Friday, February 29, 2008

Listening to PS1 podcasts while hair embroidering. Any female artist who refuses to call herself a feminist should listen to the interview with Judy Chicago on PS1 Art Radio to truly understand what it was like to be one of the woman artists who paved the way for us not so long ago.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One thing led to another, and dozens of webpages later, I found myself reading this amazing article in The Guardian, Divine Inspiration. A highlight from psychoanalyst Adam Phillips:

"It is not news, even though it is continually shocking to see, just how much envy insidiously corrodes our pleasure in other people's gifts and talents. What is more difficult to apprehend is just how fearful people often are of their own inspiration, of their own odd and unfounded thoughts, and therefore how prone they are to sabotage it and attack it and trivialise it. Often just by ignoring it. If to be inspired means, as Eliot said, to be even momentarily unintelligible, unrecognisable to oneself, then inspiration is akin to possession, to being taken over. And this, for some reason that is worth considering, does not come naturally to most people.

However much we want inspiration, if it disturbs our normal sense of ourselves then we are going to resist it. Most people are not seeking self-knowledge; they believe - they live as if - they already know who they are. So self-knowledge in this sense is the enemy of inspiration, our best defence against this alien invasion. As in sex, we may long to lose our composure and self-control but there is one thing we desire even more, and that is not to. Self-knowledge protects us from inspiration; inspiration, like sexual desire, undoes us. For non-believers, inspiration is more like sexual desire than anything else; a fascination, a fear, and something we think of as having a secret solitary pleasure attached to it."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hand To Hand and the Importance of Materials

As I have been out of school (and the accompanying "homework") for quite a while now, it is always challenging when a project comes up that needs to be executed within certain parameters. Last year, I was asked to participate in Hand To Hand, a project conceived by Atlanta artist Cecelia Kane. Each artist was given a specific week, and had to take one headline about the Iraq war from each day and respond to it. The work was supposed to be executed in our own visual vocabulary, but also be specifically about a particular news story, as opposed to a general piece against the war. We were given 6 white cotton gloves, one for each day of our week (minus Sunday), and two to experiment with. I had April 2-7, 2007. The hands reference prayer, and the gloves are displayed en masse and are meant to be seen as a kind rosary bead when placed side by side. Here are some pics of a previous installation: in this case, Cecelia did all of these gloves herself, but as the war has gone on, she has enlisted other artists to help her. I decided a while back that I was going to dye most of my gloves. There was a point at which I thought I would do all of them using my own kid gloves because they are more skin-like, like my 2001 Psychological Clothing piece "Bleed.", but another artist did that last year. I dyed my gloves a while back, and did the preliminary painting, but, like everything else I do, I could not let them go until I embellished them a bit more.

This article was about the findings that there was no link between Al Queda and Saddam:

This article was about the Democrats refusing to approve more $$ for the war:

This was an article about a specific army guy who made a point of visiting every wounded and dying man he heard of. You can't really see that I embellished the painting with gold thread:

Sorry for the bad photo: shot these on the fly before boxing and Fed Exing. This was the story about McCain visiting the market. I photoshopped 3 pics together, printed them out and applied it to the glove, them embroidered a TV set around the image:

This was about those British soldiers who were captured, put against a wall and blindfolded... they thought they were going to die:

This one turned out way too cute for the tragic story about a soldier who had a VERY difficult early life, joined the army, became blind, got PTSD, an amputation, has become violent, and is now in jail. I used the intense vermilion velvet from 2 weeks for the fingertips:

Working with the very thin, fragile and stretchy fabric was a challenge, as was embroidering on the gloves without taking out the seams. While I was barely working on art last week, I was doing a lot of thinking about the Formalism vs. Conceptualism debate that was going on at Ed Winkleman's last week. I have known for a while now that every time I start a project with only a concept, with an agenda, the work is a failure. It is only when I start with an excitement about the materials, the light quality, or some other formal problem, and the concept develops alongside that, changing and deepening as the work is conceived, that my work is successful.

