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Threads In Space Showtime

Susan Hensel Gallery(Please forgive the delay in this post, I’m a week behind for the first time since I started this blog in 2002. I’m back-dating it though I’m writing it a week later than the date, to keep my posts in chronological order.

Saturday night. Showtime. The Susan Hensel Gallery opened the Threads in Space show. Susan and I had been anticipating this day for nearly a year. It was very exciting.

Threads in SpaceIt was essentially a show to exhibit fiberart that was not practical, not wearable, was art for art’s sake. There was knitted work, crochet, handspinning, weaving, paper, bookmaking, an assemblage with found objects including a lot of yarn glued on for texture, a piece that reminded me of my days in mail art with what looked like letters and envelopes but with the “writing” sewn on in a cryptic non-language.

There was a video about knitting as art. There was a tent made of ripped fabric pieces out in the garden. There was also a performance art piece that involved sewing.

Threads in SpaceIt was/is a strong show. It made me think. Some pieces beckoned from across the room, some invited intimate examination from inches away. All inspired.

Somehow my piece got finished and hung with time to spare. We changed into art-show-opening clothes (it was extremely hot and sunny so we wore African clothing) and we waited for the crowd. And they came.

Threads in Space with Self PortraitAt some point during preparations, I told Sue that Brian and I had our instruments in the car and we would be delighted to play background music if she would like. She was delighted. So we played three different sets with talking time allowed between them… first indoors, then in the garden and on the sidewalk outside the gallery (before the performance art piece began) then again inside just before closing time.

I especially enjoyed meeting the other artists. One woman, Karen Searle, knits on large needles with wire, and makes sculptural pieces you can see through. She did a wonderful dress and then shoes that dangled below.

Threads in SpaceAnother woman, Carla Mantel, did a piece including unfinished socks she’d started and stalled for some reason. It also included a sort of spiral that looked like a striped scarf, using remaining yarns from projects she had finished over the years. It hung from the ceiling and the spiral spun around and around. I really enjoyed talking with Carla, we have much in common. It’s too bad she’s in Minnesota and I’m here in Michigan or we’d be friends for sure.

Gail Wagner crochets highly colorful sculptures that hang from the wall in a picture frame, but do not behave themselves in the rectangular space, growing and drooping at times into the room closer to the viewer. I loved these pieces! They sort of act like deep sea creatures. Wonderful.

Threads in SpaceRosie Casey did a woven piece where she dyed yarn in an ikat technique, where she had several different shapes of buffalo, with stars on their sides. Some of the buffalo had printed stars on top of the dyed-in stars, and in front of the full floor-to-ceiling weaving on the floor was a pile of what looked like buffalo horns perhaps. She was not at the show so I could not ask her about the piece, but clearly she put in a huge amount of time, thought and work into that piece.

Sue Hensel’s piece was a huge, lumpy-bumpy ball of yarn she spun herself, about waist high. On top of the ball was a book she made with a poem she wrote (about hair and how it does not behave at times) inside.

Threads in SpaceThe piece outside in the garden was intriguing. It was tall enough for adults but reminded me of the forts we would make as children with blankets over a folding table. Much prettier, of course, but that was the idea. It must have been about the size of one of those tents people would change clothes in at the beach during the late 1800s-early 1900s. However, at times I’d see three sets of feet showing from folks inside. For some reason I never went inside. Hmmm, surely that means something deep but I don’t know what!

The performance piece was Laura Lewis’ brainchild. She went out into the garden where we all could see her, having changed from her party dress into a pair of jeans and standard shirt. The jeans had a hole in the knee and she started sewing the knee together but soon started sewing her pant legs together, and then kneeled and sewed the thigh of the jeans to the calf of the jeans on both sides, then worked up to sew her arms as well until she could not move much.

Threads in SpaceIt took a good long time even with loose stitches, and for one my feet hurt just looking at her perched on the balls of her feet for so long. (Later she said that she was not in any discomfort through the process.) In the end she freed herself from the bonds of the sewing thread. It caused a lot of talk afterward… one woman felt compelled to help her sew parts on her back where she could not have reached herself. I felt sad that she was restraining herself, it sort of pushed my buttons from a previous part of my life when I really did tie myself down in many ways. It was quite thought-provoking, as performance art almost always is.

We had such a wonderful time! I know I’m leaving people out… the cool guy who assembled a piece starting with a wood headboard and a ceramic head he found… the woman who did some felt pieces based on a trip she took to Iceland… so much to say but it was all good, really good.

Threads in SpaceThanks to Susan Hensel for encouraging me to push myself into true artist territory. You know, for years I was sure I was not an artist because I don’t draw. I sewed as my artful outlet for many, many years. Then I did polymer clay for 10 years and nothing else. I called myself “a one-song canary.” I had images of several pieces I made into a book, while I was focused on polymer.

Then I got bored of that and did mailart and soft-block printmaking (sometimes called eraser carving). I got in another book with a self portrait I did in printmaking. I will have to post a photo of that print here sometime… someone remind me in a week, and I’ll do that. (Added much later… here is the same self-portrait block, printed on a sheet of polymer clay rather than on paper.)

Threads in SpaceThen I got bored again and started working with wool, first feltmaking and then knitting. And I can’t imagine ever getting bored again!!! But Sue has been with me since my polymer clay days. She encouraged me to go to my first feltmaking workshop where I remembered my love of wool, and that lead me quickly to socknitting.

During every step of the way Sue has encouraged me. When I have doubts, I can call her and she understands. When I’m bogged down, she pulls me out. And when I’m too busy she understands and does not feel ignored. She’s really a perfect friend. Thanks a million, Sue!!!

Photos: 1)Exterior of Susan Hensel Gallery with me in African dress talking to Mike Elko and his wife whose business card I’ve lost in the shuffle. 2) Visitors viewing the show just inside the front door to the right. 3) Show inside door on left side. 4) Straight ahead as you opened the front door, with view into second room. Notice my self-portrait is in back on the left. 5) Carla Mantel showing a child visitor how she spins yarn with a drop spindle. She also described to the child how she made the knitting needles used in the scupture.

6) Another view of child in front of Carla’s sculpture which included unfinished socks. 7) Performance Artist Laura Lewis between Karen Searle’s wire knit dress and Susan Hensel’s ball of handspun yarn with book/poem on top. 8 ) Garden beside gallery, where tent and performance art took place. 9) Folks near tent in back of garden. 10) Performance, early in procedure, starting to sew legs of jeans together.

One Response to “Threads In Space Showtime”

  1. joaniwasko Says:

    I love the self portrait of you with all the beautiful colors. It must have been so difficult to do this . How in the world did you accomplish this. How long did this take you to do this. Keep up the unusual occupation that you have chosen because you are so creative.

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