Friday, March 23, 2018

New Art Quilt: Almost Cherry Season

Some of the work I feel most connected to comes to me in dreams.* Usually it is an image that I need to follow. Sometimes a title. Sometimes a whole story, a structure, or a color palette. This time it was the vision of fragments of cherry prints scattered throughout white-on-white fabric. At first I thought I would have to buy white patterned cloth. Then it dawned on me that I could and should certainly print it myself. "Should" because I would feel more connected to it; it would have more meaning to me because I had paid close attention to it.

As I hunted for cherries to draw from life I discovered that they aren't yet in season and that they are a huge import from the western United States. I would have to draw from images online. The quilt would be about anticipation and being in the moment, both.

For the white patterns I chose to print a linoleum block of leaves from my "library" and some related wood type words that included a phrase from the Magic 8-Ball, "Ask again later." On my walks up the hill I noticed the prunus plum/cherry blossoms were out (mid-February), so I carved a new block for them and printed that in light pink.

My cherry drawing and subsequent print is a composite of various images I found online, and it decided it simply wanted to be two colors, just two shades of red, no more. I was on the verge of trying one more darker red, but the print said no. I printed it on paper as well, just a few copies. The prints are here as "Always Cherry Season" at nevermindtheart.

As the prints dried and I waited, I felt I wasn't expressing all the emotions of anticipation and being present; I needed to write, set, and print a poem as well. The first poem I wrote felt too light. Something was missing. I remembered Kenny, my co-worker when I worked in my twenties at Pegasus Books. Perhaps I had been thinking about him all along. I remembered he had given me a chapbook of his poems, and that his Filipino family had been migrant workers. That intertwining relationship of the fruit to human workers felt important to include.

The chapbook I have is from 1998, the cover designed by another co-worker, Gina Lewis (now Gina Lewis Lee). The poems are grounded, dark, poignant, some are heartbreaking, chronicling some of the things he had told me: family, a life cycle from his own childhood and young adulthood to his proposal of marriage to the birth of his daughters to his separation and divorce. He and his former wife lived around the corner from my husband and me. We had daughters the same age who met a few times, too young to remember. The poems were so good. I'm not sure I appreciated them at the time. I thought I would reach out, see if he had a poem for my magazine Star 82 Review. What was he up to? Ask Google. The first listing online was his obituary. 1954-2013.

I cried. I didn't know him that well even though we worked together for two years. He was soft-spoken, thoughtful, loved his daughters and jazz music, dressed well. 

A dream took me on this journey. 
This quilt is dedicated to Kenny's memory. Light and darkness. Rest in peace.

Poems by Kenneth Zamora Damacion online:
(1984, page 34): Hawai'i Review, Number 16, "Young Hands, Young Face"; this is about picking plums.
(1990, page 24): Hiram Poetry Review, issues 48 & 49, "Murder"
(1990, not formatted): from The Missouri Review, Vol. 13, No. 1, "Black Humor"
(Summer 1995): Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 61, No. 3, "Parable"

75.5"h x 30"w

detail and poem: "Almost Cherry Season"

While the poem fragments are at different angles,
all the cherries are rightside up.

detail: some running stitching for quilting, also

quilted with embroidered twiny vines/branches

*(Links at the titles) My artist books Tree came as a vision, title and complete book structure; In the Wake of the Dream came as consecutive dreams to be altered; The Elephant's Lesson was a dream; She Is the Keeper was a dreamed story; A Witness to Curious Speed came as a title only; Buddha's Bowl came as a complete story. 

Larger image of Almost Cherry Season will be posted soon at

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What about "Untitled"?

A colleague and I have a longstanding and friendly (I hope) disagreement going. Basically, I believe in titles, and she, for the most part, does not. We had another round of it as we looked at the Way Bay exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum in March, so it's on my mind again.

I wrote a post, "The Untitled Library: How Titles Work," in 2013 here, in which I examine how a title is important in order to give the viewer a starting point. Today I will take up her opinion and examine it from her side. Seems fair. She's a painter, so I will be using painting as the example.

The Arguments for Limited Titles or "Untitled"
A title narrows the viewing experience. When you give a piece a title, the viewer then says, "Oh, it's about that." But sometimes the artist wants it to be about that and more than that, so a title would be limiting the experience. Without a title, the viewer has the freedom to see the painting how she likes. In this case, the artist is trusting the viewer to engage with the painting on her own terms. Like receiving a gift. The artist is also trusting that the viewer will spend the time needed to feel and reach into what she is seeing. I like the idea of trusting the viewer.