For example, I am still deciding what is going to go in the middle of this piece:

I have a few ideas, and I am entertaining new ones, but I am IN LOVE with this flesh colored velvet, sensually bulging out like flesh from between the embroidered veins:
Louise Bourgeois said that "all art is a seduction", and I feel confident that if I can't keep my hands and eyes off of this, that others will certainly feel the same way.

The newest Hand to Hand exhibition opens March 6th (6-9pm) at the Spruill Gallery in Atlanta. I am so looking forward to seeing the show, but will not be there for the opening.

Onward. Hair embroideries with breaks for playing.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I was able to get SOME embroidery done over the past week, while on roadtrips and in the evenings (when I was too beat to do anything else). We had a great weekend with our friends, and today, I am obsessing over my Hand-to-Hand Project, embellishing them further before I mail them off. Will post pics tomorrow.

We have new art. My Anniversary Present from Kevin is a piece I have been coveting from friend and artist David Schaeffer:
Kevin's Anniversary Present from me:
Safe Prom Dress

I tried to find the source and failed, but this is too good not to post:
"Dad makes prom dress out of condoms". It's purdy, too....


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Artus Interruptus

Well, I was on a roll... playing in my studio like I have not done for years, mixing painting and fiber in new ways, experimenting with light, ordering new oval and round frames, embroidering... I was still working en route to Pittsburgh for an unexpected funeral (have your living place tested for carbon monoxide), and on the way back. When I came back, my husband had ripped down all the ugly paneling, wallpaper, and a partition in the kitchen. Because he did all of that (and the priming), I did the painting and faux finishing, and restained the moulding. The original plan was to do my part over the course of a few weeks in the evenings, but the exciting news that two friends from my old Miami art gang planned a visit to the Kate & Kevin B&B sped up the process. So I have been climbing on scaffolding & painting for almost a week now. I am in pain and exhausted, and have been more than a little bit cranky thinking about the stuff waiting in my studio. But phase one of the kitchen renovation is done, it looks awesome, and I am back in the studio on Sunday, with no interruptions as far as the eye can see. Tomorrow I meet Elmer & Jane in Seagrove to see what all the fuss is about, then we come back here for more NC fun this weekend. Will be serving Tapas in my new kitchen...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Things are getting quite heated over at Ed Winkleman's... another battle of The Formalists vs. The Conceptualists.
I am busy putting the finishing touches on the faux finish walls of my kitchen, so today I am a Formalist, but, on most days, I swing both ways...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I wish that I was in London, to see the Sleeping & Dreaming exhibition.... a review from MyLondonYourLondon is here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Factory painting has been around for a long time. I am remembering a scene in a not-too-memorable movie called "Surrender": Sally Field played an artist who works in a painting mill, and, as it was her job to paint all the water portions of the landscapes, she would occasionally insert a depiction of herself drowning in said water. But no one has ever pretended that factory paintings were worthy of settings more glamorous than the hotel ballrooms and gas station corners that presently house them. The current post at Art World Salon, "Welcome to the Art Factory", suggests that these Chinese factories are aiming higher, looking for new clientele. When compared to a Chinese sweatshop, working in Jeff Koon's factory must be like working for Ben & Jerry's.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Matthew Gurewitsch, from The Wall Street Journal, loves "Pricked".
It is 1 a.m., and we are in the middle of a freak snowstorm. I am up late because I am putting the finishing touches on a presentation for UNC Raleigh students tomorrow. I am hoping that school will be in session after the work I put in today... this is a lot of snow for NC. The topic is "life as a full-time studio artist". Here is the handout that I am giving them:

Jobs of A Professional Artist

-research for your work: your work will get stale quickly if you do not maintain your sketchbook and feed yourself with films, books, talk with other artists, and looking at art

-motivate yourself:
outside the demands of the classroom, some people have problems continuing their work... learn what works for you as a motivational process... look at art and magazines... go back to what inspired you to make art in the first place...learn how to deal with rejection... recall positive feedback, sift through negative feedback to see what is relevant to make your work stronger

- make work:
prioritize, don’t let other parts of your life “swallow up” studio time, unplug phone, treat it like a job, explain to family & friends your priorities/ that this is not a “hobby”, DO IT - don’t talk about it.

