Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lost, But not Forgotten

Two years ago while preparing for an exhibit titled The Left Behind at Fountain Street Fine Arts in Framingham, I was putting together an installation titled Forget-Me-Not. I measured all of my students with pieces of string color-coded by their grade level. These strings were weighted down with a little ceramic tags that was also color-coded and had their initials on it. I tried to paint one side of each string white, representing the great lengths one goes through to make sure students all learn the same curriculum. Unfortunately, this is often at the expense of the students' own creativity and expression. Needless to say this method isn't always best. I intended for the piece to have one side that would be mostly white and another side full of color, showing how society pulls the color right out of these creative children and we have to work against that just to keep it there, let alone foster and develop these skills. This installation was successful, but it did not go exactly as planned, just like in the real world, children do not always listen. This isn't always a bad thing. The installation was more colorful than I intended and that was a good thing...

A detail of the installation

Forget-Me-Not at Fountain Street Fine Art, July 2015

At the opening reception

Recently I watched this animated video that works off of the same themes as the installation above. I need to warn you, it made me cry... http://www.boredpanda.com/award-winning-film-society-saps-creativity-alike/

Following the exhibition, I hung this piece back in my studio so that the strings would not get tangled. Recently, I took them down and cut off the ceramic tags.

I placed them into a class jar which certainly was not half empty....if anything it was too full. Too full has been one of the main challenges I had to deal with as an educator. There is always more, but nothing ever gets taken away, instead things just pile up and there simply isn't room for everything anymore...

People have their own ways of dealing with this issue, what was best for me, may not be best for someone else, but I decided after 16 years of service as an educator, to make room for other things.

Sure, that has left me with a tangled mess of strings that once were all hanging in straight lines, but things need to get messy before they can come back together. Reminds me of a quote that I read "....and then I fell apart, and it was the most beautiful moment ever, because right then, I realized that I could put the pieces back together the way I wanted them to be." Building a new foundation, that comes from the parts and pieces of the things that happened before.... I started this piece titled Lost, But not Forgotten....

The first few minutes of Lost, But not Forgotten

This will be a timed piece that will be added to the installation in the Labor of Love exhibition on display now at Mill No. 5 in Lowell. Last Sunday I was there working on this piece in the exhbition space. There was loud elevator music playing from the speaker up on the wall that would get on anyone's nerves.... It was getting to me when a girl, that helps with the farmer's market downstairs, came upstairs to help. It turns out that the girl was once a student of mine! What are the odds of that? I was Emma Galante's art teacher for six years while she was at Bates Elementary school a long time ago and Emma had just recently been interested in weaving. What are the odds of that? It was meant to be. So happy the music was there, so I could reunite with Emma. I measured her height and she added to the piece. I look forward to weaving with her more in the future and I was so happy when she turned that music off!

I was also feeling the love from my fellow yogis in teacher training with me right now. They hear me talk about weaving and how to me, it connects to yoga and breath.  It was so nice for them to come and see the work in person and get the chance to add to this project. Each person who participated on Sunday, was measured with a piece of string and then they added their height into the piece.

Heather Brien weaving on a sunny Sunday morning in Lowell.
Heather weaving her height into the piece.
Ranjani Pinto weaving her height.

Ranjani's husband and her friends added tot he piece as well.
I completed this piece back home in my living room.  326 minutes of Lost, But not Forgotten will be added to the installation in the hallway at Mill No. 5 bringing the total number of minutes up to 4,425 minutes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Labor of Love at High Five Arts, Mill No. 5, Lowell

Change of Plans! Due to the winter weather that will be upon us this spring....Labor of Love opens next Saturday April 8th from 1-3 pm at Mill No. 5, 250 Jackson Street, High Five Arts Gallery 5th Floor, Lowell, MA 01852.

This exhibition includes two works from my series of woven portraits, the most recent one, Catherine (2017), was created at the Studios at MASS MoCA and is made from using my Nana's wedding dress and parts of my own wedding dress combined into a new fabric. Next to Catherine is Bernie, a tribute to my uncle created my weaving his old leather coat. Both pieces honor the memories people who were very important to me.

