Monday, June 30, 2014

Last Words at the Tapps Art Center

(Above:  Last Words at the Tapps Art Center ... view to the signage and the opening to the center aisle.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

I am really, really lucky to live in a city with several great locations for displaying local artwork.  One space is at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios ... right outside my studio door.  The exhibition area can be rented by the week.  Each resident artist gets two free weeks to use the gallery as a "perk" in the rental arrangement.  This is time during which one can mount a solo show.  The resident artists also exhibit together twice a year for annual art crawls in our part of town:  Artista Vista in the spring and Vista Lights in the fall.

Yet, there's another GIANT space on Main Street called the Tapps Art Center.  I've been involved as an exhibiting artist since its very first month ... November 2010.  I've created four window installations, one of which included my only "performance art piece", Ophelia.  I've shown my Decision Portraits there ... after the initially opened ... before other exhibitions could be scheduled.  I've been part of a couple group shows too.  Last November and December I had a solo show at Tapps called I Am Not Invisible.  

With every new arts organization there are initial problems and plenty of growing pains.  Tapps Art Center has had more than its fair share.  Recently (like less than two months ago), the original executive director left.  A new person was hired.  In the shuffle of transition, no show was booked for July.  So, when I met the new director last "First Thursday on Main Street" (June 5th), I was asked if I could mount a solo show for the next month.  OF COURSE I CAN ... and yesterday, I installed Last Works!

 (Above:  Ledge!  I created five ledges on which to display my altered Victorian photo albums.)

A surprise solo show!  What could be more wonderful!  I've shown Last Words in Florence, South Carolina (summer 2010); at Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona (October 2011); and in the Imperial Centre in Rocky Mount, North Carolina (January 2012).  The work debuted at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios along with my Blues Chapel in February 2010. (Click here for that dual installation.)  Yet, I've been making more work ever since then.  Lots of things!  Also, I didn't curate the show in Rocky Mount.  That exhibit was more of an "art quilt" show.  None of my "Angels in Mourning" pieces were included.  The show in Arizona had shipping restrictions.  Thus, this new opportunity has been a real joy!  I'm in charge.  I have work I've never shown.  I have more space than ever before.  Plus ... Tapps Art Center is closed on Sunday and Monday.  The opening isn't until Thursday for the "First Thursday on Main Street".  I have enjoyed a leisure installation ... which will be expanded tomorrow.  Why?  Well, the new director is so thrilled that she wants to show the epitaph banners.  Someone is making arrangements for this to happen tomorrow morning!  This show is going to be GREAT!

(Above:  New ledge ... being tested at Mouse House.)

In order to show my five altered Victorian photo albums.  I created "ledges" from two planks of wood that were "leftovers" from when we hired a carpenter to create a pantry for us.  That happened TEN YEARS ago ... right after Mouse House (our home/business) caught fire and had to have a new roof and the back part of our second floor home totally restored.  The two planks of wood have been leaning up inside the pantry ever since ... and were exactly the amount of shelving I needed for the five ledges.  I used moulding leftover from framing my Large, Stained Glass Windows on three sides of the planks.  Brackets from Home Depot allowed me to screw them into the wall!  Perfect!

(Above:  The Angels in Mourning Series ... on a rolling cart at Tapps.)

Yesterday afternoon Steve and I unloaded a very full car.  Steve went back for the second load. 

(Above:  The center aisle at Tapps ... before I started to install.)

While Steve was gone (which wasn't long ... we live less than a mile away), I surveyed the interior space.  The center aisle is LONG!

(Above:  One side aisle at Tapps ... before I started to install.)

I was also given the walls facing the front doors, the walls facing the circular desk, and this side aisle.  The interior spaces are individual art and art-related business studios.  To be honest, I have no idea how many total running feet of exhibition space I was given.  Let's just say ... A LOT!

 (Above:  The center aisle ... after I installed.)

Several hours later, the center aisle looked like this!  On the left side are three of my ledges.  On the right side are two of them.  I adore the artificial cemetery flowers lining both walls.  It was great fun to "play" with my own work and create a special atmosphere, a unique vision of my creative endeavors.  I can't wait to continue working on it tomorrow and for the reception on Thursday.  Below are more images showing the way it looked last night ... before labels, before lighting adjustments, before the epitaph banners are suspended.  Oh ... I forgot to snap a photo of the side aisle ... and a couple of other areas.  I'll do that tomorrow!  Enjoy the images!

