Friday, September 29, 2006

The Takedown....
Content yet nostalgic, like cleaning up after a successful party, today I took the hair embroidery off the stretcher. All the reference photos were put away, and the work area cleaned up in preparation for the next project. I have so much time into this piece, I am afraid to touch it or do anything to it for fear of ruining it. I VERY CAREFULLY trimmed away the excess stabilizer on the back, (it is very easy here to accidentally "snip" the fabric), and I have temporarily stretched the piece to photograph it, but it will be restretched to fit the Victorian oval frame with convex glass that I special ordered.

A few months ago, I started bidding on oval frames with convex glass on Ebay, and I have accumulated 4 small ones and 6 larger ones, all ornate, but metal, but I think I have decided that they don't work... I need a heavier, darker wood frame. This is why artists have no money. (I think that I have a project in mind for using the other frames, but I will need some blond hair.)

As I write, I am printing out hundreds of labels for the impending hair embroidery mailing. I thought I was so smart, but next time I will be using one of those places where they duplicate the discs and print directly on them... my friend tells me that the sticky labels are only good for a few years, then they might affect the disc quality.

Today I give thanks, for when I was an undergrad at SUNY B, I put myself through school by working 35 hours a weeks as a framer at Deck the Walls. I missed virtually every art opening and event because I had to work, and it really pissed me off back then. Today, when I had to stretch my own needlework for the first time, I was grateful for all the flower basket and kitten needlepoints I had to practice on.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I confess….

I got up at 7, and embroidered until 1 p.m., fussing over a few nuances that were glaring at me this morning. But I am now on the back deck, it is a gorgeous day, and the reward for finishing my 3 month project is working outside, hoping it will feel less like work. I have been procrastinating, avoiding a paper that I need to write for the Southeastern College Art Conference, "All Stripped Down: Psychological Clothing". Hopefully the breeze and sound of the wind chimes will make the process more palatable. Usually, when I give a paper, I am presenting my work, and I might write out the first paragraph, but I just wing it when I start showing the images. This time, I am the only artist in a session with art historians, so I have been asked to send a completed copy of the paper two weeks before the conference. So I am essentially typing out a talk that I could give in my sleep, trying extra hard to make it entertaining, as it will be read, rather than informally presented.

I have another confession: I am watching a TV “show”. By this I mean that I watched the premiere two weeks ago, then I tuned in again last week, and I plan to watch it this week. Soon I will be telling other human beings that I am not available on Monday nights because that is when "my show” is on.

I was researching the new painting and came across a website, watched a preview, and I was hooked. It was serendipitous to be doing a piece about the media, only to tumble upon a TV show that makes fun of TV. So now I tune in to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. You can go to the website and watch the first two episodes if you want to catch up… even if you don’t want to commit, if you can watch the first episode, the monologue on the insanity of television today is brilliant. Being the academic that I am, once I fell in love with this show, I needed to go to the primary source, so last night, I watched Network, which was, as everyone says, brilliant.

It's not surprising that I have not seen Network before, because I hate TV. I have a bumper sticker that says “kill your TV”, and a book on my bookshelf entitled “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television”. I know that there are some really good shows out there, it's just that so many are insultingly stupid. Even if you watch "good shows", add up all the TV hours at the end of your life, and I'll bet that there will be something that you wish you spent your time doing instead... something in the real world, maybe even with real people.

I want 4 or 5 lives to fit in all the things I want to do, and when I see people watching TV, I want to say "Don't know what to do with your time?.. Give the hours to me to spend, I know what to do with them!" Greedy.

Step down from the soapbox, girl, and write your paper.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


well, here it is... not stretched, badly lit, but I am letting go. I can't see anything else that I could do, at least not today. I am off to make myself a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie, in order to focus my eyes on something that is not inches away from my head. Tomorrow, we will fuss, stretch, and photograph.

