Earth is Sum of its Parts with Strings Attached
As the environmental crisis gains traction, I am re-publishing a blog post of January 2011. Although, my focus in art is printmaking, I have also created some textile art, one of which featured in this post. Your comments are welcome:
Social commentary has been expressed in art forms back to cave drawings. Social movements, war, politics, religion, oppression and more have been given a point of view and voice with brush, pen, film, theatre and many other mediums. Think of John Lennon's "Imagine", Dorothea Lange’s photography of the Great Depression, Charles Dickens, or the art of children in concentration camps, just to name a few examples.
Recently I watched the first in a six part, documentary series about poverty worldwide on Link TV entitled "The Price of Cotton." The documentary, filmed in Mali and Texas, relates the story of cotton farmers in Mali, trying to gain access to markets juxtaposed to a Texas producer whose fate is in the hands of the American market system. In both instances, the small, non-corporate farmer falls victim to a system that serves the large agri-business system worldwide.
The cotton farmers in Mali are unable to compete in the market due to the price set by World Trade Organization (WTO). The family farmer in Texas is dependent on farm subsidies to remain in business - subsidies that will likely soon be discontinued. Farm policies favor the corporate farmers worldwide. There is no cohesive policy within any country or countries to stabilize the farm sector.
In my textile art piece, "Earth is the Sum of its Parts....with Strings Attached," my intention was to reflect the disconnect and disregard of nations to the impact of their policies on the environment and people in other parts of the world. Policies are implemented by Governments to serve interests within their own boundaries, ignoring the resulting consequences to other nations, their environment, economies and people.
The documentary, “The Price of Cotton*,” shows clearly the influence of powerful nations in setting world prices and markets for cotton has affected already impoverished African farmers, and now hits back to the American family farmer too. It also shows the power of art in the form of documentary to tell a story.
*"The Price of Cotton", as well as the other documentaries in the poverty series can be viewed on Link TV online.
Your comments are welcome! Do you make social commentary with your art? What commentary in art form has moved you to action or informed?
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Walnut Street Gallery, Ankeny Iowa, in conjunction with the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce is hosting an evening at the Gallery with local artists, great music and yummy foods too! Join us Thursday, June 9th, 4-6 pm at 301 SW Walnut Street in Ankeny, IA.
I am very pleased to be represented by Walnut Street Gallery and participating in this event. Seven area artists will be on hand to talk with visitors about their artwork. Come and see some fantastic artwork in different mediums, meet and talk with the artist too. Represented are Angela Meron, Bonnie Samuel, Doug Fletcher, Liz DeCleene, Mark Stoltenberg, Michael Glaser, Noelle Gibbons. Come and enjoy the arts! Some fabulous door prizes too.Comment on or Share this Article →
Path of Gold
My website, Bonnie Samuel Artist, sits on the host platform of Fine Art Studio Online. The majority of artists who use this platform are painters in traditional mediums-oil, acylic, watercolor. There are just a few of us "textile artists" who have FASO websites. Recently, I've been asked to describe my art medium.
Textile art takes many forms, but all have to do with creating with fabric or on it. For my part, I paint on silk primarily, either wearables or art where silk is the canvas. But I also like to create my own art cloth, which becomes a piece of art in itself or combined with mixed media and other art cloth as an art piece. Visit my gallery to see various examples of my silk art and textile art.
Most are familiar and understand silk art, but I'll describe the process of creating a piece of textile art. Keep in mind, there are many variances in materials, applications and technique, as well as outcomes in textile art! I'll use one of my own art pieces to illustrate, "Path of Gold."
First, I created the art cloth using the silk screen process, using a design of organic shapes as a template. Thickened dyes were used to silk screen, that is push the dye through the screen and template onto the cloth. On this particular cloth I screened on multiple layers with 3 different colors. This particular dye (MX Procion) requires heat processing (about 24 hours), then washing, drying.
If you look closely at the picture of "Path of Gold", you'll see it appears to be in sections. It is. I cut up the cloth, then rearranged and reassembled by sewing together, carefully aligning and adding in some accents of orange fabric. Next I used a technique called free motion stitching to accent some of the shapes in the cloth. To achieve a more textured appearance, the cloth is mounted on cotton batting before stitching.
The theme of the piece, "Path of Gold," is portrayed by the circular free motion stitching in blue that meanders through the cloth. The circles were then filled with gold paint. The frame was created with muslin I painted and attached to the perimeter. I added sculpted flowers also made from the muslin.
This art piece involved several processes and techniques, as well as time. While there are many techniques and materials used by textile artists, my preference is paint on cloth as my foundation.Comment on or Share this Article →
Through Facebook, I have met some very interesting people, many of whom are artists. There are three women who are particularly special for their humanitarism and also in their support of indigenous peoples' art. They are Ellen Agger and Alleson Kase, founders of TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles. The third is Valerie Hearder, founder of African Threads, who will be the subject of my next post.
