Earth Stories: Drawing It Big

The Earth Stories exhibit opened at Michigan State University Museum in Lansing, MI, on May 11, and continues through November 26. The opening reception is May 16 from 4-6 PM. It then travels to the University of Central Missouri Gallery of Art and Design, Warrensburg, Missouri, January 19 – February 28, 2015. This means I will finally be allowed to post the pictures of this quilt as of the 16th…I thought I’d spend a few posts reviewing how these two pieces came to be.

I was accepted into the exhibit in October of 2012. I wasn’t even going to enter. I got into this huge discussion with the family, intellectuals all (although I qualify as an emotional intellectual…nowadays only barely rational apparently) about what could actually SAVE the Earth. The original plan for the exhibit was to pick a group or person who had made a significant contribution to saving the Earth, to keeping our planet livable, whole, sustainable even. I kept coming back to science in general, but the thought of doing a quilt of people in labcoats with microscopes and water-testing devices seemed kinda lame.

Then I watched this video:

It was Monique’s fault. She posted it. And it clicked a switch in my brain. A huge one.

Understand that I teach life science. I teach biology to 12-year-olds. I teach human reproduction. What do we need to do to save the world? We need to stop overpopulating it. We need to make sure that the available resources are distributed fairly, but also that we don’t overwhelm them with too many people (it may be too late for that, honestly). So when I saw that there were groups that were trying to help women who actually WANTED to control the number and timing of their births, the size of their families, to keep them within the constraints of what they could afford, of what they could handle, THAT was the group I was going to put the strength of my convictions behind.

That was the International Planned Parenthood Federation. They provide voluntary birth control to women in countries where it’s not allowed or where they have financial or religious difficulty in getting the medications they need to make sure they can take care of their families. They can decide how long to wait between births, which is healthier for both mother and child, but she can also decide when to stop having children. Imagine, giving women a choice? Plus helping to conserve our natural resources? All good.

Once I was accepted into the exhibit, which is an interesting story in itself, I sort of looked at how much time I had during the school year and how much time it would take to make a 72″-square quilt, and I planned my time. My goal was to have it drawn before Spring Break, traced onto Wonder Under during Spring Break, ironed to fabric before Summer Break, and then get the whole nasty beast done over the summer.

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men, and overwhelmed single moms who don’t even know what kind of shit might hit their fans.

I did OK with the first part, actually…OK, well, not really. I had about 4 or 5 mis-starts to the drawing…in fact, I think I started drawing in February (Spring Break being April). I already knew what position I wanted the main figure in, but I couldn’t quite visualize parts, so I asked the girlchild (who was running a nasty fever at the time that turned into the nasty flu that messed up her system for a while) to pose…

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She was thrilled. As I’m sure you can see. Yes, my carpet is that beat up.

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She didn’t have the right look on her face. She’s supposed to be Earth Mother. I decided not to make her old…mothers aren’t usually super old. They’re frazzled. Plus she had live trees on her, and it’s not supposed to be alive.

A few days later, I tried again.

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Serious issues with the thighs. And the mountains are lame. Plus that left hand? Both hands…way too small.

I don’t usually fuss this much over drawings, but that was the thing with this one. I needed it to say the right thing and I don’t usually care so much that the viewer is getting the message. I figure they will get SOME message and that’s all that matters. On this one, the message mattered.

So I tried again…

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Much better belly/thigh area (and the pregnancy finally shows up…notice it wasn’t there before). Her face, though…too spacey. Like she’s contemplating what color nail polish might go with those shoes.

I gave up for a while…a month actually. Then I realized Spring Break was bounding towards me, so I started again…

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Ugh. Too small, arms suck. Whatever!

A few days later, though…BOOM!

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There she is. There’s the start. Much bigger and the right look on her face…but I filled an entire page just with this part of her torso. I copied the bottom part and taped it to another page and then drew the bottom half…then enlarged those and taped them together.

I finally had the beginnings of this thing.

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Now realize that light table is 3 feet by 4 feet, so it gives you a good idea of how big this thing gets. I started in a 14×17″ sketchbook. I think I enlarged the drawing 200-300%. Then I drew the rest of it to size (which is always a crazy tiny-piece mistake for me, and yet I do it every time).