- critique work:
swap studio visits w/a friend or join a group {beware of the groups that talk but don’t work}, spend time w/past & present work-spread out to really see & think about where your work has been & where it is going, be on guard for work becoming “assembly line”, or for any outside influences which seem to want to dictate what your work should be.

-prepare & install your work:
make your work presentable-prepare it for hanging or installation, check it between shows, clean glass, etc, if there is any complexity to assembling or installing your work, provide typed instructions (with diagrams if necessary) w/the work, learn how to pack your work for safe shipping, spend time at galleries & museums looking at exhibit design & presentation for ideas, learn how to light your work to its best advantage, how to safely load a truck w/your work, drive a rental truck/trailer

-document your work:
jpegs, slides (some people STILL want them), video walk-through of the gallery or studio, installation shots, B&W photos (& head shots of yourself), jpegs

slide packets out, work out, shows entered & dates, “next packet” list, deadlines, price lists

-keep abreast of what is going on in the art world:
attend as many shows as possible, constant visits to the library/bookstore to look at books, visit to see new releases in your area, subscribe to magazines or read them at the library religiously, read your local paper, the NY Times, free papers and art blogs

go to as many openings and artist’s talks as possible, exchange studio visits, have an open studio, join museums, sign in every place you go, leaving your address for mailings, volunteer at a museum, join a group, if you go to a friend’s opening, ask them to introduce you to the contact person, after an evening of networking, write down the names of the people you have met, and their spouses, assistants, other important people.

- research opportunities:
get on the mailing list of your Cultural Affairs Center, check newspapers, free papers and magazines for listings, if you go to a show or see an ad for work that is similar to yours, send the gallery a packet, research exhibition & grant opportunities through resource volumes and the internet, subscribe to listserves on the internet, create your own opportunities for show venues.

-collect information & archive:
just because you do not qualify or you are not interested today, don’t think that it won’t be important can share and swap info with others.. keep a file of galleries that you are interested in, contact names, grants, annual/biennial shows, rejection letters (to approach them a few years down the road), art shipping companies, postcard printers, etc., MAINTAIN your mailing list.

-be the source of information about your work:
artist’s statements (appropriate to the selection of work and venue), Powerpoint lectures (include slides of important influences) and be able to talk about the work on various levels to the respective audiences

-maintain your reputation:
be professional & reliable, sincere, self confident/not cocky, keep the ego in check, get some perspective on how you are perceived, instill confidence in those who will be dealing with you in
business situations, follow through on all transactions

-build your resume:
take all opportunities to exhibit, help with art projects, volunteer to give a talk if you have a show, teach a class or workshop, put any additional education on your resume, be sure to check for reviews if you are in a show (I use Google Alert)

-publicize your work:
if gallery doesn’t provide invites, upgrade or print your own, print provocative flyers, write press releases & send to all papers and radio, place ads if you can, have business cards with you whenever you go to an art function, if you can make a connection with another interest group, consider publicizing within that group, mass emails before all openings, don’t waste extra invitations...if you have extra, buy or research new people/galleries for your mailing list, drop off a stack at other art places in the area, think of creative new ways to publicize your work, every exhibition is an opportunity to introduce new people to your work

maintain a website and/or blog, have your images availble for viewing SOMEWHERE online, join free registries, visit art blogs & comment, website address on ALL correspondence, study web hits periodically to determine how people find your site

Tired. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I had a dream like this once.

That New York Advantage

I have been reading many comments in art blogs recently suggesting that it is no longer imperative to reside in New York in order to have an art career. Because the internet allows for the rapid transfer of images and other information, many suggest that it may be possible to live and work someplace else, shipping one's work to the gallery representation in New York. But wait... how do you get the NY gallery representation if you do not live there?

