This is called Autumn of My Life with Double Self-Portraits. One cannot be in the mid-70s without realizing it is the autumn of her life, even if she thinks there is a possibility of living to 100. So this quilt was complex to make, as my life is now a complex of bright and wonderful elements.
First I wove the background which I've left up on this blog too long, but that was because the making was more complex than I foresaw.
I gathered -- and a friend also helped -- the leaves which I photocopied onto fabric. I also found the full face portrait and Rachel took the profile picture. The leaves, especially the big red maple leaves lost their brightness quickly and the computer's printer did not do a good job either with the color. So I needed to rev up the color with Crayola pastels. I made many arrangements on the background - to which I added the brown batik as border and as backing
Then I realized, as I so often do, that an artistic weakness is my inability to visualize tone of color and what will blend into another, what will stand out. I thought the red leaves in the middle would be a visual draw, but instead they almost disappear into the brightness of the background. But I can say that up close, their complex coloring and even the texture of the leaf is very interesting. I made a little trek across the street to take some small bright red leaeves from a bush I had been admiring. But they, too, refused to photocopy truly red, so I used a hot pink marker which also seemed to fade into the fabric. The yellows worked and I'm pleased that they are also complex with pinks touching them. The green leaves include a purplish pink. All this complexity of both background and leaves is important to me metaphorically as a statement about the life I know which is complex and many colored, more than it ever has been in my life.
The portraits are fused to the background but the leaves "float" held by the embroidered veins, with crewel wool, they are each fused to a solid color backing that gives them body. When I finally had everything in its place it needed some final touches of color, so I was back to my Crayola boxes, especially to touch up the outside edges of the leaves and to add a bit of depth to the faces which had faded into ghosts -- totally inappropriate for the metaphor of the quilt.
The whole is 24x24 -- and, also a usual fault of mine -- it is not precisely square, it is a bit askew -- that too is part of the metaphorical (entirely unplanned and, I think, unavoidable) statement about my life as I know it this autumn ... which, by the way, is probably going to be one the warmest and loveliest (due to, alas!, global warming).
I wove this autumnal background for a quilt I'm making, it's to be a self-portrait. I think a portrait of myself in autumn is a truism. I actually love the colors here which I wove on my dining table with one-inch strips of mutlicolored batik fabrics. I'n so fond of it I almost resist adding prints of actual leaves and the self-portrait. But I'm working on that.
We are enjoying the most colorful autumn in the six - or is it seven? -- years I've lived on Cape Cod. A drive today, even without sun as we had yesterday when I took the new header photo of leaves, was a color delight and not so different from the colors in this piece of quilted weaving.
The little Uncommon Threads group of which I've been a part only a few months, chose to make an art quilts 12x18 of "architecture". My quilt is a slightly enlarged version of an "antique" quilt pattern, a free download, from the American Quilter's Society called "Nolan's Houses."
I wanted to make something like the houses one glimpses through the trees driving along almost any two- lane road on Cape Cod. I pulled out my scrap collection and used all kinds of colors. The majority of houses here, of course, are white or gray shingled, but these various colors do exist. I guess it should be considered something like poetic (artistic) license. Many do have colorful doors.
The original pattern had a kind of Bauhaus rigidity but I think the colors undo most of that. The tree fabric for the stripping was a happy find in my stash. To me it gives the feeling of many of my drives through tree lined streets. On can rarely see an entire house facade because trees and shrubbery get in the way. I suppose I would give myself no higher mark than C if this were a school project and I know the serious quilt police would find many problems. Happily an art quilt can ignore most of those rules.
How I wish, sometimes, that I had an expensive camera with a long lens. But I might not have got so many of the starlings in one picture and, honest, I kid you not, the wire continued on at least as far on either side and was covered with birds. I'm sorry it was a gray day but, in fact, that is exactly the color the sky was. I was with my writing group when, to quote an inappropriate-season poem, "out o the lawn there arose such a clatter" -- should be "chatter" -- and we sprang from our seats to see what was the matter. It was a migrating flock of starlings.
In this area they are the only bird that migrates in large numbers. When I read about how pigeons used to fill the sky by the hundreds of thousands, I cannot imagine it, I can only remember the flocks of starlings like this. Sometimes a flock will land on the lawn outside my apartment. Not crowded together, if there are five hundred, it's possible for them to scatter over the lawn. They seem to each grab a bite or two of something from the grass (surely there aren't that many bugs!) and then they lift off and move on.
