Monday, March 31, 2008

I am going to finish this hair embroidery by the end of the week even if it kills me. I am working like crazy, and also putting together a new project that I hope to unveil next week.
My extremely cool and art-supportive buddy Heather Stephens was featured in Page Six magazine with her partner Megan Bush. They run 31GRAND Gallery on the Lower East Side... their shows are amazing, and my desire to check them all out in person is one of the big draws to start stepping up my trips to The City.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring in NC, outside our window....
Some hair embroidery this weekend, in between the delayed birthday celebration.

Friday, March 28, 2008

So busy that I (almost) don't notice that this is the first end-of-March in ten years that I am not in NYC.
Artprice reports that, for the first time, Andy Warhol dethroned Picasso in total sales revenues last year. Here are "the top ten artists"... what is not-so-new is that each of the top ten possess(ed) testicles.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

(click to enlarge)

The Insanity of Hair Embroidery
I am reaching that point in the hair embroidery where I begin to question my sanity. From what I can see, the few other contemporary artists sewing with hair are at least smart enough to buy or collect very long hair and tie it all end-to-end, creating consistent "thread". They sew in a linear or graphic, flat style. I am choosing from seemingly endless variations of colors and thicknesses, tying each hair off at the end. I agonize and pull out stitches that are not subtle enough. My hands and wrists ache from tying tiny knots at the end of each strand of hair.

The internet has provided the world with opportunities to see any kind of "extreme" creation. People email each other fantastic sculptures made out of ice, the amazing things that people have made with toothpicks, and other curiosities and pathological manifestations. I am sure that half the people who see this work assume that I am sending it to China to be made.

Artmaking as penance in a non-believing world.
Visceral and tactile materials used on piece that will most often be seen as a 72 d.p.i jpeg.
3 months of my life to create an object that will sell for half the price of a designer handbag.
Cramping physical making while the most famous artists of our day are overseeing corporations and managing brand identity without touching materials.
, fellowships, awards, excellent reviews, university tenure... and I will likely make less than minimum wage on this piece.

But today, as I craft the most subtle clouds possible, the studio window is open. The birds are singing, the air smells like Spring, and I get to spend my day doing what I love, and it doesn't get much better than that.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Still exhausted from the long drive, brain still vibrating from 13 hours straight on the road. Unpacked the trailer yesterday, some long lost paintings are home, at least for the time being. Stayed up until 2:30 last night getting images together for a presentation request, then 2 meetings today. Still managed to sneak in some hair embroidery:

All I want to do is nap, but going to push on with some more embroidery tonight.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So, my husband and I snuck off for a few days on my birthday weekend to pick up some artwork, stopping at the home of some dear friends to indulge in an Easter celebration on the way back.

When it was my turn to be a passenger, I worked on my vein embroidery.
There was a good post at Ed Winkleman's while I was gone.

When I got home, the gorgeous frame for my new piece had arrived:

It has been an unusual couple of days. While I was enroute, I received a call from an artist out west who does lots of work for "the industry", telling me that he had been approached by someone asking him to replicate "Blessed Art Thou" (only smaller, and maybe only the "pretty part") to give the painting as a gift to Ms. Jolie at some benefit. He said he was not going to do it, and I thanked him for his integrity.

Well, back to work on the hair embroidery. This is the first time I will miss the NY Armory Show in a few years, but there is much work to be done here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Artist as Marathon Runner

The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for me..... this hair embroidery is taking so long, and I am very anxious to start some new work. In addition, working on the lips, though they are slightly different than any of the lips before, were not "breaking enough new ground" for me. I rarely do series, unless I am exploring something different enough in each piece to justify spending my time on it. Today I started the challenging part of this piece.

I have often described artmaking as being a process similar to athletic training. You get excited when you run a mile, but then you try to run two, then three, etc. When I did my first hair embroidery, I found it difficult and frustrating.
I honestly didn't know if it was going to work, which was part of the appeal, I am sure. But I learned so much in the process of making it that when I finished, I thought, "I can do better than that, now that I know these tricks". In Oubliette I,
I learned even more about how the nuances are influenced by the order of the colors in cross hatching, where to put long stitches and where to use short ones, how to minimize pull on the crosshatching. And with this piece, Oubliette II, I am confident that the interior image will be even more subtle.

