At the end of September I had the rare opportunity to travel to Boston. While my husband attended meetings for 2 1/2 days, I gave myself the gift of much needed alone time, like a 6-hour date with myself at the Museum of Fine Arts, another date with myself at the Institute of Contemporary Art, and a good hard wander through the gallery at the Society of Arts and Crafts. Did I mention we flew a grandma to Alaska to be with children so this could happen? So many moving parts. So hard to get away.
But the highlight of the trip was driving to Lowell on Saturday morning with the Director of the New England Quilt Museum, Nora Burchfield, to visit their current exhibition "Gilding the Lily: Embroidery in Quilts Past & Present." I was invited to exhibit 8 works for this show in my own "pocket" gallery. In the image below, you can see "Reliquary #8: Scroll through the entryway.
This exhibition will be installed until December 30, 2017. It's beautiful.
It was an incredible honor to be surrounded by 200 years of embroidered quilts in a city known for its long textile history, and have the prestige of representing a facet of this art form's contemporary turn. Work from both the Reliquary and Girl Story series are on display.
I didn't photograph everything in the exhibition, but below are a few broad strokes encompassing historic and contemporary work.
I recommend a good hard wander if you're out that way. You, too, might have a whole new shiny outlook.
I also had the opportunity to talk about my work while Caroline Gallagher created a video of this. I haven't seen it yet, but will link to when it's on You Tube.
Thank you Caroline and Nora for coordinating the effort.
Above is a rare reverse view of the suspended work, "Inheritance," featuring doilies used as "batting" between two layers of silk organza. The "quilting" is done with crewel embroidery wool and a darning stitch.
But enough about my work.
Kelly Cline, Lawrence KS "Champagene & Caviar," 2016. Cotton, silk. Hand embroidered vintage textile, hand-guided long arm quilting (left). Rhonda Dort, Houston TX, 2014. "Second Chances," Cottons, vintage linens, trims & doilies, crocheted pieces, buttons, beads, lace & pearls. Hand embroidery, applique, pieced & quilted. Macine embellished and embroidered.
Also, this happened: I ran into fellow Alaskan artist, Beth Blankenship, who happened to be in the museum on the same day, while visiting her daughter in Boston. Must've been the magnetic north pulling us toward one another, even when far from home.
One year ago on this blog:
Two years ago on this blog:
Three years ago on this blog:
My lovely friend from France, Aude Franjou, sent this message to me today:
Dear Amy, I have read again your Instagram post of yesterday, and you looks so sad and lonely at this moment (...) I really hope every thing are for you, yours children and husband all right...no bad news?...no trouble?...
And while I had written an off-hand comment on Instagram about feeling lonely in my studio life, what she really saw -- if there was anything to see in this photo my daughter took -- was me grimacing while I worked, the crinkle in my forehead deepening, because for the last 3 weeks I've been in horrible pain.
When I was nine, I broke my two front teeth in an accident at a friend's house, and when I say it's the gift that keeps on giving, I'm dead f-ing serious. Most recently, my beautiful 10-year-old-finally-I-was-at-a-place-in-my-life-where-I-could-afford-it veneer on one tooth exploded, leaving me with a horizontal crack millimeters away from meeting in the middle and maybe/probably sloughing off. Like, you know, while you're on vacation. Did you know there are a number of dentists in Lihue, Kauai who specialize in dental emergencies? There are. I programmed their numbers into my phone before we left Alaska, but I never had to use them.
I talked about memory in another post called A History of teeth. How it is fleeting. Reshaped again and again. But going through this at 45 -- the shots (were there 3? or 4?) having my veneer and the crown beside it pried off, cracking and splintering, filling my mouth with shards and exposing the brown nubs beneath, then wearing a one-piece-double-tooth temporary affair, much like a rabbit tooth a few shades too white for two weeks while the "real" crowns were created -- it all returned me to my 9-year-old self.
Vulnerable. Wanting to hide. Unable to sleep.
And reminded me how the body, how pain, holds memory.
