Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kwik-E Bliss. Pleasure in seconds.

Some pleasure is in the waiting. Not Kwik-E Bliss.

Kwik-E Bliss., 2014 Mixed media and hand embroidery.

This is the bliss of getting your fix. The kind of fix that you can only get at the convenience store, at dawn, before work.

North Carolina refrigerator repairman and poet Waylon Stefans wrote about his morning stops at the Kwik-E Mart, watching the amazing relief of his fellow patrons getting their addictions fed ahead of their drives into work.

Playing the Mega Millions (here, in stitch) was Waylon's greatest bliss.

The first golden bite into a Honey Bun, the salty crunch of the pork rind, the gentle hum of the Red Bull lighting up your brain... And then there is the sweet kiss of nicotine filling your lungs. Bliss. Enchantment.

Some of these fixes extend beyond the transaction with the clerk at the counter. Take Waylon's greatest fix of all -- playing the lottery.

Every day, before driving to his day job, the repairman/poet purchased three scratch-off lottery tickets and four Mega Millions plays. His truck was filled with lists of numbers to be played. There was always the slightly soggy silver powder from the scratch-offs, mixed with orange Cheese Doodle crumbs, on the filtered tips of the Marlboros in his ashtray.

Painted Cheese Doodles and layered bits of lottery tickets on the card.

The pleasures of the lottery stayed with Waylon, day and night. Imagining what he would do with his winnings was worth the $12 he spent every day.

The year before Waylon died (of a heart attack, alone in his truck in the driveway of his Durham home), Thirteen Blackbird Press published this collection of his poetry. It was his sole publication. His numbers never hit.

(From my faux library catalog card collection for made-up books.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

String Box 4, for my brother and his beautiful family

String Box 4, 2014. Watercolor and hand embroidery.

I know I'm a little obsessed with these String Boxes. I can't believe that I've only made four, because there is something about the contrast of the wild colors of the watercolors and the precise structure of the embroidered boxes that makes me happy.

Another view. Which way is up?

String Box 4 was made for my brother Joe and sister-in-law Charisse. My family is small (my parents, my brother, sister-in-law and my two nephews, who live in Austin.) 

To be honest, sometimes all of the smiling family Christmas photos on Facebook make me feel left out. I don't have children of my own. I'm divorced. I have the desire for a big family, but it wasn't in the cards for me. Although I'm a non-traditional person, I'm not immune to longing for what I don't have. People who have children are so lucky.

WIP. Stitching the crosshairs. 

But what I DO have is amazing. Joe, Charisse, Kelsey, Hudson and my parents, Peter and Min. They are all so loving and kind to me. They all make me feel like I belong to them. They take care of me. I wish I could take care of them, too. 

Before the first stitch.

All I can do is share my love with them (I try to be a good aunt, sister and daughter) and make them things. And String Box 4 is what I made for Joe & Charisse, who bailed me out of an enormous abyss this year. I can never thank them enough. 

Another view of String Box 4, 2014.

This is all I have to give. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Now Showing - Threads of War

By crazy coincidence, a portion of the Denmark-based collaborative art project in which I participated, In a War Someone has to Die, is currently on display in Raleigh. And I'm thrilled that my piece is in the show.

One of the loveliest pieces from In a War. Artist unknown.

Curated by Betsy Greer, the Threads of War exhibition also includes textile art by Bonnie Peterson and work from the Combat Paper Project, in which a military wife, soldiers and civilians make paper out of worn military uniforms.

In a War, installed by Betsy Greer.

I never expected to see this work again. It has been shown several times in Copenhagen. Betsy did a wonderful job installing the collection in Gallery Two at Artspace in Raleigh, NC.
In a War, by Jamie "Mr X" Chalmers.

Selection of languages, textiles. Regram from Andy Bechtel.

One of the highlights of attending the opening was meeting Betsy in person and spending time speaking with her about the individual embroideries. We geeked out together, marveling at the needlework, variety of textiles and beauty of the stitched languages. What a lovely, passionate, interesting woman Betsy is.
In a War. Artists unknown.