Today while working, I was remembering how I have always been most fascinated by art when I can't figure out how it was made. This process of making one's work stronger is the part that is missing from work made to specs in a factory. It is only when working over and over with a material that you can discover its potential, and push to its limits.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hair Embroidery in Progress

the back:


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

At The Guardian, Adrian Searle asks if big money has replaced the critic in the art world.
He has been on panels all over the world discussing the fact that people with money, rather than those who have the education and the experience, are determining the direction of the market and the making of art stars.

Says Searle of the panels he participates in:
"People blame all the money sluicing round the art world. They blame the internet and the rise of the blogger. They blame the dumbing-down of newspapers and the replacement of criticism with the sparkling, if vapid, preview featurette, and the artist-as-celebrity photo opportunity profile. Who cares about the art or the concepts? They're just the MacGuffin. Tell us about the parties, the openings, the drugs and the dresses. Artists are creative, and creative is sexy and good. Critics are a comedown. Some have hair sprouting from their ears. They're always complaining; they're untrustworthy; they're full of hate and spite and they make everything all so complicated, when all we're really trying to do is sell a lifestyle. Fuck 'em."

It is an encouraging article, despite the cynical quote. Many people hope that, as the market slows down, other aspects of the art world as we know it will change. Mr. Searle suggests that, like artists, critics need to trudge on, doing what they do, not wasting time to measure our immediate effect upon the art world.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hair embroidery lips are getting close. Plan to put in extra hours this weekend to move this along. Gorgeous outside, but hair embroidery does not lend itself to outside work. I am hoping when I get to Atlanta to see the Hand to Hand show at Spruill Gallery, I can see the All That Glitters show as well. I have always wanted to do a glitter painting. I have about $150 worth of glitter in storage in my studio... maybe a Crying Man in glitter?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"I know you feel naked, little darling.
I know you hate living in the country
and can't wait until the shiny magazines
come every week and every month.
Look through your grandmother's house again.
There is an heirloom somewhere."

-from "Heirloom" by Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My friend Sarah wrote a great blog entry entitled Art & Obsession. She referenced my Defense Mechanism Coat, among others. She recently purchased a work of art that haunted her, and, in the post spends time musing about why one might get obsessed with a particular work of art. Ironically, it was one of her works that caused me to do my first trade because I could not get this drawing that she made out of my head.
Sometimes it scares me how much I love my dog.

The hands are doing hair embroideries during the day,
and vein embroidery at night.
The brain, however, is way ahead.... stopping to sketch ideas for about 20 projects on the paper underneath my embroidery hoop while I work. The supplies keep arriving, I put them together in a corner of the studio, and I swear I can feel the energy they are emitting, sitting and waiting to be used. After the completion of this hair embroidery (Easter), I will be a force to be reckoned with.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Kudos to Lisa Hunter of The Intrepid Art Collector, for her post of 1,000 Words: Stories Behind the Pictures. It is ironic that artists are so rarely given the opportunity to let the world know what an individual piece is about. Lectures provide a cursory overview, interviews are guided and edited, but it is always fascinating to me to discover how many layers there are to just one remarkable work. I happen to love the Sarah Sudhoff piece that is featured.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A rainy day, and I am in a funk. I have so much studio work to do, and I must put it aside to do taxes this weekend. :(

Last night, my wrists could not embroider anymore, so I experimented:

and prepped for new work: Today, I embroidered hair all day.
One should never say "never", but I do believe that this will be the last hair embroidery mouth that I will do. No one can really comprehend how long the process takes and how difficult it is. What it is to spend a whole day working on one shadow, then read an article about artist factories. I have some new, still obsessive but shorter-term hair embroideries planned that I am very excited about, as well as some really fun pieces that will take me in a new direction.
Behind the Scenes, Art Assistants Speak Out

