Thursday, July 22, 2021

she dropped into a dreamless sleep

I ask myself:  What am I doing? 
I answer:  I am making art.
I am making softness. 
I want my work to remain with you long after you physically leave.  

I have to trust my intuition all the time.    
"I think it is crucial to be aware of the things that come with intuition,  art, poetry, love, and to keep them alive because they don't weigh very much in the balance anymore."  Benoit Aquin  film artist  

I recently completed the audio book How To Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee.  The last essay was entitled  "On Becoming an American Writer" . 

Chee teaches creative writing at Dartmouth College and often has to defend the art form to his own students.  They ask him "What is the point?"  "How can we keep making art in this world?" 

Alexander Chee answered his students in this essay.  He told them that art dedicated to tenderness is not weak, it is strong.  He said that this is the only world we have.  

He said:    

“I wanted to lead my students to another world, one where people value writing and art more than war, and yet I knew and I know that the only thing that matters is to make that world here. There is no other world. This is the only world we have. "

“I needed to teach writing students to hold on—to themselves, to what matters to them, to the present, the past, the future. And to the country. And to do so with what they write. We won't know when the world will end. If it ever does, we will be better served when it does by having done the work we can do.”

“That art -- even, or perhaps especially, art that is dedicated somehow to tenderness, dedicated as a lover who would offer something to her beloved in the last nights they'll share before she leaves this life forever -- is not weak. It is strength.”  

 "After a long time, he drew her against him and spread the edge of his cloak over her.  They lay side by side, barely touching, letting the power of the sun and the earth and the air move through them in harmony and she dropped into a dreamless sleep. " 

                                              Marion Zimmer Bradley (Mists of Avalon)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Her scarlet gown


she stood

in her scarlet


if anyone touched her, the gown rustled


she stood, her face like a rose

shining she stood

and her mouth was a flower


she stood by a branch of a tree

and writ her love on a leaf

Carmina Burana        12th  - 13th century  

Medieval text found in my 1993 journal.
Photos from Saturday, my 70th birthday.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

your silence creates a world for my language

This is a post about an exhibition currently on view in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario at the artist run gallery, 180 projects.  A friend and I made the trip last week to view it.  It was my first art gallery experience in 18 months and well worth the 3+ hour drive.    

The artist is Sophie Anne Edwards, one of north eastern Ontario's most intelligent and passionate advocates for culture.  She is a poet, a painter, a curator, a geographer, and a long time arts administrator on Manitoulin Island.  I am enriched to know her. 

Sophie is easily brought to tears by the environmental crises and wanted to create a body of work that would address this monstrous, overwhelming fear in a personal way.  The artist's home is surrounded by ash trees, and she fears that they will all die because of a silent killer brought to Canada from Asia through international trade, the Emerald Ash Borer.  
The Emerald Ash Borer is an insect that drills through the outer bark to lay eggs in ash trees.  The larvae hatch and tunnel under the bark of the ash tree during the year or so while they mature, chewing lines that silently remove the inner wood.  
Another concern of this artist is something that happens more frequently than we know, yet is kept secret; domestic abuse to women and girls.  The victims are scarred for life, .  
Sophie became my CSARN mentee in 2018 and we talked and cried together over a period of  nearly 2 years.  Her ideas about materials and what she wanted to say with her artwork were strong.  Why did she come to me?  I think that she needed to slow down.  She needed to realize the comfort of hand stitch.  Although she already understood the power and intimacy of this kind of mark making, I helped her to focus on just a few of her ideas and taught her the back stitch.  
"I think about quiet violences -- to the environment, to women.  The silences that go unnoticed, or unspoken.  That happen quietly, under bark and behind closed doors.  That are carried in on crates, and through hushed words. "  Sophie A Edwards
Sophie Edwards wrapped one of the ash trees near her residence
with a bed sheet marked with red thread and hawthorns and left it for two years.  
A video of her suturing this ineffectual protection is part of the exhibition. 

"Those that go unregulated, and those that regulate us  The silences that change a landscape, and a life.  This project explores and links environmental and sexual violences."  Sophie A Edwards
"There is a silent language we can read in the Emerald Ash Borer tracks, and there is a silence we keep about sexual violences, which leaves its own tracks and traces.  This silence leaves space for the language of invasive and invaders."  Sophie A Edwards
There is a beautiful catalogue available from the artist or from 180 projects that has gorgeous photos of the exhibition and more of Sophie's own words.  
in my traces you will find silence,
or bring your own to it.
In my tracks you will find the language 
of my having been.
In my marks there is the 
record of my passage.  
Unable to read my lines,
you cannot hear.  Your
silence creates a world
for my language.

