Accidental joy

"Mapland", sewn paper and gesso, 12"x 16"

Hello darlings! Please excuse my belated announcement of the winner for “the name game”. I know I said I’d post it yesterday on Tuesday, but I hate to publish a blog post without art, so I lollygagged until I had something new to show you.

Thick gesso imprint forms tons of texture

First thing’s first- after careful consideration of the many wonderful suggestions, I’ve decided to go with “Golden Lantern”, a suggestion from Priya- a fellow artist and blogger- who wins the first print [a limited edition giclee] of this painting! Yay! This was fun. I think we’ll do it again sometime. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Map details are partially visible behind the translucent overlay

Today I’m sharing a new piece I cobbled together this afternoon. It started when I found my sweet vintage atlas (under a pile of stuff in the studio as suspected). Nearby were two sheets of translucent paper I’d used to imprint yarn into thick wet gesso for the landscapes I completed recently that I’ve been aching to Frankenstein into something grander. So I decided to combine them with atlas and map guide pages as an additional layer of subtle color beneath the white landscape.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the studio. The last of the daylight slipped away as I finished stitching, allowing the glow of my trusty sewing machine to illuminate my paper ‘painting’. Instantly I felt a little ball of happy form in my chest.

Oh, joy! Damn, I love this.

The warm yellow light brought the map pages to life. Diffused under the frosted layer, they introduced soft color and lines less visible in daylight; like water transforms dusty pebbles into beautiful bits of color. There’s just something about illuminated sculpture that grabs me in my gut and won’t let go.

That pushpin fell out a half second after this photo. Yeah... paper lanterns don't make great bulletin boards, just FYI.

Ugly bags of mostly water

Day 257: Forms continued

If you’ve been following the blog, you may recall my illuminated-figurative-quilted-plaster piece from Day 237, “They’re forming”, (OMG I totally used another Star Trek reference for today’s post title without even realizing it. NERD!!!). This is the other piece- and in fact the first piece I thought of doing- but it took a little longer to finish.

I learned that I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) a couple of years ago. More recently, I read that this condition contributes to obesity because of the hormonal imbalance. I’ve struggled with my weight since I “became a woman”, but I’m not saying PCOS is to blame. I’m sure that never taking an interest in exercise and having a long term love affair with carbohydrates has something to do with it, but at any rate, I have to say I’ve thought of my health more since seeing the “string of pearls around the ovary” on the ultrasound those years ago.

I wanted to make a sculpture that depicted PCOS in kind of a pretty way while referencing my issues with body image. I know that might sound kind of weird, but I had an epiphany last night while I was falling asleep about my artmaking. I realized that I really enjoy taking things that might go unnoticed or that most people wouldn’t find beautiful on first glance and transforming/arranging them into something more interesting or aesthetically exciting. So there you go.

Like the other one, this was made from rigid wrap casts of my body that my lovely husband helped me with. That shell was placed around a wire armature attached to a wood base. I bent aluminum screen into the top to support the fabric.

Internal view before adding fabric

I sewed together two layers of white curtain sheers with grey thread stitched into a cellular pattern resembling the polycystic ovary; the wavy oval pieces are the ‘cells’, the larger circles are the ‘cysts’. Take my word for it when I tell you that this representation is much prettier than the actual cross-sections I researched in Google images. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of surgery shows? Blech!)

Now I've got "Baby Got Back" stuck in my head. GREAT. Oh, you too? MWA-HA-HAAA!!

Bright white LEDs placed on the ovary section of the armature glow through the sheer material in bright points while also casting larger white circles into the cystic area of the fabric (which I didn’t expect, but which is a cool effect!) when the piece is lit only by LEDs.

A 15-watt chandelier bulb adds more glow and better illuminates the cellular stitching, but is low enough to allow the LEDs to still be visible. It’s hard to see in the photos, but they also give off different light (blue-white LEDs/yellow-white bulb).

