How to Enrich your Life

Elements for multicultural artwork
Elements for work in progress on multiculturalism

My tenth birthday fell on Passover.  I was raised as an Italian Catholic but a friend of mine was Jewish and her family invited me to their Seder that year.  I was not sure what that was but my father, who was very big on experiencing other cultures, insisted I attend.  So I did.  Though it was a traditional Seder as far as the prayers and the main meal, at the end they bought out a birthday cake for me.  I did not understand until much later why my parents found that to be so amusing.

Because I grew up in a large city, there were always enclaves of different racial and ethic groups close by and in attendance at my school . Oddly, it was when we moved to a suburban area that I experienced the most diversity as far as close neighbors. The majority of the families living on our block were either African American, Jewish, or Italian.

Neighborhood games 72
Neighborhood Games, Mixed media, Collection Atlanticare

So I knew first hand that being among others unlike me racially or ethnically enabled me to see things from other points of view and helped me to be very accepting of others. It was not until much later that I also began to think of diversity in terms of geographic culture or in relation to sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Enter my friend Claudia who is from Tennessee. I met Claudia doing art fairs and at that time she had been a resident of the North for many years. Not all that long ago in the grand scheme of all the years I have known Claudia, I asked her how she landed North. College was what bought Claudia North and among the many reasons she was accepted at her college was “diversity”.  I never thought of someone from the South as “diverse” in the sense of my definition of the word.  But then I moved to the South.

Assumptions, artist book addressing geographic food preferences

Here, I have met many wonderful Southern people. And yes, they are different from me in many ways and it has enriched my life tremendously. Ok how are they different?  Here are just a few: food, general mannerisms, figures of speech, humor, influence of faith, etc. Not long ago, my friend Alice revealed to me that she is originally from the town where My Cousin Vinny was filmed. I was overjoyed because I absolutely LOVE that movie as it reminds me of several of my relatives.  We decided that at some point, we will have a Vinny party and observe and explain the various cultural nuances of the movie to one another.

On a very different level but still related very much to point of view, last night I watched an interview with Melinda Gates. I am paraphrasing this story but basically she was explaining that it was very difficult for some groups of people and women to get business funding from venture capitalists and gave a very interesting example involving an African American woman who wanted to start a hair braiding business. Because the VC’s were men who had little interest in hair, they asked their wives if they thought it was a good investment. Because the wives were not African American and did not understand the culture of hair in the African American community, they said they did not think it was a good idea. I believe the woman eventually got funding and was wildly successful, however, it shows how unawareness and an unwillingness to learn of a facet of someone’s culture can be a detriment to everyone involved.

other people
The Other, Mixed Media, Collection Free Library of Philadelphia Print & Picture Collection

 

In the past few years, my life has been enriched even more because people of different racial and ethic origins are now related to me by blood. This has had a profound effect on my thinking because now my world has been expanded to consider issues concerning places around the entire globe.

My title to this post is How to Enrich your Life.  While it may not be easy to learn about someone different from you by traveling , moving, or acquiring new relatives there are so many other ways a person can.  There are books, documentaries, organizations with an internet presence, different houses of worship, and meetings in your community that would welcome visitors.  So I guess what I am trying to get at here is that the more we reach out to people who are not like us, the richer our lives will be and hopefully we will be better people for the effort.

Note:  you can read more about the piece pictured above titled The Other by clicking here. 

When Your Artwork Finds You Again

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Every once in awhile, I hear from former customers regarding work they purchased and it is always lots of fun to hear how they have lived with the work through the years.  I had such an experience last week when a customer from the early 1990s contacted me to ask if the piece he purchased could be used for a virtual art exhibition.  He then explained that he and his wife run an art and cultural center in an under served community in Nicosia, Cyprus.  The piece they own is called By Night and they want to feature it as a homage to healthcare workers in their community.

This was very meaningful to me on a variety of levels.  First, that the piece is being used to honor such an important sector of the population.  In addition, artists often wonder if what they do has any long term benefit.  Also, in this case, the idea that something I made in 1993 has not only been enjoyed all these years but has managed to make its home in Cyprus, where it has been displayed off and on and viewed by the local community.

I have thought of this piece and other similar ones recently because I have considered returning to work in this method, as it is very similar to many of the artist books I currently make. At that time, instead of making prints to be viewed as prints, I made them to be cut up and used as collage elements because I mainly worked in the medium of collage.  So the idea that this piece showed up to me at this time, is somewhat of a nudge to possibly work like that again.  

