Exhibition Struggles

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 This is being a tough month.  It’s not like I didn’t expect it… but here I am in the midst of it and I’m feeling a little in overwhelm.
First, as most of you know, I’m share the head of exhibitions for the Contemporary QuiltArt Association and we have our “Salsa!” exhibit opening Memorial day weekend.  Our jury met on April 28 at my home… you’d think that once the pieces were picked out, it should be smooth sailing, right?  Wrong.

One of the wonderful things about the venue we’re going to be in, the Mighty Tieton Warehouse Gallery, is that they’re going to print a catalog of the exhibit. So, as soon as I know the juror selections, I needed to get the photos of accepted pieces to their printer, which meant I had to download 114 photos (a full and detail shot of each piece) from the place where the artists had submitted them.  However, I soon found out that not every artist had sent high-resolution photos.  This meant I had to contact those artists who had sent low-res photos and help them get high resolution ones to me.  I even ended up taking photos for one artist!

Once the photos were sent over, I had to start working on compiling all the information for the catalog… artist’s statements, sizes of artwork, materials and techniques used, photographer, price of piece, year completed, as well as artist and title of the piece.  We have 57 pieces in the show, so that’s quite a bit of info to put together.

On Saturday, we pick up the pieces at our CQA meeting.  We’re working on figuring out a way to best hang the works… the gallery has a wire hanging system.  At this point, we’re planning on using a heavy-duty fishing line to attach the quilts and art cloth from the wire.  However, we will need to tie the fishing line onto all the hanging sticks and haven’t fully worked out how we will adjust the length of the fishing line to make sure each piece is at the right level and even.  My husband and I have even gone to a couple hardware stores to try and see if there was some sort of hardware that we could put the line through and pull it and it would catch and not slip.  At this point, it looks like we’re going to just be adjusting it by hand and tying it off.

On the 20th, we head over to Tieton (about a 2 and a half hour drive) to hang the show.  I’m not sure how long it will take considering the tying aspect.  Then our Opening will be on Saturday the 25th, so another long drive that day (I may stay overnight for that one since it goes from 12-5 and there is an artist celebratory dinner afterwards!)

Oh, did I forget to mention that my two-year long program at the Gail Harker Center for the Creative Arts starts this month too?  I will be going up to La Conner from May 14-19 for my first class. We’ll be meeting approximately every three months and have a good deal of homework in between each session.  However, as you can see from the photos here, Gail’s student’s create some amazing fiber artwork!

All this said, I’ve decided to back off of my initial goal this year to create a 5 x 7 piece each week.  I’m a little disappointed, but I am working on my artwork daily, so I suppose that’s the real goal.  Since I’ll be staying up at our cabin on Whidbey Island next week while I go to classes in La Conner, I plan to bring my freemotion quilting sampler quilt that I’m working on for Leah Day’s Craftsy class to work on in the evening.  Having six days away from my husband and kids to just work on my art will be a real vacation!

Anna’s hummingbird from my sketchbook – Acryllic paint, watercolor pencil, silver ink

Beginning to Exhibit- Tips to Manage Showing

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Designing for a theme

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Do you shudder with fear or turn away with disdain when you see a show that has a theme?  It seems that many calls to artists request the artwork to meet an aspect of a theme, and some jurors are stricter than others about how closely a piece meets that criteria or not.

Moulin Rouge Deux (on right) at the Airport Appetizer show

As the Co-chair for Exhibitions for the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, I’ve seen both jurors who would drop a piece for not seeming to have anything to do with a theme, and others who were open to a very broad interpretation (such as the title had a word that related to the theme, but there was no other discernible connection.)

 Being more of a representational artist, working with a theme usually works well for me.  I like having a launching pad for my ideas.  For instance, at one show at the SeaTac international airport, my quilt “Moulin Rouge Deux” was displayed, along with other quilts with international elements.  You can clearly see the pyramids in the other quilt alongside mine.

Currently, SeaTac has another exhibit from CQA, this one with the name and theme of “Journeys.”  In this show, we had some fabulous entries which took many different interpretations of the theme.  I have two additional pieces in this show.  Here are some photos from this exhibit:

 Many interpretations of a broad theme.  After all, we can take literal journeys, by foot, car, horse, rail, air, boat, etc. or we can take spiritual journeys, journeys of the heart, or journeys of our imagination.

Rainier: Two Views by Colleen Wise

But what about when the theme is more difficult or restrictive?  I’ll go into that more tomorrow.  Pleasant dreams…yet another type of journey!

