We are really looking forward to the premiere of “By Hand,” the first new exhibit of the year at the Blue Line Arts gallery in Roseville, CA. Our piece, “American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation,” is one of the works juried into the exhibit. We’re particularly happy our work was accepted because the juror is renowned curator, Elisabeth R. Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Co-Founder and Adviser of Critical Craft Forum. We’re even excited about the logo for the exhibit. We love text as form!
“American Still Life” was a special project for the Pixeladies. We had initially created it for Quilt National ’13. (You can read about that experience here.) I remember sitting around trying to dream up an idea that we could work up large. What to do? This is where the collaborative process really comes in handy. We started out by talking about art and what themes artists often approached. I told Deb that most artists at one time or another had attempted a still life. We haven’t accomplished anything as artists, I maintained, if we didn’t try a still life. Well, that may work in theory, but try figuring out how to create a dead pheasant and a bowl of fruit out of texts while trying to subtly remind the viewer of the transitory nature of life. We chewed on this for a while, perusing still life paintings on the Internet. Then Deb said, maybe we can’t think of how to do this when we don’t have any connection to dead pheasants and the other items we had been looking at, like this one by Jakob Gillig:
Good point, I replied. Who eats like that anymore, let alone prepares food? That’s when Deb said we should replace some of the food with the food Americans eat, like hamburgers and french fries. This was a grand idea, so we thought we should develop this idea further over lunch at our local McD’s. Lest you think this was just an excuse to eat, we came home with the perfect containers to photograph. After painting them white, we photographed them in different compositions. This is one of them:
It was obvious to us what kinds of words and phrases we needed. High cholesterol, diabetes, obesity. Not only could we highlight the health effects of the American diet, but we could also (and not so subtly) integrate the theme of the transitory nature of life. So off we went to cut words from food boxes and food ads in magazines and newspapers. (We did learn during this project to stick with magazines and newspapers because the cardboard and other materials of the food boxes were often too stiff or too thick.) While we tended to start out with random placement of words and phrases, we often linked some words together to create new combinations of meaning. In this detail, for example, we grouped together the phrases “Snack on this,” “palm oil,” and “your just desserts.” It’s fun to watch people scan “American Still Life,” looking for interesting combinations. Some of the combinations are rather funny, but the underlying message keeps creeping back into view.
The finished piece measures 60″ x 60,” the largest work we’ve ever tackled. We started out working on the dining room table, but we had to finish it on the floor. Can anyone say “knee pain?”
The artist reception for “By Hand” is Saturday, January 16, starting at 6 pm. We hope you can join us. Here is the finished piece: