Thursday, July 27, 2017

Homestead National Monument, Day Nine

 (Above:  The sign outside the visitor's center at Homestead National Monument explaining the installation of metal states on the long entry wall.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

Today was my ninth day as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I've been blogging every day.  First, I share something about this unique place and then I share what artwork I've done.  Today is a little different.  I went to Lincoln to visit the International Quilt Study Center and the Robert Hillestad Gallery.  So ... I'll share that incredible trip too!

 (Above:  A collage of all the states along with a shot of the entire wall.)

Before a visitor steps foot inside the Heritage Center here at Homestead National Monument, he must walk from the parking lot alongside an installation of metal states with holes cut into each one.  It is the most effective way to grasp just how far reaching the Homestead Act was in terms of the acreage given away.  It's one thing to read "270 million acres" in thirty states.  It is quite another thing to see a metal image of each state with a cut hole representing the homestead proportion from that state.  This installation is brilliant.  I've watched people stand and stare at it.  It is impossible not to "get it".

 (Above:  Staking Her Claim, in progress.)

To a non-stitcher, it might not look like I accomplished much today ... but to those who ply a threaded needle, it is an amazing amount of work for one afternoon!

I am getting better at being "loose", which is to say these stitches are ever so slightly longer and not quite as densely positioned as I normally would do.

If I've been tighter, I'd have much further to go tomorrow!  I'm betting, however, that this piece will be off its stretcher bar and having buttons added within twenty-four hours!

 (Above:  The International Quilt Study Center, Lincoln, Nebraska.)

I've wanted to visit the International Quilt Study Center since I first heard about the place.  In the past, there have been fellowships awarded to talented art quilters.  Each exhibition listed on the website (past, present, and future) look great.  Lincoln is just forty-three miles from Homestead National Monument and I picked today to go.  It was a perfect day because it was raining.  Museums are a perfect way to spend a rainy day!

By 11 AM I was in this beautiful, second floor atrium ready for a docent led tour.  Six other people were waiting too.

Our first stop was the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associate) international juried exhibition called Layered Voices.  Over five hundred entries (including two of mine) were submitted.  Fewer than twenty-five were selected (not including either of mine!)  Obviously, this was a hard show to get into but that generally means the quality of accepted work is very, very high.  It was!

Every piece deserved more than a few minutes of admiration but I'm not really writing this as a review.  Besides, all the work can be viewed HERE.

 (Above:  Detail of Barbara Watler's Entanglements.)

I will have to say, however, that Barbara Watler's hand stitching is utterly incredible ....

 (Above:  Detail of Betty Busby's Multicellular.)

... and I was most impressed with the seamless transition from thicker areas to thinner areas in Betty Busby's Multicellular.  Plus, the shadows cast on the wall through the voids were great!

 (Above:  Our docent in Off the Grid: The Bill Volckening Collection.)

The next gallery was a splash of polyester vibrancy.  Bill Vockening's collection numbers over 150.  This was a curated sampling from the 1970s.

Until seeing this piece, I hated rickrack.  It is PERFECT here!

Though many quilters adore hexagonal pieced quilts, I never really liked them much ...

... but this was different.  Who would have ever thought it possible to fold double-knit polyester into a little hexagon?  This couldn't have been easy.  Because the quilting was done on only two sides of each hexagon, the piece is sort of puffy ... in a very controlled way.  All in all, it works well.  I liked it!  These quilts were fun and fun to look at.

 (Above:  Regarding Nebraska, a solo show by Elizabeth Ingraham.)

From seriously fun, we went into the scholarly driven investigation of place by Elizabeth Ingraham.  This show was detailed, unique, and beautifully presented.

 (Above:  Sacred Scrap: Quilts and Patchwork from Central Asia.)

The last stop on our tour was for me the very best.  It was also the largest of the exhibitions.  Sacred Scraps: Quilts and Patchwork from Central Asia was fabulously installed and perfectly lit.  Most of the textiles dated to the mid-20th century and each one possessed an exotic aura of the nomadic people who made it. 

