Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Four pieces made in the midst of other things

(Above:  In Box CCCXV. Inventory # 4283. Unframed: 14" x 10"; framed: 19" x 15". $235.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

This is a big week for me.  Tomorrow my husband Steve and I will be up before dawn in order to arrive at Theatre Art Galleries in High Point, North Carolina when they open.  We'll work all day.  By closing time, my solo installation Anonymous Ancestors should be ready to receive the public.  At least that's the plan.  I'm always a little nervous, especially when I've never stepped foot in the venue. That's part of the adventure of working as an installation artist! 

(Above:  In Box CCCXVI.  Inventory # 4284. Unframed: 14" x 10"; framed: 19" x 15". $235.)

By this time next week, I'll be in Columbus, Ohio teaching two HOT workshops (a two-day and a five-day experience!) for QSDS.  I'm excited!  I'm also quite busy making artwork for an upcoming spring exhibition called Alternative Storytellers and for an invitational exhibition focusing on the suffragists.  This show is being curated by the amazing Dr. Sandra Sider.  I selected to create a work on Lucy Stone.  It involves about a million tiny seed stitches using a thin, silver metallic sewing thread.  I'm also getting ready for my art residency at the Rensing Center, June 10 - July 13th.  
 
 (Above:  In Box CCCXVII. Inventory # 4285. Unframed: 14" x 10"; framed: 19" x 15". $235.

What really grounds me during busy times is the consistency found in my "In Box" and "Stained Glass" series.  No matter how many other directions my artwork is taking me, there is an undeniable comfort when layering polyester stretch velvet shapes, stitching them together, and melting them apart.  These are the latest four pieces made during the past week.

(Above:  In Box CCCXVIII. Inventory # 4286. Unframed: 14" x 10"; framed: 19" x 15". $235.)

I really needed to make these works.  I sold all the ones this size at the Smithsonian Craft Show!  It is wonderful to think about the places my work now hangs and exciting to imagine all the other homes that might include a new piece!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Alternative Valentines

(Above:  Alternative Valentine, Be My Equal. Altered 1950s or 60s classroom Valentine.  Framed: 9 1/2" x 8 1/2".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm part of an upcoming three-woman show called Alternative Storytellers.  The other two artists are ceramist Olga Yukhno and found paper artist Flavia Lovatelli.  Olga is tackling the concept through a unique approach.  She's using NPR stories of displaced people and immigration.  Olga is focusing on stories that involve environmental issues.  I'm looking mostly at feminist twists to familiar fairy tales.  Valentine's Day isn't exactly a "fairy tale" except that the expectation is generally the same, silly "happily ever after" ending that assumes a woman's ultimate role is on the arms of a man.  At least that's the way I always thought of it.
 
 (Above:  Alternative Valentine: Be Your Own Autonomous Self. Framed: 8 1/2" x 8 1/2")

In elementary school, I hated Valentine's Day.  I hated the mandatory requirement of giving every boy in my class a sugary sweet message, especially the boys who teased me and called me names ... just because I was taller than them.  Most of all, I hated the fact that I had to actually MAKE all those valentines.  This was a tradition in the Lenz household.  In truth, I loved cutting up pink and red construction paper and gluing heart shapes to paper doilys.  I just hated writing the insincere "Be Mine" messages.
 
 (Above:  Alternative Valentines: Chicks Before Dicks. Framed 9 1/2" x 8 1/2".)

I hated the entire notion of finding a "boyfriend" as if a defining quality of worth within the classroom.  In the fifth grade, a girl name Debbie got a box of chocolate from a new boy named Jim.  She was as embarrassed by the attention as I was by the lack of attention.  Everything about Valentine's Day seemed wrought with anxiety.  That's why I went ahead and collaged most inappropriate words on this particular, altered valentine.  "Chicks Before Dicks" isn't any better than "Dicks Before Chicks".