In other news, Radley, my 3 year old dog, has finally and mysteriously decided that he likes to play endless games of catch, just like other normal dogs. Up until now, he just wanted you to chase him with the object. Kevin is working on a deadline in his office below, and I am certain he is appreciating the back and forth click of dog nails on the ceiling.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Finally..... the Art part.
Anyone who has checked in on this blog even occasionally has got to be as sick of this hair embroidery as I am. Started 124 days ago, it was initially exciting for me, but there were many hours that were put in in the hopes that this piece might someday be something, that it might cross that line, transcend. The "art moments" (when I was "connected" with the piece, saw clearly where it needed to go, felt confident that it was going to work) were fleeting, I glimpsed them only occasionally, and the rest of the time I just worked, with a faith that the "magic" would kick in at some point, and it would be successful.

I suspect that this feeling is reason why many people become artists in the first place.... it can be addictive. I envy those who have a short process, who get to experience the feeling on a more regular basis: this envy often makes me want to do some other kind of work, something with more immediate gratification.

Today will likely be the day that I work until this piece is "finished". In my language, that means that I will work until there is nothing more that I could do to it to make it stronger. I will collapse in exhaustion, possibly waking up with a migraine tomorrow. (I am putting ibuprofens on my nightstand now to remember to take them prophylactically.) Tomorrow, when I wake with a fresh eye, I might make a few minute adjustments, but it will likely be photographed tomorrow, freeing me to concentrate on the new painting, and the hair embroidery mailing that has been stalled, waiting for this piece to be finished.

But today is magic, and every stitch that I make seems to activate the image, adding the subtlety that is going to take the piece over the edge. Pure joy.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A great post on the Edward Winkleman blog about the gender inequality in Chelsea Galleries and New York Museums. Still. That's 21 years after the Guerilla Girls.
Hair Embroidery Stippling

Here is the detail... been making hair dots and tightening things up all day today. Will be finished with the mouth interior today, and beginning to increase value in the lips. This weekend we were talking about glitter, and my friends made fun of me, suggesting I do a new piece where I put glitter on one flake at a time, or one flake of glitter at the end of one hair.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A "Fiber Ho" Weekend.....

Back from Raleigh, where I spent the weekend at the Southeast Fiberarts Educator's Meeting. My friend Pip came in on Thursday: we spent the day at the North Carolina Museum of Art, which has a pretty substantial permanent collection that I was unaware of until now. We had a great lunch at the museum, then walked through the Sculpture Park. On to Chapel Hill, where we went to the Ackland Museum, then walked around town. I scored a great brocade 50's top at the vintage store, and we both found a few good books at the used bookstore. Thursday night we went to Hillsborough: Tupelo's for dinner, then to the Blue Bayou. The band was ok, but not the cookin' blues that I am used to seeing there, and I was a bit disappointed for my guest.

Friday, I needed to get a fuse changed in my car. I drove to the Honda dealer at 10 a.m., and they said "Drive it right in to the garage, we'll see what we can do...". FIFTEEN MINUTES and EIGHT DOLLARS later, I drove off in my fully illuminated car. Yes, you heard me right, my Miami friends, eight dollars and 15 minutes.

We hit the Goodwill store, my first trip since the move to NC. I was a great thrifter in Miami, and Pip used to be one of my favorite thrifting partners, so it was just like the old days, except there were no hoochie mama dresses, fun sundresses, or elegant evening dresses, only church dresses. I found a few jackets to embellish, and a pair of painting overalls. We went to Uncle Bud's Fabric and Foam, where i controlled myself, and the antique mall, where I fell in LOVE with this picture, and had to have it. Our kitchen has lots of red in it, and while I would not say it has a dog "motif", I would say that there is fair number of found dog images on the wall, and a collection of antique dog statues on one shelf. So this

(excuse the glare, and the toned-down color, it is really Technicolor) was a must-have. While Pip agreed that the picture was amazing, she also remarked that I probably waited too long to get my first dog. We picked up my friend LM on the way to the conference, stopping in Chapel Hill where another friend was having a show. We went to dinner at a member's house that night, where I met some really cool new fiber arts people from all over the Southeast.

We spent Saturday showing our newest work, fondling fabric samples and sharing information. SEFEA is a great group of women, very warm and supportive, and most unusual for an artist's group in the area of sharing information. One of the things that we spent a great deal of time talking about was the concern that many shared over the decline of drawing as a problem solving medium, sketching as a way of working through an idea to improve upon your original concept. It seems that lots of students expect that "process" is having a fully-formed great idea pop into your head, then making it (or having someone else make it).

