Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Break Report Card: Progress & Synchronicity

Two very busy weeks with plenty of forward motion. I actually laid out some of my grant money on a deposit for two of Second Seating's chandeliers. That means that their basic structures are now being fabricated and electrified. Those filigreed Clorox bottles that the students made at Houston Community College Southeast just before spring break will have something from which to hang. The chandelier, when done, will be super-size, very white and very 'sparkling'.

The second chandelier-to-be is a series of three intertwined oval shaped hollow metal loops - the wiring will go through the loops and lights will shine upward through the loops, each of which I'll wrap in shiny bias cut strips of fabrics. Then, all of this loopy color will be ornamented with the crystal drops given me by a friend. The chandelier will be very textural and shiny at the same time. I'll probably funk it up with a few more additions. I haven't a clue yet what those additions will be.

Those pieces of metal pipe fittings (what to call them?) from Valero sure are versatile. I have a foot and a half tall piece of pipe with two faucet handles which I've decided works really well as a table candelabra. And the chandeliers and pipe fittings, while key, are the least of what's been happening. What is really exciting is the role that synchronicity is playing in Second Seating.

Last Monday, I visited a scrap metal plant I'd been eyeing for months and after chatting with a manager and measuring the dimensions of their compressed aluminum cans, I asked if I could 'borrow' one of those tons of soda and beer cans to use as a recycled table base. He was OK to my 'borrowing' one for the duration of the show.

Better yet, when I mentioned that I'd have to have Bobby Schlitzberger pick it up because his truck is outfitted with a crane for lifting the granite monuments he makes, the manager said, "That Bobby?" He just happened to go to high school in Texas City (long years ago) with our neighborhood's award winning monument maker (Note: Should a monument be needed after I die, I want Bobby Schlitzberger to make and engrave it.)

The very night after I visited the scrap metal business, there was more synchronicity. A friend and I went to Fiesta Loma Linda for supper and who walked in but Bobby and his wife. I told Bobby I'd just met one of his high school friends and then I told him about Second Seating and asked if he'd help me move a ton of compressed crushed cans. He said yes. What more could be asked? What this means is that I can borrow a compressed ton of crushed soda and beer cans and have it delivered to the installation site. And then returned. Unless Irma falls in love with the table, which she might.

So, it's a truly small interconnected world here in Houston's East End and wonderfully filled with synchronicity. Occurrences like these are terrific messages from the universe that we're on the right track here. Right track? Should I enlist Union Pacific's support?

This past week was spring break and so Catarina and I spent several afternoons stitching the pieces of a really giant patchwork table cloth together. With her art major instincts, she's going to be a terrific help this spring and summer. Already is.

Actually, she stitched and I spent the time placing fabrics together and then pinning them. Catarina and my friend Irina sewed, and then sewed some more. We've a long way to go and I suppose I could do much of this on a sewing machine. It may come to that. But I love the hand stitching with many colors of embroidery floss. Catarina also introduced me to an artist/teacher who can weld and I plan to meet with him to see if we can devise a couple more chandeliers with more of those pieces of Valero pipe fittings. and other things I've scavenged.

One thing that did not happen was Irma's and my planned trip to the valley last weekend. I need to find out if Jose and Ted got together with Jesse to talk about where each is headed with chandeliers and/or tables. Time to check in with them all.

What I did instead of the valley trip was piece together Ike-salvaged fabric for three wall hangings. As I've worked piecing fabrics together for the banquet table cloth over these last two weeks, I found myself holding back 'favorite' swatches to use for vesty garments for myself. I've actually pieced one together on a fleece lining. No sewing on it yet.

I've also thought a lot about fabric wall hangings. Actually, fabric wall hangings have been on my mind for years and I keep hearkening back to a piece by a Dutch artist that we bought in Curacao way early in my marriage. Finally, after so many years of thinking about fabric wall pieces, I've patched together three that will work in tandem with series of plates and platters.

