Saturday, July 16, 2016

July. The world has gone mad.

July, 2016.
I do not know how to change the name of this blog from Ulysses Glove Project, which it is not, to Stitching Mona, which it is. But, I am just going to go ahead and post the thing, because what does it really matter?

My label gown is finished. I finished it last month. I have been working on this gown, and the project, for around two years now. No one (except me) has seen all of the pieces. I haven't had input or criticism from anyone. I am listening to my own voice, for better or worse.
This has been the most creative and solitary project of my artist's life. I keep thinking of ideas for this installation, of pieces to add. I have one finished gown, and another that is a work in progress. I have drawings, photography, embroidery, collage. I have spent money on supplies...real money. It is the first time I have ever spent money on my work.
I gave myself a week off from my job so that I could sew for hours at a time. It is the first time I have ever done that. So, a lot of firsts.

The date for my solo show, when I will present this work to the world (well, the limited world of people who want to see and are able to come to my exhibit at the Yellow Peril Gallery in Providence) is October 1, 2016.
Half the show will be Stitching Mona. The other half will be my Manuscript/Word drawings, which are being framed, beautifully. I spent money on those too.

In the last months, there have been many innocent black men, and at least one black woman, killed by police officers. There have been police officers killed in retaliation. There was a slaughter of 49 souls at a club in Orlando, of mostly LGTB Latina patrons, and their friends, and family members. There have been horrific terrorist attacks throughout the world. The news come like labor pains...too quickly to breathe through them.
Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President of the United States.
Lin Manuel-Miranda has become a household name, at least in my house, where he has provided us with a welcome distraction  by providing an uplifting soundtrack and a few precious video images of his creation Hamilton, the musical.
I am thin. Too thin to donate blood, which I had been doing on a regular basis for the past few years.

When I am not working at my job, and on Stitching Mona, I am doing paintings of bricks.
I had never thought of bricks as a subject matter until I did. They have invaded my waking and sleeping hours. They won't be part of this show, but maybe, in the future, I'll have enough for another show.

I wish I had a crystal ball. But not one that would see years into the future. I want one that will show me my life through November. Aside from wondering about the reception of my work, we will have a new president.
There is also a personal matter of great significance, which will turn out one way or another in the coming months.

My mother, Mona, who is the subject of so much of my current creative life, will not see my show. She won't know about it, or care. She can't be disappointed or proud. I don't need a crystal ball to know that.

I looked up the meaning of bricks in dreams, and I have to say, it hit the nail on the head.

/B /Brick

To see a brick in your dream indicates that a tough experience may have hardened your emotions and thoughts.

To dream that you are building a brick wall, represents an emotional “wall” that you are putting up to protect yourself against getting hurt.
It may also indicate that you may be hard on the outside but still sensitive on the inside.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

I did not realize that I have not posted any progress on Stitching Mona in more than two years.
My mother is still alive (I wasn't sure she would be, last I wrote). Her brain is fizzled to a large degree. Today I called to wish her a happy mother's day. In her opinion it was always an idiotic and fake holiday, meant to make idiots buy cards and flowers, and she had no idea that it WAS mother's day. She was cheerful however, as she was drinking her daily scotch "drinkie".

In the more than two years I've been working on the various parts of this project I have lost my way in so many aspects of my life. All I can do is keep going. I am completely unsure as to whether this nightgown, onto which I have sewn hundreds of labels with my mother's maiden name...Mona Lenore Udell, is worthwhile. When the label part is complete (I am on the last row) I am going to finish sewing cloth daisies along the sides, and a variety of cloth flowers on the breasts. The labels are imperfectly sewn. I am aware of every gap, every loose stitch. I am torn between wanting it to be perfect, and accepting that it is the imperfections that make it mine. It is the same exact struggle that is an ongoing theme in nearly every work of art I make.

There are other components to what will be an installation all about Mona. I'll start updating more regularly for my 9 followers. This nightgown is the centerpiece.

Yellow Peril Gallery will show it this fall, if I feel it is worth showing. I think it is. Maybe it will be an epic fail, but if that's the case, at least it'll be epic.