(Above:  Alternative Valentine: Give Me Equal Pay and I'll Buy My Own Roses. Framed: 8 1/2" x 8 1/2")

This one is likely my favorite in the group.  For me, it is a perfect alternative to the Valentine's Days I spent in elementary school, a place that taught me that boys could grow up to be doctors, lawyers, firemen, and even President of the United States while girls were currently being liberated to careers as airline stewardesses, nurses, and legal secretaries.  I think it was in elementary school that I got my earliest education in feminism!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cinderella Was a Feminist

 (Above:  Cinderella Was a Feminist. Framed: 39" x 13".  Found hearth broom and collage. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Next spring will be an exciting time.  I've joined forces with two amazing local artists to work toward a group exhibition titled Alternative Storytellers. It's exciting to be working with Olga Yukhno, a very talented ceramist from Russia, and Flavia Lovatelli, an Italian-born artist whose paper-centered artwork focuses on reclaimed materials.  We have a brand new blog to document the work being created for our group show.  CLICK HERE to access that new blog!

As an introduction, the blog states: 
Many a good story starts with the familiar few words: Once Upon a Time. Today is that time! (Written on April 16th). Each artist agreed to create individual works in their own media based on the concepts of alternative endings to familiar and not-so-familiar stories.  Unexpected twists, newly empowered female characters, and novel outcomes will result in the year-long process.  The three artists agreed to share openly in a collaborative sculpture to be called The Storyteller.

 (Above:  Detail of Cinderella Was a Feminist.)

Personally, I intend to explore alternative, feminist inspired new endings to common fairy tales. During recent travels, Steve and I stumbled into an estate sale. We weren't blown away. The house was much more interesting than any of its contents ... except for this very well used fireplace hearth broom.  I wasn't sure why I wanted it.  I couldn't quite put my finger on a story ripe for alteration.  In the back of my mind, I only knew that the broom and Cinderella had possibilities.  It took a day of researching before I figured it out.

 (Above:  Detail of Cinderella Was a Feminist.)

The collaged words to the left of the broom read:  Cinderella became a billionaire.

The collaged words to the right of the broom read:  Sure! I could have married the Prince but I didn't need the hassle of royal domesticity. Instead, I invested in solid waste, hazardous and medical waste management, and environmental consulting, pollution control, and other disposal services.  I cleaned up! Cinderella

The collage words running around on the inside lip of the frame read:  Cinderella was a feminist.
 
 (Above:  Cinderella Was a Feminist, hanging on the wall at my home/business, Mouse House.)

I'm really pleased with this first piece for the upcoming exhibit.  I've already got four, unused 1950s or 60s cheesy Valentines to alter.  They are the sort that were purchased in packages for school distribution.  Although only four were left in the package, the plastic wrap reads:  30 cards for 29-cents.  I've also got the makings for an amazing art quilt that will depict Snow White in a very different light.  She will no longer be the typical princess characterized by  idealized beauty, passivity, and innocence, playing the helpless role of a victim waiting for a man to save the day.  I think I'm going to have lots of fun working in this direction!

(Above:  Wall of Ancestors: Home Wrecker, I Busted Up My Friend's Marriage.)

I also had to make another piece for my upcoming Anonymous Ancestors solo show.  Next Wednesday Steve and I will be installing at Theatre Art Galleries in High Point, North Carolina.  The show will run through Friday, August 3rd.  There will be an opening reception on May 31st from 5:30 - 7:30 but I won't be there.  I'll be in Columbus, Ohio happily teaching for QSDS (Quilt and Surface Design Symposium).

I am linking this post (despite the lack of "fiber") to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Amsterdam!!!

 (Above: Steve during the canal tour!)

What I wonderful way to celebrate success at the Smithsonian Craft Show!  The day after the show ended, Steve and I flew to Amsterdam.  Steve really is some sort of genius when it comes to finding affordable flights and cashing in hotel points. Otherwise, we couldn't travel like we do.  Steve had never been to Amsterdam (because passing through the Schiphol airport doesn't really count!)  I've been there twice, but plenty has changed since 1971 and 1980!  We had a great time, especially since we had the Iamsterdam City Card.  Dozens of museums, historic houses, and other attractions are free with this pass.  It also included local mass transit and a ride on the canals.


Amsterdam is a city full of bicycles.  Maybe another time, we'll rent one.  This time we did a lot of walking.  It's the best way to really get the vibes of the city and see some amazing things ...


... like itty-bitty electric cars getting a charge ...


... and typical Dutch architecture ....


... that is popular even on magnets!