Displayed in the narrow hallway of this old mill building is a series of woven pieces about labor, 3,570 minutes in total. Scout Hutchinson writes, "Piwinski similarly integrates unexpected materials into her time-based woven pieces, seven which are on view in Labor of Love. Their titles reflect the total number of minutes the artist spent creating them. Materials such as folded pages from a textbook, strips of old letters, and notes from an art history class are recontextualized within the warp and weft of these narrow lengths of woven cloth. They cascade down the gallery walls, serving as vibrant and textual markers of time - time spent in class, in a relationship, or simply on creating the artwork itself."

As part of this exhibition, I have been weaving in the space on my Saori loom. I have been there two Sundays so far and have had several visitors and participants such as David and his daughter pictured below.

Each Sunday the fourth floor is full of life- live music, a farmer's market, several unique vendors and more. Yet, only some adventurous visitors find me weaving up on the fifth floor. Visitors have told me that it is a magical discovery to find the exhibition and have appreciated being able to ask questions about the exhibition and have conversations. With the help of others, another piece will be added to the show just in time for the opening on Saturday afternoon, 529 minutes of VT Flannel. This brings the total number of minutes up to 4,099.

Thanks Sarah Tomkins for helping to weave strips of flannel last Sunday.

In addition to the opening reception next Saturday, I will be weaving in the space other times. If you are interested in becoming a part of the project, please join me...

Sunday, April 9th from 11-3pm

Monday, March 20, 2017

Weaving Fabric at MASS MoCA

Ian Halim of New York weaving in the MASS MoCA.

One month ago, I was weaving at MASS MoCA with many participants. While at the MASS MoCA residency, I wanted to work with building's rich and layered history. Before these space where galleries, they were once part of the Sprague Electrical Company and even before that they were Arnold Print Works. The history of these gallery spaces once being a part of a textile printing facility was of interest to me.

I enjoy working with the layers of history, as shown here in a piece I did about Vermont using bits of wool from the Johnson Mill and remnants of flannel from the Vermont Flannel Company.

Visual Layers of History, Vermont #1

Detail of Visual Layers of History, Vermont #1

I have also been interested in involving people in the creation of the fabrics so I have set up my loom in places such as galleries, beaches and laundry mats.

Andre working on the loom on the VSC gallery on November 9, 2016
Weaving at the Laundry Mat in Johnson, VT

 Building #7 was once the bleaching house. Fabrics would be woven at other surrounding mills and brought here to be bleached, whitened and void of any imperfections before they were dyed and printed. Now Building #7 houses the Sol Lewitt installations. Many people came together to follow his instructions and create these murals without showing any evidence of the human hand. The Saori weaving philosophy is the opposite. It is about embracing mistakes and letting the evidence of human hands show through in the work. To quote Saori's founder, Miaso Jo, " Existence of people is in their expression, we won't exist without it."

Saori weaving is a contemporary Japanese method which I learned from Mihoko Wakabayashi at Saori Worcester http://www.saoriworcester.com/ Here are a couple of photos of us from when Mihoko and her son Nori visited me while in residence.

With Mihoko standing in front of the piece I made about my Nana.
Our contribution to Tanja Hollander's exhibition Are you really my friend?

Sunday, February 19th I was set up near Sol Lewitt's Wall Drawing 422. I had thirty participants that day of all ages and from many different places from Boston to Alaska and from New York to France.

Sy Rosenberg Weaving Photo Courtesy of Ann Belle Rosenberg

 of New York

Thank you to Penny Mateer for helping to document the process.

 Fellow MASS MoCA resident, Penny Mateer (www.pennymateer.com), who also works with fibers and understands that when your hands are working, there is a natural tendency for deeper conversations. We were both interested in having dialogues with the visitors about the current exhibitions, especially the Nick Cave show, Until. This part of the Sol Lewitt wall drawings bumps right up next to an entry way into Nick Cave's installation. This little girl was clearly interested in trying the loom, just look at her face! However, it was with this family from Boston that we had a conversation about the Nick Cave show and that dialogue would have never happened without this hands on experience to help start the exchange.