Though I have posted the piece above, I would encourage you to check out the organization’s Facebook page to see other works and events they have featured. It is a great way to “travel” while we are all home.   Check out:  Kuruçeşme Projekt.
https://www.facebook.com/kurucesmeprojekt/

Process of Making an Artist Book

Several months ago, I watched a wonderful video called Between the Folds which went into great and surprising detail on the art of paper folding, also known as origami. The video covers way beyond what we traditionally think of and even gets into how the art form is also being used by scientists to study complicated problems.  So of course after the show was over, I got a piece of paper and started to fold it. The form that I liked the most is pictured below. It reminded me of a mother holding a baby.

Folded paper
Experimenting with paper folding

I saw this video not long after visiting my grandson. One of the things I enjoy most about my visits is participating in his elaborate and nurturing bedtime routine. I started to think of lots of parents and their children and bedtime routines, remembering the one we had with our daughter. It quickly came to me that this was the making of a “bedtime story”.  So I started to experiment with coloring papers and different types of papers thinking of a quilt like form to play with.

quilt squares
Experimenting with colors

After deciding on the colors I would use and folding a number of the squares, I pieced things together as seen below.

quilt together
Squares pieced together

While this may look nice, it was clearly not going to work. My overall idea was to have this structure fold up into one square that could be stored in a box, sort of like folding up a quilt and storing it and taking it out when you use it.  The other problem was that I wanted to add stitching and it was very difficult to stitch in this form. So after wresting with this for several weeks, putting it away and taking it out to think about it some more, I decided it needed to come apart.

Quilt pieces
Form now cut apart: what to do next????

Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on the ‘quilt’ idea and not enough on the ‘story’ idea.  Perhaps putting equal emphasis on both: the quilt and the story?  I found some handmade paper I purchased a few years ago that spoke to me for no reason except that I knew they would be perfect for something someday.  That day came today. So here is the current version of the Bedtime Story, though it is still far from finished. The smaller squares are not yet glued down so this is a layout pictured below. I will post the piece when it is finished.  I am also documenting this via short (1 minute) videos on my Instagram account.

quilt book form layout
Getting there but not done yet

 

Postscript note:  you can now see the finished project here. 

Artwork in Progress

All the houses in progress
Yet to be Names Work in Progress

Early in the winter of 2018, I set out to make 60 small houses to fit in a particular box.  I did not know what the end product would be like but I set a goal to finish them before April of this year and here they are.  Now they are not “complete, complete” yet, it is still a work in progress, meaning, the houses still have to be strung together and I have not yet decided whether that will be a more vertical format or a more horizontal format. And this is a poor photograph to top it all off.  (John if you are reading this, I will eventually get that camera!)  In any case, I had decided originally that the piece would be called suburban sprawl but the more I worked on it, the more they reminded me of the urban row homes I lived in most of my life so felt that the use of the word suburban seemed wrong.  I am still going to make a piece called suburban sprawl but it will be different from this.   I plan to complete this piece very soon and will post the final project then. You can read the original post related to this entry here. 

 

Installation Art

Window on Broad
Any Back Yard, 2006

Probably the first thing I should do here is describe Installation Art for readers who may have heard the term (or maybe not) but never quite knew what it was.  Installation art is a themed exhibition that takes up an entire space, is temporary, and generally is not marketable unless an institution purchases the whole installation for its permanent collection.

My first memorable experience with installation art was sometime around 1990 at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire.  My family was there visiting my mother, who had relocated there a few years earlier.  I cannot recall who the artist was or the exact message, but I do recall the work was making a statement about trees, possibly the exploitation of trees?  Anyway, I was very impressed how this artist used the medium to present a message.   A second installation that impressed me was on display at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  It was was a map of the local rivers, streams, creeks, as well as ones that no longer existed.  The map was made of glasses filled with water (or turned upside down if the waterway no longer existed). The size of the glass seemed to represent the size of the waterway.Read More »

The Origins of the Cookie Cutter House Project ~ Part 2

Mountainside Village
Mountainside Village, circa 1990s, Private collection

My work process started to include a variety of papers, many of which I made or altered by painting or printmaking techniques.  I have tried a number of different surfaces but paper remains my favorite to this day.  The satisfaction of making paper and altering the surfaces of manufactured paper resulted in my including other materials in my work such as stitching and wire.  The house and building imagery increased and also seemed to go from grand buildings (as in the cut paper work in my last post) to singular structures and small groups of less grand buildings. Other samples of this work are shown in this post.

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