Summer is definitely my favorite season, but autumn isn't far behind. At the moment I'm looking for a nice big red or gold leaf to copy in a quilt I am planning to make. I must take some walks in the neighborhood and perhaps around a near-by pond. I'm sure I'll find what I need.
These are berries I call "bitter sweet". Sometimes they are orange instead of yellow. They are abundant in October; these were on Long Beach where I have been walking all summer. But now it is October. Three days of relentless rain and gray skies, tells me summer has ended and autumn has come. Autumn is a bittersweet season.
Visually it is a burst of color that is magnificent, more so than the many flowers of summer, more so than the brilliant blue skies and long sunny days of summer. Autumn is a season and it is a metaphor. I have just written a rather disjointed little piece about my experiences of autumn -- starting with October visits to my mother when we would go for drives to view the leaves in all their glory. They were wonderful in Southern Indiana but it was even more magnificent in Upstate New York where I lived at the time. the season is different in different parts of the country. Famously beautiful in New England, upstate New York can't be equalled -- say I, in a chavinistic mood because I saw tidal waves of color on the hills in that area that surely cannot be equaled anywhere. I supposed that is arguable.
Of course there is always the parallel, the metaphor, of the autumn of our lives. The ripe period of maturity which I feel I'm in now in my 70s. I think of the excitement I felt at a gathering of a small group of art quilters the other day. My own contribution nothing I want to brag about along side the fine art work of others. It is what it is. The theme was architecture. My rather traditional quilt of buildings among the trees -- the way I experience driving many of the Cape Cod two-lane roads -- was perhaps less creative than others. And less obviously metaphorical than the piece created by a woman whose husband died this past summer. She had pictured two of the iconic dune shacks of the outer Cape, one standing firm on it's dune and the other tipped, sliding away at an angle beside it. I did not remark on the meaning I saw immediately -- a woman still on her two feet even though the mate is sliding away. This is art -- the kind of art that simply happens when the artist is in touch with her feelings. I was very moved by that little quilt. And I believe her perseverence is bitter sweet. She is not the only widow of this summer in whom I view a strength. That is a part of the meaning of autumn.
A trip to Heritage Plantation in Sandwich, MA this morning show me and my two friends a new structure -- a circular-- with an opening , bench around a white oak tree. This is the back, Miriam is standing just at the opening. The blocks are made from the wood of another white oak tree. How could I not think about a quilt?
This was the grand prize winning quilt at the show. I'm terribly sorry I don't have the quilters's name. She was an American. I have been a student of Tibet for many years, have traveled there twice and recognize all the costumes and, of course, the Dalai Lama in the center -- I am SO glad that at least in this quilt he can go home again. What a sadness that he has had to live in exile for almost sixty years! On the left is the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama's rightful home. It is a magnificent structure and, until the Eifel Tower was built, it was the tallest building in the world. When I studied the quilt I saw she had put in two versions of the Potala and I don't blame her. It's a building I stood and studied for a very long time, from different sides. Inside it is even more awesome, full of treasures (possibly some have been stolen but the maze of the nearly 1000 rooms is stunning.
It was a shame that this large quilt with the faces individually drawn by the quilter, was hung in a spot with insufficient light. I can't blame the many people who were standing in front of it in awe of the workmanship and not quite comprehending the many symbolic features of it. I wish I could have gotten a better photo. The flag in the center of the lower border is the Tibetan national flag. When the Chinese Army invaded in 1959 they were invading a sovereign state although they claimed it was part of China (as it had been at times in the past). Today the country and especially Lhasa, its capital, has been turned into a Chinese city and the actual Tibetans are treated as second class citizens, jailed for the least praise of the Dalai Lama, rarely given good jobs. The independent herders in the countryside have been collectivized and made to live in towns and give up their way of life. During the period of the greatest repression, the Red Guard destroyed literally hundreds of monasteries, (ancient books have been lost forever) and hundreds of thousand of Tibetans were murdered.
Today the Chinese rulers think the Dalai Lama wants to foment a revolution. He has asked for years simply that the people be free to worship (as they are not - they can be jailed for having pictures of him). He does not want to fight the Chinese, he simply wants the people to be treated as the full citizens in their homeland with religious freedom. But that is routinely denied. Last year there were over 100 self-immolations by desperate Tibetans making a statement about the extent of their repression. I am enormously happy to see that someone is making a statement in our art form (quilting) and showing the people in their native costumes. I hope this quilt has raised the undestanding and/or awareness of at least a few more people. I will add a couple of details from the quilt so you can see the work better.