Art show in the Time of Corona

Open Art Show Online

It is not very hard to come up with a topic today. There is seemingly one thing on everyone’s mind, the Covid-19 pandemic. Artists and galleries are no exception. I’m guessing you may recall that I am an artist/owner of a collectively run gallery. We shuttered the brick and mortar Hillsborough Gallery of Arts for the duration of the North Carolina stay-at-home order. We have not, however, stopped showing and selling art. Last week we launched our first online art show. The March Featured Artists show “Glimmer to Spark” opened online last Friday at noon.

Climate Report

My Featured Art Show

I am one of the three artists scheduled to be featured next month in HGA’s April art show. Our show, “Three Narratives” is scheduled to open on April 24th. That will not be occurring, so like “Glimmer to Spark” we will be opening online. While the work from home concept is certainly conducive to getting studio time in, the challenge is sharing that work with an outside audience. This is especially true when that audience has many other things on their minds.

Clicking around my site here will reveal some new items. There are images of new work for you to take a look at in the Available For Purchase gallery. I switched my purchase inquiry to that page as well, so you do not have to click elsewhere if something catches your eye. You will find two image galleries on the Past Works Gallery page. One contains most of my sold art dolls, and the other a selection of previous mixed media pieces.

High Fashion anthropomorphic art doll
High Fashion

Burying the Lede (just learned that spelling)

From the images on this pages, you may notice that my work for this next show is a bit different. All of the new pieces I created for this show are somewhat surreal anthropomorphic figure sculptures. After sculpting a white rabbit titled “Alice is Late” last year, I decided to look a bit more at anthropomorphic figures. I was happy with the form and effect of the finished sculpture, and viewer response to him was great. I love how now that I have a dozen of these figures gathered together for photography that they look like a mass escape from some bizarre and unknown piece of children’ literature.

In the past, I shared just one or two pieces from an upcoming art show because the idea was to entice people to come and see them in person. It is best to see any art, especially sculpture, first hand. This time around I have several weeks to share at least 12 new friends with you, so I’ll be posting a new piece or two every few days. Keep an eye out. My posts will certainly be much more frequent then they’ve been in the past.

Carolina Songbird needle felted panel with cardinal

Carolina Songbird

Songbird for Author Show

It is almost time for the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts to present the yearly “It’s All About The Story” show tied to the work of a local author. I have a Carolina songbird, the cardinal, as my subject this time around. In a twist on our usual format for this show, we decided to honor the work of a songwriter and composer with Hillsborough ties, Billy Strayhorn.

Carolina Songbird needle felted panel with cardinal
Carolina Songbird

Take the A Train

Strayhorn was a jazz composer best known for his work with Duke Ellington and his orchestra. He composed what came to be known as the Ellington theme song, “Take the A Train“, based on Ellington’s written instructions for Streyhorn to get to his house.

I am not well versed in big bang jazz, so I decided to approach this theme as if we were looking at the work of a poet. I found my inspiration within the lyrics of a song titled Rose Room.

For their musicians are the birds and bees
And they will sing us a song
As we are strolling along

More Familiar Inspiration

I found additional inspiration for this piece in the photographic work of an artist even closer to home. In fact, within my own home. My daughter is a talented young photographer with an ever growing portfolio of impressive work. She snapped a striking image of a rather persistent male cardinal just outside her window.

Cardinal image by Alexcina Wartski
Cardinal inspiration by Alexcina Wartski

You see that the panel I needle felted is a stylized slice of this image. I was drawn to the strong contrast, and the play of depth-of-field in this photo. I tried to replicate those elements in the panel.

Show Opening

Come See Carolina Songbird and all the work inspired by Billy Strayhorn at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, February 24 through March 22. The opening reception for the show is during the Hillsborough art walk Friday, February 28, from 6 to 9pm.

Tattered Swan art doll

Green Swan?

Writer’s Block

It really has been much too long since I updated readers on what’s going on in the studio. I have been busy sculpting away in the studio these past few weeks. Much of what I’m working on is for my yearly featured show this coming April, so I’ll keep that under wraps for just a bit longer. In the mean time, let’s look at “Tattered Swan”. She is my piece for HGA’s next show, “Green”.

Tattered Swan art doll
Tattered Swan

But First, Some New Year’s Resolutions…

Each year, somewhere in late summer HGA puts out a call-to-artists across North Carolina. This call is for our yearly state-wide juried show “Resolutions”. Some 200 or so pieces were submitted from artists across the state. 38 wonderful works in a wide variety of media were chosen for inclusion. The show “Resolutions 2020” will be on display at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts January 6-26.

Green Swan

Following our yearly Resolutions show, the member artists of HGA mount two yearly group shows. The theme of the first of these shows is “Green”. I chose to interpret the word green as sustainable. Sustainability being my focus, I decided to begin with my material choices. As felted wool has been my material of choice for the past year or two, I looked first at the source of my fibers. I first purchased wool roving for this figure directly from the farmer at a local farmer ‘s market. My second fiber choice was to recycle. I saved dryer lint from loads of laundry over a period of months. and used it for my second source of fiber. You find this unconventional material used in the figure’s wings, hair, and costume.