When I began this piece, I was mortified. Seeing my most-loathed body-section right in front of me almost made me cry. But I was determined to see it through and turn it into something that didn’t make me want to run out of the room when I saw it. I never would have thought I’d accomplish that, but I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. Yay!

I really want to make a joke involving the word "cheeky" BUTT I'm going to refrain. HAHA! I CRACK myself up. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Fabric detail with both LEDs and internal bulb lit

Did you just say “elfin dingleberry”?!

Day 255: Squash, an illuminated sculpture

I have this inner brat who constantly finds things to be irritated about. Like when my husband picks the same three songs to listen to every day for a week but flips out when I do the same thing. Brat starts off with a mental tirade… “SERIOUSLY HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU LISTEN TO BAKER STREET?!?!”…but then ends up enjoying the song about 30 seconds in anyway despite herself.

(FYI- Rob’s other picks lately are “Don’t fear the reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, “Wolf like me” by TV on the Radio and “Gamma Ray” by Beck. I’ve been partial to “Tamacun” by Rodrigo y Gabriela, “Party with Children” by Ratatat and “Life in a Glass House” by Radiohead recently. In case you were wondering. Which I’m sure you were. /tangent)

"Squash" sculpture, unlit on its side

Also, today is my friend Jennan’s birthday. She is now living in Hawaii, so my new birthday joke to her and her whole family from now on is going to be “hey, I know! Why don’t you go on a trip to Hawaii for your birthday? Oh wait…” 😉 Happy 30th Jen!

On to the art! I had this idea for an installation made up of illuminated quilt sculpture orb/cocoon things last week, so today I decided to try out the technique for constructing them that I had jotted down in one of my (many) notebooks. This involved creating a basic form from copper wire, covering that with mesh (partially plastic embroidery mesh and partially aluminum screen), quilting panels from scrap white fabric & batting, covering the form with the fabric and lighting it.

As I had originally envisioned these in hanging groups, and seeing just the one feels like seeing a single grape on a stem, I’m not super jazzed about it yet. But as a “proof of concept” kind of exercise, I’m pleased. I plan to try some different shapes; hanging there, it kind of looks like a punching-bag-shaped-pillow. Or an elfin dingleberry. Lying on the ground on its side, it feels more like a magical gourd. Welcome to my mind, folks. 😉

"Squash", illuminated quilt form sculpture, about 12"x6"x6".

Is it Autumn yet?

"Autumnal" illuminated sculpture, about 1' tall

Day 241: Autumnal, an upcycled illuminated sculpture 

This morning, I took a walk through the park and along the levy near our house. As I went, I picked up a few interesting leaves. Sacramento is the “city of trees” after all- or at least, so says the paint on the side of the big water tank/alien spaceship thing along highway 5. If you visit this blog regularly, you’ll know I’ve been working in mostly white lately. That’s because I’ve been exploring sculpture techniques, and I feel like I can’t handle both color and three dimensions at the same time. Then again, having that extra dimension is so vastly different than working on a flat surface. I don’t need the color the way I do on a canvas.

I spent a good hour or two trying to do this other falling leaves thing with some scrap drafting film, wood and these book pages, but it was rapidly becoming a hot (glue gun) mess, so I put that aside and began anew.

Today’s piece, “Autumnal” is an upcycled sculpture using an inner embroidery hoop, book pages (from 2 vintage dictionaries, a Nancy Drew book, and my old college literature reader), some copper wire salvaged from another failed sculpture attempt (hee hee), and part of an IKEA shelf I never used but kept hanging around for a couple of years, which became the base for this piece. I may not use my supplies immediately, but I sure as hell use them eventually!