Sophie Anne Edwards

The exhibition continues until July 17.  180 projects

Monday, June 21, 2021

tell us your story

the journals I'm working in now

How did you end up on this path?

After years of stumbling, pushing branches out of my face, tripping over holes I didn’t see, I am finally on an open road, with daylight and a breeze, that continues and continues, not cluttered.  

I’ve pared away many things so that I can spend my time doing the things I love.  I no longer knit, I no longer sew clothing, I no longer paint, I no longer play the piano and no longer teach it, I no longer teach art or quilting, I no longer have young children because my four have grown into adults, I no longer travel although I would if I could.

I do still read a lot of fiction and non fiction, I still write in my notebooks daily,  I try to walk every day on my country road.   I love to have flowers in the house, I love and am married to the same man for whom I cook and bake, but I spend most of my time making hand stitched textile art.  I collect cloth and dye it with plants.  I arrange it and stitch it in place very simply and slowly.

journals 2013 -  2021
How did you end up on this path?

I knew I wanted to be a textile artist when I was in my early twenties.  My new husband and I were making plans to return home to Canada after a year on bicycles in Europe.  We were deciding what we wanted to do next, what job?  He would return to Forestry he hoped, but maybe he would rather be a consultant to government, someone who might make a difference but not in starring boss type role, more in the back rooms.

For me, I had come to realize how important it was for me to have thread in my hands.  I longed to be able to spend my life stitching, and tried to figure out how I could create a position where that would be part of my day.  Even then, I realized how healing it was to sew things together, or wrap things, or mend, or just plain stitch.  Perhaps I could teach needle arts to children.  I was a teacher, I was a musician, but I wanted to stitch.  And although I have, over the years, taught both art and music and made quilts and stitched art while mothering the four babies, I wanted to do the stitching full time.

Now I’m here.  Now the road is clear for me.  I’ve been working on just doing it rather than teaching it for about 10 years, and I am not finished yet.  I’m not yet at the top of the hill.  

journals in my dye studio  
How did you end up on this path?

I started dyeing cloth and creating art from that dyed cloth when I was a young mother, using dyes that I could buy at the grocery store.  These were hot water dyes and disappointingly dull.  I learned about fibre-reactive chemical dyes soon after and became an expert in overdyeing.  I was able to create subtle colours for the story quilts I made in the 80’s and 90’s. 

I switched to natural plant dyes in the 2000’s beginning with onion skins, golden rod and indigo.  I am self taught in dyeing, relying on my own natural curiosity and also books by Jenny Dean, Indigo Flint and Rebecca Burgess.  The quilts I make now are very simple, with the subtle colours of nature arranged in archetypal shapes like circles, dots, squares, triangles arranged with a lot of empty space.   I hand stitch everything.  It is rare when I use a sewing machine or an iron, but occasionally I will. 

I have been helped to find this path because I keep journals.  My journals and notebooks are part of my daily practice and have helped me to find this path and to stay on it.   

journals in the bedroom closet
How did you end up on this path?

I grew up in a rural area in middle of Canada.  I spent a lot of time alone and took piano lessons.  My father was 100 percent Finnish, my mother was 100 percent intense.  

I grew up with art supplies and a sewing machine.  I learned how working with cloth and thread of all kinds made me go into my inner world and feel at peace.  

More than anything, more than Bach, I loved repeated stitch.  I think I might have been a bit strange.

journals in the laundry room cupboard

Tell us your story:

Once upon a time there was a princess who lived in a dream world.  She drew outfits on sheet after sheet of paper, imagining that they were already sewn into clothing that she would wear for wide variety of occasions, such as working in a big office with a tight skirt and high heels, or going to a ball in a strapless dress with huge puffy skirt, or riding a horse off into the distance, plaid shirt and tight pants. She never did any of those things in the real world by the way.  She is now a queen and still lives in a dream world most of the time.  Not all of the time, just most of it.  

a box of wrapped up journals

more journals and wrapped journals in downstairs bookcase

How did you end up on this path?

