Archive for April, 2012

“RockTime” – A New Artwork for Rituals exhibit

Boundary Waters 60 (RockTime)
Virginia A. Spiegel

I seldom like to detour from the themes I’m currently pursuing in my artwork, but the artwork for Dinner at Eight Artists (Jamie Fingal and Leslie Tucker Jenison) wanted to be created as soon as I read the call for this juried invitational.  Jamie and Leslie invited us to consider “An exchange between friends.  A handshake.  A kiss before bedtime.  The artist at work. A sun salutation. The wave before boarding a school bus. A song, a word, a meditation. A habit, a custom.  The traditional toast at a gathering. A rite of passage.  The sacred moments of the ordinary.  Rituals:  What are yours?”

I even, oddly enough, liked the required size, 60″Hx24″W, as it made me think of approaching the work as though it were a scroll.  As soon as I read the word ritual I knew that I wanted to do something about RockTime which is one of the truest rituals in my life: “My sister and I paddle to a campsite, put up our tent, unload our backpacks, and then it is, at last, RockTime.  We spend hours just sitting and looking.  But what we are really doing is engaging in a ritual of being of the place, in harmony with rock, tree, and water.”

Boundary Waters 60 (RockTime) – Detail
Virginia A. Spiegel

I’ll have more details about this artwork as the premier at the International Quilt Festival – Long Beach in July approaches.  In the meantime, the Dinner at Eight Artists’ blog is now featuring invited artists’ profiles, including mine.

Rituals’ sponsor for IQF-Long Beach is Moore’s Sewing Centers and Havel’s Sewing for Festival in Houston.


04 2012

The Great Aunts: A Powerful New Series by Phyllis Moore

 Phyllis Moore at the opening with with Michael James
All photos courtesy of Harlan Heald

My friend Phyllis Moore recently opened an exhibit, Imperfect Pattern/Relative Embellishment (with Susan Bertino and Rebecca Williams), at the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.  The exhibit runs through April 27.  I knew Phyllis was making contemporary quilts, but I was blown away when I received the postcard featuring Great Aunt Ruth.  What a leap to art quilts using abstraction while still maintaining a link to the traditional quilt form.

Great Aunt Ruth by Phyllis Moore

According to Phyllis, I wanted to honor the great Aunts. It was partly a feminist impulse. Most of the family stories in my family are about men and at present-day reunion the stories are told by men. Four of the aunts in the textiles Maude, Delia, Eva and Sudie, plus my grandmother lived within three or four miles of the farm where I grew up, consequently I had a few substantive (although child) memories of these aunts: of their size; their physical and psychological presence; the house where they lived; the flowers in their yards. I also had the only living niece of these great aunts write for me her impressions and remembrance of these women. I felt a bit like Debra Marquart who wrote in her book, the horizontal world: growing up wild in the middle of nowhere. [Lower case was her choice for the title of her book], “As I get older, I become infinitely interested in everything older than I am–old people, old letters, photographs, and papers ….”

I used mostly traditional cotton fabrics in the Great Aunts series. Great Aunt Ruth has a cotton skirt, but her head, pocket and legs are cut from tree wrap. Her blouse is butcher’s paper, complete with w/word “breasts” written on it by the meat counter clerk at Ideal Grocery in Lincoln.  The background for Ruth is all cotton fabrics. The backing for all the pieces in the series is felt.

The Great Aunts Go for a Swim at Midnight by Phyllis Moore

I had not been working long on the narrative pieces. I had completed a tradition piece called The Great Aunts Go for a Swim at Midnight about a year ago. There was a short gestation period  before I began the abstract figures.

The Great Aunts Gather Flowers for the Church Bouquet by Phyllis Moore

The little paper cat on some of the textiles is my thank you to Harlan for all of his support.  Without him I wouldn’t have had a show.






04 2012

Details, Details, Details – Taking A Closer Look

Boundary Waters 53
Virginia A. Spiegel

Kathy Loomis writes an eclectic and always interesting blog, Art with a Needle.  She recently posted an article questioning whether details matter in fiber artwork (both for viewing and jurying) by using the example of my Boundary Waters 53 which she saw and photographed at Form, Not Function.  Read her post here.

This post is a comment in a longer format discussing why details matter as much to me as they do to the viewer. Also Kathy was correct when she said her photography didn’t show the richness of the artwork; these photographs were taken by Deidre Adams.

