Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter tomatoes and holiday treats

Today brought a wonderful day of relaxation after a fast-paced few days with family for Christmas.  I needle felted tomato slices as I watched old movies on TV.  I needed the break after the intense week of preparation, cooking, family activities and ultimately cleanup.  A lot had to happen before Grandma and Aunt Lois came on Wednesday afternoon.  The boys and I prepared eight different dough varieties to make multiple tins of cookies.  They included traditional Czech linecky kolacky (with black current jam, of course), a delightfully intense frosted lemon cookie, and a concoction Jacob cooked up that involved peanuts, peanut butter, and dark chocolate assembled in three layers.  Everything came out well this year and we delivered and shared many treats with family and friends.  On Christmas Eve morning I assembled the other family baking tradition, which is a stollen for Christmas morning breakfast.  My dough is filled with rum and orange juice soaked currants and raisins, nuts and candied fruit that we make ourselves.  The filling is either marzipan that I make or rum-soaked sweet cherries.  When everything cools I glaze them with a butter and powdered sugar frosting.  Both varieties very successful and well received for Christmas and Boxing day breakfast. 

I got a little carried away with the delightful foods!  I wanted to mention that I was fortunate enough to have previously blended the red wool for the tomatoes.  I was able to go straight to my stores and pull out the fleece that I needed for my slices.  I also have special wool that I use for tomato seeds.  I dyed the material using bark from a fallen giant maple tree branch at Grandma’s house.  It just made the absolutely perfect color for the seeds.  After attaching them I usually layer a bit of the dark red fleece over them to make it look like the seeds are embedded in the internal chambers of the tomato.  These are part of the cast of vegetables that will make up a larger piece I’m working on, Fall Stew.  I have the carrots completed so I’ll be moving on to snap peas and red-skinned potatoes next. 

The highlight of the holiday entertainment season was a trip out to see Cardinal Stage Company’s performance of Mary Poppins.  Grandma buys the family tickets and the whole crew goes.  Mary Poppins is a hugely ambitious challenge, but Cardinal rose to meet and exceed the standard.  Mary flew, kites flew, the children flew, and Bert walked up a wall.  The performance was great, especially the woman who played Mary, Elaine Cotter.  She was sweet but completely in control of every situation.  The two children she managed were terrific young actors as well.  The sets really stole the show, though.  The attention to detail and complexity of the rollaway pieces were truly amazing.  The structures reminded me of the fold out children’s books where whole buildings and animals pop up from the page.  At every turn there were structures that introduced something unpredictable and captivating.  The whole thing will be lodged in my brain for a long time.  Thank you David Higgins!

The days with Grandma brought some fine meals and good times.  Jim put together some wonderful dinners, including a raspberry pie for dessert that has become a Christmas tradition.  Grandma has fond memories from when she was a girl of raspberry pie from the farm on New Year’s Day.  Because of the stollen, there are even a few pie slices left over for breakfast the next couple of days!  A little pie, a little espresso and I’ll be back in the art studio with a smile on my face.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Art and Merry Making Collide in the Holidays

I carved out some time this week to get some work done in my studio while the boys were still in school and the full pressure of the holiday crunch had yet to set in.  My focus was on a willow piece, and I made wonderful progress on needle felting tree trunks.  I wrapped wires to create the branches using a mottled fleece combination of slate brown and cream colors.  The background is now also complete, which features a water structure that I created by crocheting together about twenty different yarns.  I like to use some silvery-sparkly threads to get the glistening effect of the midday sun on the water.  I crocheted a green peninsula into the piece to serve as a base for my willow on its own little patch of land.  Sometimes I feel this way about my more outlandish ideas, like I’m out on my own little peninsula trying to make things work out!  I have attached the willow to the background, but I still have to attach the dangling branches that will flesh out the tree.  The last touch will be to add some weathered rocks that we collected last summer from Topsail Island in North Carolina. 
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Dawn Adams and I went to see the latest exhibits at the Indiana University art museum.  One exhibit (Grand Allusions) was by an emeritus faculty names Robert Barnes.  These were large-scale narrative pieces perhaps four feet square each and loaded with visual information.  I was simply enchanted by the works.  The one striking feature that connected many individual pieces was the use of a brilliant red color.  Earlier in the week Dawn had invited me to go to a noon talk at the art museum where the speaker discussed the idea of amulets created from natural materials, which inspired me to re-imagine my own earth pieces and design a new composition (Amulets for the Earth) for my ‘From the Earth’ exhibition for next year.  But as I sat and listened I kept looking at the artwork around me and was drawn back into the brilliant reds hanging around me.  The color had been haunting me to the point where it had to come out in some form.  I interrupted my willow piece to do something crafty, kind of like eating some salty potato chips when you know you should be eating salad—there was an immediate craving I had to satisfy.  Because I’m also focused on the Christmas season I made two wreaths.  The first included the ‘Barnes’ red, while the second one blazes with it.  Now that I’ve finished the second one I’ll get back to my willow. 

