Nov 14 2017

MSU Museum Purchases “Drawing Humanity”

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What a lovely surprise it was to hear that the Michigan State University Museum wanted to buy our “Language of Color 10: Drawing Humanity.” We said, yes, of course.

Drawing Humanity

The Language of Color 10: Drawing Humanity


The museum knows our quilt well because the museum, along with the Women of Color Quilters Network and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, mounted Ubuntutu: Life Legacies of Love and Action. Artists submitted work that celebrated the contributions of the Tutus in promoting human rights, social justice, and peace in South Africa and around the world. When we heard about this exhibition, we challenged ourselves to create a celebratory piece in our Language of Color Series. In this series, we have been creating colored pencils and imbuing them with sometimes sharp-tongued observations about race in America (and elsewhere). Click here to view these pieces. It did indeed turn out to be a challenge to focus on positive words that could honor Reverend and Mrs. Tutu.

“Flesh Colors”

Our first challenge was to make “flesh-toned” colored pencils. Since we knew we wanted to make a range of flesh tones, we started working on our color tests. Which Pantone colors reflect real flesh tones? Our research led us to the photographer Angélica Dass and her incredible “Humanae” project, in which she photographs people in front of a white screen and then selects the Pantone color for the background based on the person’s nose color.


We were, of course, blown away by Dass’ incredible photographic talent. But, we were equally impressed by her goal to celebrate the multitude of “flesh” color, thereby breaking down the artificial notions of race. Click here to watch her amazing TED talk.
We made our initial collage without regard to color but instead to value. After choosing some of Dass’ Pantone colors as well as colors off L’Oreal’s skin tone chart, we overlaid those colors onto our collage. Yes, this took some testing!

Ubuntutu Exhibition

Oh, how we wish we could have gone to the opening in South Africa! The show ended up going to a further three venues. Click here to watch a video of Rev. Tutu viewing the exhibition. Before you click on the link, make sure you notate 27 seconds into the video. If you look very closely, you can see the back of our quilt peeking through just to the right of the stained glass quilt. At 42 seconds in, you’ll see people discussing our quilt — not that you can see it very well! To top off this amazing experience, the organizers produced a high-quality catalogue to accompany the exhibit. Click here for ordering information.

Catalogue

Catalogue


Sometimes, especially nowadays, it might seem as if ridding society of discrimination is just a pipe dream, but when we consider the work of people like Rev. and Leah Tutu and Angélica Dass, we have hope for the future. As Rev. Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” We hope with “Drawing Humanity” that we have done a bit of good. Now on to more projects that invite viewers to contemplate what they see in new ways.


Jul 11 2017

Cover Girls, Exhibition, And Vacation, Oh My!

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We certainly are starting our vacation off with a bang. For one, we were interviewed for the latest Patchwork Professional magazine, which just hit the newsstands. Patchwork Professional is published in Germany, so we had double the fun answering our interview questions in German. Yes, the editor was a bit surprised at that! The best part, of course, was when we found out that they used one of our quilts for the cover! Here it is:

Patchwork Professional 3/2017

If you’re in Germany, we hope you can find a copy and send us a photo of it displayed in the store. We’d love to see it in a rack among other German publications. Thanks in advance!

You can see our “cover” quilt in person at Bay Quilts in Richmond, CA, which brings us to our other great news: the artist reception for our solo exhibition this past Sunday. (Yes, we have to come up for another word for our solo exhibitions since there really are two of us!). It was fun to meet up with some good friends:

with Cara Gulati, our first SAQA friend

Deb chatting with Alice Beasley, another SAQA pal

This exhibition would not have come to pass, if it weren’t for a chance introduction to one of our newest friends, Johyne Geran. We were shocked at how many mutual friends we had, yet we had never crossed paths before. Thank you, Marcia Russell, for bringing us together. Because of Johyne’s recommendation to Sally Davey, owner of Bay Quilts, our work is now hanging at the store’s gallery throughout July. Thanks, Johyne! 