We've discovered that what remains of one tooth has a fracture disappearing beneath my gum, leading into the root. I may have 10 more years with this stub, or 20, or a handful of weeks. My dentist said if I feel intense pain ("You will know..."), we can't opt for a root canal on such a fragile shard, that it would be better to take it out completely.
A dental implant is a process, involving a number of frightening steps, and time. Suffering.
But for now, I have two new crowns. Lovely, ever so slightly different from the former, flatter on the bottom, a little too perfect, with a different curve along the backside that I can't keep my tongue off of. They are an unknown maker's idea of what my teeth should look like. This hand different from the one who fashioned them 10 years ago. Different still from what my natural teeth would have been like, if given the chance.
Working along the ghosts of women, other unknown makers whose cloth I use in my own work, makes me think a lot about the luxuries I have, as a woman, which they did not. 100 years ago, I would have broken my teeth at age nine and they would have remained that way, turning brown, decaying and eventually pulled due to infection. And I would have screamed for them to please pull the teeth, because this was the place I was in just 48 hours ago, before I returned to my dentist with my molded night guard mouth piece (I'm a clencher), which didn't fit the new crowns, and a plea for pain killers to take the edge off the ice pick that had lodged in my gums and was now probing my sinuses and reaching molars.
I'm not a pussy. I have a ridiculously high pain threshold. I had two natural childbirths, the second was frank breach. That's right. I delivered a frank breach daughter, the effect of crowning twice, with no pain medication, an anesthesiologist standing by in an operating room filled with flustered nurses and about 20 other people who'd never seen an actual frank breach delivery, also my husband, my midwife, a good doctor-friend and a perinatologist who was a BAD ASS, who'd done deliveries like this before and used her entire body to corkscrew that girl out of me in one elegant movement that my husband still demonstrates for friends. Ask him. He'll do it.
Did I mention I also had an undiagnosed 12 mm herniated disk in L5 at the same time, and my foot had gone numb 2 weeks before she was born?
It's still numb because I have permanent nerve damage.
The threshold. It's high.
This is not a good thing.
But this time, I was ready to ask the dentist to pull it. Pull. It.
Within 36 hours of taking antibiotics, it's now become clear I had an infection. That exposed crack a conduit for whatever bacteria wormed its way deep inside the root.
And isn't that the way? How pain starts as something humming with each heartbeat, then a pulsing hot throb and finally a snap of unspooled threads reaching far beyond the epicenter? And when relief comes, if it comes, it settles like an animal at your feet. Blinking and sighing.
So, Dear Aude, thank you for asking. I am fine.
I am fine now.
If you are interested in a sometimes-newsletter (I just sent out my first one even though I've been talking about it for over a year), please visit the contact page. I'm kind of excited by how many people subscribed already. Okay, blown away actually.
If you have subscribed and didn't receive a newsletter last week with exhibition and Inheritance Project updates (shit's happening, some of it I can't even tell you about yet), please check your spam filter and mark me as non-spammy. Because, I'm not. Nothing makes me feel better than an empty inbox.
Well, other things make me feel pretty good, too.
In June, Reliquary #8: Scroll traveled to The Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, Colorado for the 34th Annual New Legacies Contemporary Art Quilts Exhibition, which opened on July 8. The show features 39 pieces from 25 artists around the country -- I was thrilled to be included, and even more excited when the piece was granted the Award for Creative Innovation. I've blogged about the process and impulse behind making this work already, so what I'm sharing here are images from the show, recently sent to me by the good folks at The Lincoln Center.
The exhibition jurors included Jo Fitsell, Louisa Smith, Vicki Carlson and Ellen Martin. Awards judges were Jo Fitsell and Louisa Smith.
I was immersed in the Reliquary Series for 2 years and it's been wonderful to see the pieces all together a few times in various galleries, but just as gratifying to see individual pieces stand alone out in the world (to learn a little more about this series, you can visit the portfolio page, or click on the Reliquary category in the blog side bar... then scroll down).
Many of the artists included in this show have work that is immediately recognizable. I aspire to have that quality as well.