The show was filled with rich colors,  lush texture, deep symbolism, and intricate patterns and stitching.  There were articles of clothing ... for children, men, women, and even a camel.  Traditional wedding textiles, household furnishings, and amulets were surrounded by exhibition text and copies of historic photographs.

I took a lot of photos.  Most were deleted.  Yet, there were more than I thought appropriate for a blog post.  Thus, I created another Flickr! album.  It includes more images from all the exhibits I saw today.

To access this Flickr! album, CLICK HERE.

After the tour, I wandered around to study and stare at a few of the works.  Then, I headed a few blocks east to the Robert Hillestad Textile Gallery on the University of Nebraska campus.

On display was the work of textile designer Alexander Girard.

This mid-century modernist designed many things in addition to fashion and wall hangings.  He was trained as an architect and worked as an interior design, industrial designer, furniture designer, and even design a typeface font.

Personally, I would wear any of these garments ... anytime, anywhere, during any era.  Great fashion is always in style.  This is style!  I'll be blogging again tomorrow.  I don't have plans to go anywhere but "to work" ... but I might return to the Gage County fair on Friday to see the cats being judged.  Now ... that's a livestock I can live with ... and do!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DAY EIGHT, Homestead National Monument

 (Above:  The Freeman Brick Schoolhouse at Homestead National Monument.  Click on any image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

This is Day Eight as an artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I've been blogging every day:  First, something about this unique place.  Second, what I've stitched.  Today is a little different.  Why?  Well, today I went to the Gage County Fair ... which officially opens tomorrow.  Today was "drop off" day ... as in bring the chickens, canned goods, roses, 4-H entries, quilts, etc. and have a BBQ dinner.  Plus, antique cars!  So ... after I've shared my own creativity, I'm sharing the County Fair!

 (Above:  The interior of the Freeman Brick Schoolhouse.)

Less than a quarter mile down Route 4 (and still part of the Homestead National Monument), stands the Freeman Brick Schoolhouse.  It opened in 1872 and served as a center for education, the township's polling place, where First Trinity Lutheran Church met, and a location for other clubs and community functions.  That's all pretty normal.  What isn't quite so normal is the fact that this school was in continuous operation until 1967.

One of the placards displayed a photograph from 1967.  Eight children were playing in the yard while a teacher looked on.  At first this seemed like "ancient history".  After all, the desks and globe and room are all so "antique".  Then I realized, I was eight years old in 1967.  More than half the kids in the photograph were younger than eight.  I never really thought about the possibility that I would have ever gone to a one-room-school house, but I would have had I lived here!

While my elementary schools (I went to two) weren't anything like this, there was a place for coats ... with the same sort of hooks.

We did carry lunchboxes ... though not quite this old (and I doubt the kids in 1967 used this one either!)

One of the best reasons for art residencies is the time for contemplation.  From the outside looking through the windows, I got the best reflections ... old fashioned desks with power lines, the road, the National Monument marker, and a street sign.  Yesterday and today.

From the other direction, I got the prairie with the desks.  I've been thinking quite a lot about my own life, dreams, and the direction in which I want to take my artwork.

(Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears V.  14" x 18".  Xylene photo transfer on printmaking paper fused to fabric.  Accented with water soluble crayons.  Buttons and beads.  Hand stitched.)

 So ... my artwork!  Today I stitched Waste Not Fresh Tears V.  I tried not to be so dense and overlapping with the buttons.  I also added a few beads. While stitching I thought about why these angels seem so appropriate to me while here at Homestead National Monument.  I've been thinking about my elementary school days when I first learned about America's westward expansion.

 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears V, detail.)

I was in the fourth grade.  We were studying various aspects of pioneer life ... including an attempt to hatch an egg in an incubator.  It was supposed to require a certain number of days, but nothing happened.  Mrs. Shaw, our teacher, explained that such things weren't precise.  As a class, we waited a few more days, maybe a week.  Finally, Mrs. Shaw decided to crack open the egg ... on my desk.  Now, I don't know what she thought was going to happen.  Surely it crossed her mind that a half-formed baby chick would end up dead in a puddle of slimy liquid.  Perhaps not ... because that's what happened.  Of course, this was disastrous.  Everyone was upset.  We were all told to return to our desks (which meant I was still sitting with the dead bird).  Mrs. Shaw quickly disposed of the mess, wiped the surface, and announced that we would have a movie about pioneers!  Everyone was thrilled.  Movies were a big deal.