I was reading e mails from 2012 when I had just completed the Ulysses Gloves. That project came with a built in fan base of Joycean scholars. There was a buzz around it.
This project is so personal, I just can't see it clearly. I don't know if anyone else will find it compelling, or if it is so personal that it will only make sense to me. There is no buzz.
I am going forward. At the moment it's all I can do.  I think it's too late to turn around and go back.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Next Thing. . . At Last.

I finished the last Ulysses Glove on June 16, 2012. It has taken me nearly two years to decide what to do for my next long term project. I had a few ideas,
but when I thought them through, they dissolved. I was frustrated.

All through the process of thinking thinking, as Pooh would say, I kept drawing and stitching. I have come to love doing small embroideries of mostly words. There is something liberating about stitching a word on cloth, rather than writing it. It's almost childlike...learning to write in a new medium.

I hoped I could come up with an idea that incorporated stitching. More important, I wanted this project to be about my mother, as the Ulysses Gloves were about my father. My mother is alive, but her mind is so debilitated now, that I can work on something to do with her without her caring a whit about it.

I knew she had notebooks. I brought them home with me. They are filled with short stories (the beginnings...she never followed through), diary entries, and lists. Some of the covers have sketches of the female figure she drew again and again and again.

In one week I'll be at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, for ten days. I can work and work, with no day job, dog walking, carpooling. I am bringing her notebooks and I'll edit them so that there is some order to them.
And then, I shall stitch her words.

At first I didn't know what cloth I would use for the embroidery. Not the small handkerchiefs or doilies I've been using for my current pieces. One night I remembered I had a box of her nightgowns, from when she was a young married woman. I thought I knew where they were and I ran to see if my memory was true. They were there.

And now I have my project. To stitch her words, onto the clothes she wore when she was young, and had a life ahead of her. Her stories, her night clothes. The gowns she wore when she dreamed.

In a perfect world these would be an a room that would also include paintings I make of her room now, including the dresser covered with pill bottles, cigarette ashes, books, envelopes, and New Yorker magazines. There would be a carpet with a flower design, because though she is an epic slob she always loved any textile with flowers. There would be a bookcase with multiple copies of Proust, which she read again and again and again.

I don't have the art career to get that kind of real estate. But I'll start editing, and stitching. I expect that part alone will take me two or three years. Maybe by then someone will want to help me realize this vision I have. I don't know if my mother will still be alive. But I know that this is the project I want to do, and even if she can't appreciate it, it will do her proud.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Show Comes Down.

10:00 a.m.
10:30 a.m.
smaller. . .
and smaller. . .
and fewer. . .

 The end.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Next?

Ulysses Glove
 So, in what my husband called The Summer of Jess, I had two art openings.
The first was for The Ulysses Glove Project, in Philly at the Rosenbach Museum in June. It was splendid. I had a fancy dress. Lots of people came. There was a newspaper article. 
The next was a month later, on a very hot, humid day in July, at the Museum of Art R.I.S.D.
People came, but it was a group show and it was more about the show than about me and my work (The Election Gloves). 

And that was that. 

Election Glove
It's hard to believe but in just over a week I am heading back to Philly to take down 310 Ulysses Gloves, glove by glove. I bought fancy mylar sleeves, one per glove, to the tune of about $500.00. This salt of the earth, low brow project has ended up costing me a small fortune. But I need to preserve these rubber hands for as long as I can, in case some other gallery, museum, venue, would like to exhibit them, or, even better, of someone comes along who wants to buy them. 

So, a lot of people have asked me what's next. It's like when you make it through high school and everyone wants to know where you are going to college. Then, when you are a senior in college everyone starts to ask you if you have a job lined up, or something BIG on the horizon. When you are single, people ask you if you have met anyone "special". You find someone special and people want to know when you are getting married. When you get married people ask you when you are having a baby. And the next baby.

For every event there is a What's Next ?. 

And here is the answer. I have no fucking idea.

Maybe, I'll get another dog. 
Maybe I'll just do a little drawing. 

Maybe, the Summer of Jess was a one time event. Maybe not.
When I figure it out, you'll be the first to know.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Big Event

Tomorrow morning my husband and I are flying to Philadelphia, for assorted festivities having to do with Bloomsday, and my Ulysses Gloves Project. I do not like to fly so my first concern is getting there. Alive. 
The next hurdle is a talk at the esteemed Rosenbach Museum & Library, which is host to my gloves. This is my first solo museum show and it feels BIG
Of course I'll discuss the gloves. How long they took (2 and 1/2 years), how many there are (310), what sort of pen I used (Sharpie). 
But in my artist statement that mentions WHY I decided to write all of Ulysses onto rubber gloves, I mention that it is a tribute to my dad. Also, in a beautiful poetic touch, Bloomsday is  Father's Day this year. 

This photo is of my dad, Gerry. He loved Ulysses and James Joyce. No one in my family knows why, including me. Including my mom, who I asked. 
I like to think he would love this show, would love the whole idea of it. He was a social man. He liked to meet people, to talk with people. He was calm and assured. He was one of the very few people I know that could actually change someone's political viewpoints because he had such a grasp of facts, of history, and of fairness. Also, unlike me, and my mom, he had control of his temper. 
Dad liked to go to annual Bloomsday readings. I think that sometimes he would just sit in an audience, and sometimes he would volunteer to read some of the novel. I never saw him do it. I never went with him. It did not cross my mind at any point to do so. 
My dad and I were close but not close. A lot was left unsaid. 
I see a lot of him in my son, who shares his love of the physical book...the paper, the binding, the covers. Also a love of Stephen Sondheim. And my son is social and calm, like my dad. I inherited my dad's free floating anxiety. I remember when he told me he had it...and explained what it was. The instant he told me I knew I had it too. 
Anyway, it is impossible for anyone who did not know him to know him now. But the gloves really are a tribute to him. I will try to enjoy this trip. I tend to be a worrier. But I really want to soak it in, or in Oprah speak, to be "present". I will talk about dad a little. I'll try not to cry.
I wish he could see this. 
I love you dad.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Installation of the Ulysses Gloves

May 31, 2013
I walk around 20 blocks from my friend Gail's house to the Rosenbach Museum. It is a really hot day, more like August than late May. By the time I arrive I am sweaty, but I know the museum will be cool, so I'm not too concerned. I don't know what to expect. I am nervous, but not overwhelmed...more excited than anxious. 

Very soon after I arrive, we get to work.
The armature that will hold all 310 gloves.

Judy G. & the gloves.

Judy Guston, the curator, likes to stand under the gloves. She is petite and is the only one of use who can do this without ducking a little. This is at the beginning...many more gloves to hang. It takes a while, but once we get going we get into a flow and can hang a glove fairly quickly. Judy trims the museum tape. I attach the clip and then hand the glove to a trusty assistant on a tall ladder, who threads the tape over the armature. Once height is determined, the assistant ties a knot and we move on to the next. The gloves are hung in a sort of wave pattern.

The gloves begin to grow. We work all day, 
until just past 5:00 p.m.
Throughout the course of the day museum people stop in. The room smells of rubber and everyone who sees the project has a smile on their face.
Against the walls are cases which contain not only the completed manuscript of Ulysses, but also pages of text in Joyce's own hand. The pages are beautiful. The text runs down the page with an extreme slant. His words written by him near his words copied by me. It's such a rush. I  wonder what he would make of this. I wonder what my dad would make of this. I wish they could see it.

We get just over half the gloves hung. On Monday, tomorrow, Judy and the team will finish the installation. I think Judy will send me a photograph which I can share.
I feel happy about all of this. I don't feel sure of what this exhibit will do for me, but I am sure that this whole process, from concept to completion, has nudged me out of my comfort zone and pushed me on to a slightly higher tier of the art world. I have a lot of mixed feelings about all of this. Those can be written at another time. For now, I am just going to enjoy knowing my rubber gloves are hanging in a museum. I am going to have breakfast, waffles with blueberries. I'll do the dishes after. I'll be wearing yellow rubber gloves.