With Johyne Geran, one of our newest pals

We can’t end this post without wishing you all a wonderful and peaceful summer. We are taking some time off to tend to ourselves, our houses, our families, and to just having some good times. Look for us again in the fall.

 


Jun 27 2017

Art And Politics: What Does An American Look Like?

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I won’t mince words. Last November’s election for US president hit Deb and me like a punch in the gut. In fact, we’re still reeling from what seems like a daily assault on what we have always held as true; we have the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve never shied away from “provocative” topics in our art, so we knew we would eventually protest this unjust administration. However, we felt paralyzed for a time, completely incapable of understanding how anyone, regardless of party affiliation, could have voted for someone who clearly had no respect for women, immigrants, or the US Constitution. Thankfully, ten artists* formed an alliance to mount a juried exhibition “to protest the Trump administration’s actions and policies.” It was the inspiration we needed to give voice to our despair. Our submission was accepted, and we are proud to say we are part of “Threads of Resistance.” (Click here for the touring schedule of the exhibition.)

Deciding on a theme for the piece was at first glance somewhat difficult. There had been so much bluster, banter, and so many outright lies that it was hard to pinpoint one thing above the others to concentrate on. In the end, though, we kept coming back to the topic of the so-called “Muslim ban.” We weren’t the only ones who felt this proposed ban was not only morally wrong but also unconstitutional.  Americans came out in droves on January 29, 2017, to protest the president’s Executive Order 13769. (Click here to read more about these protests.) This order was eventually replaced by Executive Order 13780.

Americans protesting the “Muslim Ban” in Houston, Texas on Jan 29, 2017.

Unlike the president, we are students of history and kept seeing the parallels between his proposed “Muslim ban” and the wholesale incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during WWII. February 19, 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in ten concentration camps within the United States. I kept thinking about my family, who ended up in what became known as the Tule Lake Segregation Center

A family friend, Uncle Pete, Auntie Yuki &
Jichan (Grandpa) Sazaki in Tule Lake

What had they done to deserve this? Absolutely nothing. Deb and I know there are many Muslim Americans who might suffer the same fate as my family did, so we looked for a way to express this notion. Around this time I went to an exhibition about the Japanese American community in Sacramento, California, and I happened upon a photograph of Mitsuye Endo, whose case to invalidate her incarceration made its way to the US Supreme Court. Deb and I admired her courage, fortitude, and resistance. You can read more about her story at densho.org, which  “preserves, educates, and shares the story of World War II-era incarceration of Japanese Americans in order to deepen understandings of American history and inspire action for equity.”

Mitsuye Endo

As soon as we saw the entire photograph, we knew we had to do Mitsuye Endo’s portrait. In this photo, she looked like a typical American secretary . . . except she wasn’t white. We were delighted to find out that the owner of the copyright of this photo was none other than our own alma mater, California State University, Sacramento, so it was easy to get permission to use it in our project. Collaging the portrait was relatively easy, too, because we had many good words and phrases to choose from the current news and the anniversary of Executive Order 9066. The one thing we had to debate was whether or not to use blue as the shading color on Endo’s face. In Japanese art, the color blue is often used on faces to depict ghosts or the dying. We finally decided that we wanted Endo to represent the death of the American dream, so the color befitted our intent.

Deb working on Endo’s face

The last component of our piece was the background. Should we make it out of words and phrases like we did the face, or should we make it more subtle in order to bring Endo’s face into sharper focus? We kept talking about how Japanese Americans and Muslim Americans were singled out because of their looks, religion, or some other arbitrary marker to the point where we said, “Yeah, what does an American look like?” So that was how the background was born, but we didn’t stop there. Since we have many friends who speak other languages, we decided to ask them how to say “What does an American look like?” in other languages. This simple question begged further questions like “Do you mean physical traits?” “Do you mean what do they think like?” “Do you mean how do they act?” It turned out to be a compelling question. Here is the finished piece:

What Does An American Look Like?

