Sunday, April 17, 2016

The work of my hands, out of my hands

For my exhibit, Fiber Pursuits: Theories of Seeing at the Moira Fitzsimmons Arons Gallery at Hamden Hall Country Day School, I have hung 31 pieces of my fiber work. These works include tapestry, rug hooking, handwoven yardage, garments and a mess of other fiber techniques I've been playing around with over the years.

I had the great pleasure of being able to hang out with students at the school for a week, sharing with them simple ways to use fiber as a medium for expression. As we walked to the gallery from the art studio, arriving in the courtyard, I told them to look toward the gallery and asked,  "do you see me?" Some looked right at me and said, "yeah, you're right here".  Then I directed their eyes to the gallery and asked again..."do you see me, there, in the gallery?" The look on some of their faces when they did was priceless.

Can you see me? 

"Coffee, tea, me", wool, safety and straight pins, tea bags, coffee bags on plastic garden mesh, 2016.

It was both surprising and exciting to hear their views of my work, what techniques interested them and what they liked (or didn't) about it. They even contributed by adding tea bags and coffee bag tags to "Coffee, tea, me".  

The central, curved wall of the gallery

I had never seen the gallery in person until the day I arrived to install my work. The performing arts center houses the theater which is behind the gallery. The gallery has a curved wall that measures 37 feet with stairwells on either end. The wall of floor-to-ceiling windows fronting the gallery is interspersed with spaces between the windows. These were wide enough to showcase some of the smaller pieces. 

Handwoven Sakiori scarf, Original Polaroid, Enlargement, Polaroid 1 (tapestry), Polaroid 2 (hooked),
Polaroid 3 (knit, crochet), Polaroid 4 (layered/quilted/slashed)

Handwoven Sakiori scarf, original Polaroid and enlargement

The view from the right stairwell

Caryn Azoff manages the gallery and was simply brilliant in guiding everything into this arrangement. She had me lay everything out first and then we moved to fill the walls. Even though I had made all this stuff, it was still surprising how things fell into place as we decided on what went where. My studio at home is made up of more than a few different main and auxiliary work spaces on three, sometimes four, different floors (we have a funny house). Oftentimes, the individual pieces never live near each other, much less meet. It was neat to see some things "speaking" to others. 

Icy/Hot Mess (tapestry) and Rubik's Box (pin loom woven on felt), unsolved
I particularly enjoy the Icy/Hot Mess and Rubik's Box pairing. Two pieces created three years and an ocean apart (I wove Mess while in Paris), together at last! Rubik's is made of multiple individually-woven squares, some of which can be moved about. I encouraged the students to "play" with the box. It was interesting to see those whose tendency it was to solve it versus those who chose to mix it up. The box is free-standing and, when at home, usually houses a few of my favorite cassette tapes.

Icy/Hot Mess, Rubik's Box, solved!

Detour (oil on canvas board), American Night (tapestry)

Squares & Stripes (pin loom woven handspun and commercial yarn on mesh screen)
Rice Bag, 0% Fiber (hooked) and Basmati rice bag, original state

I was taken by the way the light moved across my work throughout the day,
loving the shadow play on my Polaroid/World Outside My Window Series

So Bleu (tapestry), Polaroid Series 5 (felt)

Song of Autumn (handwoven, printed), Fall Cocoon Jacket (layered/quilted/slashed), Crocus Top (handwoven)

Nova's Little Flower Medallion Oriental, Watermelon Rug (both hooked),
Green Mountain Meadow shrug (handwoven, fulled wool)

Left stairwell: Purple Haze and Red Mountain Meadow yardage (handwoven fulled wool), Rose Taupe Basketweave Float yardage (handwoven fulled wool), HK Vest inlay (handwoven Theo Moorman technique)

Purple Haze yardage, detail

Rose Taupe Basketweave Float yardage, detail

Aube (tapestry), Woven Together (silk band weaving, cut and rewoven)

And summer's lease hath all too short a date (tapestry)

My show's reception was very well-attended by family, friends (old and new) and fiber art enthusiasts. It was extremely humbling to see so many people there. I was so engaged with guests that I suffered a major bout of camnesia (failure to remember to use camera). Therefore, I have no actual photo evidence of all those people wondering after my curious creations. My memories will have to hold me. 

Thank you so much to all who braved the strange snowy, windy, sunny weather to join me!

Aller Simple, Greetings from..., (both tapestry woven) and Tranquil Blue
(Theo Moorman inlay woven), Squares and Stripes (pin loom woven), reflected in the windows

The show is up until the end of the month at  the Moira Fitzsimmons Arons Gallery in the Performing Arts Center at Hamden Hall Country Day School, 1108 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut. 
Please visit in person if you can and sign the guestbook!  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fiber Pursuits: Theories of Seeing...I'll be here all week!

I am so fortunate that Caryn Azoff asked me to be the artist-in-residence at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, Connecticut, this week.