A title is forced. For people who are primarily visual, words aren't necessarily part of the game, and trying to come up with a title may be difficult, painful, and may not feel right. The artist may not feel that the title is honestly connected to the work. She may feel it does not add to the experience. And she may not want it to add to or distract from the immediate viewing and reaction to the painting itself. I recognize that I am a word person, that words come easily to me and are an important part of my work. But I acknowledge that not everyone works like this.

A title is good as an identifying mark. Sometimes the artist titles her works with numbers or initials as a way to list the paintings and note which one is in what show and what has sold. Clarity in cataloguing for the artist and for the gallery owner as well.

I think these are valid arguments, and they encourage other questions. Are we making art or are we in the mirror business? (This is the subject of one of my 2012 posts, "The Mirror Business.") How much time will a viewer spend with a work of art? And how much work is reasonable for the viewer to have to do? Titles can be as simple or complicated as we like.

So you see, my colleague and I both have strong opinions about titles. But it's good to step into someone else's argument sometimes, try to understand why they think the way they do.

The blank books and journals I make are probably the only things I do not title.

There's an amusing film that spoofs art and music called, "Untitled."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Wabi-Sabi Egg

One afternoon, I took a little detour from my main event. I idly perused March 2018 Quilting Arts Magazine in the library; one article in particular about making amulets interested me called, "Objects of Comfort," designed by Victoria Gertenbach, which you can see part of here. The scraps were wrapped around shells and sticks, which didn't appeal to me (I like natural things au naturel), but the technique was full of color and texture. From Lulubears I had bought some garnet emery (ground of garnets) to make little pin cushions and thought this might be a good opportunity to combine the amulet/pin cushion/garnet emery and make a small pin cushion for myself to hold my needle when I'm in progress. Because I like the packaging of the sashiko needles, I've been keeping them in their tube in their box and leaving one needle out while I work. Not so good. I'm afraid I'll lose it.

So I made this wabi sabi egg. First I made a loose form with batting around a wooden craft egg and basted it together. I removed the wooden egg, poured in the garnet emery and stitched up the holes! Then began wrapping and basting scrap cloth around the now batting + emery egg. Whip-stitched the edges, adding a few decorative stitches.

The stitching became addictive, and I kept adding more.

By taking the detour I realized how to solve a problem for another quilt in progress.
Just keep swimming, er sewing.

(post about sashiko needles here)
porcupine egg.

(post about making divided insert tray/compartments for a box here)

This is the kit that follows me around the house. 
Plus the sashiko needle package.
There's my little new egg in the center, the wooden egg on the right.
And the assortment of thread, tape measure, seam ripper, scissors, tiny binder clips, small wooden needle case for my other needles, and safety pins.
I can probably take out the wooden egg. But it's weighting down my errant threads.
And I like it, too.
Addendum 3.20.18: Attention Southern California dwellers! Textile artist and designer Christina Kim of dosa is giving a free mending workshop at the new Institute of Contemporary Art LA, on Sunday, April 15, 2018! Love, love, love her work. Wish I could go! See milagros made in Oaxaca on her website here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rauschenberg-inspired Coptic Journals

Robert Rauschenberg's energy and whole-hearted investigation and engagement with colors and materials still buzz in me, and I felt I needed to newly investigate and engage with colors and textures in the book form. These journals seemed a perfect place to combine acrylic painting and some leftover fabric scraps I had originally printed for my quilts. I kept to Rauschenberg's colors: white, black, and red. Well, pink crept in, too.

They're small and sturdy. Perfect for carrying with you. 
Great for writing or drawing in tight spaces like diner counters or on a subway.
Nice Strathmore Drawing paper inside.

A little preview from a quilt I'm working on now in these with the cherry blossoms printed from a linoleum block and a peek at the letterpress printed poem.

This one has maps enfolding each signature.
A piece of printed cloth from Housework here on the back.

Textured red and white, with little white accent ties on the spine.
A fragment of the cherry linoleum cut on the back.
(Another peek at my upcoming quilt: Almost Cherry Season.)

If they appeal to you I've put these new Coptic journals up at 
nevermindtheart, my Etsy store.