Let us take this opportunity to publicly thank the following people for providing the translations. Be they academics, immigrants, artists, or business owners, they are above all our friends:

Arabic – Shahzad B.
Chinese – Clauda R. and Ellen W.
Dutch – Els M.
French – Eric F.
German – (Kris and Deb, of course!)
Italian – Susan A.
Japanese – Mario E.
Malagasy – Bakoly R.
Romanian – Danny M. and Paul B.
Russian – Amy A.
Spanish – Deborah F.

Here is the artist statement we submitted for the exhibition:

In 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the incarceration of Mitsuye Endo and 120,000 other Americans of Japanese ancestry. She became a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU to strike down her incarceration as unconstitutional. Despite governmental offers of an early release, Endo remained in camp in order for the case to make it to the US Supreme Court. Her victory led to the release of the prisoners in 1945. Fast forward to 2017 when we have witnessed President Trump sign first Executive Order 13769 and then Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Both orders have been stopped by lower courts, so this “Muslim Ban” has yet to be implemented. This case is making its way to the Supreme Court. [Update: The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in the fall of 2017 and has temporarily reinstated part of the ban. Click here to read more about this decision.]

These executive orders may be separated by 75 years but rely on the same fears of “the enemy.” That is why we pose the question, “What does an American look like?” Mitsuye Endo was an American. She was born in Sacramento, California, graduated from high school, and went to work for the California state government until she was fired from her job and incarcerated. So as you look around the room today, can you tell us what an American looks like?

* Our heartfelt gratitude to the Artist Circle Alliance members, who found the courage to resist: Sue Bleiweiss, Susan Brubaker Knapp, Judy Coates-Perez, Jane Dunnewold, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Jamie Fingal, Lyric Montgomery Kinard, Melanie TestaLeslie Tucker Jenison, and Kathy York


Jan 4 2017

Ahh, The Company We Keep!

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I regularly check out the website of Studio Art Quilt Associates because they frequently change their homepage banners. For me, it’s a weekly art fix. Well, wasn’t I surprised to check in the other day to find this amazing collage:

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Wow, our Obama quilt is in great company! These artists have produced some amazing work, and we hope you click on their names to view more of their work. Let’s take a closer look at these “faces.”

Zazen

Zazen

Margaret Abramshe‘s “Zazen” is an explosion of color. She works with family photos to create compelling stories. Even subjects such as a pallbearer and immigrant are striking in their use of color.

Trusting

Trusting

One of our oldest SAQA friends, Mary Pal works with professional photographers in order to concentrate on portraits of older people. She is able to achieve remarkable and sensitive portrayals using . . . cheesecloth. Mary molds the cheesecloth into a story right on the person’s face, even if we don’t know exactly what that story is.

Masked Self Portrait

Masked Self Portrait

Kate Themel is known for her ability to create light. From the camera lens in this self portrait to her street scenes, look for her brilliant lighting effects. And, remember, she’s doing it all with fabric and thread.

Romancing Red

Romancing Red

Michelle Jackson often uses text in her work. In this case, she does so to great effect by interspersing words for the color red throughout the piece. It’s also an evocative portrait, creating other sensations associated with the color red.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

Have you seen the Pixeladies‘s gallery of text art recently? We’ve been working away on pieces in our Language of Color series and our Walk a Mile in Her Shoes series. We use text to subtly influence meaning with specific word usage.

Always curious as to how things get done, I wrote SAQA’s multi-talented assistant executive director, Jennifer Solon, and asked her how these collages are selected and assembled for the SAQA banners. “I am still the person creating the banners. I select the artwork using the selections from the most recent online gallery,” Jennifer replied. We must note that among her many duties, Jennifer is still SAQA’s website master!

This month’s online gallery is called “Faces and Expressions.” You can access it by clicking here. Please take a look because there are so many other fascinating works of art in this gallery. Hats off to SAQA member Shruti Dandekar, who curated this particular online gallery!