Since I live in Alaska, traveling to see exhibitions is prohibitive for a number of reasons. Unless a friend sends images from his/her own visit, I never see how work hangs together, so it's lovely to have gallery shots.
I haven't received the New Legacies catalogue yet and I believe it will be slipped in with my return box -- which is wonderful -- but I can't attach names to the work without it. I don't want to hold off showing this installation photography until after the exhibition though, since those of you who live closer may want an opportunity for a road trip (I totally would).
The exhibition will be up until September 3, 2016 (Quick, fill the gas tank! Pack the snacks!). Gallery hours are 12 - 6pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays and admission is free.
So, apologies to the artists for not pairing their names to the appropriate art at this time; I intend to pop them into the captions at a later date. If your work appears here, please leave a comment or drop me a line if you'd like your name indicated immediately.
I'm down with that.
At the end of this post is a master list with links to all of the artists, which The Lincoln Center has since provided on their site as well. Our thanks for this.
Congratulations on a beautiful exhibition.
Margaret Abramshe, Mesquite, NV
Pamela Allen, Kingston, Ontario
Linda Anderson, La Mesa, CA
Leslie Bowman-Friedlander, Reisterstown, MD
Marcia DeCamp, Palmyra, NY
Helen Geglio, South Bend, IN
Kerri Green, Dallas, TX
Ayn Hanna, Fort Collins, CO
Rosemary Hoffenberg, Wrentham, MA
Sandra Hopkins, Wellington, CO
Kathleen Kastles, Wailuku, HI
Pat Kroth, Verona, WI
Aryana Londir, Phoenix, AZ
Valerie Maser-Flanagan, Carlisle, MA
Mary McCauley, Fort Collins, CO
Amy Meissner, Anchorage, AK
Melody Money, Boulder, CO
Bob Mosier, Conroe, TX
Clara Nartey, West Haven, CT
Do Palma, Cheyenne, WY
Cynthia Vogt, Kennewick, WA
Carol Waugh, Denver, CO
Shea Wilkinson, Omaha, NE
Marianne Williamson, Miami, FL
Charlotte Ziebarth, Boulder, CO
For information about other exhibitions, please see the sidebar category Gallery Shows, and scroll down to see prior posts.
"(...) A 'romance with the fragment' begins when our childhood pockets fill with relics from the natural world -- in this case, objects found on the shores of Prince William Sound, Alaska -- and later, as adults, when we fill our most vacant spaces with the weight of the spiritual or the worry of the inevitable. The body is the ultimate reliquary for pain and loss; we are shaped and defined by what we cling to despite its apparent worthlessness."
A year ago, I finished "Reliquary #8: Scroll," which is currently exhibited at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center as part of the All-Alaska Biennial where it received a Juror's Merit Award. It has lived a short, full life as part of the Reliquary Series -- an on-going exploration of form, found object and reverence for the discarded.
The piece took 67.75 hours to complete, not including the work on the old metal dock bollards, which I took up again this fall, concerned about rust bloom and corrosive contact with fragile fabrics. When polishing by hand proved thankless, I burned through fine wire grinders, then white felt polishing wheels now permeated with rusty froth and beeswax.
These objects now have the luster and heft of cast bronze. The weight of hours. I love them.
Like the other components of this work, they were found in a heap, in some sense rescued.
In another sense, simply seen and considered and pocketed.
Artists submitting to the All-Alaska Biennial were asked to explore the theme of "the authentic North, its people, materials and landscapes, through a variety of interpretations." And while there could be a literalness to this -- all glaciers and arctic foxes and and the sharp sheen of ice -- I feel like I've been in Alaska long enough to present my own authentic relationship to this place.
I feel closest to it in Prince William Sound.
Picking up trash.
To be clear, I don't use garbage in my artwork, but I use the time handling and hauling it to observe and collect my thoughts on how I fit into this vastness, this depth and solitude, this never-ending work my young family has taken up, not because we are paid or want recognition, but because we love this place and its wildlife.
In our bumbling earnestness, we have been known to foul debris collection data on certain documented (yet, unmarked) beaches. That's been embarrassing to learn, but not enough of an excuse to stop.
