Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Artistic Introspection......Good Medicine

As some of you may know, I've been unable to create/make fiber art for quite a while due to surgery. It has been a very tough predicament for me. But as I endured this involuntary hiatus I decided to make the best of it. My first efforts involved the development of goals geared toward marketing myself as an artist. Probably the most useful effort involved creating a chart with explicit goals. It gave me a blueprint for getting my name out there and going after some things I've wanted to accomplish for a very long time. I'll write more about this in another post.

Most recently, as I gained use of my arms and ability to sketch I began to think about my own artwork and how to create better art. It was in part prompted by a discussion on one of the e-mail lists I belong to. I developed four (4) key questions for myself:

1. Do I have an artistic voice that is strong, clear, and distinctive?
2. How does my work compare to other well respected (fiber) artists in terms of having a strong artistic voice?
3. At this point has it become important to me that my work sells?
4. Of all the art I have created, are there a few that stand out in terms of excellence? If so am I still excited about that work and what can I learn from it?

I had a lot of time to think about these questions and it became clear that while I think I have a distinct could be stronger and more consistent. I visualize the work of Faith Ringgold, Dorothy Caldwell, Susan Shie or Lisa Call - you know at a glance that it is their work. All are gifted successful artists, able to garner acclaim that seems to translate into sales. (I guess you now know my response to question 4, lol!)

As for my own work I had a few observations. For a long time, I have been experimenting with how I use lines and shapes to create the map-like artwork that I love to create. I've been subconsciously playing with 2 languages:

1. an "architectural" language (to be expected since I am an architect) that yielded lines and shapes that were straighter and more precise - City Grid IV.
2. vs. lines and shapes that were more organic and expressive - Labyrinth of the Hidden Goddess. See below:

What excites me about the organic language is that is allows me more freedom of expression and emotion. And it recalls maps of more ancient places, something I find poetic and inspirational. I did some research on iron settlements and the following are inspired by this study (and the quilt above on the right) the bottom line is that I think I have a potentially strong series. Here are some very conceptual sketches:

We'll see where this takes me. I still can't sew much and will start teaching next week at the university. As a result I won't be following up on these sketches soon.

At some point I'l post conceptual sketches for a few other series. Hope you'll visit again soon! If you've had similar thoughts about your work why not add a few comments?


  1. I love your more organic sketches and pieces, although all your work is wonderful. Your thoughts seems to be spot on with what I have been struggling with lately. I have resolved [oh, I don't like that word] to actively do something about it in 2011 and continue on a path of developing a body of work that says it is mine alone. Certainly easier said than done for all of us.

  2. Valerie, Hope you are healing well and will be able to be back to the studio soon.

    I love the larger of the sketches, the anchoring top and bottom with structures and vistas seems very complete and full. My mind wants to go for a walk in them or play with how the three views converge.

    I think of Georgia O'Keeffe taking out all her work into one room and spending several days just looking at it as a forerunner of what you are doing. It can't help but put you in a different place.


  3. I do think you have a distinct voice. I recognize your work instantly. I'll be watching for the sales. Best wishes, ann

  4. I didn't know of your surgery, but pray for your complete healing and continued ability to reach your goals and ambitions. I love it when people know who they are, what they want and where they are going. I'm the one that is all over the place. I do whatever comes to mind in the art quilt world, and from one idea to another. Hope one day I can settle to one thing that I love the most and do it.

  5. Introspection... love it! And I appreciated reading your post. I have been doing that throughout 2010... can't say I am as definite as you,, but it has made a'free-er' me.. if that is a word...Your work is as recognizable as the artists you mention...I am now eagerly looking forward to the follow-up of this.
    For me... I prefer the straight architectural lines as opposed to the organic.

    I hope you are completely healed soon...

  6. I think you have a very strong voice. I love your work and do believe there is room for both the architectural and organic. I love them both and think they relate well to each other.

  7. I wasn't aware of your health issues, but I wish you a very speedy recovery and hope to see you creating more art in the near future. Your blog has been an inspiration to me, as well as others, and I do feel that you show a distinctive, as well as an innovative voice in the fiber art community. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and guidance for those of us who are less organized and educated in marketing ourselves and our art.

  8. Valerie,

    I think that both the linear and organic designs are you and the organic does reflect the linear as well. The organic sketches remind me of the aerial views of archeological digs and the findings of ancient civilizations which melds well with your architectural work as well.

    Continued Success and you have laid out a good vision for obtaining your 2011 goals. Taking the time you need to completely heal will benefit you in the studio down the road.

  9. Yes - add me into those that think you have a distinctive style. I love your work and always recognize it.

    Thank you for the mention. I'm honored.

  10. Valerie,

    I'm slow to come back to your comments, although I read them earlier via FB:-)

    This is perhaps not as relevant to textile art as it is to plein air painting, but I keep wondering about the impact of the subject matter on the style and how one reconciles "distinctive style" with external information.

    For example (this is a long shot, of course) how could you deal with Chaco Canyon (New Mexico) (circa 1250, puebloan people's ritual city) that would differ from what you do with Tallahassee. There a lot of archeological mapping that has gone on, and much of it, as you note, resembles what one sees of maps of contemporary features. Yet, the differences are profound -- geological, geographical, meaning of the structures, modes of living -- all are really _not_ like contemporary society. My interest would be in making art that mirrored the differences, not in maintaining a recognizable style.

    This is not to say that your contemplations are not fine and good to do. It's just to add to the complications of the questions we as artists must ask ourselves.

    And your style is distinct, for sure. That isn't really something you need to worry about. I'm glad you are healing -- you've gone through a long seige, and what else can one do but think while waiting for time to pass. I'm wishing you a great 2011, for sure (for the second time, for sure).