It also seemed that lots of people were fighting against the administrations in their respective places of higher education, and that the new corporate model that academic institutions are following is leaving art programs (and, ultimately, art STUDENTS) in the dust. The changes that I have witnessed in my nine years of teaching are chilling, terrifying, and not unique to my ex-university. Art Departments do not generally make money for the university, because of small class size, and it would not surprise me to see many art disciplines, or even art departments, folding in the coming years. Several professors reported that the administration was pushing for distance learning.... imagine! Learn to paint at home in your pajamas, staring at a screen... just like watching Bob Ross.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The good thing about unexpected company....

Is that you get to do things to the house that you have been waiting to do, like hang some indian lanterns from the tree off the back deck.

Kevin: Hi Sweetie!
Kate: Look on the back deck!...
Kevin: What did you do now?....

I got a green and a gold... needs one more, a blue one. (Notice The Goob surveying his yard in the bottom photo).

The Business of Museums....
With info gleaned from my friend Franklin's art blog, I pass on to you a link to a great article on the changing-and-increasingly-commercialized role of museums, written by Dushko Petrovich on the occasion of the almost-opening of the Boston ICA.

My day was shot to hell by the announcement of an unexpected visitor arriving tomorrow (in addition to my friend Pip, who was expected). Tonight I am preparing a presentation for the conference this weekend. Looking forward to hanging out with all the cool fiber babes. Blogging may be spotty for the next few days. Cool breezes tonight. crickets.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So Close....

head spinning.... lots going on, deadlines looming, toiling away on the hair embroidery all day yesterday, trying to get more subtlety in the clouds.
Ripped out the diagonal lines on the lower left near the horizon (for the second time), will be stippling there instead for more subtlety. Clouds are nearing completion, after a few more additions, I will just need to work on some darker value in the lips, and then will be ready for framing and photos, then The Big Mailing can happen.

The in-progress sketch for the new painting is here (the bottom quarter of it, anyway),
there will be more people in extreme foreground lower right, I am gathering that info now.

I am mostly doing reading research on class in America and celebrity worship for this painting the last few days.

This coming weekend is the Southeast Fiberarts conference in Raleigh, excited to pick up my Miami friend Pip from the airport on Thursday and spend a day with her before we both head to UNC Raleigh for the conference.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This weekend, we went to see the artist pine box cars at SECCA.... about half from artists in New York, and the other half NC artists... there were some great entries, my favorite was a NYC artist who obviously just gave the wooden block to his dog to chew on for a while, then put wheels on it. Afterwards, our friends took us to Elm St. in Greensboro... lots of antique stores, and a superb architectural antique place... I could have spent all day there.
They made me smile, and I wanted to talk to them, the people walking around in the Burlington Starbucks with the NY Times newspapers under their arms: "I miss it too.... how are you doing here? where do you go? what do you do? I give great dinner parties..... do you want to be friends?"
Gathering for the Painting...

Spent this morning doing research for the new painting, collecting information about celebrity worship. Psychologists are studying the phenomenon quite seriously. One of the more amusing links I found was a design project for the home and accoutrements of a celebrity worshiper.

One of my ex-students has turned me on to a Southpark episode about Wal-M*rt, I will try to rent that this evening.

Another beautiful Sunday morning, off to the bastion of civilization in Burlington.... my beacon, Starbucks. Before they built this Starbucks, the closest one was 133 miles away... they posted the postcard that prompted them to build here. (I should write such a letter to JoAnne Fabrics). Maybe I will take Radley and see how he behaves, sitting outside while I read my research. I remember the month we spent in Manhattan, and how he enjoyed sitting outside at all the restaurants, such a good boy, watching all the people going by and wagging his tail, hoping someone would notice his sign that he wants to meet them. Sitting under an umbrella watching the traffic on Huffman Mill Road is not the same as watching Downtown New York wake up and walk down the streets, but the air smells nicer here....

This evening is our annual block party, so we will finally get to meet our neighbors, and they will get to meet us, the motorcycle riding couple with the longest grass on the block and mirrors hanging from our trees.... the wife wears torn, paint splattered cotton dresses and sneakers every day when she comes out to get the mail, and takes that dog with her everywhere.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Today is a gorgeous, cool day with open windows, cut grass, and birds.

