Saturday night we hosted a farewell dinner party for three other couples that we have known for almost ten years. We were all among the original condo owners at the Boott Mill and we've gotten together for dinner numerous times since those early days. As always it was great to get together to catch up on the latest happenings in everyone's busy lives. It is kind of amazing how weeks can sometimes go by without seeing each other, even though one couple lives right next door.
My next-door-neighbor was eager to share with everyone that she'd recently attended a conference at the Massachusetts Statehouse. She had been selected to represent our district by Senator Eileen Donoghue. She then proceeded to tell us that the second day was held in a beautifully redecorated conference room with display cases containing artwork--including one of my Free Lace Scarves. She was so surprised.
My scarf is there on the middle shelf on the left-hand side. It is great to see it there in such good company and so nicely displayed. The other great news was that that day my friend Joan was wearing one of the two jackets I have made for her. Not only did she tell people that her jacket was made by the same artist as the scarf, she had her picture taken with Senator Donoghue right by the case and she shared it with me.
Isn't that a great picture. Thank you Joan and Senator Donoghue.
As a someone with a day job in health care data analysis, I've been closely following what's been going on with plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare. You may have heard the phrase the heath care system is "broken." The ACA was basically a series of band aids. If you've taken a health economics course, you'd learn that many health economists (including my dad, Dr. A. James Lee) would argue that traditional market forces do not work in health care. Why? One reason is the health care providers control both the supply and demand. There are many others. "The Incidental Economist" notes a few, if you want further reading: http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/health-insurance-market-failures-and-what-can-be-done-about-them/
So where am I going with this...bringing it back to art (sort of), I'd been playing with the idea of doing coloring sheets to go along with the adult coloring book craze instead of just coloring in coloring books with Tyler. Here's my coloring sheet for "Health Care System Craziness" for all you health care policy wonks out there who are anxious to break out the crayons, markers, and colored pencils:
In pondering all of this, what I've come to is that since a single payer system is politically not feasible in the United States at this point in time, what we could do is at least try to simplify the system. Can we please set one set of standards that everyone follows for health care data format, cost and utilization reporting, and quality measure reporting at a minimum? I suppose it's too politically unfeasible to ask that insurer and provider contracting also be standardized since it's proprietary and confidential. Seeing all the variations that impact a physician through a physician group or accountable care organization is headache inducing. It's a wonder there are any primary care physicians left. Many would like the government to step back from intervening, but what if the government could act as the coordinator and impose some universal standards for all insurers public and private instead of just for Medicare and Medicaid?
Off my health care soapbox for now. More art next time. My toddler son, Tyler was sick last weekend and then he shared his bug with me probably by insisting that I eat one of his raisins. So not much art has been happening lately... In retrospect I realized of course that I should have refused the raisin and endured having him upset with me for not eating it.
I think I'm finally starting to get somewhere with my "Threads of Resistance" artwork though. I actually committed to a background fabric.
Today is my first day back in the studio after a house-hunting trip to Virginia. I am happy to report that we found almost exactly what we were looking for in a house - including a fabulous studio space for me.
My mind is spinning about how I will organize it and make it my own. It give me new motivation for the clean-up/pack-up process, daunting as that is.
I titled this post "Keeping an Open Mind" because this house was not even on our list of homes we wanted to see when we went down there. My husband had done a great deal of on-line searching and based on that this house was way down on our list. But we learned that pictures can only convey so much. It turned out that the house we'd all-but-decided-on from the pictures, was actually a dump--in need of much more work than we were up for. But to our surprise, we just fell in love with this one.
That theme of an Open Mind applies to so much for me these days. I keep thinking of that related to my piece for Threads of Resistance and in my personal life. When my husband first mentioned that we should move away from Lowell to a place with a lower cost of living, every fiber in me screamed NO. I've really grown to love Lowell over the years that we've lived here and couldn't imagine leaving. Slowly, slowly though I came to realize that reducing expenses at this stage in our lives made sense. Once I allowed myself to entertain the idea of moving, I realized that new doors and opportunities would open up if I let them.
Happily, with just a little work, I was able to identify a new art connection as well as a new house this weekend. It all happened because I asked for directions. We stopped in a traditional art gallery in downtown Williamsburg to look around and get a sense of the art scene. I got chatting with the owner, and asked her how to find another gallery that I'd seen listed. I thought it was just up the street - the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center. It turned out that the gallery had moved and was temporarily closed. But as luck would have it, the President of the Board of the WCAC was working the desk of the gallery we were in. To make a long story short, she and I really hit it off and it seems like a good fit for me. I just have to decide how quickly I want to get involved and begin showing my work there. (Did you hear my big sigh of relief!!)