The big family project for the week is home decoration for Christmas.  The boys are hugely enthusiastic to tackle this, having already put a tree and lights around their room.  They put on jingly elf garb, played Christmas carols and started decorating.  The tree was the target for yesterday.  They put up all the ornaments collected over the years, so it’s fun for me to pull them out and remember the stories around them.  Next on the agenda is cookie baking for the boys and stollen for me (yes, spellchecker, I mean stollen—I’d wrest an umlaut from you too if I could, Microsoft!). 
 Grandma tells me every year that she doesn’t care if the house is clean or if anything else is on the menu, but we must have stollen (two kinds) for Christmas morning breakfast.  As I sat and enjoyed my Sunday morning espresso (thanks Jim!) and read the newspaper, I came across a big image of my work from the Convention Center exhibit (thanks Herald Times!).  The only thing that was missing was pie.  I hear raspberry goes well with the holidays!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Four Exhibits and a Slice of Tomato

As we approach the Christmas season, winter seems to be holding back on the snow and cold.  That’s fine with me!  It keeps me in the spirit to keep working on my fall vegetables.  This week I kept after the tomatoes.  I’ve been investing my time into the detail work to keep my late summer fruits from looking like red flying saucers.  The obliging weather also means that I’ve been able to putty, sand and paint eight more frames for this winter’s weaving projects.  The early frame effort reminds me of the Czech expression udelat si strýček.  It translates roughly to ‘make your uncle', but really means something more like squirreling away resources now that you know you’ll need in the future.  

 I’ll be prepared when my compositions become finalized.  I’m tentatively calling my next exhibit ‘From the Earth’, which will feature subterranean views or materials that are the result of the earth.  I want my themes to capture finding home and comfort from the earth, including burrows.  The color palette will draw from my extensive collection of earthy tones and the bright colors of produce.  This will be a big change from my most recent blues and greens of water and trees. 

Speaking of my plan to saturate Bloomington with my art, on Monday I will hang my next exhibition at the downtown Bloomington BagelCompany.  That will make four currently showing in Bloomington, including the group show that is currently hanging at the Convention Center.  These pieces will be different, though, as I share my foray into another medium.  I’ll be presenting sketches from our family vacation in North Carolina this past summer.   

I packed only paper and pencil crayons so I wouldn’t be drawn into my usual fiber art pieces.  It was very freeing to have limited resources to create art.  It sounds strange, but the basic drawings don’t rely on my extensive boxes of well organized and plentiful yarns and strings that fill my art studio.  Last month I framed all of the pieces and yesterday I printed the information labels. 

I think that as much as showing the art I’m looking forward to hearing the reaction to this very different body of work.  I remember when I was involved in Jill Bolte-Taylor’s Brain Extravaganza project, people said that they were able to recognize a my bipolar brain before they knew I was participating.  It is fascinating to me to think my aesthetic is in my art, even when I’m not using my primary medium.  The show will be up until February or so.  Some of the pieces are marked ‘not for sale‘ are pieces I am giving my sewing faeries for all their amazing work in bringing the Beauty and the Beast stage performance to fruition. 

Another fun adventure from last week involved my field trip with Dawn Adams up to the Peeler Art Center at DePauw in Greencastle.  We took in two exhibits.  One was by Nathalie Miebach and it was an interesting fusion of sculptural fiber art that spoke to science, nature and art.  More specifically, it explored a scientific perspective on the natural world built up by weaving and incorporating small objects.  In most cases they were an interesting, non sequiter combination of bright happy colorful sculptural pieces unified by forces such as the destructive effects of storms.  The most important aspect to me was the level of intricate detail and diverse objects brought together to create a body of work.  This is something I try to do in my own work when I create fusion pieces such as the platter of vegetables that came together to tell a bigger story.  The artist used a lot of small objects and repetitive shapes to create a body of work.  I found it interesting that the art kept the viewer moving around the piece to take in all the different perspectives on the work. 

The other exhibit we saw was Guerilla Girls.  It’s an exhibit that speaks to the unfairness and underrepresentation of female artists in major galleries in the world.  One of the stunning statistics that was presented was that only two percent of artists in major galleries are female, where 70% of the art presented depicts females.  What’s also interesting is that little has changed over the past generation even with the emergence of some terrific female artists. 

In additiont to the art, Dawn and I made a completely unexpected but major find at the gallery.  We met a faculty member in sculpture there, Lori Miles, and we discussed a potential collaboration between her students and the Fourth Street Festival. The project would involve installations of student’s sculptural pieces on Dunn Street as a new and interactive art exhibition.  It would benefit show patrons as an unexpected art experience and Lori‘s students to have access to an audience of forty thousand art fair patrons who could engage the artists during the show. 

And last, of course it is family story time.  Friday was Jim’s birthday.  Jim requested a chocolate cheesecake, so of course I took it to another level and created a dark chocolate ganache topped cheesecake.  It was delightful.  During the creation process I did make too much of the crumble bottom.  I wasn’t about to throw that away, so I created multilayered peanut butter treats with a dark chocolate upper crust.  Basically, they’re what Reese’s cups should taste like.  On the music scene, both boys had their winter concert this week, so we had some nice evenings out.  One more week of school and it’s on to family and Christmas over the break!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

More Fall Stew

I’m still working on my Fall Stew composition.  This week I made a lot of progress on the carrots and tomatoes.  I’ve also created he wool bases for the peas and potatoes.  I also stretched out my willow piece this week.  I completed the base for the water, but now I need to add the surface of the water, the peninsula, and add the willow to the composition.  It feels like I should be farther along, but I just haven’t had quite as much sit and wait time as I expected this week due to the hustle and bustle of preparations for winter festivities.   
I had to do some simple, less creative tasks such as repairing Frosty’s costume ahead of the Winter Concert by Sounds of South.  Frosty’s Velcro seal, which in Czech we’d call a dry zipper, was matted with the fuzzy fabric from his costume.  Frosty definitely needed a little love to keep him from melting, so I replaced the Velcro with a substantial, big-toothed zipper.  It’s fabulous having my own costume studio, packed with everything I need to fix things up as needed.  Monday the 7th is the performance, so come by to see it if you’re in the area.  I’ve heard the Hallelujah chorus in rehearsals and it’s amazing!

Speaking of Frosty and the holiday spirit, we’ve started to decorate our house.  Tommie initiated the festivities by converting the dining room into a winter wonderland by cutting out snowflakes to hang from the ceiling.  I gave him the usual praises because they were indeed far superior to the ones he did as a little kid.  Now he’s reached the point where they are beautifully elaborate—
he says it’s like practical geometry to him (go school!).  He’s even enticed me into participation.  I love love love cutting shapes out of folded paper to enjoy my surprise at the transformation.  This afternoon the Exacto knives come out for a little more detail, so let’s hope that a trip to the hospital isn’t in the offing. 

Speaking of geometry, I’m pretty excited to visit an exhibit at the Peeler Art Gallery in DePauw tomorrow with my friend Dawn.  It’s a fiber art exhibit that marries art and science.  There are images of the three-dimensional sculptural work with images online if you’re interested.  Having the freedom to take off on an adventure is one more reminder that I gave myself December off from doing art fairs.  This is allowing me to regenerate and get re-motivated to connect with the art world and create something fresh for myself.

On the family front, Saturday night came with a trip to the IU basketball night with Tommie.  We got sugared up with some Sour Patch Kids candies and yelled for the Hoosiers.  All season IU has had great offense, but last night they discovered the importance of defense.  My fingers are crossed that they remember last night when they play Wisconsin in early January! 
Thankfully, Thursday was a pie day for me.  My deep dish pan was filled with a delightful raspberry pie, which I’m still enjoying for breakfast.  Last for this week, Jacob began expressing his creativity in pancakes again this morning.  We didn’t get a lot of pictures, but we did have some interesting creations to munch on for breakfast. 
He and Tommie are now off creating a candy house base to decorate sometime soon.  It’s a busy time of year!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin