29 Jan

A Creative Funk

It’s been a tumultuous week on the political front and my desire to stay informed and engaged is in direct conflict with my need to accomplish anything. I’ve been jumping from outrage to outrage, trying to peel the layers back and determine what is actually normal and/or true (but not necessarily my cup of tea), and what is just plain nuts. It’s exhausting.

I want to express my confusion, rage, frustration, and my votes and letters to representatives in government seem rather meaningless. And this week, I’m feeling like my art is rather meaningless too. There is so much beautiful, impactful, art on social media, and I see it reaching and connecting to so many people, that I figure anything I do is lame. I commented as much on a friend’s post, but then decided to delete it because it was self-centered and whiny, and not appropriate for someone else’s post. So, I’m saying it here.

Maybe I’ve already said enough. ‘Murica, my US flag made of tessellating gun shapes speaks to the intertwined relationship between America’s self image and guns. Death Shroud for Democracy is my commentary on the tearing apart and dismantling of American democracy. In my opinion, we’ve been functioning as an Oligarchy for quite a while, and the new administration appears intent in meeting it’s campaign promises to metaphorically burn the place down. Most recently, I finished #notnormal, which tries to draw attention to the normalization of Donald Trump’s antics. I had assumed that these pieces were the beginning of something. That I could keep going. But this week, I’m not feeling it. I’m not up to the task. Everything I consider has been done before, and done better by others.

Another friend reminded me that my black and white scrap quilt is pretty awesome. That was a perfect smack upside the head. Yes, it is awesome. And maybe it’s perfectly OK to retreat into a year of scrappy medallion quilts and samples for work which are all about the process of making, or the pretty colors and patterns, and perhaps a perfect escape from the tedious reality of parsing news from fiction and real outrage from outrage merely for the sake of drama or distraction.

29 Jan

#notnormal

This is not normal. And yet I find myself trying to normalize it. I’m outraged, and then I have to double check and find where so much is just the usual transition from one party’s administration to the other’s. But it’s all mixed up in the truly unusual, and it’s nearly impossible to disentangle one from the other.

Notnormal web

#notnormal, 2017, 32″ x 48″

Up is down and down is up in this new era of alternative facts, and reality TV as reality.

I created this quilt with SAQA’s Poster exhibit in mind. Originally, I was going to make something completely different, but after November 9th this begged to be made.

The gradated background and jumbled piecing of the border represent the topsy turvy feeling of current politics. There are 50 stars, 20 white ones for the states Hillary Clinton won and 30 orange to black ones that Donald won. All have raw edges because many Americans are feeling pretty raw. Scrawled overall are tweets and statements from and about Donald, which fall into the category of being “not normal.” The sad thing is that this graffiti is already dated. Every day there are more statements I could add. Perhaps I will add more. Perhaps in four years this will just be a tangled mess of threads.

Notnormal detail

14 Dec

#notnormal

Like so many people, I am overwhelmed. There are so many things I see happening that I can’t figure out what action to take, or if it’s even worthwhile to take action. Every day it’s some new outrage. I’m trying to put myself in others’ shoes, to see things through other eyes. Not everyone sees the country the same way I do and that’s fine. So, I want to respect the needs and beliefs of my fellow Americans. But a month after the election I’m having a hard time seeing how this is going to be OK.

“Give him a chance,” people say. “Checks and balances,” they reassure.

  orange“His bluster and “straight talk” on the campaign trail was just that: bluster. He’ll be more Presidential if he wins.” OK, but a month on, he’s lashing out via Twitter at SNL, newspapers, and a union boss for not gushing over him. Businesses and offices can probably handle the backlash, but individual people are not prepared to fend off the consequences of targeted vitriol (see last year’s college student who asked a reasoned question of the candidate and received not only a crude response from him but also a year of online harassment from his followers). I don’t see a move towards either Presidential behavior, nor any effort to bring Americans together as he promised.