(More about the uber cool Betsy: She is a writer, a researcher, and a maker. She earned her MA in Sociology from Goldsmiths College in London in 2004. She is the author of Knitting for Good! and most recently, Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism.)

Variety. Mine is the pink piece with blue and green flowers.

On a personal note I was struck by how much my stitching has improved since I made the piece in 2012. And I was moved almost to tears to see my mother’s handwriting, which I stitched, in her first language, Spanish. My mother has the most beautiful, looping, unusual way of writing.
Satin stitch Arabic. Artist unknown.

Here are the exhibition details: Threads of War, Artspace, Gallery Two
, 201 East Davie Street, Raleigh, NC
, December 5, 2014 – January 17, 2015

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Another Fake Library Card, mofos!

Edgy little Kat di Natale always knew that the rest of us would eventually recognize the genius of her "mofo" critique of early 21st Century life. And here is the proof -- Harper Collins gave her a book deal!

Another faux library catalog card for a made up book.

"Merry Xmas, Mofos!" is the first in what she expects will be a delicious series of guidebooks for the "world weary poseur."

Where else can you learn about using Instagram filters to gussy up the looks of your hideously ugly relatives and their evil spawn? Or find tips for the best way to remain on the functioning side of drunkeness at family gatherings? Martha Stewart? Yeah, right.

WIP: Merry Xmas, Mofos! Watercolor and hand embroidery on card stock. 

di Natale is currently living in her step-grandmother's basement up in suburban Toledo, working on the pitch for her next title, "Trolling Yourself on Twitter for Sympathy and Buzz, Mofos!"

Go, Kat, go!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Naïve? Clueless? Arrogant?

Naïve? Clueless? Arrogant?

WIP: 11/5/14. More than halfway done.

I’m not sure which quality is the most responsible for me taking on this insanely huge piece. Probably a little of all three.

Spanish Eyes has turned into my "Epic Art Project" of 2014.  This is my first X stitch design and only my second X stitch project. (The first being the RuStitch project with Aubrey Longley-Cook.) So clueless is probably the best explanation. Or the least unflattering.

"Money shot." Stitching baby pink floss (4 strands) for the "whites" of my left eye.

The downside is that sometimes I feel less like an artist and more like a machine. But you have to put in the work to create anything, so it that’s how it goes.

Overview of Spanish Eyes.

Since I have a busy, corporate day job and a life full of people I care about, I haven’t had as much time to paint or sketch or play with new ideas. When I have time to focus on art, I sit patiently and stitch my eyes. Not that I don’t enjoy it. Not that it doesn’t excite me to do the work. It is just not so interesting to share with others.

So be it. Head down, keep working.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A second eye emerges

Well, an eyebrow, anyway...

WIP: Spanish Eyes, Oct. 15,2014.

And here is a money shot!

Making Xs.
Moving at the speed of sloth.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Saint Kewpie, redux

I wasn't happy with the first version of the Street Virgins of Brooklyn make believe library catalog card, so I made a second version.

Street Virgins of Brooklyn 2, faux library catalog card.
Hand embroidery and watercolor.

I'd wanted to capture more of the feel of German artist Katharina Fritsch's sculptures, particularly the collection of figures in the MOMA sculpture from a few years back.

Katharina Fritsch collection, MOMA Sculpture Garden. (Photo from MOMA)

My first attempt was too muddy and soupy, not enough pop of color or unnerving crispness.

Detail, yellow Madonna.

To recap the content of this make believe book... Street Virgins of Brooklyn it is the work of Brooklyn poet and Russian translator Kevin Kinsella. In the volume, Kinsella roams the streets of his Windsor Place neighborhood, communing with the biblical yard statuary he finds in alleys and tiny front gardens.

Saint Kewpie, detail.
Kinsella's hauting haikus are responsible for the rediscovery of a forgotten NYC figure, Saint Kewpie, who was horrifically martyred in a Queens apartment incinerator and canonized during the brief papacy of John Paul I.