Ellen Agger and Alleson Kase founded TAMMACHAT Natural Textile as a fair trade, social enterprise to support weavers and artisans in Thailand and Laos. These artisans are indigenous people who are carrying on the traditional arts of silk and cotton textile production creating beautiful fabrics and wearables. "We founded TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles to bring together our interests and expertise in SE Asia travel, weaving, fair trade, photography and supporting women weavers in rural Thailand and Laos, " says Ellen Agger.
But Ellen and Alleson, who travel regularly to SE Asia, also believe that helping the artisans is also about raising consciousness about human rights and the environment. Says Ellen, "We believe that people impact human rights, communities and the environment with every purchase we make. So, it’s important that people have access to fairly traded and environmentally friendly products."
I refer you to the TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles website to learn more. You will find resources and links to info about Fair Trade and the work of many other organizations who share their vision. And you will also find the TAMMACHAT shop with the beautiful silk and cotton fabrics and accessories made by the weavers of Laos and Thailand. The traditional designs, beautiful colors and masterful weaving makes each piece indeed a work of art.
A week ago I blogged on "My Observations on Textile Art in England," noting that the English are in a different place, a bit ahead of us here in the states. I posted this topic also on Linkedin where a lively discussion ensued. Art teacher and artist, Leisa Rich, offered the following thoughts with great links to textile art exhibitions and shows in the US. With Leisa's permission, here is her comment:
"Thank you so much for starting this discussion. The textile, or fiber arts, has been a growing and important part of the art scene for decades in the U.S., going particularly strong over the last few years and gaining momentum as I write this. Recent exhibitions such as "Pricked: Extreme Embroidery" and "Radial Lace and Subversive Knitting" at the Museum of Art and Design in NYC, publications such as Fiberarts and Surface Design, important artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Ann Hamilton, Mark Newport, Do Ho Suh....I could go on and on and on - there are so many fascinating artists working in new ways with old techniques and materials...as well as new! who have introduced the United States to the power of cloth, stitch, weave, dye, and more.
I believe you noticed more in the U.K. because they value the contribution of a variety of methods, materials and mediums; we do not. Painting is "king" here in the states and we are egocentric in the art world as well as in life, religion, politics, food and more. While I study painters, sculptors, videographers, mixed media artists, photographers, printmakers, installation artists, performance artists, outsider artists, and more, as well as fiber artists, many painters I know...know painters.
"Fiber" art is gaining more and more importance, and so it should. It contributes in historical, social, and artistic ways that are crucially important to art. It is no longer your grandmother's quilt. As you can see, I am passionate about the topic...and thank goodness that other countries value it highly. The ball is in the U.S. court to keep growing awareness of this valuable art discipline, and it seems an active mandate among most of the fiber artists I know to gain awareness and recognition. There is room for just about everything...a melting pot of art!"
Leisa Rich is herself an award winning textile artist and educator too. Beginning Winter, 2011, she begins a professorship at Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta- Fashion; Leisa also teaches at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, The Galloway School and gives private classes in her studio; hosts workshops and art events. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Southeast Fiber Art Alliance. Recent State Rep for the Surface Design Association. Read more about Leisa Rich, her art and many accomplishments at http://www.monaleisa.comComment on or Share this Article →
Population Density by Bonnie Samuel
Last year I visited England for three months and had a great time visiting galleries, art shows and museums steeped in the rich history of textiles in the Norfolk area. We also attended the annual London Craft Council show, "Origin," which featured beautiful handwovens, unique felted wearables, and textile art .
What I found in England is that there are many, many accomplished textile artisans. The following website features some of the UK's and European textile artisans "across the pond." By no means, inclusive of all the artists in the UK, but an interesting website, giving a look at some of the talented textile artisans and their work. Studio 21, Textile Artists
Here in the US we also have a good number of award winning and notable textile artisans. There are some differences though between the artists on either side of the pond. Well known American textile artist, author and teacher, Rayna Gillman made the following observations on her blog after her return from the annual huge quilt art show in Birmingham, England:
1. Each year the exhibit is fresh - you don't see the same artists with almost identical pieces, year after year.
2. European quilts are, for the most part, abstract and non-representational. Reproducing a photo in cloth appears non-existent...and if anyone is doing it, those pieces are not in major gallery exhibits.
3. There is a lot of experimentation with materials and ways of using them-......... add richness and texture and are integral to the piece.. Silk, wool, rayon, plastic, linen, cotton, polyester, taffeta, organza (not necessarily all in one piece).
