Monday, January 31, 2011

The Great Do Over!

I often enjoy listening to talk radio while I'm driving.  This is a habitat my husband helped me develop.   While running errands over the weekend, I heard a show on NPR.  I'm not sure of the broadcast's name, but the host led the show with a very interesting question -  "Have you ever driven through a small, remote town and wondered what it would be like to stop your car, stay awhile, and start your life over?"  No one would know you or your past.  It would be the ultimate do-over.  As I listened, I realized I was at this exact place in my life.  With one difference, I left the small town for the big city to get my do-over.
All My Energy (2010) - Front
I am a very spiritual person - not religious.  For the majority of my time on Earth, I have lived as a Christian who tries her best to follow the word God.  I have never been caught up in denominations but instead the scriptures.  As I later reflected on the radio show,  I thought about a scripture.  It says ,"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)"  For several years, I have tried to fulfill the expectations of the world through my career.   I've done what I thought people expected of me or what was safe or practical. 
God moved me out of my comfort zone when He relocated my family to Chicago and took my job.  At first, I resented the move and unemployment.  Slowly, my thinking began to change and both situations became an opportunity for a new beginning.  God had placed me in an environment where the artistic gifts He gave me could be nurtured.   Over the past year He has allowed me to use art to give voice to young people and myself.   I never thought the creations from my hands could impact the lives of others.  But there is a scripture that counters my limiting thoughts.  It says, "Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. (Ephesians 3:20, KJV)."
All My Energy (2010) - Back
All My Energy - A Metaphoric Self Sculpture (2010), one of my recent fabric sculptures, symbolizes my transformation in thinking.  The butterfly, with its warm colors, represents my emergence from a cocoon of doubt, pressure, and stress with the energy to accomplish new heights.   A butterfly thrives in a garden with grasses for shelter and flowers for nectar.  The grasses in this piece represent opportunity while the flower symbolizes abundance.   But the opportunities and abundance are above the butterfly.  The butterfly has not yet begun to put into motion its potential for flight, which will eventually carry it beyond the grasses and flowers.  This is where I  am in my journey as an artist.  I'm just beginning to stretch my wings.  But with the power that works within me, I  know my art will carry my spirit to new heights.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Artists Mean Business

Sharing Our Water, Kiela Upton-Smith & Nina Smoot-Cain
The more I learn about the history of the creative industry and the life of an artist,  I have discovered most artists don't see themselves as entrepreneurs.  This must change if artists are truly to gain control of how their creativity is viewed by the larger population.   There is a huge movement among certain groups in the African-American community to promote art collection.   This is a consistent topic on Black Art in America.  The Artisan Series, sponsored by Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and Bombay Sapphire, attempts to provide exposure to urban artists and photographers. As collectors and philanthropists continue to recognize art as viable investments, it is important that artists gain the proper recognition and compensation for their work.   Artists must mean business. 

How do artists make the transition from a mere creative force to a business mogul?  One step is to attend the Artists Mean Business Workshop.  The focus of this workshop is to address the artist's needs as a creative professional.  This professional practices and community building workshop is for artists working in Chicagoland, the Industrial Corridor, or Chicago's Creative Industry District.  Artists attending this free workshop will discuss gaining access to low-cost marketing options, protecting your art, and healthy habits for working artists.  Songhay Studios Group, the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurs and Ozinga are the official sponsors of this event.   If you are serious about the business of your art, you must attend this event.

Date:                    Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time:                    3:00 - 4:30 pm

Where:                 Songhay Studios Group
                            629 W. Cermak #205
                            (Enter off Ford Street)

Cost:                     Totally Free

Friday, January 14, 2011

Laurie Swim: Lasting Memorials

End of Day (2002), Laurie Swim
SOFA 2010 (International Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Fair 2010) in Chicago, Illinois, featured an art quilter who helped re-ignite my interest in art quilts.   While searching the internet for a local quilt artist, Gwen McGee Boyd, who is now my mentor, I discovered the work of Laurie Swim.   Ms. Swim is a veteran art quilter who currently resides in Nova Scotia, Canada.   She has created art quilts for over 35 years.   Her creations use various fabrics and threads giving her work texture and movement.