“He’s so rich he won’t be corruptible. He doesn’t need to be in this for the money. He’ll work with the average worker in mind.” OK, but before the election there was no evidence of altruism. He still doesn’t show us where his money is or what he does with us. Not long after the election, he said he was working with lawyers to disentangle his conflicts of interest. I actually told my cynical husband that this was movement in the right direction and we should give him the benefit of the doubt. But, a month later, there’s been no discernible effort to distance himself from his money. In fact, it actually looks like he’s putting his ducks (children and business interests) in a row to take advantage of of his and their positions of power to guide policy and decision making for personal financial gain. Oh, and he’s put off until after the electoral college casts their votes, his public explanation of his intentions vis a vis conflicts of interest.

not-normal-1

Heal the divide? Not gonna happen with continued Tweet storms or nominating cabinet members with nihilistic tendencies towards the cabinets they’d head. Don’t like the appearance of Pay to Play? How do his big donor advisory picks and cabinet nominations look?

The backlash (mine included) against him can’t merely be sour grapes. This is not the first time my candidate has lost, but this is the first time I just can’t wrap my head around why the other candidate won. I swear I’m trying to suss out the ways his election will address the issues people say they care about, but I just can’t see it yet.

“Government is corrupt and has done nothing for me. We might as well burn it all down.” Ah, now here’s something I think he can deliver on. Unfortunately, I just can’t bring myself to believe that a scorched earth approach to governance is good for the American people. This is not normal…

not-normal-2

…but I fear that it WILL become normal.

26 Jun

Meet Me on IG?

In May, I was lamenting my lack of blog posts. Since then, I’ve blogged a couple times, but not really picked up the pace. I’ve been paying attention to my social media use though, and invited readers to follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

I’m now thinking the answer is a shift in focus. For over ten years, my blog has been my main story and then Facebook, and more recently Instagram, have played supporting roles. But I’m finding that I like the immediacy and accessibility of Instagram. I can take photos of whatever I’m doing and post it right away, all from my phone. I find that things are much more current on my Instagram feed, and I’m happy with the balance of personal and professional inspiration. I won’t be ditching my blog altogether, but I think that Instagram will now be my main story, and the blog will play a supporting role when I need something that can be more verbose, or contain links, or do whatever it is that blogs do best. My professional Facebook page has it’s merits, as does my personal page, so those will live, but I’m trying not to spend too much time there. (By the way, if you’ve friend requested me and I haven’t responded it’s probably because we’ve never met in person, which is pretty much my criteria for my personal Facebook page. However, please like my professional Facebook page — that’s where all the arty stuff is anyway.)

So, please follow me on Instagram, because I think that’s where it’s at for me right now.

IG Feed

19 May

Follow Me

Thinking about yesterday’s post and what to write about, it dawned on me that now might be a good time to remind readers that I do post shorter, but more regular, images and thoughts on my professional Facebook page, and even more so, on my Instagram feed. So, between sporadic blog posts, I encourage you to follow me:

Home is Where night Follow me on Facebook! This is my professional page where I post information about what I’m working on and where to see my work. No cat or food photos here — just art.

Shroud WIPFollow me on Instagram! Here are my creative endeavors and what inspires me. It’s mostly art, but there’s a good amount of knitting and home renovation as well. Plus the occasional pretty flower, cat, or food pic.

16 May

The One About Nothing

I hate it when the first thing I read on a blog post is, “I can’t believe it’s been x months since I last posted,” or “I know I’ve been away for a while but this is where I renew my commitment to my blog.” Just blog or don’t blog — no need to explain or apologize. But I find myself in exactly these shoes. I have the best intentions of blogging, and then other things take precedence, or more likely, I can’t think of anything to blog about.