   (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears V, detail.)

The projector was set up.  The film showed a large family traveling in a covered wagon.  It showed their clothes, food, tools, and other sorts of thinks about homesteading.  It focused on one of the daughters during the winter.  She got sick and died.  Her name was Susan.

Now anyone growing up in the late 1950 and 1960s probably had at least one "Susan" in their class.  I can't remember a time when there wasn't two of us.  The other Susan got totally hysterical.  The movie was stopped, and poor Mrs. Shaw had to take the other Susan to the principal's office in order to call Susan's mother to come take her home.  As they left the room, Mrs. Shaw gave strict instructions to the rest of us.  "Put your head down on your desk and don't move!"

I can remember thinking to myself, "I don't know why the other Susan is upset.  It was just a movie, and she doesn't have to plaster her face on a desk where a dead chick lay less than an hour ago."  So, for me the reality of "death" and homesteading were always intertwined.  Later, Laura Ingalls Wilder's books reenforced the notion of "death" being a risk when seeking The American Dream.  (I remember crying for poor Jack, the dog, when lost in a swollen river.)  Danger, peril, and loss are truthfully part of this history.  

Here at Homestead National Monument, I've learned that only 40% of the initial claims were ever "proven".  Unproven claims reverted to the government.  Sixty percent of those hard-working, big dreaming, hopeful people weren't successful ... generally because of forces beyond their control.  Thus for me, the specter of Death is ever present.  Yet, it is not a deterrent and it does nothing to squelch my.willingness to take risks, make art, travel, and experience new things.  For me, Death is a fascination because it is a companion to Life.

Later in life, I had a miscarriage.  When it started, I said to my husband, "Don't worry!  After all, what did they do in pioneer days?  They lived through it."  I believed that right up until the time I was wheeled into an operating room for a D&C.  Though my elementary school experience should have taught me that they also "died through it", I remain an optimist.

While I'm stitching buttons to images of cemetery angels, I am aware of Death.  I am thinking about the sixty percent of the homesteaders would didn't succeed.  I am thinking about their hardships and loss.  Yet, I am also thinking about the risk being so worth taking.  That's why I titled this series Waste Not Fresh Tears.  The rest of the Euripides quote is Over Old Griefs.  In the face of Death, life must go on.

 (Above:  Staking Her Claim, in progress.)

Life must go on ... and so must stitching!  I couched the selected phrase on this piece and started seed stitching the background.

 (Above:  Staking Her Claim, detail in progress.)

I am trying not to be so dense with the stitching.  More isn't necessarily better, it is simply against my normal inclinations.

Now ... the Gage County Fair!  I love fairs.  In fact, I started stitching after visiting the Ohio State Fair with my husband Steve back in the 1980s.  We walked through the arts and crafts building looking at the needlework on display.  I kept saying, "I could do this" and "I could do that".  Steve said, "Put your money where your mouth is."  I went to the library and repeatedly checked out the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework ... and taught myself!

The Gage County Fair buildings all have quilt blocks.

I have NEVER before seen anything for sale at a fair with a six-digit price tag!

All the open entries were being dropped off ... including the flowers ...

... and crafts ...

... and these ladies getting their "ducks in a row".

There are antique tractors ...

... and lots of antique cars.  I especially like taking creative images of car details ... most particularly the hood ornaments (even if I accidentally got my own reflection in the chrome).

The superintendent here at Homestead National Monument gave me a ticket for the BBQ dinner.  I think I was in line with the entire county!  It was wonderful!  (Thanks, Mark!)

Here's another hood ornament.  I took well over one-hundred pictures but culled the number down to just thirty-one.  To see them, CLICK HERE.  I put them on a Flickr album!  Enjoy!  Tomorrow I'm going to Lincoln, Nebraska to visit the International Quilt Study Center.  Check back!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Homestead National Monument, Day Seven

 (Above:  A happy community gardener.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

It's hard to believe that today is the "halfway" point in my art residency at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska.  I came one week ago.  I leave in one week, but I'll be blogging every one of those days.  First, I'll share a few things about this unique place, and then I'll show what artwork was accomplished!