My friend Elmer sent me this great link to the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, Design at the V & A. There is a slide show and a discussion with the curator. Wish I could get to London more... Maybe a Fulbright to study at the V&A for a month or so.....

You can help curate an exhibition! Go here and choose your favorite artists from the Saatchi "Your Gallery" shortlisted artists... the ones with the most votes will be featured in the exhibition. If you have not set up your free Your Gallery page, you should do it... nothing to lose. Maybe you will be chosen for a show in London. Maybe you will just be a cog in a brilliant marketing scheme....

Yesterday afternoon worked on perspective for the Wal-Mart interior.... NOT my favorite part of doing these paintings, but a necessary evil. Wish I could not care about it. While I was working, I was listening to archived art interviews (mostly the ones from the Rush Interactive series because I know Michael Rush from South Florida) on WPS1 radio. An all art radio station.... a good thing to bookmark.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Beginning of The Painting That Needed to be Made....

Many decades ago, my father had entered a seminary to begin the process of becoming a priest. He claims that he had recurring dreams about "the children who wanted to be born", and that was what ultimately caused him to leave the seminary and embark on the search for my mother.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a painting that was haunting me. I had an idea, then I dismissed it, because 1.) I can't afford to do a "major" painting right now, and 2.) The idea is a complete departure from what I have been making and what my concerns are. I have lots of ideas that I put down in my sketchbooks, and I can usually let the idea sit for a couple of days... if I am still thinking about it a few days later, it might be worth developing. I was certain that this idea was just a fleeting thought, but the more I pushed it down, and came up with reasons why I couldn't do it, the more it pushed its way into my consciousness. I even went out and started taking some photos for it, printed them out, then changed my mind and put them away. This process happened 2 or 3 times before I surrendered.

So I have ordered the large roll of linen, taped the tracing paper on the wall for the cartoon, and started sketching. Here is the first cartoon sketch for the piece.

These are tiny figures that will sit in the bottom portion of the canvas. The bottom quarter of the canvas represents Wal-M*rt, one of the places where the consumer/celebrity worship cycle begins.
Grant Proposal (mailed today)

"From time to time, I will meet someone, and instantly, the visible weight of his or her life becomes almost unbearable to me, it rips me open. The objects that I make are an attempt to articulate this feeling of exposed vulnerability.

I believe that one of the functions of art is to strip us bare, to remind us of the fragility that we share with every other human being across continents and centuries. Believing that truth is often revealed in an intuitive, sentient manner, I choose content-appropriate, tactile materials: the response I seek to evoke is primarily an emotional one.

For several years, I have been working on a series of bed pillows embroidered with my own hair (and the hair of those once close to me). These “hair drawings” disclose inner turbulence through an open mouth, as if the psyche is being examined while sleeping. The embroidered mouth is positioned where the dreamer’s mouth would be, but this position could also suggest the mouth of the subconscious whispering into the ear of the dreamer. The scale and materials are intimate: the process of embroidery creates a vision composed of threads as fragile as those that make up our dreams and nightmares.

While a handful of contemporary artists count hair embroidery as a medium, none of these artists are creating imagery, using hair as drawing material. The only precedent for representational hair embroidery is in China, where it is dyed bright colors and used as thread, either in traditional imagery, or as a kitschy novelty, i.e, “the Mona Lisa embroidered in hair”.

With a lifelong body of work that is known for being obsessive, this series is by far the most tedious work I have ever done. Each piece takes approximately 3 months to complete, and requires focus far beyond any activity that I have ever undertaken. With each embroidery, I employ a new technique. The first two embroideries were done with my own hair. The piece “My Young Lover” uses the hair of an ex-boyfriend, threading each hair through the pillowcase so it appears to “grow” out of the pillow. “Ebb.” has human eyelashes “growing out” perpendicular to the pillow surface. The newest work in-progess, “Oubliette”, is not executed on a pillow, but will be stretched and exhibited under convex glass in an oval victorian Frame.