I was wondering the other day what has changed in my life that I no longer have anything to write about. The obvious is that I’m not going to cool German fests, or exploring exotic Hawai’i, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write about my new locale. There’s certainly a lot going on in Portland. No, I think my biggest stumbling block has more to do with expectations. My expectations. I am constantly influenced by what I see on social media — mostly Facebook and Instagram — and most of it is beautiful and curated. I get that it’s branding. Consistency is good. I get that the people posting are known for the kinds of things they post. And I have to admit that I like the way pretty scenery or carefully staged projects look. They are putting their best foot forward and I admire that.

I think that subconsciously (or maybe pretty consciously), I’m not blogging because I don’t have anything finished or aesthetically pleasing to post about. I can’t post weekly if I’m not completing things weekly. The home renovation projects are inching forward, but who wants to see a new light fixture next to the same old sink with no faucet? The embroidery progresses, but who wants to see another word in condensed san serif type when the last thing I posted was a word in san serif type. I’m working on a commission, but it’s in it’s ugly experimental phase and not ready for prime time. I’m making samples for work, but they’re not complete yet.

So bear with me while I sort out how to tell stories on my blog in an era of quick (but seductive) glimpses on social media. I feel like this space deserves better than just copying my Instagram photos, but at the moment I don’t have anything cohesive.

08 Jan

The Ubiquitous New Year Blog Post

So here’s where I sum up what I’ve accomplished in the past year and lay out what I hope to do in the new year. But I’m not doing that this year.

Everything changed in 2015. Well, maybe not quite that dramatic, but it was a year of transition for sure. My husband was medically retired from the Army, where he had served, and I have followed, for nearly 20 years. For the first time in two decades, we got to choose where we wanted to live. Needless to say, there was much soul searching (mostly on his part) as to how we/he wanted to see ourselves/himself. We decided to move first and find employment later and long story short, we purchased our very first home and moved across country to be closer to our families.

So now that we’ve been in Portland, Oregon for nearly six months, we’re settling in. For me, the biggest change is probably home ownership. We bought a 65 year old fixer upper and it will suck every ounce of time and energy I have if I let it. So, art has taken a back seat to home decor and renovation. And I’m OK with that.

I joined the SAQA Education Committee in 2015 and have been doing some writing for exhibition catalogs and venues. I need to continue to make time for that.

I had considered starting a new business, making custom quilts from military uniforms. I have the samples and the bones of a website ready, but the move, the house, my computer dying, my web host screwing things up, and now my camera in hospital, have all conspired to delay this project. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I just might not be the entrepreneurial type.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I was feeling a little guilty about all the plans I have for the house and how to pay for them, so I decided that maybe I should get a part time job. And wouldn’t you know it, a job practically plopped right into my lap. I’ve now been working at The Pine Needle quilt shop for three months and I love it. Making art is fraught with angst. I might like what I create, but does anyone else? Have I communicated effectively? Has anyone else done the same thing before? Of course they have, and done it better too.  I’m always doubting myself. My making art is a negative cash flow too. I can’t seem to sell enough work or somehow monetize it so that it pays for the supplies and promotion. Case in point, I was invited to send work to a show in NY and now the unsold work is on it’s way back to me. The shipping costs are just a few dollars less than my percentage of the one sale. Getting work into group shows is a money loser too since I have to pay to enter and pay shipping. In contrast, I’ve caught on quickly to the systems at the quilt shop. I get along well with my co-workers. I love helping customers choose fabric, and I enjoy being part of combining fabrics for kits and bundles. I can sew samples if I want — thus playing with patterns and fabrics without expenditure or increase in stash. AND I get paid to do this! Imagine that — instead of me paying others hoping they’ll like my artwork, my boss is paying me for doing a job I enjoy and do well.

So I’m going to let 2016 unfold in whatever way it chooses. There will be art making, but there might be more house projects. And there will be work at the quilt shop. I’m donning the social media hat there, so I’ll be blogging my own story here and on Facebook and Instagram, but I’ll also be sharing gorgeous fabric and fun events on The Pine Needle’s blog, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.  I’ll share details as I get things up and running.

2016, show me what you’ve got.