I spent about 20 hours drawing this thing. I’d draw for a while and then step back and look at it (or stand on the piano bench and look at it, because it was the only way I could see the whole thing).

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Most drawings take me a couple of hours, maybe four or five for a super-complicated one like what I’m working on now.

I had TV shows running on the laptop (the computer in the back is too slow and sound is an issue) to keep my brain occupied. Here’s me drawing the thought cloud that shows a happy world with plenty of food…


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This is back at the beginning, right after I had taped all the extra paper around the enlarged figure to make it 72″ square.

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It was a huge endeavor. I’ve never spent so long DRAWING a quilt, but it really did need to be forcibly pulled out of me…it took a good chunk of Spring Break to get it done. This was before all the shit hit the fan at work, so my brain was mostly OK for this type of task. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that now. It was really difficult. Maybe the art brain would prefer that level of involvement in a drawing to all the other crap I throw at it.

Next post? Numbering and tracing pieces…


Art Exhibit Updates

A bunch of shows I’m in have closed or are closing. That’s always kind of depressing, especially if you haven’t been getting into any shows lately, but I’m trying not to think about that part…instead, let’s think about the upcoming openings…

Quilt National 2013 updated its traveling schedule, adding Oceanside, California (unfortunately, not the part that MY quilt is in) and Dunedin, Florida:

5/6/14 – 7/20/14: San Jose, CA–[Collection A & B] 
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles 
San Jose, California

7/26/14 – 11/30/14; Oceanside, CA—Collection C]
Oceanside Museum of Art
Oceanside, CA

8/14/14 – 9/28/14: Moorhead, MN–[Collection B]
Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County
Moorhead, Minnesota

5/22/15 – 8/16/15; Dunedin, FL–[Collection A]
Dunedin Fire Art Center
Dunedin, FL

But you can see my quilt, Spread Out on the Pavement, in San Jose starting May 6 through the end of July.

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Earth Stories will be opening on May 11 at the Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing, MI. The opening reception is May 16 from 4-6 PM, and there are a bunch of talks related to the exhibit. I would have loved to have been able to go to some of these, but it is way too far and way too expensive, so I will have to hope someone I know goes and reports back. It does mean, though, that I can start to write about making the work for this exhibit and finally be able to show it online after the opening. It’s hard to NOT do that as I make my work.

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My Earth Stories quilts, Wise Choice and Planting Choice, will be in Michigan through November 26, and then will go to the University of Central Missouri Gallery of Art and Design in Warrensburg, Missouri, from January 19 – February 28, 2015.

Meanwhile, I suspect you can’t get IN to shows if you don’t ENTER shows and FINISH work, so that’s my goal for the next few weeks…find some new shows and get the work out there…

Earth Stories

Good news arrived this morning via email…I was accepted to SAQA’s 25th Anniversary exhibition, Earth Stories, which will open at the Michigan State University Museum in May 2014. That’s like a million years from now, but the pictures are already popping into my head. I went kind of around the bend on this one, trying to come up with a group I thought was having a significant effect on essentially saving the Earth. I’ll be back later with that process, once the snot clears from my nostrils and I know what guidelines to follow about discussing this exhibit. Just know that you’ll probably laugh at me. Or be mad at me. Whatever.

The other accepted artists are listed below…some I have exhibited with before in Sightlines and other exhibits, and some are brand new to me…I’m looking forward to the next few months as I start to flesh out my ideas (ironic term)…I love it when art gets this exciting…

The artists:

Britta Ankenbauer
Brooke Atherton
Regina Benson
Benedicte Caneill
Maya Chaimovich
Marion Coleman
Nancy G. Cook
Jennifer Day
Noriko Endo
Jean Herman
Annie Helmericks-Louder
Patty Hawkins
Paula Kovarik
Lynn Krawczk
Carol Larson
Alicia Merrrett
Kathy Nida
Mary Pal
Mirjam Pet-Jacobs
Marilyn Prucka
Valya Roenko
Susan Shie
Cynthia St Charles
Leni Wiener
Kathy York