I have never really felt that I had the option of moving to New York, even though I spent half of my life only 3 hours away in Binghamton. I have health issues that necessitate insurance coverage, so after grad school, I had to find that university teaching job with benefits.

I have made various efforts to "break in" to NY... Two years ago, I spent $4,000 to rent a studio and tiny apartment in The Village for a month. I set up my work like a gallery, and invited people to come. It lead to a few great opportunities, but it became apparent to me that this effort was only the first step: I needed to come back to the city frequently to maintain the contacts. I now average 4-6 trips a year, and would go once a month if I could afford it. At one point, I also found a great deal where I could buy a time share in a NY studio downtown: for $120 a month, I got a key, a slot in the painting racks, and the right to reserve the space to show work to curators. Unfortunately, the place shut down a few months after I joined, and I never had the opportunity to use it. (I would do it again in a heartbeat if I found another deal like that one.)

I have noticed that most artists who live in NY could not fathom living elsewhere. I presume that this is because of the proximity to all the great art they get to look at, as well as the advantage of having a studio that is easily accessed by the Whitney Biennial people when they finally come to call. I have also heard NY dealers make fun of the art professors from all over the country who descend upon Chelsea every Spring Break and summer, slides in hand, looking for representation.

Why bring up The New York Question when I am happily ensconced in NC, having one of the most productive stints of my life? Because last week, I got this email...

A friend was curating a show, and asked for help finding artists who did this very specific type of work. I sent out some emails to people I know, and eventually came to exchange emails with some people I had never met. One of them was a dealer who represented an artist I was trying to contact. After some email exchanges, this dealer's artist was contacted by my curator friend: all involved were very thankful. The signature at the bottom of my emails always contains my website link, and the gallery owner, who is located in Washington, DC, went to my site, looked at the work, and continued to email me with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, even after it was a done deal for her artist. The email suggesting that she had a curator friend who loved "my kind of work" was followed by another correspondence from her BlackBerry, that read, "I don't believe in coincidences", i.e., "I was meant to find your work". The momentum was building to a feverish pitch, it was like the potential of a new love affair, with messages appearing every few minutes in my inbox that afternoon, until the second-to-last one....

-"Wow! I'd love to meet you. Are you in NY? I go quite often. Would love to visit your studio."

-"Well, I live and work in Burlington, North Carolina. I go to NY every other month or so. I will be there during the Armory Show in March. I have stuff at the Museum of Arts & Design through April, and a few pieces at 31Grand Gallery on Ludlow St. through, um, Saturday. I am always in Miami for Art Basel, and I have quite a few friends in Washington who I visit 1-2x per year. I would be happy to show you some work next time I am up North, or you are welcome to make a studio visit if you are ever passing through, we are 35 minutes from Chapel Hill. -K"

"Kate- I thought you were in NY. Thank You."

THUD. and then nothing.

So I can't help but wonder, all other things being equal, what might have been if I lived in New York. I will be talking to some MFA students later this week, and will be offering a slightly different answer to "the New York question" than I normally give.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A long couple of days in Pittsburgh with my extended family, followed by a Sunday post-mother migraine. Managed to get some embroidery done in airports and airplanes:
Painted my kitchen this morning, followed by hair embroidery this afternoon.

Out in the world, Ed Winkleman is surveying artists about why they show with galleries today. At the Guardian Arts Blog, Germaine Greer asks why so many women artists make art about themselves. I'm going to think about that one while I repeatedly thread my own hair through a needle to create an embroidery of my reoccuring dream imagery. : )

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

virgin silk velvet
If you love color, there is nothing more beautiful than watching fabric as you drop it into dye.
The first piece was too dark.... vermillion. I did a second piece, and it came out this perfect fleshy hue.
I am spending this evening dyeing fabric. I must fly to Pittsburgh tomorrow for a funeral, and, besides flying time, there is a 4 hour layover in Atlanta. Hair embroidery and the cross stitch project are not suitable for travel, so I must dye some velvet that may be embroidered on the trip. The trick is... not going to a funeral with red hands.

