Friday, April 09, 2010

Joan Schulze: Poetic License and the BIG RISK

There is a retrospective exhibit of her work (she lives nearby, in Sunnyvale) at the Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose. The work is well-hung in large spaces. There are central benches so one can sit and look for a long time. This small, handsome museum is an unsung gem! Today the artist will be here from 11-1 to talk about the work and lead a tour. I have worried about getting a parking place, but when I get there 10 minutes late (I had to stop for gas) I am the seventh person there; by the time she finishes, there are thirteen, including a couple from Bend, Oregon, who just dropped by. Alas, photography inside the museum is forbidden, but here is shown the outdoor view across the street. Tell me why the trees are wrapped in red tape, is it art, commerce or law?

Joan Schulze: Her voice is very soft. I look in my bag for my hearing aids. They aren't there. I begin to pay a more fierce attention and soon understand her quite well. Leaving the museum, I reach for the camera from my bag and there is the case in the little pocket I usually only keep keys in . . . I put the aids in and get to hear traffic sounds on the way home.

She is talking about her California quilt as I come in. I hear only her interesting, uncontextualized phrase: “to give California back to myself.”

She shows us the correspondence between two quilts many years apart. She shows us the autumnal color palette in the center of one and at the left side of the newer one. I notice that she looks at the museum label to check the date when each piece was made.

“That's what happens when you have a retrospective” [and a lot of your work is up on the walls,
you can notice correspondences.]

“A lot of my work is autobiographical.”

She talks about her interest in displaying the back side to see the quilting, knots and thread ends. The process of the quilt and the emphasis on the assembly of it. “I wanted to make a statement about who deep the layers of a quilt are--not only physically but emotionally.” “to celebrate the beginnings and endings of things”

After some time, she started using paper and “marrying it with fabric”

“Anytime I say it's a quilt . . .” [it's a quilt?] 2 layers, three layers . . .

On her time in Holland on on of those USIA exchanges—there was no sink in the workroom there.
“Now I can work all day in my studio with only a pint of water.” [She may have said a cup. But
I couldn't believe that long enough to write it down.]

If you paint your fabric (dilute acrylic) on a tarp the paint will settle and make different patterns on the back of the fabric.

[A series of smallish 30” square quilts with translucent and transparent elements are hung at about a 45-degree angle to the wall so one can see both sides—]“the light comes through.” [They are based on the garden.]

“Artists need to take a BIG RISK.” “. . . am I doing something new; am I challenging myself?”

[When looking at my] “failures, can I take another avenue?”

“I'm addicted to entering exhibitions. . .” On her 2008 piece in the Triennial, “It has legs.” and is getting a lot of useful attention.

Method for transferring images using glue: Use PVA [polyvinyl adhesive] available at art stores and bookbinding suppliers. With a large brush apply it to the face of a color copy or photocopy (inkjets won't work) While wet, press face down onto cotton or silk fabric. Let dry at least one full day. Iron back side through freezer paper to remove all traces of moisture. Dampen a shamwow (or some such) and lay on the paper side for a time to dampen the paper thoroughly. Then, using rubber gloves, peel (and rub?) the dampened paper carefully away. [It looked to me as if some of the pieces in the exhibit had some paper left on them. Since the quilts “marry” paper and fabric in other ways, why not this way?]

Joan quotes an artist (not sure, but I think she said) Klee, “as you work the image will reveal itself.” No need to think everything out in advance. See what happens while you work and respond to the developing image.

On making art: “If you are living a fragmented life, you learn how to concentrate in a short space of time.” [I should note that this has been difficult for me.]

Look at your accidents [to see what you can learn.]

When questioned about “appropriation”: “I didn't even think about that; I was raising four children . . .]

She used to make artist's patches on her children's clothing. They thought it was so cool, that they began to rip here and there to get more patches. “I finally had to say: no more than one patch per clothing.”

On submitting art to exhibits and competitions: “Put the thing you don't want in your home out there.” These are things that might not be "pretty," they might be scary or a little unsettling. You might not understand everything about what you have made, and some pieces you might not want to look at every day or explain to your family or casual visitors.

“Traditional art doesn't inform my work at all, even though I like being part of history, especially women's history.”
In the text above, where I wrote down the exact words I am pretty sure I heard her say, I have enclosed those words in quotes. My sense-completions are in brackets and the other text is mine.

Afterwards, since my notebook was already out, I made preliminary versions of some haiku:

museum silence--
air conditioning's faint hum
this early April

quilt exhibit--
the woman with white curls
holds a magnifying glass

Reminder to self: some things for this woman (me)to do:
Get some PVA. Get some acrylics.
Try small collages, paper and fabric, glued and sewn. 5”x7” and 8”x10.” Frame them.
Use pieces of my monoprints as a base for fabric and other papers.
French knots. Small beads, buttons. . .ribbons, lace.
Monoprint on fabric. Possible with oil inks I have??
Use my unworn too-thin cream-colored silk blouses for transparent layers. And try printing on them.