People watching is also wonderful.  There are all manner of languages hanging in the air ... and odd aromas.  (Yes, we knew that pot is legal but we didn't bother even when walking through the Red Light District.)


We are much more interested in window shopping, especially when some of the displays are so hysterical!



Some walks, however, took us to deeply spiritual, solemn places like the Homomonument.  It is near the Anne Frank House.  The reflections on the water just seemed to put my mind on my own reflections of bigotry, social injustices, presidium, and the many inequalities in the world.  As serene as this simple piece of granite is, it was not the most profound experience we took from Amsterdam.
  

During our trip, all of the Netherlands commemorated Remembrance Day. Every year at 8 PM on May 4, there are two minutes of silence to remember victims of WWII and those who have died in wars and/or peacekeeping missions since then.  Everything stops, including transportation, shops, hotel lobbies, people dining in restaurants ... and it even seemed that birds knew to stop flying.  Radio and television broadcasts air only the ceremony at the National Monument on Dam Square.  Steve and I walked with the crowds to this central plaza in front of the palace. We were surrounded by thousands when the silence started.  Profound is not a strong enough word to describe the feeling.  By the end of two minutes, just about everyone had tears in their eyes.  We then watched dignitaries, survivors, government bigwigs, selected children, and others place large floral wreathes around the monument and lay single flowers on the ground.  It was an experience I will never forget.

 (Above:  Our Lady in the Attic.)

Aside from walking, when Steve and I travel, we hit the museums.  During this trip we went to the following places in which we didn't snap any pictures:

The Outsider Art Museum
The Van Gogh Museum
The Museum of Canals
The Costume Museum
The Anne Frank House
The Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography
FOAM, Museum for Photography

Some of these places permitted photography, some didn't.  For the most part, we were simply engrossed ... especially at FOAM.  I found it most thought-provoking.  To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in the Costume Museum.  The Van Gogh Museum was amazing and the Museum of Canals was excellent.

 (Above:  Steve in the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art.)

We ran out of time at the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art.  We needed at least another hour after closing!


We had plenty of time to enjoy the Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age with its collection of massive 17th group portraits (advertised as "cousins" to Rembrandt's Night Watch.) The audio-visual effects were tremendous, especially the light-show on the paintings and the room in which visitors could have their images snapped for composite pictures with other people.  (Ours is above! No, we weren't actually there with any of these other people!  There were only two chairs!  Such fun!)

(The Portuguese Synagogue.)

In addition to museums, the Iamsterdam card includes other tourist attractions like the Portuguese Synagogue which was incredible ...

 (Above:  The Cabinet of Curiosities at the Rembrandt House.)

and the Rembrandt House which was absolutely excellent.  Of course I loved Rembrandt's Cabinet of Curiosities ... which was an entire room filled with exotic objects ...


from all over the world ...


... and sculptures for his students to draw.


Best of all, there was a man making pigments for paint ...


... and a very entertaining and equally skilled printmaker demonstrating on a reproduction press just like the one Rembrandt used.  Steve and I watched the last demonstration of the day.  At the end, the printmaker gave us one of the etchings!  What a treasure!  It's of a sea shell.

(Above:  Rembrandt's Night Watch on display at the Rijksmuseum.)

Speaking of Rembrandt, we went to see his most famous painting, The Night Watch, in the Rijksmuseum.  I adore snapping photos like this.  So many cell phones, so many cameras, so many bad pictures of a perfect image available for free download on the Internet!


Actually, I understand the compulsion to take pictures of great artwork.  There's something special about framing an object or image in a unique way to bring back the memory of seeing it in real life.  I took loads of photos in the Rijksmuseum.  Many were detail shots, especially in areas featuring decorative arts like this mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer table.


I also like capturing the feel of a place using sculpture in the foreground ...


... or selecting some of my favorite historic/religious characters like St. Sebastian ...

 

... or how Moors in elaborate costumes were the legs to a great table ...


... and how I really, really wanted to enter the Rijksmuseum library just to descend on that red painted wrought-iron spiral staircase.


Scale is another fascination.  This boat commanded a very large room but in another area there was a fleet of smaller vessels.  Steve and I didn't get to every room in the Rijksmuseum. We went to less than half of them.  I could definitely go back!

 (Above:  The Van Loon House.)