Boundary Waters 53, Detail
Virginia A. Spiegel

Kathy contrasts the use of detail shots for jurying fiber work v. painting. I do paint on stretched canvas (just for myself) when I’m in a creative rush, but I always miss the lovely dimension and texture of fiber.  I work a lot with paper and collage – ditto.  Interesting, but not THAT interesting after a bit unless I spend a lot of time building up texture. In my fiber work I veer back and forth from basically paintings on cloth with a bit of stitch (such as Boundary Waters 19) to heavily textured pieces such as BW 53.

But as I have always said, technique never trumps message for me.  If you start with Boundary Waters 48 and work your way up to Boundary Waters 53 on my website, notice the color changing and morphing.  It’s not coincidental.  Of course, there is a story I’m telling even if you may not know exactly what it is.

My sister and I were “stuck” on a narrow ledge of a campsite in the Boundary Waters due to high winds and storms for about three days.  In small lulls, we would venture forth from our tent and stare at our only scenery – a huge cliff covered in granite rocks, trees with fall foliage, and a few pine trees.  As the storm progressed, the leaves were beaten from the trees and fell in cascades of red, orange, yellow, and green.  When viewed through the never-ending rain, it was as though streams of color and texture were flowing down the cliff. Toward the end of our stay, the dark wet rock rather than the leaves were becoming the dominate feature of the cliff face.


Boundary Waters 53, Detail
Virginia A. Spiegel

In this series within the Boundary Waters series, I’m trying to show this progression.  I’m trying to show that the very horizontal surface of the cliff became very vertical with the falling of a blurred stream of leaves cascading down wet rock.  I was mesmerized then and I am still amazed just recreating the scene in my mind.  So primeval – rock, rain, leaf; so beautiful in the destruction of a delicate autumn scene back to the underlying and ever-present granite.

For these artworks, the materials list is long:  White cotton cloth, acrylic paint, textile oil paint, felt, hand-dyed cheesecloth, hand-dyed yarn, upholstery fabric, duck cloth, velvet, Lutradur, vintage polyester scarves, polyester fabric, netting, silk paper, silk fabric, and thread.

That’s a lot of materials and you would never know or appreciate their inclusion if you didn’t take a closer look. All the materials were needed to show the texture, the movement, and the majesty of that amazing and dynamic event. It was more difficult than you would imagine to keep all the materials in hand, to sew them down without adhesives, to place them with care to keep the rhythm of the artwork, and finally to sew them again to emphasize the flowing verticalness (if that’s a word) of the scene.

Why weren’t there more works along this vein in the Boundary Waters series?  When I’m out of materials, I’m done.  There is no way I can recreate the lovely compost heap of materials I had in hand when I was seized with the need to recreate this message of the ever-evolving rhythm of life and death in Nature.  But the Boundary Waters series continues exploring this message as it has from the beginning.

I say, thank goodness for detail shots.  If you can’t see an artwork in person, they are the next best thing to show you something more about the artwork and the artist’s intent.  With fiber, and with me, there is always a MORE and detail photography is a useful way to begin the dialogue with a viewer about that more-ness. If you have read any of my book reviews you know my refrain, “It’s not a painting, show us detail photos of surface design and stitching.”  It doesn’t make fiber art less a work of art to show us these things; it makes our art more understandable and even more interesting.

And, of course, I have an opinion about the utility of detail photography and other aspects of jurying. I wrote this post after jurying Journal Quilt Project II and this after choosing the artists for the invitational Sightlines exhibit.




04 2012

Pamela Allen Creates a Special Commissioned Artwork


Two Women in the Wilderness
Pamela Allen

I have long admired the artwork of the amazing Pamela Allen.  I asked her if she would be willing to make a very special artwork to commemorate the seventeen Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness canoeing/camping trips which my sister and I have taken. Yes!

I chose Pamela because of her affinity for artwork about women, the fact we have talked about the joys of having a sister, and the fact that she had been wilderness canoeing in the past.  My only request was that the artwork clearly show both of us and that we were out camping.

Pamela included items near and dear to our hearts:  Our Kevlar canoe glowing in the sun, the trees, the water, our little golden backpacking tent, our beloved paddles, Nancy’s hat with the ear flaps, and an homage to my love of creating found art at our campsites.

I have the artwork hanging in my formal dining room turned personal gallery. I stop by every time I walk by and appreciate another detail of the hand and machine stitching, the choice of fabric, and the wonderful imagery.

I would recommend Pamela most highly for a commission and thank her for this wonderful, beautiful, and meaningful artwork.




04 2012