So at this point, even though it is still overwhelming to think about all that needs to be done to get from here to there, it is reassuring to know that we've put some stakes in the ground down there. I am glad to know exactly where we will live. And I am pleased to know that I will go there with some art connections already in place. Meanwhile, I'll keep packing and cleaning...
Mom and I appear to be on the same wavelength today thinking about writing blog posts. I've had a mostly Toddler time kind of day since we had a snow day at work. Apparently 'S's are harder to say that other letters. 'nowy Day is how Tyler says "Snowy Day" which is one of his current favorite books. It's been a fun and relaxing day during today's 'nowy day. We've read, colored, danced, painted, built Lego towers, and played trains. I even baked a cheddar and apple bread from a recipe in my new baking book by Paul Hollywood who I enjoy watching on "The British Baking Show." It was fun having to weigh ingredients since the book isn't revised for an American audience. The bread has lots of cheese in it which sort of melts into the bread. Yum. (or 'umm in toddler speak)
Adventures in Painting with A Toddler
Key things to remember are Preparation, Patience and Paying Attention. Do NOT attempt painting with a toddler, if you will be heartbroken, if something in the painting area gets stained with paint.
Other things to keep in mind:
Tired now. So much for planning to work on my other art project…
Staying inside where it's warm and dry while a blizzard roars outside. Hoping the forecast for nice weather tomorrow holds so that we can make our house-hunting trip as planned. We've already had one flight cancelled on us. I hope this one will go.
Sonja, your comments on the layout for my Threads of Resistance artwork were helpful. Here's what I ended up with for the final layout.
I tweaked option 2 a little and now I like it even better. Presenting this as a cacophony of words is probably most appropriate both in terms of my feelings and what is going on today. I felt confident enough of this layout that I found a backing fabric and flannel for backing and machine-stitched everything together. I have just stitched around the outsides of the panels for now.
I am thinking that I will add hand-stitched words scattered about to stabilize the layers and make sure things don't sag. It will also help me deal with the thoughts and feelings that continue bubbling up. Every day something new seems to keep pop up that I need to process somehow.
PS - I used one of my African-motif batiks as the backing fabric for this. It seemed apropos to use an imported fabric for this...
As to your piece - the question about putting a sheer over the tree-motif gave me a crazy idea. You might try that one sheer from our stash that I showed you:
My thought is that it would help to convey the idea of tangled layers. The question is whether it would obscure the background too much. You'd have to try it to see. The other one with the intertwined circles might obscure the background less, but wouldn't convey quite the same idea. I could bring them the next time I see you if you like.
For now, it's time for tea and another chapter of my book...
When Mom/Ann told me about Threads of Resistance, I was reminded of a quote I read when I was writing a paper on the Supreme Court Roe versus Wade trial for my Health Management Masters course, Law and Ethics. The quote was from an earlier case in the Southern District of New York suit referred to as Abramowizc versus Lefkowitz. The disturbing imagery that this quote invokes for me has stuck with me:
"Women of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your coat hangers."
Coat hangers were and could be again a traditional tool for self abortion.
Quote was from page 110 of the book "Roe v. Wade" by Hull and Hoffer. I didn't write down who said it or if the writers even knew. Apparently there is another version about the quote referring to women losing their vaccumes...
In response to the Threads of Resistance call for art I started to create a piece of art inspired by this quote. I created this sort of star shape with coat hangers and now I'm deciding on a background. I was going to make the coat hanger part end up like a spiders web to capture the sense of being trapped that I'd imagine someone wanting an abortion might feel. Raising a child is such a huge undertaking that I can't imagine anyone going into it that doesn't want to. Another quote from writing the paper stuck with me as well. This one was about having a child and was from Sarah Weddington who argued in the Supreme Court case:
"It disrupts her body, it disrupts her education, it disrupts her employment, and it disrupts her entire family life."
Having a two year old, Tyler, I can relate to this quote. The disruption may be a mix of positive, negative, or neutral depending on the day. An emergency C-section is definitely a body and mind disruption that I would not wish on any woman. I'd never been that scared before for me or for another (Tyler in this case). You remember how fragile and short life can be. I also felt trapped like I want this art piece to convey. I had to have the C-section. I did not have any options really. I can marvel that health care procedures have advanced so much that women seldom die these days from childbirth. It is very odd to know you could owe your life and health and your child's life and health to modern methods and the skill of physicians and nurses. It can mess with your head and your body is never quite the same.