Process piece. Yellow Madonna from the back.

As the reworking of this card has taught me, a Kinsella's work is never done.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In a War... again (exhibition)

Back in 2012, I contributed to a collaborative, stitched art project call In a War Someone Has to Die, created by Danish artist Hanne Bang.

Follow the red arrow to my piece. (Photo from H. Bang.)

The project collected handkerchiefs from around the world, all embroidered with the line uttered in a matter-of-fact manner by a soldier-for-hire from Africa, "In a war, someone has to die." (Read more about it here.)

Opening night, Copenhagen. (Photo from H Bang.)

The collection has been exhibited several times, most recently as part of the miniTex14 exhibition at the Rundetaarn in Copenhagen.

I was excited to find my pink, scalloped handkerchief on the wall, embroidered with my mother's beautiful handwriting, in Spanish, her first language.

Hanging the works. (Photo from H. Bang.)

I want to go to Denmark to see the whole exhibition! In the meantime, here is a video about it, with lots of wonderful images.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Biblical Yard Waste

Street Virgins of Brooklyn is a collection of photos and haiku by poet and Russian translator Kevin Kinsella. Kinsella wanders the streets of Windsor Terrace, his Brooklyn neighbor, writing poetry and communing with the biblical garage statues he encounters.

Mold is spreading on the card catalog entry for the make believe book.

Even though the Street Virgins was just released this year, physical copies of the book are mysteriously (some would say miraculously) decomposing at a rapid pace. It's as if the books, presumably safe on the coffee tables and bookshelves of their Brooklyn homes, are suffering the same elemental decay of the plaster yard saints they depict. Pages are buckling and curling. Mold is growing on the spines. A chorus of WTFs rises in Brooklyn.

WIP: Saint Kewpie, who was canonized by Pope John Paul I.

The Vatican was not available for comment.

Biblical yard waste sketches, based on photos by Kinsella.

The most terrifying and yet somehow predictable morning in the Kinsella household occurred a week ago.

Kinsella returned home from walking his daughter to pre school to find a small army of neighborhood Saint Kewpies (who was martyred in a Queens incinerator back in the 1970s and canonized during the 33-day papacy of Pope John Paul I) staring menacingly down on him from his front steps.

WIP: Fighting through the decay.
This library catalog card is also decaying at a faster pace than one would expect.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Progress on my big, speckled forehead

Another 50 x 50 stitch section done! And this one only took me weeks.

Where I am, 9/13/14.

I have several thousand more stitches to go on my Spanish Eyes self portrait. I know what I'm going to do this fall and winter.

Spanish Eyes is based on this original self portrait.

So many more stitches to go. And library books to make up.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Accidental Bestiality (Or, Sexual amnesia and Cold War vixens)

Here is my latest stitched, card catalog card for a made-up book.  It's a 1951, torrid little page turner called "She Roared: True Tales of Accidental Bestiality and the Good Americans Who Lost their Lives."

She Roared. Mixed media and hand embroidery. 2014.

In the late 1940s, there were several unexplained gorings among the god-fearing, traveling men in upstate New York. In Utica, detectives never figured out how Frank Watta throat got ripped out. And the Poughkeepsie police never did locate the rest of Bill Bettlefield's torso.

Until Josef Lupin put the pieces together, so to speak, and recognized the Red Menace.

Detail from She Roared.

Soon, other men (with missing fingers, torn of ears and other scars) came forward and told their stories, in trembling, chain-smoking, tape recorded sessions with Lupin.

Seems a mysterious bevy of gorgeous, Eastern European women were lurking in the back streets and roadside motels of the Catskills and Finger Lakes. Hardworking traveling salesmen shared harrowing tales of seduction and attacks by these silk-clad, hirsute, surprisingly strong Natashas and Oksanas.

What the vixens look like!