Caryn and I installed my exhibition on Sunday. Here are some photographs of the lovely Moira Fitzsimmons Arons Gallery. Such great fun to have my work in this beautiful space!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Threads: A tribute

Had I known but yesterday what I know today,
I'd have taken out your two gray eyes and put in eyes of clay.
And had I known but yesterday you'd be no more my own,
I'd have taken out your heart of flesh and put in one of stone.
-Tam Lin, from Carolyn Parkhurst's Dogs of Babel

a wee punch-needle snowman, punched by Nova Jean Scott

I do not know how many years ago it was, but the memory is as clear as if it happened yesterday. I showed up at the door of a woman who I was told was a rug hooker. She had invited me over for an afternoon of hooking. She opened the door with a look of surprise. She was wearing a sweatshirt that read “Will Hook for Wool”. “I like this lady!”, I thought to myself. Nova would tell me later how she went to the door expecting to see a French woman and saw me standing there, a girl of undetermined Asian descent. She wondered to herself who I was and whether or not I had the right house. (Oh, the folly of married names and first appearances!) Well, she still let me in and (this should be a warning to you all), I pretty much never left.

Yesterday, in the same room that we spent that first day together, I said good-bye to my Nova. In my grief, I am reminded of how very privileged I was that our paths crossed and that we recognized in each other a kindred soul. We were both born in the year of the Monkey, just 36 years apart. We were happy hookers together. She was my ally. She was my cheerleader. She was my strength. She laughed with me and cried with me. She knew me. And, still, she invited me in and let me stay awhile. 

I came to rug hooking in a circuitous way. An article in Country Living magazine about Liz Alpert Fay led me to sign up for a class at the Arts Center in Orange, Virginia. The class was cancelled due to lack of interest. But that winter, we had temporarily relocated to Florida, so not having the class to attend, I decided to check out books on rug hooking from the local library. One book had a dedication sticker inside: “From the Strawberry Rug Hookers, In Memory of Julianne White”. That little sticker led me to the lovely Joyce Frauenfelder and a great group of hookers who met at the Planteen in Plant City, Florida. Through the Strawberry Rug Hookers, I had a wonderful first rug hooking teacher in Mamie Adair. Mamie showed up with a biscuit tin full of gorgeous hooks turned by her husband Jim and a pattern for a primitive rose with precut strips on burlap. Jim passed away some years ago, but his perfect hooks warm my hands as I work on my current piece. Another teacher, Sarah Paddock, sold me my first Pittsburgh rug frame and guided me through choosing and hooking my first background. The portable rug frame sits at the ready for whenever I want to take my hooking on the road.

When we came back to Virginia later that year, I didn’t have a group to hook with and soon detoured into weaving. Hooking sat on the backburner until that day I walked up the steps at Nova’s house. (I will be forever grateful to Kim Argenzio for the introduction, even though I only met Kim once, on a hot July 4 in downtown Fredericksburg.) I found out that first afternoon with Nova that Julianne had been a dear friend to Nova. How the world shrinks when interests and passions coincide.

Last year, Nova gave me her collection of Threads magazines. She had been a subscriber from the inaugural issue. The inaugural issue’s cover story was about the Scheuer Tapestry studio that operated in New York City from the early 1980s until the mid-1990s. I took a tapestry weaving class from Joan Griffin in Charlottesville in 2004 and, from Joan, learned about the American Tapestry Alliance and Shannock tapestry looms. In 2005, I found a wooden Shannock loom for sale on eBay and later that year purchased the remaining Shannock looms and yarns of the Scheuer Tapestry Studio from Ruth Scheuer (now Rudi Dundas). And so my tapestry journey began.

Whenever I had a project that required wool, Nova would invite me to what she liked to call her “bodega” and we would rummage through her boxes of wool (she told me that a neighbor girl once came to visit, reporting back that Mrs. Scott had 28! boxes of wool in her basement…sorted by color! Don’t we all??). A few years back, Nova gave me a partially-hooked rug that she said she wasn’t going to finish. I recognized the value of something more-than-half-way complete, dyed some wool, pulled some loops and finished it. She would not take the completed rug as a gift, saying that she had “wanted it out of the house then and it’s going to stay out!” I wrote about finishing the rug in a blog post here and the finished rug is here.

As I sat by her bed in the sun room yesterday, the rhythm of the oxygen machine our soundtrack, we got the chance to look back in wonder and awe at our connection. We talked about our car trips to hook in Charlottesville with the Blue Ridge Rug Hookers and our drives to many Virginia Rugfests in recent years. We sure did a lot of driving and talking! We laughed about her asking me to help her get started with a knitted counterpane purse and me agreeing to something I did not really know how to do; the blind leading the blind. But we soldiered through the pattern, mistakes and all. She later admitted how much she hated knitting that purse and eventually turned it into one of the fanciest throw pillows around. As we talked yesterday, I hugged it in both hands, my head on her bed. She even suggested that I talk to a mutual friend to help me get through this time, saying “Florence will know what to say. She understands. I've always admired her so much.” Always Nova, worrying about me rather than herself.

I am now working on a few different projects that have traces of Nova on them; wool from her bodega, a dye formula she passed along to me, suggestions of how to hook certain elements, etc. As my hands puzzle through the work I wish to create, I am consoled by memories of her warm heart, her honest laugh and her generous spirit. It is a salve for these fresh wounds to recognize that my friend lives on in this way. Nova taught me about dignity in the face of grave sorrow, bravery in the face of big challenges and laughter, above all. 
How I thank her for that.

the counterpane pillow, knitted and reimagined by Nova Jean Scott