The Art of Organization

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It’s funny, how you can be really organized in one area, yet swimming (or sinking) in disorganization in another.  Like many creative types, I struggle with organization.  At our local Surface Design Association meeting a few months ago, we had the topic of Time and Studio Management.  We all brought photos of our studio in its current condition.  We even had a $20 prize for the local Quiltworks store where we meet for the artist with the messiest studio, to encourage people to really not clean up before our session.  Well, since I offered the prize, I didn’t have to shell out any money when it was unanimously decided that my studio was the worst!  No, I’m not going to share those photos online at this time… maybe when I get to know you better.

On the other hand, I’m extremely organized in some areas… in setting and attaining goals; in developing organizational systems; in project management.  For instance, today I put together 3 different proposals for exhibition venues for the Contemporary QuiltArt Association (CQA.)  Two were for well-known musuems and the third for a city hall gallery.  Putting together proposals such as these requires a lot of organizational skill.  You need to find their requirements and do your best to follow them explicitly.  You need a personalized cover letter, artist statement, biography, artist resume, and images of your work.  The images needed to be picked and formatted to each venue’s specifications. I’ve been very successful with my exhibition proposals in the past and hope that I will be here again in the near future. (I’ll let you know where the museums/galleries are if we secure them.)

This year I’ve made slow incremental progress in gaining control over some areas of my life.  First and foremost, I lost 30 lbs that had been slowly creeping on over the last few years.  Next, I’ve been keeping up with putting all my clothes away (anyone else have oodles of laundry?) and making sure to keep my closet cleaned up.  Then, I moved towards keeping the corner of my bedroom clean, where my books, quilt magazines, art projects and miscellaneous junk pile up from whatever I’m working on or reading before bedtime.  And now, I’m working on the studio. 

Part of my problem is that I’m blessed with a large home.  So, whenever I run out of space, I just move on and work in another area. I also love to work in the evening in front of the t.v.  However, theis requires bringing a bunch of things from my studio into our “adventure” room (family/tv room.) I also am one of those people who just love to learn new things.  So I have supplies for all of them.  I’m working now at developing a place for each type of supply… a drawer of thermofaxes, a bin for stabilizers, all my scissors put away in the same place, so I always know where to find things. 

The outside of the old fruit processing plant

But, again, you can only do so much cleaning and organizing until you are cutting into your art time.  Today, I did some dyeing-the wool Viking tunic my son made.  Too much time has been spent in front of a computer screen.  I never did claim that I was great on the time management side, now did I?

I promised a few days ago that I’d post some photos from the Mighty Tieton gallery.  Enjoy!


You walk through part of the old warehouse…
… and open the huge Cold Storage door

To a beautiful gallery space

Planning an Exhibition

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Entry to the old cold storage room now refurbished as a gallery

Mighty Tieton is an unique artist community 15 miles outside the city of Yakima, Washington. As the co-chair of Exhibitions for the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, I’ve scheduled an exhibition in their unique gallery space. Today I visited the space-a remarkable gallery created out of an old fruit processing warehouse. The space where our exhibit will hang was a large cold storage locker complete with huge refrigerator-like doors through which they probably drove forklifts filled with pallets of fresh Yakima valley produce.  Once you get through the door, however, the space is transformed into a wonderful gallery space with soaring ceilings, high-tech lighting and a wire hanging system which will allow us to hang quilts or art-cloth throughout the interior of the gallery, rather than just from the walls.

Currently, in a second “cold storage” space, they have set up an exhibit of Trimpin’s sound studio art. Originally from Bavaria, Trimpin’s now lives in Seattle. His artwork combines music and sculpture, often using computers to play the instruments. He has exhibited in numerous prestigious galleries and museums, including Seattle Art Museum, the Experience Music Project, Frye Art Museum and many more.

In yet another space in the warehouse, there was the start of a large (approximately 20′ x30′) felted piece, started when Janice Arnold had one of her incredible felted tents on display (still up in yet another gallery space!). We may even get the opportunity to work on felting this unfinished piece.

I took high-res photos of the space which I’ll post after I return home and am able to process them.

As one of my artist goals, I want to get to the place where I can have a solo exhibition of my art. I’m not there yet… but as one step towards this goal, I decided that volunteering as Exhibitions co-chair would help me gain valuable experience which I can use in my future solo shows. Since the time I started working on CQA’s exhibitions, I’ve learned a great deal. How to find potential venues; what to include in an information packet to the prospective gallery; talking with gallery representatives; working out exhibition details; how to publicize the show; hanging an exhibit; putting on an opening event; working with the gallery on sales; and finally, taking the show down.

More to come on the process of putting on exhibitions. Any secrets you have to share would be greatly appreciated!