Note: SAQA is always looking for guest curators. If you are an interested SAQA member, contact galleries@saqa.com for more information.


Sep 26 2016

Bid On Our Quilt Starting Today!

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As most of you know, we are proud members of Studio Art Quilt Associates, whose mission is to promote the art quilt. Their annual online benefit auction is currently underway, and you can bid on our quilt starting today at 2 pm EDT.

The Language of Color 9: Color IQ

The Language of Color 7: Color IQ

“The Language of Color 7: Color IQ” is one in the series of pencils we have been creating to address the issue of race in America. The colored pencils are created using words and phrases cut from magazines and newspapers. While many of these snippets show how often color is used in everyday language, interspersed among them you can find some biting, cutting, or difficult concepts.

Detail

Detail

Prices today are $750 per quilt, but you can wait, if you dare, to try and get the quilt later on at a cheaper price. If our particular piece doesn’t grab your fancy, we’re pretty sure you’ll like something in the auction. Click here to get to SAQA’s auction page. Bid early! Bid often! And support this wonderful organization. SAQA has helped artists like us since 1989.

UPDATE: The quilt sold today (9/26/16)! Many thanks to all the supporters of SAQA and especially to Del Thomas. Click here to read more about Del Thomas and the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Art Collection.


Feb 1 2016

Our Obama Art: From Exhibition to Times Square to Politico Magazine

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When Barack Obama was first elected president back in 2008, many artists took to their particular medium to mark this historic occasion – the first African American president of the United States of America. We wanted to commemorate this momentous occasion as well. “The Picture is Only Half the Story” has toured around the country, been published in a book, and is now included in a magazine’s retrospective of Obama art. As President Obama starts his final year in office, we want to step back a moment and reflect a bit on the journey “The Picture is Only Half the Story”* has taken.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

We had just started working on pieces that were made up of snippets of texts, so we thought we would try to make an Obama piece using this process. First we searched for texts and phrases that people could have said – people who saw Candidate Obama as a symbol of hope and change. As they were projecting their hopes and dreams onto this man, we thought to put those words and phrases onto his face. After all, we, the people, were creating a president. Once we stepped back from the face, we realized that there was something missing. What had Obama been telling us all this time throughout the campaign? We looked at each other and asked ourselves what was the most important thing Obama said to us, Kris and Deb, during this election cycle. We both said: Obama’s speech on race.
On March 18, 2008, Candidate Obama spoke in response to controversial remarks made by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. You can read about this speech and watch the video by clicking here. While we couldn’t logistically place the entire speech onto the background, we made sure the words that left the greatest impression on us were there: long march, challenges, together, common hope, same direction.
We were honored when independent curator Carolyn Mazloomi chose to include us in her exhibit and book, Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama.

Journey of Hope

How excited we were to see where “The Picture is Only Half the Story” traveled. A detail of our piece even served as the bookmark for the exhibit. We met amazing people during the run of this exhibition and through the publication of the book.

ObamaBookmark001

And if you think our heads were exploding when we saw the bookmark, we almost lost it when Carolyn Mazloomi sent us this photo of our piece flashing up on one of the big screens in Times Square. Hot diggity! We figured if we could make it there (in New York), then we could make it anywhere!
ObamaTimesSquare

Now, if you think making it means getting published in Politico Magazine as among its favorite artworks depicting the 44th president, then we have made it! Please check out Politico Magazine‘s article called Obama, Art-ified: A tour through the unprecedented body of artwork depicting Barack Obama. (Click on #4 to see our piece.) We were humbled to be included in this amazing slideshow.

So how did Barack Obama’s candidacy, this speech, his presidency, and the making of “The Picture is Only Half the Story” impact our work? Well, we started a series called “The Language of Color” where we use colored pencils as sleek means to explore issues of race, which has come to occupy a focus of our recent work. And we’re not done. America is still striving to become that more perfect union. We’re trying to capture that journey. Here are some examples:

As I prepared this blog, I watched then Candidate Obama’s speech again. He has gotten a lot grayer, but his message of hope and change remains the same. And his call to talk about race is more important today than it was on that day eight years ago.