Stalin had found his way into the American heartland and Lupin documented it all in the pages of this book. (Published by the gold folks at Gold Medal Books, New York, New York.)

Building my collection of made up books is fun.

"She Roared" joins my other made-up book, "Frayed Shawl in the Blizzard," a slim volume of poems from 1919 by a homicidal, Inuit seal hunter who falls in love with a lady seal and dies on the a frozen sea.

Yes, I realize both titles seem to feature inappropriate congress between humans and animals. Don't worry... I have other interests.

Next up: A title from a list of actual 18th century novels. (Thanks, Rick!)

Perhaps I'll tackle this title: "Flim-Flams! Or, The Life And Errors of My Uncle, And The Amours of My Aunt! With Illustrations And Obscurities, By Messieurs Tag, Rag, And Bobtail. With An Illuminating Index!"

Who can resist the lure of an illuminating index??

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flaming Desire (still)

A few years ago, I was obsessed with stitching hazard signs, both real and imaginary. For some reason, the international warning symbol for “Radiation” was one of the first things I ever embroidered, back in 2010. I still have it in pillow form on my bed, even after all of the changes in my life.

Flammable tank. 2014.

I went on to embroider lots of flammable warning signs and a Do Not Enter sign that currently hangs in my living room. But once I began exploring embroidery on watercolors, I haven’t revisited the wonderful world of hazard signs.

One of my first embroideries, Radiation, in 2010.

These days I’m working on a giant x stitch self portrait of my eyes and doing little else with my limited creative time. But I did make myself this little tank top with an appliqued “Flammable” warning sign. A small, quick project that makes me happy.

Do Not Enter, hand embroider, 2011.

I want to revisit the world of hazard signs. Especially ones that I make up. It’s on my very, very long list of projects.

For now, here is a tune for you...  Bill Nelson’s Flaming Desire, from 1982. I used to love back in the day. It’s what plays in my head when I wear this little tank! My heart is still very full.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Half Mad: Another 50 x 50 Stitches

Now I can see out of one eye, at least.

Another square(ish) completed on my Spanish eyes.

This project is insane. Truly insane. What the hell was I thinking? I know that making art requires sitting still, but I hadn't considered just how much sitting still a 6 x 14.5 inch cross stitch would take.

It measures 6 x 14.5 inches. 14 count Aida. 

As I mentioned before, this is my second cross stitch piece. My first design.

I've been binge watching Girls, spending hours alone, bent over the Aida, trying to recreate my own eyes. Rebuilding them, one pixel at a time, in 34 shades of DMC floss.

The colors of my face are tawny.

I feel half mad. I doubt myself.

Mostly, I stitch alone, at night.

I keep going. Hopeful that this will come together. (I may have other personality problems, but no one can accuse me of having a lack of hope!)

It feel like a metaphor for something larger.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Mirror of My Right Eye (Coming into Focus)

Last weekend, I drove up to visit my old friend Keefie in the rolling, green Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I did not bring any painting or watercolor stitching. Instead I dusted off this behemoth.

WIP: Spanish Eyes. My first x-stitch design.

We sat in a cafe -- her knitting, me stitching. It was so nice to get back to my self-portrait x-stitch of my eyes. It's been too long.

Nice to see it coming into focus. But it is huge!

My eyes. They are my high beams, peering out into the world, giving me so much -- as an artist, as a human. My two-way mirrors, into and out from my beautiful life.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer Sticks, Take 1

A tiny piece I finished today that I'm calling Summer Sticks.

Summer Sticks. Watercolor, solvent ink
 and pearle cotton hand embroidery, 2014

It's a small watercolor in the saturated hues that are my current obsession. With a little pair of crossed sticks done in solvent black ink.

I do love the colors. The blue pops in a way I couldn't capture in photos.

Much simpler than the Planets of Durham. Fewer colors and layers. I'm happy with it and I'm ready to try it on a bigger scale.

WIP. Plotting layers.

Next up... Something entirely different, made from painted corks.

This aquamarine blue is catching my eye these days!