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Category Archives: Work in progress
Untitled work in progress, 40 x 30 inches, ©2010 Deidre Adams
Well, I don’t know exactly what happened, but after a summer spent mostly unfocused and adrift, I have returned to painting with a vengeance. Maybe it was the change of the seasons, maybe it was getting some lingering projects finished, maybe it was limiting my Facebook and web-surfing time. Or maybe it was going to Ohio — so much yummy urban enchantment & so many fantastic surfaces — plus a change of scenery always does me a world of good. Whatever it was, I now have no fewer than 15 paintings and 4 textile works in progress.
A large part of my creative funk probably had to do with finishing school. As much as I complained and whined about the forced manner of the assignments, of having to do things I didn’t really feel fit with my vision, the truth is that I loved having a place to go and a community to be a part of. Being completely on my own is a two-edged sword: I am for the most part an introvert and find it hard to work with lots of noise going on around me, but on the other hand, the company can get kind of boring when it’s just me.
And my other problem stemmed from the normal letdown after a show is over and all the work comes back and is sitting there in the living room waiting to be stored. The sustained push to create all the work for my thesis gave me an energy that’s hard to maintain when there isn’t the goal of a show looming. It was easy to make excuses — I can’t make panels by myself, I can’t be creative when xyz is going on, etc.
But a little over a week ago, I was rummaging around in my basement for something, and I came across some canvases I had purchased a while back to use in class assignments. Over the last couple of years, I had bought quite a few of these when I found sales. Then we learned how to make our own canvases and panels. By about the 3rd semester of painting class, you are shamed into forgoing the purchased canvases in favor of either making your own (a pain if you’re just not into the whole scary electric saw thing) or buying them custom-made (expensive, and difficult to find someone who can make them to your standards at a price you can afford to pay). In any case, I had a large assortment of purchased canvases on hand, and I thought, why not just get a couple out and throw some paint on them, can’t hurt, right? I had to trick myself into getting back to work. “Self,” I said, “Now, you’re not really doing ‘serious’ work here, you’re just playing around, and if you make something really crappy, no one need ever know. So it’s OK. Go ahead.”
Untitled work in progress, 12 x 12 inches, ©2010 Deidre Adams
And that was all there was to it. I’ve been completely in the groove, just painting away the hours, totally absorbed. It’s that best possible art-making state, when the works just flows; it’s like a meditation, relaxed and most pleasant, and the realization that it’s time to stop and eat or do something else or go to bed or whatever is just plain annoying. This is how it should be.
Untitled work in progress, 24 x 24 inches, ©2010 Deidre Adams
Entangled II, 24 x 24 inches, ©2009 Deidre Adams
Now that school is just about over, I thought I would start posting some of the work that I’ve been doing this semester. Besides the Art Theory & Criticism class, I had two studio classes, Painting V and Printmaking II: Lithography. I’ll start with Painting.
Painting V is the last level of painting that Metro offers, and it is the time when students are expected to be hard at work developing their body of work for the all-important thesis/portfolio show. At this time, we’re expected to be pretty much self-driven, choosing what we want to work on, developing our own proposals, and being given little direction other than feedback on the proposal and the work itself, both in progress and finished. It was a stacked class, meaning that the instructor had another class to deal with simultaneously and so was stretched pretty thin trying to get around to everybody. (Not surprising with budget cuts across the board, but who knows how much worse it will get before it gets better!)
As usual, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to go with for my concept. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas, it’s just the opposite. I have too many, and I feel such affection for each of them, it’s hard to settle on a single one. I went through a couple of false starts before I finally settled on this one idea. It’s something that’s been rolling around in my mind for a long time, but I never could figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it. Part of the problem is that as a highly introverted individual, I’ve always shied away from making work that is too personal, choosing for the most part to concentrate on formal elements and/or safe choices that won’t reveal too much of myself to the world. When my mother died four years ago, someone close to me suggested to me that I should do a piece about it, to allow me to work out my feelings. No, I said, I could never do that. I wasn’t even fully capable of confronting those feelings directly; it was better to keep it all at a safe distance.
Without saying a whole lot more about it, the important thing to convey is that about 4-5 years before she died, my mother began to exhibit signs that something wasn’t quite right in her mind. She was forgetting things, losing things, saying things that made no sense, sometimes displaying irrational fears about things that no one else could see. By the time she died, she didn’t know who I was any longer, but I think from some of the things she said, she might have been confusing me with her older sister.
While I was thinking over ideas for my concept, mulling thoughts about patterns and textures in nature and science, my dad had an accident and went into the hospital. I went down to Albuquerque to see him and deal with anything that needed my assistance. While there, I stayed in my parent’s house, which always makes me think a lot about my mother. I also think about how the things I experienced growing up might have looked from her perspective, how differently those same incidents and conversations would have appeared through her eyes. I think about what she might have been like as a child and a young woman, what kind of hopes and dreams she may have had that never materialized as she continued down the path she ended up choosing.