Dory Idyll (2006), Laurie Swim

As a young quilter, I was taught cotton fabrics were the preferred cloth for quilting.   Laurie dismissed this traditional use of cotton.  Her work often incorporates silks, linens, and sheers which add interest and  the illusion of movement.   Before attending SOFA, my only experience with Ms. Swim's work was through books and the internet.  SOFA gave me the opportunity to come within inches of her creations to fully appreciate her raw edge appliqué technique and intricate quilting.  Her work was even more impressive in person.  

Laurie Swim is not only known for awe-inspiring art quilts, but for her work developing large scale community quilt projects.   She uses her art to give voice to communities struggling with social and economic issues.   Working with communities she raises awareness and  provides memorials with art quilts.   "Lost at Sea", pays tribute to 17 Novia Scotia fisherman who drowned in a terrible storm.  Another tribute raises awareness for improved safety laws for young people between the ages of 15 - 24 who were killed or injured while  working in Canada.  "The Life Quilt" is a memorial for thousands of young people linked by the fact that their tragedies didn't have to happen.  Her most recent community quilt was unveiled in March 2010.  "Breaking Ground:  The Hogs Hollow Disaster 1960" honors 5 Italian immigrant workers killed in a 1960 accident while digging a  new water main line in northern Toronto.  This  7' x 20' tribute was  created by dozens of volunteers stitching for  thousands of hours  over a 9 month period.   
Breaking Ground (2010), Laurie Swim
Laurie Swim's art provides more than beauty.  It amplifies voices of communities. How is your art raising awareness and remembering the sacrifices of others?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Marilyn Pappas: Imperfect Beauty in Perfected Stitches

Last November,  I volunteered at SOFA 2010 (International Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Fair 2010) in Chicago, Illinois.  SOFA is one of the world's premier fairs for contemporary  decorative arts and design.   Collectors from all over the world visit SOFA each year in search of the best in contemporary art.   The aisles of SOFA overflowed with glass, wood, and metal sculptures.  However the hard lines of these mediums were softened with various offerings from fiber artists.  As a fiber arts enthusiasts, I was disappointed by the small number of fiber artists represented at SOFA.  But as a fiber artist, I realized the huge market potential for an artist willing to press the limitless possibilities of fiber.  In this week's posts, I will highlight some fiber artists featured at SOFA 2010.
Nike with Broken Wing (2006), Marilyn Pappas
Marilyn Pappas is a fiber artist who began her career in 1960.   Her hand stitched drawings on linen focus on the imperfection of beauty.   The labor intensive and meticulous stitches seem to float above the fabric.   Her work was filled with an airiness which pulled me at my emotions.  I felt both sadness and respect for beauty that was once awe-inspiring but waned over time.  It reminded me that our whole selves will one day be forgotten.  However, pieces of us will be forever immortalized in the memories of those who remain.
Ms. Pappas's intricate stitch work fascinated me.   I am learning  to use thread to "paint" the details and contours of my fabric pieces.  Ms. Pappas has perfected this technique.  Her  thread color choices, wide-ranging stitch lengths, and varied stitch density effectively gave her work dimension.   Her choice of fine sheer linen as the  foundation for her pieces provided an airiness which unexpectedly supported the weightiness of her stitches.  
Ms. Pappas declares in one of her artist statements that "…I choose to express my ideas in a direct but labor-intensive way, grateful for the comfort and pleasure that comes from handwork, developed slowly over time.  In this high speed world I rejoice in the meditative process of the work…."   I am also fond of the relaxing nature of hand stitching.  In this age of technology generated art, I was refreshed by an artist who embraced the beauty and soulful benefits of traditional techniques.  How are you using time-honored strategies to embrace beauty and nurture the soul?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Money for Your Voice

Cover Art - CAAP Booklet, Annie Heckman
Finding your voice is a great way to begin 2011.   Individual artists often need financial assistance to help with the process of realizing their voice.   Thanks to my friends at Artistically Linked I attended an information session that showed where we can get help.  The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is offering dollars to support new, emerging, and mid-career Chicago artists.   The 2011 Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) is now accepting applications from individual artists and not for profit organizations for Cultural Grants.  