View from above

What’s cool is that it’s very lightweight, so it can be a tabletop sculpture, but with a couple of brackets, would also make a neat sconce. Also, when you move it, the wire springs around and makes the leaf shapes scrape against each other and it totally sounds like actual leaves. 🙂

Most of the leaf pieces were traced from leaves I picked up this morning. Some visible words are “autumnal”, “nympha” (as in mythological nature beings, not sex addicts) and some lines from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I think it’s nice both lit and unlit. You can see the different colors and thickness of the paper when it’s illuminated, and it makes some pretty cool shadows on the wall too.

Into the White 2

"Into the white 2", gesso on framed drafting film 16"x24"

Day 240: Into the white 2

Wow, “Into the White 2” totally sounds like some kind of crappy surfer action movie sequel. You know, like the lame rip-off version of Point Break for the WB or something. (Does that channel still exist?) It seems like I’ll sometimes hear songs that I think are an instrumental version of some classic tune, but then they vary just slightly by a few notes- so as to avoid a lawsuit, I’m assuming. The same thing happens with made-for-tv movies. You get stuck on some random movie that you leave on because you or your spouse is convinced that you’ve seen it already, but then before you know it, 90 minutes have passed and you feel scammed.

 

Anyway, this is the other drafting film impression of the other “Little Big Blue” painting, which I put on a frame today. I tried again to illuminate it with a lower watt bulb, but it zapped the second I plugged it in. Hence, not the greatest photographs ever, but you get the idea.

Into the white

Day 238: Into the white

You may remember Little Big Blue, these pieces from the other day. I described how I’d pressed yarn into a thick layer of gesso. I did the pressing with drafting film, a matte, frosted, plasticky sheet, thinking originally that I might layer them back over on the painting like I did with day 222 & 223.

Gesso on drafting film, 16" x 24" on wood frame

But then when I started to think of illuminating the sculptures, it suddenly occurred to me that this transparent thing would look a lot cooler lit up than layered over the canvas. So today I built a frame and affixed the film to it, threw a bulb behind it, et voila!

The bulb I photographed this with is brighter than the one I intended to use for it (which was broken, a fact I discovered around 8:30 pm), so it’s hard to see the detail in some of these images.

And I have to admit, I’m kind of in love with this illumination thing. Then again, it’s not the first time I’ve had a crush on artmaking materials. So we’ll see where it goes. Here are a couple of detail shots:

…they’re forming!

Day 237: Forms

So I know all you’ve had to look at for days have been those typographical mini paintings, and it’s been really dictionary/painting heavy for a bit. So I’m happy to say “and now for something completely different!”

Behold the as-yet-unnamed sculpture piece I’ve been yammering on about for the past week or so. After many trips to Home Depot/Radio Shack, Utrecht and some much appreciated assistance from my husband after my first failed tata self-wrap attempt, I finally finished this thing. What is it, you ask? It’s a, um.. illuminated formed quilt and plaster figure form? That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue now, does it? Oh, did I say illuminated?

I’m going to have to look up sculpture vernacular or something and decide what to name it, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s the first of a series of pieces I had a flurry of ideas for all at once that are largely sculptural. In my mind, I picture a full-on installation with all of them together. Right now, that installation space is probably going to be my garage. Except it’s triple digits out here, and I don’t expect anyone to stand around looking at sculpture sweating their faces off.

I mentioned the other day that I wanted to push myself, and this piece is one of the first in that vein. Sculpture is new for me, as is dealing with personal self-esteem issues in my artwork. I like myself- I think I’m friendly, talented and occasionally witty ;)- but I’ve always had issues with my body image. Like many women, I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my adult life.

This sculpture was made from plaster wraps of my torso, which forced me to face my actual size “in the flesh” right there in front of me. Inside is quilted, shiny white fabric I stitched with a pattern resembling fat cells. It’s an interesting piece for me, because it is a fairly literal reference to the self-deprecating feeling of being a pile of fat wrapped in skin, which taps into years of negative thinking. But at the same time, I tried to execute it in a way that was pretty and light, and I do feel that it has some kind of aesthetic value, even though the body shape represented isn’t one most people would typically associate with beauty.