"It was fascinating to watch how visitors were drawn to Stacey weaving. Many eagerly responded to the opportunity to participate, a testimony to the power of making.  But what excited me most were the interactions which resulted in meaningful conversation about the historical significance of the building and the art within it's walls, that arose naturally while volunteers wove.  An example is a discussion with a young family who responded to the expansiveness of Nick Cave's Until but did not realize that Cave was tackling issues around race and social justice.  This led to his earlier work with Soundsuits, which in turn sparked their interest to research his work further.  The conversation inspired them to share the animated video Castle in the Sky which parallels Until by depicting an immersive world which reflects universal struggles and asks what if?" Penny Mateer

My youngest participant that day was able to push and pull the beater bar adding a few rows to the community made fabric.

Vincent Homer of Paris, France weaves even though his leg is in a cast.
Some of the thirty participants on February 19th, 2017.

There was a nice flow of people that Sunday, but on Monday (the first day of school vacation week) it was even busier. Kids lines up to try the loom and add to the project. I actually had a line of people waiting. There were many comments about how they were happy to be interacting in the galleries instead of just looking.

Over the course of two days and in six hours time, over fifty people participated in the creation of this fabric. However, my very last participant was quite memorable. A boy named Luca who clearly had lots of energy and was really interested to try the loom. He sat down and was immediately focused. His mom was pleasantly surprised. I was joking about how weaving and textile manufacturing holds a history of child labor, but now what once was child labor has turned into a recreational activity or a meditative way to settle and calm and fast-paced little boy. Someone walked by and said, "I hope that you are paying him minimum wage!" The mother looked up and said, " I should be paying her!" Times have changed!

Luca wove the most of any of my participants. He moved quickly and did not want to stop. I told his mother about a Saori studio in NY called Loop of the Loom (https://www.loopoftheloom.com). It turns out that the weaving studio is right near where he goes to school. I really hope that he goes there and continues to weave. It seemed like a perfect fit for him and he left feeling so happy and proud of what he had done. When he signed my book, he wrote his name and then he wrote, "I did art at the Mass MoCA." I can't think of a better way to complete this piece of fabric. Thanks Luca!

チャンスというものは無言で過ぎていく,掴むは己 の心一つに

Chansu to iumono wa mugon de sugite iku, tsukau wa onore no kokoro hitotu ni

Chances pass by silently, grabbing it or not is up to your heart. -Miaso Jo

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day

Nana on her wedding day

Valentine's Day, February 14, 2000 was Nana's funeral. I refused to look into the open casket wanting to hold onto my memories of her in her living room, cozy in her chair, knitting and watching TV. We grew up in a duplex with her living on one side of the house and while we lived on the other. The cellar stairs worked as our passage way over to her side, especially when mom said no the ice cream at the end of a meal. Nana always came through with some maple walnut.

The blanket Nana knit for me as a wedding present

I especially missed her on July 25, 2015 when I got married. She knit a white blanket for me and told me that I could have it when I got married. Since it took me quite some time to get married, not long after she passed, my mom offered me that blanket. I told her to hold onto it until I got married as Nana intended. She would joke with me that that day may never come while the blanket remained in the basement closet. That July, I took the blanket. It was one way to have Nana with us.

On our wedding day

Seventeen years later on Valentine's Day I find myself weaving pieces of her wedding gown together  with part of my own wedding gown into a new fabric. This has been my main project while here at the Mass MoCA artist residency. As I prepared the big loom for weaving, her dress was looming in the background...

It took me a few days to prepare the large floor loom here at the Maker's Mill and another day before I was ready to cut the dress. I started by removing the sleeves. After the first couple of cuts it got easier...

Nana's dress and my dress

Pieces ready for weaving

A detail of the woven fabric

Nana had always been supportive of my art making. She let me use her extra room upstairs as my studio. It was a place to play music, make things and store the work I had been doing in college. Although she was never fond of the figure studies. She would turn all the paintings and drawing of nude models around each time she went in the room. She was the person who supplied me with my first studio to work in. All these years later, she is still supporting me. Love you Nana.

In memory of Catherine Champy, born on September 20, 1911 and died on February 10, 2000.