I have pared away many creative activities to arrive at just three.  Every single day, I stitch and do journal work and then usually three times a year, I also dye cloth.  I hand stitch about 6 hours a day, and the journals pile up around me.  I surrender to them.  Journals are very important to my artistic practice because thoughtful writing brings the inside me out into a safe place.  I re-read parts of a journal or two each day as a ritual.  My journals help me to stay on my authentic path.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

unfolding in the trees not thinking

A vertical piece, like a tower.

Like something from another century.

with stairways that go up to the attic

where there is a fairy window

where there is a daydream.

where there is poetry

where there are no storms

not really

where we stop reading

where we stop thinking

where we recognize 

yet continue upwards

past the round window 

that doesn't open

towards the ceiling

so high 

it's a narrow space

like I said, it's a tower

it's intimate, close and soft

and dreamy

the round window watches 

it sees your memory

it views your dream 

oh your serene face

I know it's a cover up

I know it's a blanket

I know you are alone

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

being 14

There were so many babies born in 1951, that we had to go to high school in shifts.  Grade nine classes were about 30 each and organized into groups:  9a, 9b, 9c, 9d, etc.  Town kids could walk to school early in the morning so they were in the 9a and also 9b groups,  I think.  9c and 9d were country kids (like me) who came in on the bus at 9 and left at 3:30.  
There was still grade 13 in those days, and classes were streamed either for university prep or for technical college.  We had home rooms.  

There were sports teams and band that practiced after school.  There were school dances.  My brother and I were not allowed to go to dances or try out for sports, but we were allowed to go to band practice, and did so.   That happened on Mondays at 6 pm so we stayed in town and waited.  

My parents had purchased some rental buildings in town, and one of them had a basement that my dad used as a workshop, so I waited in that little dark space and remember eating chocolate powder and being alone.  I don’t remember reading or watching TV.  How did I pass the time?  And where was my brother?  I don't remember him waiting...maybe he went home on the bus and then drove back in the car to pick me up.  He was two years older.  About art.  I took art and music in grade 9, but in grade 10 I took Latin and typing.  I was allowed to go into the art room during lunch hours and paint there with oil paints.  I loved this and created quite a few paintings inspired by National Geographic photography during my high school years.  Teachers bought them.   
A mish mash of photos illustrate this post.  They make sense if you think about how cloth is connected to life story.  Otherwise, I can't explain them.

From the top:  a detail of my studio wall about ten years ago, before I cleaned it off
:  my 2017 Bidwell quilt with French knot embroidery inspired by murmurations of black birds
: the summer dining room, with the amazing table cloth received from one of my daughters
: my 2019 exhibition Beauty, Emotion, Spirit, Soul, with Lake and Monumental Simplicity hanging from the ceiling like sculptures
: this morning, June 8 2021, showing the folded up rock cut wool sculpture, and if you look, you can see more of my textiles in company with the beautiful suzani embroidery that I bought in Turkey when we were there in 2013.

The text is memory.  And how we remember.  And how much.  And what we censor.  

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

rock cut on the lawn

rock cut side one, a two part sculpture to be hung from the ceiling,
rescued wool blankets and hand stitched wool yarn,
 each part 8 or 9 feet high and 13 feet wide, 
still in progress after 4 years of steady work by Judy Martin 

Two things:  repetition and simplicity.

rock cut part one, side one  French knots made with wool yarn on wool blanket

I use the same stitch.   Over and over.

Also obsession.

I get absolutely lost.  I enter a kind of dream world while my hands keep moving.
rock cut part two, side two, reverse of couching stitch, wool yarn on mended wool blanket

It's too much to understand, the hours and hours of time that are in the work.  

rock cut side two, a two-sided two part suspended sculpture,
rescued wool blanket, plant dyed wools, hand stitched 
each part 8 or 9 feet high,  13 feet wide,
looking puny on the lawn
but it is a big piece by Judy Martin, begun in 2015

Two sides.  That's because I want the viewer to move around the work so that the body is engaged, not just the eyes and mind.     

Because we know with our bodies.                   

Monday, May 24, 2021

circles repeated and repeated

what endures?

old cloth

a spiritual place covered with marks

the directness of paint with the substance of thread

communication with the environment

large scale

immensity of space, minutiae of surface

the time we need to cope with life and death