I would like to continue the series, pushing the medium even further. I have executed a series of encaustic paintings with similar imagery, and these works are done on several layers of cut wood, creating a shadowbox effect. The underlayer contains the imagery depicted inside the mouth, and the top layer “frames” the bottom with lips and surrounding area (I have provided one image of this painting for illustration purposes). I am interested in exploring the possibilities of doing a similar multi-level embroidery to increase the depth and intimacy of these small pieces. They will be shown in a custom-made oval frame with convex glass, like a relic. The presentation of these small objects is very important to the way that the overall piece is perceived. I will be experimenting with cast frames as well as customized surfaces for the oval frames that I have already found in my research. Each one of these frames with glass costs over one hundred dollars. If awarded the fellowship money, it would be used to experiment with different casting materials, as well as trying some unique surfaces on the victorian frames that are available for purchase. I am looking to produce a series of frames worthy of the time and concentration put into these tiny artworks, containing the right balance of beauty and “edge” to contextualize the insane objects that I am making."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Big Artist Grant that everyone has been talking about has a website, and an interesting blurb about a survey revealing that "Americans value art, but not artists".
New Painting, and Same Old Hair Embroidery...

Yesterday put up the tracing paper for the sketch of my new painting. Pencil taped to yardstick allows me to step back and compose from a distance.

Been working on the embroidery, trying in vain to wrap it up. I think that the cross hatching could be too coarse for the atmospheric area near the horizon.... I may have to rip it out and do stippling instead. As the mouth interior nears completion, I will have to intensify values in the lips so that they will "hold up" to the interior.

Quite a few Sep 15 deadlines.... proposal for 1708 Gallery in Richmond, the Southeastern College Art Conference Fellowship..... these I have been doing in the evenings.

This past Sunday morning, drove 4.5 hours to Myrtle Beach, where I got to play in the pool and the amusement park with Georgia, my amazing 3 year old niece. She went on one of those bobsled rides with me, the ones where they go really fast forwards, then backwards, while going over undulating hills. 3 years old and she LOVED it! Her eyes were sparkling as she squealed with delight.... that's a Kretz gene. Left at 10 pm, drove a few hours towards Atlanta, then finished the trip the next morning... picked up my painting at the Defoors Center, drove 5.5 hours back, hugged my dog, took a shower, and went to the opening at Elon University.... they were kind enough to invite me to be in the faculty show, though I am only teaching a mini-course during the month of January. It was a beautiful night, and we were looking for a place to sit outside and have a beer. We drove from one end of Burlington to another, and after exhuasting all the possibilities, we ended up on our back deck.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Back in the saddle again....

I apologize for the few and impersonal postings of the last few days. Stopping work in my studio to put together lots of documents for the IRS made me very cranky, and I thought I would spare you from that. Being the straight-A Catholic School Girl that I am, the documents I provided to the IRS were divided up according to category, with cover sheets and table of contents for each one. Yesterday I spent the whole day in my studio cleaning up the wreckage and trying to bring my space back from a frantic moving-box unpacking area to a working studio. Today I am hair embroidering, I think I will be able to wrap it up this weekend, despite the fact that I leave at the crack of dawn on Sunday to go to Myrtle beach for the day to see my amazing niece. Sunday night, I will drive halfway to Atlanta so that I might pick up a painting in Atlanta in the morning, and drive 5 1/2 hours home to attend an opening at Elon University here. I should rename this blog "Kate's Studio... the day to day process of being an art driver".

It is interesting to me that it was not until I started making art full time that I realized how intrusive day to day life is. Before, I blamed it all on my teaching responsibilities. Then again, I did get married also...saves you time in some areas, sucks up time in others... coming soon... "married artist vs. single artist".

Thursday, September 07, 2006

great tolstoy quote

"A real work of art can only arise in the soul of an artist occasionally, as the fruit of the life he has lived, just as a child is conceived by its mother. But counterfeit art is produced by artisans and handcraftsmen continually, if only consumers can be found."

I like this quote so much, I am going to make it my email signature. It is too long to put on a pillow, unfortunately, or I would.....