If you are an individual artist in any discipline needing up to $1,000 to complete a project, purchase supplies, attend professional development, or travel out-of-state, then you need an application.   Applications can be found at the City of Chicago website on the Community Arts Assistance Program page.    Act quickly so you can meet the January 31st, 2011 deadline. There are still 2 opportunities for you to attend an information session that will assist you in writing a competitive request.  These dates are on the site.

Where Two or More, Trish Williams
Each request will be reviewed by a panel of artists representing various disciplines.   According to Meg Duguid, the information session presenter, this process is intended to bring together the Chicago artist community to promote and support artist development.   In an effort to make sure that artist's voices are heard, the Department of Cultural Affairs is asking applicants to nominate panel representatives. I am committed to improving the recognition of all fiber arts.  Can you send me names of Chicago  fabric, quilt, textile, or surface design artists who can represent the  voice of visual artists who embrace fiber in all  forms as members of the CAAP review panel?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Voice is dynamic.  It questions. It answers. It reveals hidden emotions. It demands recognition. Art is the voice of the artist. The work of a visual artist speaks in the absence of its creator. Visual art continually tells a story.  But the story forever changes. As an emerging artist, I'm discovering my voice.  What is my story?  What is my truth?

Finding my voice is a process.  It's filled with challenges and opportunities.  I'm challenged to reflect on my beliefs and my life's journey.  I'm challenged to push beyond my present reality into my possibility.  I'm challenged to discover and interact with other artists.  But these challenges lead to transforming opportunities.

Voices, 2011, Ramona Lindsey
My latest piece is called Voices. I challenged myself to work beyond the standard two-dimensional quilt. After discovering the fabric sculptures of Carolyn Crump, I realized my voice could not be confined to 2-dimensions. Following Ms. Crump's inspiration, I created several mini-quilts that I attached like a collage to a foundational piece to create depth.   The mini-quilts were stitched together by hand. I machine pieced and stitched the foundational quilt.

Voices began as my tribute to the young people in my community who are often voiceless and misrepresented.  Young people continue to be strong, energetic, and resilient even when times seem dark and hopeless.  The vibrantly colored mouths represent these youthful voices proclaiming their identity.  Their voices spring forward despite the hopelessness contained in the larger, more mature mouth. 

As I continued to work on Voices,  I uncovered a piece of myself.   I too want my voice to be heard above the hopelessness of voices in our community afraid of change.  My desire is to challenge the expected and attempt the impossible with a vibrant sense of urgency.  I am strength under-girded by faith.  I am electric with the energy to drive change.  I am forever through the lives I touch and the salvation I've received. Voices is about identity. 

What does your voice reveal about your identity?  How are you discovering your voice?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Economic Development: The New Civil Rights Movement with Artists as Leaders

Hollis Chatelain, Precious Water, 2004
Art gives voice to the voiceless. Meaningful art leads to introspection and action. It raises awareness and challenges the norm.  Some art shocks us to attention while other artworks slowly ease us into action.  Art quilter, Hollis Chatelain, uses her talent to bring attention to international issues - particularly environmental. Her whole cloth painted quilts draw me into the plight of families struggling to meet basic needs due to things like inadequate water supply or deforestation.

Her work makes me think about families in my own community struggling to survive.  Their struggles result from a lack of quality jobs paying a wage that sufficiently covers rent, utilities, food, and clothing.  An underfunded and under-performing public education system only adds to their problems.   What is a family to do when the education system that was meant to prepare their members to compete in a global economy drastically fails them?  Organizations like the Chicago Urban League, the Rainbow Push Coalition, and the National Action Network have embraced economic development and quality education as the leading issues of underrepresented communities. 

What can artist do to draw attention to these very important issues?   Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan were just a few of the great artists whose protest songs raised the consciousness of America in the 1960's and 70's.  In the 1930's, F. D. Roosevelt's New Deal included a Cultural Arts Project.  It employed thousands of visual artists, musicians, theater performers, and writers.  Our nation's families, schools, and public spaces were forever impacted by this infusion of culture into American society.  How can artist today take a stand to persuade our nation to embrace the arts as a viable avenue for economic growth?  What can we do to prepare ourselves to be leaders of the movement promoting the business of art?