(Above:  The Book of the Dead on its altered Victrola pedestal.)

(Above: One side of the center aisle ... looking toward the Main Street entrance.)

(Above: The other side of the center aisle ... looking toward the Main Street entrance.)

(Above:  Two of the Angels in Mourning Series mixed media pieces flanking The Girl With The Upturned Shell, a Grave Rubbing Art Quilt made earlier this year.)

(Above:  Two of the Angels in Mourning Series mixed media pieces flanking a ledge with one of the altered Victorian photo albums.  Over the album is one of the Dearly Departed Series pieces.)

(Above:  The end of the center aisle nearest the Main Street Entrance ... showing Ready for Burial, Reverence, and other pieces.)

(Above:  One of the center aisles ... looking from the Main Street Entrance back toward the circular desk area.)

(Above:  A wider angle of the same wall at the corner ... including one of the two wall sections facing Main Street. I should have moved the silly little table ... but didn't.  It will not be there on Thursday!)

(Above:  The other corner and other wall section facing Main Street.)

My sign reads:
Last Words by Susan Lenz

Crayon on silk grave rubbings, vintage household linens, recycled material, collaged epitaphs, artificial cemetery flowers, and angel images are meant to reflect both personal and universal mortality and the passage of time through generations.  The exploration of final words marking others’ lives causes reflection of ones own existence.  The work investigates the concept of remembrance, personal legacy, and our common human frailty.  Questions are posed. 

The work asks:
What are your final wishes? 
How do you want to be remembered?
What last words will mark your life?

Please feel free to gently turn the pages of the fragile, altered Victorian photo albums and carefully peek at the reverse of the art quilts.

 This installation was made possible through the support of family and friends, including Caitlin Bright and the Tapps Art Center; Shives Funeral Home; The City Clerk Department of Colma, CA; Jeanne Williamson; Maureen Barrett MacNamara; Guy Jones at River Runner; Stephen Chesley; the cyber community reading and; Steve Dingman; and all those who bring artificial flowers to Columbia’s Elmwood and Greenlawn cemeteries.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Happy Birthday to me!

(Above:  Photos of my son, Mathias Lenz Dingman, and his dancing partner, Maureya Lebowitz, in the leading roles for Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty.)

Today is my fiftieth-fifth birthday.  I'm been claiming this advanced age since January the first, trying to get used to the number before it was actually correct.  Yet, it still seems strange to find myself the age of a popular speed limit. LOL!  Where have the years gone?  What have I done with all that time?  Mostly, I'm stunned ... but I do know that plenty has taken place during the past fifty-five years.  For one thing, I had a family.  My elder son grew up into a professional ballet dancer ... and today his Facebook page included photos I hadn't seen.  Mathias was the prince in Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty earlier in the season.  Now ... this was a great way to start a birthday!   

(Above:  My mat cutter ... piling with work ... forty-four new pieces for the Richland One School District's permanent art collection.)

The rest of today has been spent cutting forty-four mats for the Richland One School District's Permanent Art Collection.  This is a lot of work!

(Above:  The AIDS Benefit Foundation's "Dining With Friends Dessert Finale 2014" at the Koger Center.)

I'm not going to have much time to celebrate my birthday but that's okay.  I had a great time last Saturday night at the AIDS Benefit Foundation's annual "Dining With Friends Dessert Finale".  I had a piece in the silent auction and spent time with friends like Cindy and Forbes Patterson (above).

(Above:  The AIDS Benefit Foundation's "Dining With Friends Dessert Finale 2014" at the Koger Center.)

You can almost see my piece in the photo above ... hanging on the temporary black wall.  It sold!  The night was very, very nice and for such a worthy cause.  (The desserts were great too ... plenty of chocolate for Steve and cookies for me!)

(Above:  Lancet Window XLIV. Inventory # 3178.  Framed: 31 1/4" x 11 1/4". $375.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Since then, Lancet Window XLIV was also finished and more new work is on its way.  Steve has been keeping up with the World Cup and also tending our yard.

(Above:  Steve's pet weed.)

I have absolutely nothing to do with yard work.  Since I don't do any of it, I don't voice an opinion ... which is only fair.  Steve has his own way to tending the yard.  Every year this includes allowing one week to grow.  This is his "pet weed".  A few years ago, I backed our car into his pet weed.  This year, he picked a new location ... far away from the cement parking area.  I have praised this weed ... anything to get out of helping in the heat and humidity here in South Carolina!