This piece is a new departure for me because I seldom used to create art with any serious meaning. I've been feeling too quiet lately though and it sort of makes me feel trapped again. People who argue against abortion see it completely different than I do. I see a situation in which the child could be born into a life without love and to me that is not a life worth having. (Watch the documentary "This Emotional Life.") It's hard enough keeping calm when you love your child deeply and they are having a tantrum at a mall restaurant. You just want to have a nice quiet dinner and not look like the crazy person who can't seem to make her kid happy. I am thrilled to have a son that most of the time makes me smile and creates cool stuff like this Lego tower.
I would like to do some art beyond Lego towers and coloring in coloring books. I didn't ever expect it to take a serious bent, but even my serious bent will have a bit of whimsy and beauty to it I hope.
I can't quite decide which composition below is best. It's hard to see the hangers at the moment. I think once I weave threads through and around the hangers, the background will become more muted. I'm wondering if I should overlay a sheer over the trees though. The one of the left definitely conveys "trapped" more to me. Any suggestions?
For your pieces, I like Option 2 on the right best. I really like the composition with the white words popping out in the bottom area. I think it would be cool if you echoed that at the top with black words hidden in the back behind the white layer. It reminds me of the Tower of Babel story. Option 1 would definitely need a lot more work to get the composition to be as interesting as Option 2.
A couple of weeks ago I saw a new call for art from a group of quilt artists I've followed for a long time - The Artist Circle. The exhibition title is Threads of Resistance. They are asking for works created to protest the actions and policies of the Trump administration. The juried show will open at the New England Quilt Museum in Julyand move on from there to venues across the country.
Over the last several years, creating art has often provided me with an outlet for coping with difficult situations. This new show gives me a reason to put all my worries and anxieties about the current political situation into another artwork rather than an ulcer.
I already had created one piece of anti-Trump art last year. It was a 3-D piece that captured my feelings about the proposed border wall.
The looming black wall is composed of dark hateful words that trap and obscure the color contributed by the diverse mix of people in this wonderful country (represented in the center). Overall, I was trying to depict the power of words through this piece and how they can be forces for good or evil. Though I think the piece provides a powerful visual, it was really too fragile to try to submit for shows in other places. It also would have been very difficult to take with me to Virginia. So I've decided to repurpose components in a quilt to submit for the Threads of Resistance show.
I have found a background fabric that I think will work, but I can't decide on the layout. These are the two I am considering:
The one on the left more visually reflects the predominance of hateful language in so much of what we hear today. It sort of says "this is what's out there" these days. I think the one on the right represents more of the jumble of my feelings and what I hope for - with the dark words pushed to the back.
If I use the one on the left, I will want to add more words over the top to convey my concern and hopes. But I'm not too sure about how well I could make those stand out. Thoughts???
For almost 15 years Sonja and I have been Art Partners in one way or another. We started with a "paint-your-own-fabric" business in downtown Lowell in 2002. Four years later we moved that business to Western Avenue Studios about a mile away in a big textile mill building that was being converted to artist studios. The first years in that space we concentrated on selling fiber art supplies, conducting workshops and creating our art. After several years we gave up the supplies business to concentrate on making our own art.
We have shared a studio at Western Ave. for over 10 years now. For several years now, I have been the main user. More and more, life obligations (a full time job, work on a Master's degree, a now two-year-old, and a move to Quincy, MA) have eaten into the time Sonja can spend here. And, my life is changing as well. My husband and I are currently planning a move to Williamsburg, Virginia within a couple of months. So the time has come to give up our shared studio and to dissolve our formal business partnership.
Though we will be living far apart, Sonja and I very much want to keep our Art Partnership & Friends Fabric Art - alive. Thus, this new blog is the next phase in our evolution. Our plan is to write "letters" to each other in this space. We'll share the projects we're working on--what we're excited about and what we're struggling with and want help with. We invite you to share those joys and trials.
As we start this, we are starting the slow process of cleaning out our studio. Packing up what is going with me to Virginia and what is going to Sonja's apartment, and cleaning out those things we no longer need. Saturday April 1 will be the last time we participate in the monthly Open Studios event here at Western Ave. I expect we'll be out of the studio by early May. We hope you'll stop by on April 1 for our farewell sale and that after that we can keep in touch through this blog, Facebook and Instagram.
Mother & daughter, Ann Lee & Sonja Lee-Austin share their joys and struggles in their art and lives.