We are just one small boat with children and some trash bags.
Besides, to stop this kind of work is to force oneself to stop seeing. Once your eyes are open to the potential of a thing or a place, how do you close them again?
I've been thrilled to see this piece, my thoughts, going out into the world.
And since the work doesn't look like much coiled in a cardboard box, I owe a lot of its showmanship to the willingness of my photographer, Brian Adams, who foremost shoots blow-your-mind contemporary portraits of people and place, not objects. But it's probably for this reason he's able to capture the soul of some thing.
In some place.
For as remote as I sometimes feel, it's this exact quality that grants me clarity.
I've been in Alaska 15 years, the longest I've lived anywhere.
* * *
If you are curious about the work we sometimes do on Alaskan beaches, check out the post What we found, 2 and for work on other, warmer, beaches, there's always the first What we found post.
And, if you wonder about the impetus and/or influences behind my work, please visit the Histories category in the side bar where I share stories and process images.
The All-Alaska Biennial is on exhibit in Anchorage until April 10, 2016.
That Anchorage Press Article is here. Dawnell Smith is a talented writer and a good friend.
You can follow me on Instagram: @amymeissnerartist or on my Facebook Page Amy Meissner, Artist
A few months ago I commandeered my dining room table and assembled a matrix of photocopied show prospectuses, post it notes, paperclips, Sharpies and disgusting felines. Perhaps some of you remember this post and were curious whether any of this effort proved to be fruitful. If so, read on. If you think I'm a gross cat owner and could care less, that's totally fine, too. Just know that it's the cats who are gross, not me. I come fully armed with disinfectant spray.
As of last week, I've applied for 9 juried exhibitions, 2 grants and submitted images to 2 magazines. I still plan to apply for 4 more shows (some deadlines are a ways out) and another project grant (maybe).
So, I heard somewhere that if rejection hurts, you just aren't getting rejected enough and need to submit more work. Callouses are a direct response to irritation, and all that. So, this was my personal experiment. I've never applied this widely, mainly because I've never had the body of work to do so. Would I actually grow a thicker skin if I put myself out there more?
Yes, but probably only because I had some successes:
These two ladies from the Girl Story Series are going to the Kent State University Museum for the Focus: Fiber 2016 National Contemporary Fiber Art Show (Feb. 12, 2016 - July 3, 2016). Anyone going to be in Ohio this spring? I'd seriously love some photos of this exhibition. This museum features one of the largest collections of historic costumes in the US, totaling more than 40,000 pieces. Forget about the textile art, the clothing designer in me wants to snap on the white cotton gloves and flip all that stored vintage couture inside out and check out the seams. There is a lot of history behind the work I'm sending as well, and I'm thrilled it's heading into the world. The first Girl Story traveled within Alaska last year and won a juror's merit award at the All-Alaska XXXV juried show.
Pssst ... maybe she's one of those girls who, you know, gets around.
This reliquary is on exhibit at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, NY at the New Directions 2015 Contemporary Art Exhibition until October 31, 2015. Janet Bishop from the San Francisco MoMA was the juror. Again, with the photos. Anyone? I'm in Alaska. I won't make it to upstate New York for this one,
or this one:
Quilts=Art=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center opens on Oct. 31, 2015 and runs until Jan. 3 2016. This piece will be there, teeth and all (also a piece with a ton of history behind it).
I won't list the galleries and exhibitions that rejected me, but know that so far there are 3 and I immediately submitted elsewhere, like, the day I received the rejection. I'm delivering one piece for a 2nd round of in-person jurying (it still could get cut, of course), and waiting for rejection/invitations to come this month and next. Are those dates on my calendar? Yes. Am I bummed when museums and galleries don't contact artists on those scheduled dates? Yes. I can't help it. I meet my deadlines and assume that's the way the rest of the world should work, too.
And the magazines? More on that later.
Grants? Hope so. It's expensive to submit and ship art.
Also, I've kept my News page up to date, because it feels good, dammit.
Meanwhile, back to the grind.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.