This afternoon I visited Poe Elementary School where my kids went so long ago. Visited the librarian who's a friend of mine. She's collecting coffee mugs for Jesse's coffee mug mosaic table. I expect more will turn up at Poe as she's emailed a request. That's terrific.

After dutifully going to the dry cleaners and the bank, I slipped into The Guild Shop to forage. Always dangerous. I found some very interesting plates, a stove top coffee pot (the first I've run into in months of looking) and a hand plated tray/plate. Even though everything I bought today will go into Second Seating, I still look at The Guild Shop as an addictive sort of place, meaning that I'll spend money. Enough.
Text for the installation is beginning to run through my mind and I must put words on paper. Narratives, snippets of thought, desires, foods remembered. And then there are the East End parakeets that I am hearing more and more about, even reading about on my civic association Yahoo group. We may have to add parakeets to Second Seating as representative of things East End.
Finally, I mailed out two more packets to potential underwriters and am reviewing my entire list of potential donors and supporters to decide when to recall, to whom I'll send updates and whom to approach next. I'm not done fundraising. I've raised about half the funds needed for this project and must begin to round up the remainder, especially if I keep finding vintage plates at The Guild Shop. I'll not go there again until I've stitched all three wall hangings and wound yards and yards of bias strips of fabric around that chandelier base of three oval-shaped loops. And after I've added all the crystal drops. That chandelier is going to be gorgeous.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Becoming One with Second Seating

Just looked at all the photos Laurie Perez took of the students working on Clorox bottles the day she came to the Houston Community College classroom. They are wonderful. What startled me though were the several photos that she took of me with the students.
I am so used to being the one taking the photos, especially in preparation for this exhibition that seeing my image in the context of Second Seating was unexpected. I was taken by surprise and had to look twice. Yes, it was really me.

Laurie will be taking more photos of me with the objects and colors and textures that make 'Second Seating.' I am really interested in what her images will look like. Will I become one with my 'objects trové'?

I tend to fall in love with the spaces I create. I could have settled in and lived in that space in Marfa. When it rained the ballroom walls 'cried' because the roof leaked. I loved that the walls cried. Wouldn't it have been easy to add a dinner table and a hot plate very near the garments suspended from the ceiling? I might have shoved the bed into a corner as a gesture to coziness or intimacy, but that is all.

Wonder how the 'Second Seating' space will feel? Will I want to live there too? Under the chandeliers - which, by the way, are taking shape. I was at the chandelier man's shop this afternoon and am getting estimate on fabricating four different fixtures that will then be embellished with those now famous filigreed Clorox bottles, Dynamo soccer balls, Valero pipe fittings and oh, the chandelier with ribbons, faded flowers, chipped coffee cups and bits of memorabilia?
But I digress. Back to the photographs that Laurie took a week ago.

Perhaps it is not surprising I find it unnerving or quite wonderful to see 'me' in 'Second Seating' photos. I am immersed in this endeavor, yet the 'I' has remained essentially without form. 'Second Seating' is my daily default. However, before these few photos, the 'I' was only to be found in a stream of consciousness and eruptions of ideas, daily perseverance and often erratic heartbeats.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Second Seating On Facebook and Other Good Stuff

If I were truly good at this social networking, I'd have a link right HERE so you could see the new Second Seating Houston presence on Facebook. I'll need to get with Q to solve that one and to create a live link to Facebook on the right hand side of this blog page. Suffice it to say that I've had another busy and, it turns out, a very good day, plus allergies run amok. Two running eyes and two running nostrils required that I carry a roll of soft paper towels under my arm all day. I used most of the roll. Actifed and Claritan failed miserably.

Even with this temporary disability, I managed to make a Second Seating Houston Facebook Group and added photos and a pretty good new description of the project. Already have responses. Rushed off to lunch at Irma's with a packet of Second Seating materials and made a friendly request for $2500 of underwriting. Incredibly, the request was granted without a pause in the conversation. Except that I paused, amazed. Little discussion. Just a yes over tacos and mole enchiladas. I consider myself lucky indeed, especially during these economic times. You just never know until you know.