Since it's been very, very hot here, I've been walking the mowed paths early every morning and at dusk.  This evening I came upon a lady from Lincoln gardening in Homestead National Monument's community garden.  She drives forty miles two or three times a week to weed, water, and pick fresh vegetables.  She had a bumper crop of zucchini and her tomatoes are doing well.

By Halloween, she'll have nice, fat pumpkins ... and her basil is simply beautiful.  The 10' x 15' plots and water are totally free to accepted applicants. No pesticides will be allowed. Homestead National Monument's website page for the community garden says: This is a place for people to connect with the homesteader lifestyle and earth itself!  (Click HERE for more information.)

The community garden is very near the Palmer-Epard log cabin ... and so is the barbed wire display!  The display fencing is very, very long ... with different types of barbed wire between the fence posts. Believe it or not, between 1868 - 1874 over five hundred U.S. patents were issued.  Guess what?  The Homestead National Monument's website has a PDF called Fencing on the Great Plains: The History of Barbed Wire

 (Above:  Daniel Freeman, the first homesteader, and his wife are both buried here on their 160 acre claim.)

Every day I walk passed the grave markers for Daniel Freeman, the first homesteader, and his wife.  Freeman claimed this site, plowed this land, and lived on it until his death.  It's a lovely, final resting place.

 (Above:  Walnut Grove Pet Cemetery in Beatrice.)

Anyone who knows my work knows I love grave markers and cemeteries.  Last week when I drove into Beatrice (the nearest town to Homestead National Monument ... just four miles away), I saw a sign "Pet Cemetery". I had to go! 

The cemetery spans several acres and over 1,000 pets are buried under the shade trees.  Burying a pet is totally free for local people.  They must register the burial and provide the marker.  There are dogs and cats, of course ... but also hamsters, birds, rabbits, ferrets, bunnies, snakes, and even a hedge hog.    

Most of the markers were obviously purchased at the same place.  They are plastic.  The relief doesn't lend itself to a crayon grave rubbing on fabric ... though I managed to get something fairly good from this unique plague.

 (Above: Palmer-Epard Log Cabin.  17 1/2" x 23 1/2".  Image transfer on fabric with both free-motion machine embroidery and hand stitching.  Buttons.)

Now ... I spent the entire day finishing the Palmer-Epard Log Cabin.  I'm very pleased how it turned out.  Here's how the day went:

For the most part, I played with every shade of yellowish looking buttons I had ... determining the order along the edges ...

... and which ones to carefully place on the field of yellow prairie coneflowers.

I don't often show the back of my stitching because it rarely looks as neat and tidy as this.  I think the ability to work long hours in the same place allowed me to finish off every thread's end.

One of the reasons it took all day to complete this piece is because of the reverse.  I like to use vintage textiles.  At home, I have boxes and boxes of old table clothes, doilies, runners, handkerchiefs, and napkins.  Here at Homestead National Monument, I have a little pile ... just some of the items most recently purchased at Bill Mishoe's weekly auction.  One of the things in the pile was this old quilt top.  It looks good on the clothesline but trust me!  None of the individual block came together correctly.  The applique was done on machine ... and not well done.  I'm pretty sure this quilt top wasn't worth finishing ... but it sure made a pretty back for my piece!

I cut a section from one corner, cut it apart, and put it back together so that the flowers went in different directions (and so that section finally lay flat! LOL!)  I stitched it back together and made the hanging sleeve using my Bernina ... which just happens to be set up on top of a treadle sewing machine in that bedroom!

 (Above:  Palmer-Epard Log Cabin, reverse.)

I also added three doilies and a label.  I do this so that my "back" isn't like a pillowcase (not attached to the front ... or only stitched together on the edges).  I hand stitch the doilies through the back fabric and into the felt batting.  Thus, all my layers are united.  Below are two more detail shots of the front and a sunset photo.

Tomorrow I'm going to the Gage County fair!  So ... check back to see what else happens!  I'll be blogging again tomorrow.

Good night from Nebraska ... as another lovely sunset ended today!