* “The Picture is Only Half the Story” is available for purchase ($2,044). Please contact us using the contact form.


Jan 13 2016

By Hand Exhibition

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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!

"By Hand" graphic

“By Hand” Logo

“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:

Freshwater Fish (1684)

Freshwater Fish (1684)

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:

The Original Photo

The Original Photo

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.

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation (detail)

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation (detail)

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?”

Deb Clutching her Glue Stick

Deb Clutching her Glue Stick

Kris Inserting the Final Piece

Kris Inserting the Final Piece

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:

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation


Sep 17 2015

Bid On Our Quilt!

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The SAQA Benefit Auction starts tomorrow. We donated this 12″x 12″ quilt to help support this wonderful organization. After all, earth without art is just “eh.”

Pixeladies_WalkAMileInHerShoes-WhatItsReallyLikeOutThere.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: What It’s Really Like Out There

There are a lot of great quilts available (just in case ours doesn’t strike your fancy). When our #internkelly was doing her internship with the Pixeladies, we all put together our “dream” collections of six quilts each. Take a look:

Deb’s Dream Collection featured this colorful quilt by Tommy Fitzsimmons.

FitzsimmonsTommy

Kris’s Dream Collection featured this striking quilt by Regula Affolter.

Regula-Affolter-BA15

#internkelly’s Dream Collection featured this evocative quilt by Maggi Birchenough.

Maggi-Birchenough-BA15

Whatever your personal taste, you will surely find something to bid on. And it’s also fun to watch the bidding. Click here to view the entire auction collection. Good luck!


Mar 23 2015

Our Latest Series: Walk A Mile In Her/His Shoes

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We recently finished a 26-piece alphabet quilt for a client. The pieces were small, and while it was a challenge to work with such small text in that format (tweezers became our best friends), we really liked the objects and themes that went along with them. Since then we have worked on three donation quilts and wanted to look for suitable subjects. We returned again and again to the alphabet quilts, and the letter “O” kept jumping out at us – for Oxfords, of course!

O-Oxford

Why not do a series of quilts based on shoes, we thought? Well, we did our first red pumps for Virginia Spiegel’s Fiberart for a Cause auction, and we have another set of pumps ready for the SAQA Benefit Auction in September (more on that at another date).

WAMIHS-TheBalancingAct

For the Spotlight Auction at the SAQA Conference this April, we worked on a pair of court shoes. We took photos of Miles’ (Kris’ son) old-school Converse sneakers, reduced the values to about four, and printed out the image. Then we collaged the texts. We had to do a lot of reading of fine print to get the words and phrases to convey our feelings for “Walk a Mile in His Shoes: Too Much Pain for the Gain.” Then we printed the collage out on cotton and quilted it. Let us know what you think.

Pixeladies_WAMIHS-TooMuchPain-1800px


Jan 15 2015

Fiber Art For A Cause Is February 4th

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Virginia Spiegel, mixed media artist and fellow SAQA member, has been organizing auctions of fiber artwork since 2005, with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society. This year it’s called The 100 Fundraiser for a Cause. Virginia invited 100 artists (including us, an honor) to donate an artwork that would be auctioned off for $100. On February 4, beginning at 10 am (Central time), donors can place their order. The first one hundred people to donate $100 will receive one of the artworks chosen randomly. We then send the artwork to the donor. This all seems very exciting, and we’re happy to be part of raising $10,000 for a good cause. Kris lost both her parents to cancer, and Deb lost her brother-in-law and childhood friend to the dreaded disease. We are happy to participate in this cause. Here’s our donation. It’s called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The Balancing Act” (8″x 10″ matted). Please consider donating to this cause. You might get this piece!

WalkAMileInHerShoes_TheBalancingAct