TPN Katya

04 Dec

Feeling The Need to Rant

I try not to make this blog too ranty or political, but every now and then I just need to use my outside voice, and this is my platform. Yes, I ranted about gun control two and a half years ago and my opinions have not changed much since then. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then about what I want to do about it.

Murica_detail

I could “like” and share posts on social media that align with my views, but outrage on social media is just so much hot air and nothing actually tangible. I could vote for leaders who’s platforms include issues I agree with, but I’ve been doing that for decades and even if my local politicians support the issues I support, overall the majority and/or oligarchs of this country have very different goals than I do.

I do think that we should continue to pressure politicians to pass (or simply enforce) gun control laws. Sure, background checks, limits on certain types of guns, and limits to amounts of ammunition won’t stop all gun violence, but it has been shown to slow it down in countries that do have stricter laws than the U.S. My vote will reflect this.

I also agree that this country is in dire need to increased mental health services and funding for them. What I don’t believe is that the majority of gun violence perpetrators could have been stopped by better mental health services. I sincerely think that most gun violence is much more a result of poor anger management skills. I have no problem paying higher taxes if that money is going to more and/or better social services.

One thing I think could actually happen soon is to lift the implied ban on gun violence research. In recent news, many doctors are lobbying lawmakers for this. I believe that in the long run, more research on the myriad motives for gun violence and mass killings, and research on gun violence as a health issue will lead us to better understand the problem and to better combat it.

Since it is highly unlikely that Americans as a whole would willingly “give up their guns,” I support the suggestion that gun owners purchase liability insurance for said weapons. Sure, illegal guns wouldn’t be covered, and home intruders and mass shooters couldn’t necessarily be held accountable, but how about the toddlers that accidentally shoot their family members, or the school shooters that use their parent’s guns to kill classmates, or the guy who shoots his girlfriend thinking she was an intruder? At the very least, the insurance could go towards hospital costs, burial costs, first responders, legal fees, etc. in a more direct line from gun owner to gun incident. Having a tangible way to account for the monetary costs of gun violence might encourage some to be more responsible gun owners, or to consider if gun ownership really is the appropriate choice.

Finally, I think that we as a nation need to start thinking long term and seriously work towards changing our gun culture. To this end I wish I knew how to attract the attention of Hollywood. Celebrities have as much, if not more, influence than politicians. Actors can refuse gun-heavy parts. We could enact common sense gun laws all day long, but as long as news and entertainment media keep convincing us that we are in constant danger and that we are all Bruce Willis saving the day with our indefatigable firepower, the short fused among us will keep turning to guns as the go-to problem solving solution. Lets stop watching TV shows that are quick to pull out a gun with the justification “I had no choice.”  Hey Hollywood: you are dynamic and creative — use that force to write scripts that solve problems and bring excitement without guns (or lets start with 50% fewer guns). Personally, I think use of cunning and martial arts is pretty exciting. How about inspiring creative thinking, hand to hand combat, and bloodless suspense rather than going first to shooting from the hip. (Wouldn’t it be interesting if disaffected young white men chose to practice parcour over collecting bullet proof vests and long guns because their TV hero is a parcour and MMA badass.) I’m not saying turn away from action and drama shows, I’m saying find ways to create that action and drama with fewer guns. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick — but maybe the next generation will view gun violence with more disdain just as we’ve come to view cigarette smoking or drunk driving as socially unacceptable. Of course, maybe the next generation will view gun violence with disdain because they’re growing up with regular lock-down drills at school and that can’t not affect young minds. News and infotainment can work to change public opinion as well. I think recently there actually has been a shift away from giving attention to the perpetrators and putting more focus on the victims. This is a good shift. I saw a hashtag the other day, showthebodies. That’s probably too visceral a solution, but point taken.

Personally, I’m saddened by, frustrated about, and resigned to, the state of gun violence in the U.S. today. I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it. My thoughts are barely organized. My voice is small, but here it is.