had his event, but I braved the extremely cold weather and took a taxi to the Art Institute of Chicago where I spent the whole day.  The space is so huge that I had to plan my visit strategically, beginning with the contemporary art I have engaged intellectually and finishing with the impressionists I grew up with and love.   

I found my new favorite contemporary artist, Tomma Abts, whose exhibit features a series portrait sized abstract works.  They are striking in their simplicity, and yet the dimensionality is extraordinary--they just seem to peel off the page.  
In the contemporary wing I encountered a piece by Jackson Pollock.  It was the first piece of his that I had encountered up close and live, and I was amazed by how dimensional the piece was. Because I don’t have a formal art education, I set a goal to teach myself about modern artists and their styles.  Walking straight up to an artwork and recognizing the artist by their style is extremely satisfying, especially because I have studied their techniques for creating the pieces and learning what drove them to create in their distinctive approach.  
My last chapter was my comfort wing, where I found the impressionists I’ve studied since high school.  I think of them as old friends.  I have fond memories of seeing Monet's lily pads and haystacks in Europe when I was still in college, and seeing several more examples made me smile, especially as I appreciated how amazing and extensive the collection is in Chicago. 

I was just about to leave when I saw the sign for the Chagall’s windows.  Even though my brain felt full I had to take those in.  I’d seen pictures, but to be able to experience each individual glass panel and each subsections was inspiring.  I could almost feel his hand scratching details into the glass and painting.  
I quickly scampered back to the hotel, collected Jim and drove like the wind back home to avoid the gathering snowstorm that blasted Chicago. 

It's been a wonderful month having Tommie at home.  He’s been doing his Oberlin winter term working in Carl Bauer’s lab doing research and really enjoying it.  The other day I saw his lab notebook on the kitchen table and peeked in.  It’s just warmed my heart to see him laying out PCR protocols!  Gave me the warm and fuzzies because it’s what my life used to be.  He’s heading back today, but will continue his research this summer. 

My big news on the art front is that I was accepted into theCherry Creek Art Festival in Denver, CO (wooohooo!!), so I’m plotting my travels westward already.  I’m super excited because it is the number one rated art fair in the country and this marks the first time I’ve gotten in.  Now just have to weave like crazy to build up my stock!  And yes, there were two pies, one for each week, and they were fabulous.  Jim is on a citrus pie kick, and he experimented with a creamy grapefruit pie first.  That was nice, with a very delicate flavor.  I preferred the lemon version that came next, with lemon zest included, which was in-your-face sour and flavorful.  He’s the best!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 20, 2019

I’m ready for spring flowers!

This week I spent a lot of time on my commissioned series of felted tiles.  I’m happy to report that while all six are in various stages of completion, I did finish one of them!  The zinnia piece came in first, perhaps because I love the bright red flowers and how the colors pop against the black wool background.  The composition is highly dimensional, extending three or four inches from the background.  
I’ve highlighted this aspect with pictures taken from above and below to give several perspectives on the flower design and presentation. 

I also advanced a new piece that represents a new direction for me.  The color story is consistent with the key-based piece I just completed—it’s a brassy gold and black.  This composition features vintage light bulbs, electrical gadgets, light switches and capacitors.  
The idea for the piece has an unusual origin, so you’ll have to indulge me as I go back to the airport to drop off Grandma and Aunt Lois after their Christmas visit.  I didn’t want to leave the area until I was sure they were airborne.  That meant I could skip over to the Goodwill Outlet that is about five miles from the airport.  Nancy Riggert and I have scrounged it for costumes, but I often find odd objects, yarns, and roving that I use in my own weavings.  
I poked around there for an hour or so while I waited, and my scrounging turned up a big pile of vintage capacitors!  I’ll admit that at first I had no idea what they were, but I knew they looked too cool to pass up.  A Google image search revealed what they were, and my mind immediately skipped to thinking about what I could create with them.  I have always been attracted to vintage lighting and old electrical stuff, which made me decide I was like a moth.  Perfect!  I knew I would make a piece featuring vintage wiring and lighting that included an elegant luna moth.  I remember years ago visiting Chris Gustinout in Brown County, where she lives in a beautiful ranch house at the top of a hill.  Right there on the building that houses her large weaving studio was a luna moth.  It was the first I had ever seen live, and it was breathtaking!  I knew I needed to felt one, and that it will fit perfectly into this piece. 

Like every composition I imagine, the materials come from diverse sources and trigger new stories and memories.  When I described the composition to the ever-practical Jim, he seemed concerned about transporting a piece featuring a bunch of vintage lightbulbs.  I suppose he might be right this time, so I came up with including vintage light sockets into the weaving!  I could then remove the light bulbs for safe travel.  I remembered that several years ago I was poking around Ben Gibson’s garage and I had found a few perfect examples (not knowing I would need them, of course).  I needed more, which brought on an epiphany.  I first tried the local independent electronics repair stores without success.  They explained I was twenty years too late—surprisingly, they don’t “keep that kind of stuff around anymore!”  Then I thought of the local salvage company!  They are a scrapyard I’ve visited before that has bins they let me poke through for treasure.  To say the place itself is a little stinky, messy and dusty is an understatement, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of treasure!  
I have to endure the ‘it’s a wacky artist’ glances, but I found what I wanted.  I even snagged a pewter mug for Beauty and the Beast!  I brought my treasures home and washed them thoroughly, which means three rounds with lots of hot, soap water. 

When I was working with the bulbs and sockets I thought that some of the bulbs were about the same size as the old fashioned Christmas bulbs—the actual coppery base should fit in well.  I knew that Nancy was cleaning out her attic and I suspected she might have some old ones, and she did!  She was concerned they might be too plain, but I assured her I had a plan.  I cut them apart and added some dimensional interest to the surface with hot glue before I painted the whole thing a matte black.  I added a thin gold patina to the surface, and I just love how they look.  I’ll launch on the luna moth when I have some downtime between other projects.

As to the weaving itself, I’ve done the layout and I wove the image in a landscape format.  I want all the cords to be running top to bottom in straight lines.  I really like how it looks, but I still need to release it from the loom and stitch it into an oak frame.    

On the home front, I was able to get to all of my exercise classes this week.  My new year’s resolution, which started in December, was to take exercise more seriously.  I already had my E2C group that I work out with regularly.  We do some weight work and calisthenics followed by a half hour of yoga, which is wonderful and the stretching is great.  It enhances my flexibility to bend and reach for things in the art studio.  Still, I knew I needed more cardio.  Last week I attended all three of my friend Darrelyn’s morning Zumba classes to get me moving.  I just love dancing with her - she is just an enthusiastic ball of energy who makes dancing fun—thank you Darrelyn!  I figure I’ll get into better shape AND be able to justify even more pie! 

Until next week,

--> Martina Celerin