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Artist Grant Program

The New York Times announced "A new charity, United States Artists, will announce today an ambitious plan to provide support to working artists, starting with a grant program that will be one of the most generous in existence. Fifty artists working in a wide variety of disciplines and at various career stages will receive $50,000 each, no strings attached. The first recipients will be announced on Dec. 4.... Panels of artists, critics, scholars and others in the arts are reviewing the applications of 300 artists who were nominated by 150 anonymous arts leaders around the country."

Katharine DeShaw, the group’s executive director, goes on to say "no one is a household name." How incredible. Just when you thought that no one gave a damn.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hot Mid-Career Artists!!

God Bless Lisa Hunter, author of "The Intrepid Art Collector" book and blog (another one that I read consistantly). She was interviewed on someone else's new art blog, where she was asked,

Do you have favorite artists as a BEST BUY value?
"Mid-career artists, i.e. artists over 35, are sorely underappreciated. The current art market worships youth, leaving a lot of wonderful, late-blooming artists on the sidelines. There's so much overlooked talent out there! It's terrible for the artists, but good for the collector. . .I also like craft artists -- glassblowers, ceramics artists, fiber artists, etc. I think crafts are in a similar position to photography in the 1970s. Museums and serious collectors are buying up the established masters, while the general public lags behind, wondering, "Is this stuff really Art?" I think that in a decade or two we'll see crafts having a much more significant role in the fine arts market."

This is the second time that I have heard an expert talk about "the underappreciated mid-career artist" in the past 2 months. A welcome trend?.............
Labor Day Weekend.

Spent Friday scanning 2004 receipts for the IRS examination. Friday night, we went into Raleigh with some friends to do first Friday at the galleries. We went to Artspace, where I have a few things hanging, and then Lump gallery. Lump has an exchange going on with Cinders gallery in Brooklyn. The work of the Cinders artists shares a strong aesthetic vision with work I have seen previously at Lump, primarily cartoony, transgressive drawings and painting, lots of shiny materials and glitter. Not as eclectic in its vision as Branch gallery in Durham, it is still one of the places one can go to see fresh work in this area.

Summer is over, and we have been working our butts off... we entered this weekend determined to enjoy ourselves, at least part of the time. Saturday we spent some time lying in the hammock listening to the windchimes and looking up at the trees, then Kevin and I hopped onto his motorcycle and did a road trip back to Raleigh for the Raleigh vintage motorcycle roundup. It was a gorgeous day, and riding the backroads through farm country, I was full of happiness knowing that I now live in NC, where I have wanted to be for so long. The ride was gorgeous, we took 87 to 64. This is one of the longer bike trips I have taken, almost 2 hours each way. We walked around and looked at the antique bikes, mostly Triumphs, and then went to our now-favorite Italian restaurant in Raleigh before heading back. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, it was the perfect temperature, then every once in a while, the road would dip, we would be in a shady valley, and the air would get cool and damp for a minute. One of the greatest things about being on a motorcyle, aside from it's similarity to flying, is the smells... riding around in air conditioned cars, we are being cut off from some incredible sensory experiences. Freshly cut grass, cows, horses, and goats, flowers, fruit trees, burning wood, hay, someone painting their house with oil-based paint, pine trees. This must be what Radley experiences, sitting in the yard and sniffing the air, gathering information like he is reading The New York Times. We rode back just as the sun was going down, slowing down to spot lots of deer families crossing the road. A lovely day, though I was walking a bit funny after getting off the bike. We crashed on the couch and watched our Netflix movie "Wal-Mart, the High Cost of Low Prices", before going to bed. We vowed not to shop at Wal-Mart, to check our retirement investments to see if Wal-Mart was hidden among them, and to invest any future $ in companies that treat their employees well.

This morning, Sunday, we got up and went for a rollerblade, now I am off ("Ra-a-a-adley, do you want to go for a....... ri-i-i-i-i-de?!!") to pick up my Starbucks and Sunday Times. Kevin and I are doing food experiments for brunch, trying to replicate the Phyllo waffles with salmon and roasted tomato that I had at the Belgian Place in Washington last week, so we can add it to K&K B&B guest menu. I am hoping to get to see "Little Miss Sunshine" this afternoon, and finish the IRS receipt scanning so I can get to make some art this week. Happy Fall! xo K