(click to enlarge)
A full day of hair embroidery. 6 p.m.
This morning on SELLOUT, Deborah Fisher adds an inspiring and challenging take on how to deal with those nasty sexism-in-the-artworld statistics.
It is 70° here in NC, the embroidery with morning coffee will be done outside, before the heavy work starts.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Newest hair embroidery, Day 4 (click to enlarge)......
Today, at Ed Winkleman's, they are discussing why women artists are STILL not as shown, collected, written about as male artists are. Thanks for noticing.
Nighttime project.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Marginalized No More

The February issue of ArtNews gives a great review of Pricked: Extreme Embroidery. Yours truly did not get a specific mention, but it is fantastic that the show is being reviewed by a bona fide art magazine, further validating the use of craft in contemporary art.
I am happy to report that I am in the midst of a creative firestorm the likes of which I have not experienced in years. The process that I described a few weeks ago (in the middle of that very long post) has set off a chain reaction of experimentation: I am combining media, making some huge leaps in my work. Some of it will go nowhere, as that is part of the process, but I have never felt so good about the potential for my work, or so excited about the many different directions I seem to be stretching in. In the past, I would often note in my students (and in myself) the tendancy to think that we are taking a huge leap in our work, trying some great idea, and we realize after the fact that it was not, in fact, a big step, it was a tiny step. I feel like I am finally taking some big steps in the work.

I finished my most recent Art World Truth piece yesterday (click to enlarge)
and I continue with the current hair embroidery. In the meantime, supplies are arriving and I am testing some of the structural and logistical aspects of these new ideas.

Psychologically, I am sure that what is happening in the studio is bolstered even further by the fact that it feels like Spring is here, and we are FINALLY (after 2 years) painting the rooms of our house in some brilliant hues, so it is starting to feel like home.

Then I opened up the New York Times yesterday morning, and serendipitously, there is a great Carol Vogel article on Jasper Johns. I have always admired the constant boundary pushing of his work. His imagery has stayed somewhat consistent, but the materials have always been stretched and prodded, to gorgeous effect. I am planning a trip to NY in March, and in addition to the Armory Show and the Biennial, I have his show at the Met to look forward to. He is an old-school master, a successful artist’s artist (I read some where recently that the "artist’s artist" term was a euphamism for artists who have been plugging away and never got as much recognition as they deserved). As I was reading the article, I was thinking about how antithetical this man seems to be to the art stars we have today. I was considering that this push of your materials can only come when you are WORKING with the materials YOURSELF. When we read about artists with factories, the art seems to be launched like a product: get an idea, develop the concept for its seductive properties, then get your people to make 20 of them (or whatever number has been proven to be the ideal number for a series, putting enough of them in circulation to validate them as an important suite, but making them scarce enough to be sought after). Then, at the end of the Johns interview, this was addressed:

"Unlike so many contemporary artists producing in today’s overheated art market, Mr. Johns relies neither on dozens of assistants nor a computer to make his creations. He executes his work by hand. “It’s a different art world from the one I grew up in,” he said, relaxing in his living room in a pair of khaki shorts, a light blue shirt and sandals. “Artists today know more. They are aware of the market more than they once were. There seems to be something in the air that art is commerce itself.

“I haven’t really been a part of it, although I’m sure in some way I am. It just doesn’t interest me.”

Asked what influence he feels he may have had on those young artists, Mr. Johns paused. “To me,” he said, “self-description is a calamity.”

My friend Elmer also sent me this link to a slideshow featured with the online article.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Been hair embroidering this morning. For some reason, I enjoy listening to voices rather than music while doing hair embroideries... maybe because I need the calming effect while executing a frustrating activity. I have worked my way through all the P.S. 1 art podcasts, and now working my way through the artist interviews at Bad at Sports. So far, they are pretty good... a bit more chit chatty than I am used to at the start of each session, then they get down to business, and the interviews are informative and thought provoking.

Deborah Fisher had a great post yesterday on "what you thought being an artist would be like in school" vs. what it is actually like.

On the large embroidery hoop: