Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sew close to completion!

I have several pieces approaching completion, and my piece featuring vintage sewing materials is approaching the finish line.  I like the way it’s laid out as a collection of treasured objects, but just as importantly it features groupings of tools within the piece that speak to each other.  In the past I would have considered the piece complete, but I think my experiences in the theater now demand that the composition have both a plot and a lead character.  I’m reminded of Gwen, the director of Sounds of South, asking me how designing costumes for musicals impacted my art, and there definitely is a connection.  I discovered that I wanted to dress characters that connected in some important way in costumes that had an identifiable theme or color.  The costumes always had a story to tell that complemented or extended the verbal tale.  I discovered that I wanted my art to have a plot and a lead character that connects with the basic design of the piece.  In this weaving called ‘Following the Pattern,’ I’m going to include a red-headed weaverbird pulling at some of the threads incorporated in the weaving.  These birds construct elaborate nests using small branches and found objects, so I can imagine one competing for the fibers in my art.  To connect the faded red head and a cream body, I intentionally incorporated faded red objects into the weaving.  I even included the classic tomato pincushion with a dangling strawberry, which is used to sharpen needles.  Once the bird is in place I’ll have to tweek the composition to see if I need to incorporate more red or other elements to connect the piece to my main character. 

My new year’s resolution was to do more art ventures.  I’m hoping to do one at least once a month, like taking a trip to a gallery or art exhibit.  When I’m not doing art fairs I feel like I need to consume art, either for inspiration or education or just to make me happy.  I got off to a great start in Chicago by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute, but the grip of winter left me wanting for more.  This week Dawn Adams and I made time for the hour long trip to Indianapolis and spent a day beginning at the Long-Sharp Gallery, which is part of the Conrad Hotel, and the gallery turned out to be closed.  Luckily, the concierge asked us if we wanted the security guard to open the exhibit – yes, please!  
To our great surprise we walked into a David Hockney exhibit, which was an amazing collection of etchings and prints.  The abstracted bowl of fruit was my favorite.  As we exhausted the accessible art rooms, we were peeking into a banquet room where they were setting up for a reception.  A friendly staff person asked if we wanted to see the artworks in other areas, which took us into a room with four Miro prints to greet us!  They were happy, fun works that just made me beam and smile back.  We went from one wonderful experience to the next as doors were opened before us.

Our next stop on our art adventure was the IndianapolisMuseum of Art at the newly named Newfields campus downtown.  I told Dawn I wanted to visit the contemporary art first, then modern, then see the impressionists.  She’s such a tolerant friend!! I love all the other artworks and styles, but it’s easy to get bogged down trying to see too much.  A fun surprise was that they had the orchid show going on at the same time, so within these galleries were fantastical orchid displays.  
There were too many provocative art pieces to describe, but I want to describe two.  One of the highlights was a piece by El Anatsui, whom I had seen in a television special but the live art is so much more powerful.  He uses all discarded objects and enlists the help of local artisans to create luxe appearing objects out of the simplest materials, such as the metal wrapping that seals liquor bottles.  The combined effect of the draped materials is enchanting.  A second piece, ‘Floor,’ by Do-Ho Suh, had a powerfully affected me.  
It is a long, low artwork that forced me on to my hands and knees to recognize that the tiny, colorful objects holding me up were actually small figures, all working together to support the surface.  I was encouraged to walk on it, which felt a little sacrilegious, but it was a powerful experience to be held up by so many people, unwavering in their task. 
Although there wasn’t a fresh pie this week, I did have slices of my tart lemon pie each weekday with my espresso for breakfast.  It was so good!  That tartness for breakfast is nice, so I’ve continued the pattern with grapefruit, but it just isn’t the same.  The long, draining wait for the next pie has begun. 

Until next week,

--> Martina Celerin

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