After lunch, I headed off to the Harrisburg studio where I met Irina and we set about a developing a system for stitching portions of what is an ever growing table cloth made from those fabric samples salvaged from a garage flooded during Hurricane Ike.

We stitched and visited and drank coffee and decided that 'sewing bees' can be scheduled on the screen porch at home and then we can visit with a whole group of friends and make this cloth ever larger. Sort of works in with the spirit of this installation too.

Now, late in the evening, after I've added more Second Seating photos to Facebook and am ready to publish this post, I know very well that all this uploading stuff eats away a terrific amount of time. I could have stitched all evening. Or read a good book. Or figured out how to put a photo image on a ceramic plate. Any number of things. Yet here I am typing away. Where is the right balance?

Good thing about photographing some of the fabrics is that I am liking these fragments as wall pieces and so have a new idea to follow. I liked looked down on the whole 'pinned together' table cloth and imagined it on a wall, well embellished. It could turn into that later on. I suppose it could float from the ceiling too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Clorox Bottles: Play of Light and Shadow

For three weeks I've been working with June Woest and her classes at Houston Community College on the Clorox bottle chandelier. It's been a really pleasant experience working with the students. They've been intent and on task and some of the patterns they carved into the Clorox bottles are whimsical and sophisticated.

I certainly wouldn't have thought of all the permutations that resulted from this collaboration. We talked one on one about the process of making decisions and how one cut out can lead to others - or a change of course. We discussed making random patterns or focusing on repetitive clusters, which can look random. We talked about how to salvage a pattern gone awry just by adding a little here and a little there. Suddenly the design or pattern is coherent. we showed how more and more hole punched dots can unify disparate elements.

See what these students are doing.

As they finished, we strung a few Clorox bottles from the table cloths that Sonya Gonzalez sent me months ago. I am learning that there will be many variations as these bottles begin to hang on these soft rope-like rolled up table cloths. I am thinking about adding real clothesline rope and clothes pins to the mix. How will all of that fit together?

On another note, June herself is working on an exhibition that opens within weeks. She just emailed me a press release about the work and the artists who are part of the project. I wish I had a photo to include here. June collected hundreds, if not thousands, of prescription bottles and is uisng the bottles to create a grove of 'bamboo' stalks. From a distance, they may look like tall and mysterious plants. And then you discover that each stalk is constructed of pill bottles. How many pills do folks imbibe, anyway? What's the fateful message?

Here's what June writes:
Houston, TX - March 9, 2009 The outdoor art exhibition Human Nature
Planted in Russ Pitman Park will explore the human handprint in the
natural world and how it positively and negatively influences our
environment. Russ Pitman Park is located at 7112 Newcastle, Bellaire,
TX, and the exhibition runs from April 4, through May 2, 2009.

The 4-acre park is a nature conservancy and has a pocket prairie of
early Texas coastal plants, a bog, and walking trails. Like people,
the mixture of native and non-native plants in Russ Pitman Park have
learned to manage their natural habitat and negotiate reserves such as
nutrients in the soil, rainfall for root stimulation, and sun and
shade for natural air conditioning. Twelve Texas artists will install
their sculptural installations while considering growth patterns of
urban flora to generate their own creations. They will introduce man-
made materials into the garden to show the beneficial or destructive
forces at play when competing for natural resources.

Participating artists are Amie Adelman, Andis Applewhite, Lucinda
Cobley, Michael Crowder, Nathaniel Donnett, Orna Feinstein, Kathy
Hall, Keith Hollingsworth, Kathy Kelley, Jason Dean Moul, Mari Omori,
and June Woest. Each artist has experience investigating the
relationship between human behavior, human health, and the
environment. Their mixed-media sculptures will be site specific and
will ponder how humans assimilate and possibly dominate plant habitats.

June Woest, founder of Urban Artists studio, and assistant Claudia
Franco are coordinating the park exhibition in conjunction with the
Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire. One of the missions of Urban
Artists is to create sculpture that is community aware and
environmentally conscious. They work cooperatively with communities
via exhibition, research, and collaboration.

Meet the artists at the opening reception in Russ Pitman Park, free to
the public from 5-7 pm, on Saturday, April 4, 2009. Park hours are 8
am - 9 pm every day. The show ends Saturday, May 2, 2009.

There's plenty of art being made in Houston. 'Second Seating' and the sculptural installations in a natural outdoor setting are but two.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Second Seating Story in Houston Chronicle

The first story about 'Second Seating' appears in the East End/Third Ward Neighborhood section of today's Houston Chronicle. It's titled 'East End artist creating display in homage to area.' Interesting title, that. It's a decent story, though it certainly raises expectations about 'displaying' East End history and culture.
I'm happy to have the story and hope it generates those 300 coffee mugs that Jesse and I need for the 'coffee table.'

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Second Class Works On Second Seating Chandelier

Midday I was back over at Houston Community College Southeast with June to oversee the second group of students who began to cut designs into Clorox bottles. All worked intently with knives and hole punches. Some of the works in progress' are lovely.

For many, this 'making' of an overall pattern is a brand new concept. Also new for some is understanding the differences between abstract and representational cutouts, a swirly form versus a heart or a cross. All kinds of designs and patterns are emerging.

Today we had enough knives for every single student. I bought a dozen more at Art Supply yesterday because Monday's students had to share knives and hole punches and just didn't accomplish as much in the hour and a half of time.

It's really interesting to see all the different approaches to making the design cutouts. Some students map out their design with blue masking tape and are very methodical, others try out a bit of everything. Still others stick to representations of hearts and flowers and arrows and today, even clusters of dog paws.

One student almost finished work on her bottle. Her swirls were graceful and so wide open that the bottle lost much of its inherent strength. As we ran a table cloth through it, the bottle compressed like a spring. The pattern is lovely and we're going to have to treat this bottle carefully.

We have one more week of class time and then we'll string the bottles on white tablecloths rolled on the bias. It's high time that I come to a decision about a welder and chandelier 'builder' to fabricate the structure on which to hang all of these bottles - and a mirrored rotating ball.

Clorox Chandelier 'In Design and Construction'

'Second Seating' has so many facets - and such a growing list of partners. Monday evening was the second of three weeks of classes at Houston Community College Southeast where students are working on 'Second Seating.' Amazingly and all together, we are creating that Clorox bottle chandelier.

I think most of the students are having a good time. We've developed design parameters, but within those constraints they are free to design almost any kind of pattern for their own Clorox bottle.

They'll continue on next week and as they finish, we will begin to starting the bottles on a series of rolled white tablecloths. Then it will be time to hang them from a metal structure where the effect will be somewhat like a May Pole. Does anyone know about May Poles anymore? Then there's that mirrored rotating ball that will be affixed in the center so it will project sparkle absolutely everywhere.

Laurie Perez came to Monday's class and photographed the students. By the way, she is 'Second Seating's official photographer and she will document this installation from this moment until the tables and chandeliers are installed at Irma's and we've in the middle of the September 24 opening. Laurie is a really good photographer - she finds expressions and details that make a narrative. She is the perfect choice for documenting 'Second Seating.'

June Woest invited me to join two sections of her Art Appreciation classes this semester so her students can have hands-on experience in making design decisions, working together as a team and seeing how their work on a large project contributes to the whole.

During the first of the three weeks of classes, I talked about 'Second Seating' as a concept. I shared where ideas come from, how one raises funds to make an exhibition possible, the ways a show is promoted and how the artist or artists create art. Told them that making art is a visual process and decisions are being made minute by minute.

Some decisions are good, some get scraped. I think that they will begin to see once they are into their filigree pattern how 'more' can be better, how a clear pattern is stronger than a 'little of this and a little of that.' We'll be learning about these Clorox bottle patterns together.

The second class meets from 11:00 - 12:30 today. I bought a dozen more knives so everyone will start off with their own knife. The pairing of students so that they shared a knife and a hole punch did not work so well because everyone needs to begin with a knife.