Rayna Gillman noted some reasons that may explain the differences, one being that generally textile artists in the UK tend to work more individually, perhaps not as "club" and guild oriented as Americans. Whatever the reason for the differences observed, different places and influences perhaps, textile art as a known medium is growing and more and more appreciated as.....art.
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Julie McCullough, Magic Threads
Fiber Road Gallery artists are hosting a Holiday Open Studio November 19th and 20th in Urbandale, IA. Several textile artists will be showing their work and offering for sale a wide array of beautiful, some whimsical and fanciful, charming creations that would make great gifts or additions to your own art collections.
The Holiday Open Studio will be held at the Magic Threads studio of Julie McCullough at 8130 N. Walnut Creek Drive in Urbandale, Iowa. Julie McCullough creates magical fairies and mystical dolls that tell a story of their own, and designs patterns for some of her creations. Julie is an award winning artist, whose work is known internationally - what a treat to be able to visit her studio!
Joining Julie in hosting the Holiday Open Studio are Fiber Road Gallery members, Rebecca Kemble and Bonnie Samuel. Rebecca Kemble, is also an award winning textile artist whose work is quite unique -- art in the textile medium takes many forms. Rebecca's art is inspired by nature, both earthly and the far reaches of space. Her work is expressed with fabric, dye, paint, and stitch.
Bonnie Samuel, Textile Artist, has been an artist many years, more recently in the textile medium, which she combines with paint and dye on cottons or silk, then embellishes with stitch. Her work, reflecting the beauty of nature or an environmental theme, is bright and bold in color and design.
Other textile artists will be joining in the festive Holiday Open Studio as well, which will be open Friday, Nov. 19, 1-7 pm and Saturday, Nov. 20, 10 am to 4:00 pm. Mark your calendar - Free Drawing too for an alpaca Teddy Bear!
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Tall Girl Series, Carol A. Larson
Carol A. Larson is a textile artist and winner of numerous honors and prestigious awards. She exhibits in museums and galleries worldwide and her work also hangs in many private collections. Carol Larson not only creates art, but teaches, writes for various textile publications, as well as writing and publishing her book, "Tall-Girl Series: A Body of Work."
When Carol was 17 years old, she measured 6'6 plus inches. With intention of giving her a "normal" life, she was shortened 6 inches. In "Tall-Girl Series: A body of Work", Carol tells of the "40 plus years since the three surgeries that broke my body, nearly crushed my spirit and forever changed my life." Art played an enormous part in Carol's healing.
I recently interviewed Carol, after reading her book?.twice. It is a powerful and beautiful story indeed. Here's the interview:
Bonnie: When did art become a part of your healing and in what form?
Carol: I have been working with fiber my entire life so it seemed completely natural for me to use textile art as a vehicle for communicating this story. In the past I have sewn garments, designed wearable art, hand-woven yardage, spun yarn, knit and designed needlepoint. Seemingly a needle and thread have stitched the pages of my journey.
Bonnie: How did the creativity help you to find your own path to self discovery AND your art?
Carol: Initially I wrote 22,000 words of story but still felt something was missing. Because I am a visual person I was thinking ?pretty pictures' to illustrate my words. While in process it became extremely important to me that the textile art was meaningful over "pretty." I was seeking to create work that communicated and made an impact over work that was just beautiful to look at.
Creating this body of work to speak such a deeply personal story was liberating. It was my own visual language which freed the story from my body where I had carried it for over 40 years. I had been forbidden by my parents from ever discussing it so I initially sought a way to communicate without calling undue attention to myself.
In liberating this old tale, grief and sorrow from my body I accomplished many things. I set myself free from the story's grip on me and I released the pain of holding it from my tissues . I also received enormous validation from the outside world which has been incredibly healing in itself.
Bonnie: Such paths have potholes, what were yours? Once you discovered your love of art and it's release in expression, was there any stopping you?!
Carol: There was a lot stopping me! It took me 4 years to complete this project. I was extremely organized and wrote a business plan, made a list of possible subjects, categorized and re-categorized. The initial list contained 64 ideas for work. Procrastination was my friend as I walked through ongoing fear. Remember my father threatened to disown me if I ever spoke about this so I had a lot of fear and anger about that. Eventually I decided my soul was not for sale. Some of the topics were still so painful that grief and anger pervaded for months. Several pieces were completed on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th try. And my mentor spurred me on to create 8 more pieces when I had done twelve and saw myself as finished. In the end I made 23 pieces.
Since finishing the series, I have spent much time marketing this exhibit; which is still relevant today about self-esteem and body image. This has been the easier part of the process. Because I have released the story, it no longer has power over me. It has been a win-win situation.
Visit Carol's website at http://www.live2dye.com/ to see her expressive and beautiful textile art.
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