Patrick Barkham at The Guardian interviews famous artist's assistants in his piece, "Can you do me a quick cow's head?". It is interesting that Michael Smith, fabricator for many famous artists, traces all of this back to art schools, noting, "one reason young artists are turning to artisans (emphasis mine) to build their work is because of a lack of facilities in art colleges; students can't experiment and never learn basic practical skills. He thinks this problem began when he was at college: 'It was all to do with health and safety fears. The colleges were becoming paranoid about being sued because someone lost a finger or burnt themselves.' "

Universities started following a corporate model years ago, to the great detriment of the students. Did you ever think you would see the day that artists would?

I have used assistants before, I will use them again. As friends have pointed out, if Richard Serra tried to make his own work, it would not exist. But if I had the money, I would employ artisans to make a few extra Koons and Hirst pieces to flood the market, as a performance piece.

It is interesting to note that all the people Barkham interviewed seemed happy with their positions in the process. Most of the assistants I have met are just trying to find a bearable way to make a living, taking away from their own studio time to make the work of a more successful artist, in order to pay their rent. I am thinking of a video I used to show my BFA students. In it, a famous artist made a big show for the camera of buying a birthday cake for one of his assistants: she closed her eyes and blew out the candles. When the famous artist asked her, "What did you wish for?", she replied, "You don't want to know..."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Opening Tonight!

If you know anyone in the Atlanta area, tell them to come out to see "Hand To Hand: 100 Artists Comment on the Iraq War" at the Spruill Center for the Arts. The opening is from 6-8. and the exhibition will be up through April 26th. Wish I could be there to see my friends in Atlanta! Someone email me and tell me how the show looks!

I stumbled upon this quote in an email this morning, announcing a new CD by one of my old favorite singer/songwriters, David Wilcox. My sibs and I have been listening to him and going to see him for about two decades now. His site is

"My question is: can you know too much about a song? How far can we take this thing? Maybe eventually we’ll have a commentary track that plays alongside the music to interpret for the metaphorically impaired. All I know is that it was big fun to explain what they mean to me. I hope they serve you well. I am grateful to have songs to live up to. I almost got the cold that Nance and Nate had, and while I was dragging around I saw the edges of the old abyss. The stompin’ grounds of my past. I must admit, I got curious. I spent so much time in that vague hopelessness as a kid that I thought the world was made that way. But it was only the view from my personal black hole, or the emotional equivalent. So recently, when I passed close to the edge of the old vortex with its own gravitational pull that lets no joy escape, I thought I’d stop in and see what time has done to the place. The wild part is, that when I’m outside of it, I can’t imagine being inside, but when I enter back into that depression, I can’t imagine ever being outside. I forget that there IS an outside. It felt like it had me. But now I have all these belay lines in the form of songs that are anchored to experiences out in the bright light of the bigger world, so I can look around inside the blue abyss and still have some hold on reality. Songs have saved my life that way in the past, and now I get to see they can still do that for me. I hear myself sing: “You’re just down inside yourself,” and the black hole loses some of its pull. Maybe as a songwriter, it’s my job to be willing and able to go back into the poisonous swirling lies of ruin in order to write the travel guide for how to get out. That is what I always wanted from music, and I’m so grateful to feel it working in my life."

I have always hated the word "fan", but I have been feeding off this guy's music in my studio for years. I admire his mixture of humor and despair: it is something I aspire to in my own work. (I love his term "metaphorically impaired", and wish I had had it in my arsenal to describe my haters when I was being interviewed during the "Blessed Art Thou" days.) I have always thought that making art was the reward for depression.... that acute sensitivity was responsible for both, they were just heads and tails of the same coin. (or "companion traits", like those men who are excessively romantic in the classic sense are usually possessive.) The example on David's website is one of my least favorites, but he has done some amazing work. He is playing near here in a few weeks, and the budget is tight, but I am going to try to find a way to see him.

Did not get as far as I wanted on the hair embroidery yesterday, so off to work!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008