Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Swedish death cleaning for artists

Have you heard of the concept called "Swedish death cleaning"?  It's not as grim as it sounds.  The idea is that you do your heirs a huge favor by purging and organizing your extraneous stuff before you die, so that they don't have to.  The best-selling book that popularized the concept refers to it as "a gentle art." The promise is that by stripping out the inessential you can live a more stress-free, clutter-free life.

It's especially hard for artists to purge artwork, I think, because of the emotional, aesthetic, and monetary value attached to the art we've accumulated.  The current, April/May issue of American Craft features a helpful article called Planning Your Legacy.  How do you  plan for what happens to your artwork after you're gone?

It's all been on my mind lately as Sam and I purge and pack in preparation for a move across the country.  He's been photographing and I've been working in various fiber media for over twenty years, so we've generated quite a bit of work ourselves.  And then there's the art we have purchased, and the art we've inherited.  It's a lot, far more than we can hang on the walls at any one time.  (We do try to rotate what's on the walls regularly.)  So now we're faced with one tough call after another about which works to move, and which to let go of.

Regarding my own work, I've done a variety of things.  Some pieces have been sold at a discount.

Ways of  Looking at Dodd Creek #7.  Mixed media collage
(c) Molly Elkind 14" x 14"

Ways of Looking at Dodd Creek #11.  Mixed media bead embroidery.
(c) Molly Elkind  14" x 18"

Cardinals.  Quilt (cotton).  (c) Molly Elkind 54" x 70"
Some work I've given away.

Ways of Looking at Dodd Creek #6.  Mixed media fabric collage.
(c) Molly Elkind 14" x 14" 

Some work I've dismantled, taken out of its frames and shadowboxes, and saved in a smaller, lighter format for future reference or as potential raw material for future work.

Streambed:  Glacier.  Mixed media embroidery.
(c) Molly Elkind 8.5" x 11"

Gaps in the Sky:  Carolina Parakeet. 
Mixed media collage. 
(c) Molly Elkind 25" x 35" x 4" 

Some pieces that I no longer like, I've discarded.  Thrown out.  Trashed.   Apologies here for some less than stellar photographs of this older work.

Ways of Looking at Dodd Creek #4.  Mixed media fabric collage.
(c) Molly Elkind 12" x 24" 

Basket Case:  Improvisation.  Quilt (cotton). 
(c) Molly Elkind 38.5" x 38.5"

The 9/11 piece below was easy to throw out because it had sat in a cardboard box in the corner of our humid Georgia basement for 15 years, and showed mildew when I took it out.  A cautionary tale!

Into the Whirlwind:  September 2001.  Mixed media fabric collage.
(c) Molly Elkind 84" x 43" x 3"

It may sound shocking but it's surprisingly liberating to throw away work you don't like any more.  I think it frees up psychic space for new work.  Not everything we make is precious.  Some of it was only work we had to do to get ready to make the next piece, or the one after that.

That said, I did keep some older work that I especially like.

Six Sketches #6.  Mixed media embroidery.
 (c) Molly Elkind 14" x 12"
Cathedral.  Handmade paper sculpture.
(c) Molly Elkind 17" x 9.5" x 10" 

I'm really curious what you all have done in this situation.  What are your strategies and criteria for dealing with your work when it piles up, or when you have to down-size?  Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pictures from ICONIC exhibition, part 2

Last week I shared photos of every tapestry (and one mixed-media piece) in the My Real Name is Mary series currently on view in my show at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA).  The show is up through Tuesday, March 13.  I know I've been droning on about this show for awhile--and I promise I'll change the subject next week!--but I want to present proper images of the finished pieces for those of you who can't get to the show in person. 

There is another series in this show in addition to the Mary series, entitled Book of Hours.  It's loosely inspired by illuminated manuscripts, of which Books of Hours are one category.  These books were hand-lettered and decorated prayer books, medieval devotionals.   I absolutely love their sheer lush decorative-ness:  the intensely patterned text in the center, often "illuminated" with gold, and the contrasting margins of either empty space, or more decorative patterning.

I have mentioned before that I'm intrigued that we can't decipher the meanings in these texts anymore, at least not unless we can read medieval Latin.  I wondered if I could produce in tapestry a kind of contemporary illuminated manuscript that uses the same compositional strategies and that combine text (or the suggestion of text) and pattern.  In most cases these pieces developed out of collages I created and then translated into weaving

We've all heard the phrase red letter day.  Did you know that it came from books of hours?  They often contained a church calendar listing all the holy days and feast days, and those days were written in red.

Here are the Book of Hours tapestries, starting with the most recent.

Red Letter Night (c) Molly Elkind 2018
35" x 26"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Red Letter Day (c) Molly Elkind 2016
35" x 26" 
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind 
I am thrilled to report that the piece below, Annunciation, sold at the opening!

Annunciation (c) Molly Elkind 2016
8" x 10"
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind 

Huh? (c) Molly Elkind 2016
8" x 10" 
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind

Red (T)his  (c) Molly Elkind 2016
8" x 10" 
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
Some who know me are shocked to discover that I really do mean WTF below.  I made it in response to the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

WTF  (c) Molly Elkind 2016
8" x 10" 
Photo courtesy Sam Elkind
All of these pieces, and most of the Mary series tapestries, are for sale.  Contact me for information.