02 December 2010

Chuck Close at the MFA

One of two books recently published about Chuck Close, by Christopher Finch.

On October 14, 2010, DH, son and I enjoyed a sold-out presentation at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a conversation between writer Christopher Finch and artist Chuck Close. Usually the format of this lecture series is that a single person talks at the worshipful audience; this dyad varied the tenor and made me think that perhaps all gifted celebrities should consider bringing a verbal foil with them to such events. Mr. Close has an easy conversational manner, but the engagement with Mr. Finch, who enjoys a long association with Mr. Close, meant the evening never lagged or foundered.

Detail, self-portrait.

Throughout his work Mr. Close has utilized the grid, first as a diagramming device in the planning stage of his so-called photo-realist works, but later as an overt feature of his portraits. These works, which don't reproduce a likeness so much as invent a new way to see it, are to me much more interesting. Mr. Close won my heart when mentioning what he calls (I paraphrase) the general undervaluing of traditional women's work, and gave as an example the beautiful crochet tablecloths made by his grandmother. She crocheted hundreds of individual squares, stitched them together, and finally starched the textiles using sugar (yes, sugar - anyone heard of this process?). Mr. Close reflected that he had grown up viewing large items painstakingly constructed of many small squares, and had no doubt that this influenced his own work.

Detail, Amish quilt from Amish: The Art of the Quilt, text by Robert Hughes.

Finding endless possibilities in the restriction imposed by a grid is nothing new, as generations of quilters know. Sometimes restrictions, whether external or self-imposed, provide the best scaffolding for exploration.

Another portrait from Chuck Close: Work.
Grids can also be radial, as well as rectilinear.

Mr. Close and Mr. Finch, signing books.

After the talk, Mr. Close and Mr. Finch were kind enough to sign our books; unfortunately the MFA gift shop ran out of the Chuck Close: Work book, but I had purchased mine before the talk. It would make a nice holiday present: Isbn 978-7913-4466-9. Of course it's a big, heavy book - why are art books so often physically unwieldy? - but opens a wide window on one artist's process. There's a companion biography by Mr. Finch, but I haven't looked at that closely yet.

01 December 2010

Solo Quilt Show Arsenal Center

Quilt and show title.

My show officially opened yesterday. Beverly Snow, program director, and her staff have exceeded all expectations and did a fabulous job handling, hanging and labeling the quilts. Now, if folks only come to the Center! The show is up until December 24.
NOTE: There will be rehearsals in the space from 10 am to 6 pm on December 10, 11, 12. Best to visit another time.

Here's the info:

The Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal St. Watertown MA 02472

Third Floor, Rehearsal Hall

The hours are Tues - Sat, 12 - 6 pm.

There's a small but very good boutique on the first floor for holiday shopping, and free parking in the garage opposite the Panera restaurant. On week-days, best just to go up to the top levels of the garage, as office workers' cars fill the lower floors.


For some reason, my show is still listed up Coming Soon (under Visual Arts tab on home page.) I hope center staff will have a chance to update the site soon.

SPECIAL EVENT - On Saturday, December 4, from 4-6 pm I will have a "petting zoo" with lots of vintage fabrics and design-related items from the 1950's. There's no formal presentation, but of course I'll be babbling away and answering questions.

The entrance to the Arsenal complex.

Entrance to the Arts Center; notice next to elevator.

The show - the space has great light.

The title of my show - Vintage Geometry - has a sort of double-meaning. First, my quilt designs are based on traditional geometric patterns, featuring triangles, square, rectangles and so forth. In addition, I use many vintage fabrics in my quilts, because I love old fabrics, and using them broadens my available palette beyond whatever is for sale in quilt fabric stores today.

Quilt-making is a tradition in my mother’s family – I have a quilt made by my great-grandmother in 1931. She saved the fabric scraps leftover after making clothing for her family. My grandmother Nelda made quilts too, and I began quilting by helping her replace worn bindings on quilts during school vacation.

Quilt featuring vintage panel print.

Ad for dress made from same panel print as used in quilt.

Grandma Nelda had a sense of humor, and liked to sew aprons, curtains and even blouses with fun fabrics that we call conversational prints – patterns with designs of birds, sports cars, antique musical instruments; just about any theme or motif could be explored by the imaginations of the hundreds of textile designers who worked for American companies when the US still produced millions of yards of apparel and home furnishing fabrics.

Reused curtain panel; fabric designed by Doris Lee in 1952.

Many of these fabrics were woven on 36”-wide looms, discarded when most textile production moved overseas in the mid-1960’s. This loss of manufacturing (well before NAFTA) was a detriment to the US economy, but a gift for the vintage shopper - if you see a fabric at an estate sale that measures 36” wide, you know it was made before 1970.

I love the old fabrics – memories of childhood? – and find them at Brimfield, estate sales and, yes, online. These old fabrics play nicely with new fabrics in the geometries of my quilts.

Another view of the show.

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