One of the most unexpected joys was the Van Loon House.  The garden was gorgeous.  The cafe was ideal, and ...


... every room was absolutely dazzling. The place wasn't crowded and the signage was great.


We spent quite a bit of time on every level of the place.


Going up and down the stairs was nice too!


On one of our last days, we took the bus to Amsterdam's "new cemetery".  It was quite amazing to see the diversity and individuality expressed through unique final resting places. Personalities seemed to radiate from every sort of marker from etched glass, a cross section of an old tree, contemporary sculpture in metal and ceramics to elaborate marble pediments and more traditional blocks of granite.

(Above:  Haarlem.)

That same day we took a train to nearby Haarlem where we visited the Ten Boon House, a Christian home who rescued scores of Jews during WWII, the bustling market, and ...

the magnificent church.  Our trip was wonderful!  Of course, we came back to South Carolina and have been working non-stop, trying to catch up!  Life is an adventure!


Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Smithsonian Craft Show and a new article about my work and me!

(Above:  View of the Smithsonian Craft Show inside the gorgeous Building Museum in Washington, DC.)

I'm blogging from Washington, DC and the Smithsonian Craft Show.  The experience is everything I hoped it would be.  One couple browsing down my aisle commented that the artists selected for this opportunity are the "cream-of-the-crop" and that there isn't any "skim milk" in the building.Several pieces have found permanent homes.  I'm having a wonderful time talking to all sorts of people.  Tomorrow is Sunday, the last day.  I will be sad to tear down my booth and tired after all the work it will take to load everything back into the cargo van.

 (Above:  Me in Booth 110 on the evening of the fancy gala opening.)

On Wednesday evening there was a very fancy gala. Everyone was dressed up and it was a perfect way to start the show.  All the artists in my immediate area are so nice, friendly, and exceptionally talented.  We are having a good time together.

(Above:  Appropriately one-third of the show.)

Exhibitors are welcome in a special lounge on the second floor.  The walkaway goes entirely around the spacious atrium.  From this vantage point, one can look down into the booths.  My booth is in the upper right corner of the photo above.  While here in DC, Steve and I also visited the National Gallery of Art to see the Sally Mann exhibition and to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and Portrait Gallery to see the recently unveiled presidential portrait of Obama and Michelle Obama's first lady portrait.  They both look great!  We also saw the show on Diane Arbus.

Another wonderful thing happened too!  A lovely University of South Carolina journalism major finished an posted a great article on my work and me!  The link is below!
http://columbiavoice.org/columbia-fiber-artist-susan-lenz/

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.
  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Lunette, a Window, and a ballet review

 (Above:  Detail of Lunette XXXII.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

As normal, time is flying by and soon my husband Steve and I will be on the road to the Smithsonian Craft Show.  These are the last pieces I'll be able to finish before we pack the cargo van.  Earlier, I thought I would be making a few more smaller works instead of a larger, "Lunette".  Something wonderful changed my plans.  A nice lady who saw Large Stained Glass LXXXI at Art Quilt Elements at the Wayne Art Center outside Philadelphia contacted me and bought a one of the Lunette Windows I had here in South Carolina.  So ... I made Lunette XXXII to replace it.

 (Above:  Lunette XXXII.  Inventory # 4276. Unframed: 17" x 23". Framed: 22" x 28". $495.)

This really is one of my favorite designs even though no two ever turn out alike.  Sometimes I put a right-side-up heart at the center.  Sometimes I change shapes on the outside edges.  Never are the colors the same.  I guess this design is really a "variation on a theme". 

 (Above:  Window CLI. Inventory # 4275. Unframed: 13" x 11". Framed: 17" x 15". $265.)

The first time I cut a five pointed, palm-shaped piece of fabric I wasn't thinking about a hamsa symbol.  I simply liked the shape.  Perhaps future pieces will include a more intentional created hamsa because I truly like the idea of a protective amulet.  There really are so many more motifs to explore!


Finally, Sunday marked the final ballet performance for me to review for Jasper Magazine.  It's been an interesting year of watching and writing.  I don't know yet if I'll continue next season but seeing principal dancers from New York City Ballet on stage with the University of South Carolina Dance Program performance majors was certainly a great way to end a literary assignment!  The review is HERE.