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Second week and art reception the Berkeley County Summer Art Program

(Above:  Students in the Berkeley County Talented and Gifted High School Summer Art Program ... working on their fiber art creations.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Last week was a whirlwind of activity at the Berkeley County Talented and Gifted High School Summer Art Program.  Students had to complete their individual project by Wednesday ... at the very, very latest. 

(Above:  Students mounting and matting their work for the exhibition.)

On Wednesday we mounted and matted everything ... and typed out brief biographical narratives and individual statements about all the work.  We also tidied up the art room, hauled Pro Panel walls from storage in the school's library, and moved tables away from the room's center.

Most of our instruction came from program coordinator and Stratford High School art teacher Robin Boston ... who also graciously invited me to send Wednesday night in her comfortable home.  We had an excellent dinner and brilliant art conversations with other art teachers and finalized our plans for Thursday's classwork exhibition.

(Above:  Relic LXXXVI.  Unframed:  6 1/2" x 5 1/2"; framed: 12 3/4" x 11 3/4". $125.)

For the exhibit, I could have shown the two, finished "demonstration" pieces I made during the week ... but I didn't.  First, they weren't completely framed, tagged, and written into my inventory book.  In generally insist on this sort of thing.  More importantly, the exhibit really was about the students ... not the instructors!  It is an awkward situation to talk about my work, especially pricing, when meeting parents and friends who didn't come to see my work in the first place.

(Above:  Relic LXXXVII.  Unframed:  6 1/2" x 5 1/2"; framed: 12 3/4" x 11 3/4". $125.)

Yet, I always finish my demonstration pieces.  I think it is very important that I present myself as a professional artist who makes "real work" ... and that students ought to see "real work" being made, not just samples.  All the materials and supplies I bring to each workshop are exactly the ones I use myself, nothing less.  As a result, some fantastic pieces are always made by the students ... pieces that are like mine in the sense that they are quality materials, original designs, and personal expressions.

(Above:  Student making yo-yos from polyester stretch velvet!)

Some of the students had previous experience with needle and thread ... like this teenager who knew exactly how to make yo-yos!  I'd never thought to try this with polyester stretch velvet and some of my batik fabric which was brought for background material ...

... nor did I think about allowing these creations to extend over the mat!  But, doesn't the result look fabulous!  This is just one example why the program is called "Talented and Gifted".

Of course, some students had no prior experience stitching.  A few weren't particularly happy with their pieces ... like this cute girl who had virtually given up on her design.  But when push came to shove, she shouldered on by adding free-motion machine stitching (something she had never done and didn't think she'd like at all) and plenty of tiny, hand "seeding" stitches with two metallic threads.

Again, this is another example of "Talented and Gifted" because she turned her initial, mediocre attempt into a very unique, special, and truly beautiful work of art.  I'm proud of her ... and of every other student in the program.

All the students worked very, very hard.

Some finished three different pieces.

Some experimented with wool rovings in ways I'd never considered ... and then turned around to make a second piece from entirely different materials!

Most tried their hands at self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery.  They frequently didn't want to attempt it on their favorite piece but were willing to risk their "second" work.  Of course, everyone of these pieces was surprisingly transformed ... and then shown in Thursday's exhibition!

All the students helped transform the classroom into a temporary art gallery.  Signs were made. Floors were swept. Labels were printed. Wall were erected. Artwork was hung ... from 10 - 1:30 on Thursday. 

By 2 PM on Thursday afternoon parents and friends started arriving for pizza, soda, and ART.  The program's assistant, Vickie Hickman, a middle school art teacher in the district, snapped some photos before the official opening time.

Like Vicki, I took a bunch of pictures too ... but didn't manage to get every student.  Trust me!  Each one was special ... like their artwork.  Certainly, talented and gifted.  (Scroll down to see more images of the students with their artwork.)


There were approximately one hundred people in attendance over the coming hour.  All the parents seemed thrilled.

It was great to see the reactions, shake hands, and compliment the program as well as the individual kids.

By 2 PM we were taking down all the artwork.  For these students, summer began.  For me, I had an hour-and-a-half drive back to Columbia.  I've been playing "catch up" ever since.  By tomorrow, I'll have another blog post on this weekend's Dining With Friends Dessert Finale in which I had a piece of art ... plus a new Lancet Window.

Scroll down for more photos of happy, young artists!