When I got back home, something I saw, I don’t even know what now, sparked the idea of trying to tie together her experiences with the physical changes that occur in the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s disease. I did a lot of research so I could understand the science of it. Neurons, the nerve cells which transmit brain activity, die when the proteins which are normally broken down and eliminated by the body instead become reformed into hard, insoluble plaques. Microtubules, the brain’s cellular transport system, break down abnormally and the proteins released reform into insoluble twisted fibers called tangles. As these cells die, the brain shrinks. Ventricles, the chambers containing cerebrospinal fluid, become enlarged.
Having seen the outward manifestations of these changes, I visualize the thoughts inside the person’s head becoming trapped: twisted, tangled, and cut off from their normal pathways by these cells and obstructing formations. An idea tries to make its way to a familiar connecting point, but it’s either stopped completely or diverted to a place it’s not supposed to go.
I wanted to use fibers and thread to express my concept, both because I love using them and because these materials seemed like a natural fit to express the concept of entanglement. As more and more thread is added, the surface becomes at once more complex and more unified. The idea is not a literal representation of brain cells, but rather a depiction of how the strangulation of the sending and receiving cells means they can no longer function as they should.
Entangled I, 24 x 24 inches, ©2009 Deidre Adams
These originally started out as strictly fiber works, but the shapes were very wonky and I couldn’t figure out how I would hang them. I also knew I would need several more pieces in the series, especially since these two were so different. I would need to make more pieces with bridging elements to make everything work together as a single exhibit. So I came up with the idea of making a grid of 24-inch squares, and to that end I ended up stitching these pieces to stretched canvas.
I also started a third piece, but since these are extremely time-consuming, I didn’t get this one to a satisfactory state before the due date. I’m not even sure if I want to keep going with it. For now, it’s a UFO (unfinished object).
Entangled III, 24 x 24 inches, ©2009 Deidre Adams
The commission I’m working on is for the new Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe, set to open later this year. This was a very good contract for Translations Gallery, including several pieces by multiple gallery artists. In addition to the commission piece, they also bought this piece:
Horizon IV, 24 x 24, ©2006 Deidre Adams
And this piece:
Horizon XI, 34 x 34 inches, ©2008 Deidre Adams
Progress on the new version of Iterations is coming along nicely. Quilting and blocking the panels separately made things ridiculously fast. No endless scrunching and turning and readjusting. Then all I had to do was square up the adjoining edges and join them to one another.
To put the panels together, I just set them side by side and stitched them together with a closely spaced zigzag stitch. This required getting the trusty Bernina back out, since the Juki does not do anything but straight stitch. Note the use of the very sexy and high-tech masking tape for basting purposes.
After the panels were all attached, here’s what I ended up with:
At this point, I trim off the edges and put on the binding. This is a faced binding which I turn to the back so it doesn’t show. Now all that remains is to do the painting. After the first few layerings, here’s how it currently looks:
Several more layerings of color will be needed to achieve the final depth and richness I’m after. I should be finished by the end of this weekend if all goes according to plan. But other plans for this weekend include writing an 8-10 page paper for Art & Cultural Heritage class, finishing four 22×30 paintings for Watermedia II, doing client corrections on two freelance design projects, and celebrating Mother’s Day and my birthday, both tomorrow!
I’m certainly not trying to say I’m amazing — flat-out crazy for trying to do everything at once would be much closer to the mark. It is very hard to try to do so many things at once and do them all at your very best level of accomplishment. I’ve found myself having to compromise a lot this semester, which I really do hate. I’ve always been (OK, at least since graduating from high school) kind of a sociopath about wanting all As in school. But really, who cares? I’m not some young kid who’s going to be out looking for my first job and has nothing else but a grade-point average to prove my worth. Why can’t I just relax and not stress out about it?
Since I had three studio classes this semester, it really was too much and I just could not devote the amount of time to every assignment that I would have liked. I did make some work that I was pretty happy with, but I wonder how much better I could have done with more time and proper focus? Well, I’ll start posting some of it soon and you can tell me what you think.
I have finals next week, and then on Friday I’m leaving to drive to Ohio, where I will be attending the SAQA Art & Excellence Conference (held in conjunction with the Quilt National Dairy Barn exhibit). I’ll be teaching a 3-day preconference class called Photoshop for Artists. Then I’ll be heading to the Surface Design Association Conference, Off the Grid, in Kansas City. I’ve been wanting to go to the SDA conference for years, and this was the first time it seemed that everything was in place for me to do it. I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in this textile-focused world for a few days. Should be a lot of fun!