Material Challenge

The dryer lint presented me with a puzzle to solve. Its fibers are quite short, and their varied sources make the “Felt-ability” highly variable. I first turned to wet felting. The result was something that resembled home recycled paper, but was devoid of any tensile strength. It crumbled to the touch. I took this fragile material, and sandwiched it with paper thin layers of recycled quilt batting that I had peeled apart. This provided much needed long fibers, and crosswise stability. I needle felted these layers together. The result was a tattered and weathered looking fabric.

Swan Inspiration

I often have my iPad propped up with something playing on it in the background while I work. I had just rewatched the movie Black Swan the idea of creating another dancer figure seemed long overdue. My intension was not to pull directly to the movie imagery, but rather relate to the way it captured both the distress and beauty of ballet. I also strove to create a figure in a snapshot of movement, caught at an instant without connection with the ground. The result is the piece I’ve titled, “Tattered Swan”. I chose to utilize the local wool and the felted lint just as they were without additional coloring through dye or bleaching. I like that this has the effect of the piece looking somewhat classical. Almost as if she were carved out of some sort of material.

Check out Green

“Tattered Swan” and all of the HGA artist’s interpretations of green, will be at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts beginning January, 27th. The opening reception for “Green” is Friday, January 31 from 6-9pm.

Protest Songs Art Doll

Protest Songs art doll
Protest Songs

Another Janice

Protest Songs is my newest original needle felted wool art doll creation. This seated figure is a look back at an earlier art doll figure sculpture of mine titled “Janice“. That piece was purchased years ago by one of my very favorite people, so I still get to visit her from time to time. In this newest incarnation I decided that my vintage songstress needed a floppy felt hat, and a bright orange paisley shirt. She is of course wearing bell-bottomed blue jeans, and they are coordinated with a pair of funky red boots.

For Protest Songs, I additionally constructed a miniature balsa wood acoustic guitar. This tiny instrument is complete with metal strings, tuning knobs, and a scratch plate. The Protest Songs art doll figure is also an homage to the late great Janis Joplin, as was the earlier, “Janice.” This sculpture has her eyes closed and her head tossed back as she belts out her tune with deep feeling.

Wigging Out

My Protest Songs art doll is wigged with unraveled yarn instead of me utilizing hand curled wool roving. I find I prefer the scale of the hair and curls of her coiffure with this method. Obviously, some of my future art doll sculptures will still call for the thicker more dreadlock look of the hand curled roving. I want to explore this untwisted yarn method for a bit. The plan Is to do a bit more experimentation in this area. I would like to see how different types of fibers look and react using them in this manner. Who knows? Perhaps a new art doll sculpture will have truly flaxen or silky hair.

Protest Songs is currently available at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts along with a number of other creations from my studio work bench.

Additions for Summer

Art Doll Additions

I made two new art doll figure additions to my gallery inventory this week. Summer is always a strange time work wise for me because my schedule is much more variable. I find I do not have as many strings of multiple days in the studio. This can be a blessing at times. Many sculptures need a bit of breathing room incorporated into their creation. Time allows me to back away, look at what I’ve done so far, and plan my next attack. My work is definitely not the type that is created in broad quick strokes of the brush. It is more like a collaborative dance between me, the materials, and the piece itself.

Up, Up

...And Away art doll
…And Away

“…And Away” is a colorful and fun art doll figure flying a kite. I played with the balance of this sculpture to create as much movement as possible. I love the challenge of capturing a moment of movement. This not-so-static figure sculpture is frozen in time at the moment a breeze has just caught Away’s kite. I had quite a bit of fun creating her brightly colored polka dot dress and coordinating leggings. Additionally, I received a couple of inquiries if I could produce life-size versions of the tights from fellow artists.

The Game Begins

The Game Begins is a piece comprised of two figures. This art doll sculpture features a kneeling figure holding out a ball to her canine friend. This introduction is the precursor to their very first game of fetch. I’m guessing the first of many.

The Game Begins art doll figure sculpture
The Game Begins

Both “…And Away” and “The Game Begins” are now available at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. It is also the last Friday of the month and that means that there is an opening and reception for our current show Local Color. Local Color features the newest art by Nell Chandler, Evelyn Ward, Ali Givens, and Michele Yellin.

Alice is Late white rabbit figure sculpture

A Friend for Alice and Some Buzz

And a Trip Back to Wonderland…

I think that to date I have created four different interpretations of Alice from her adventures in Wonderland. One of my newest sculptures, “Alice is Late”, is my first attempt at capturing her companion the white rabbit. One of the stars of my recent feature show, he is now catching glances and keeping time for passersby in the gallery front window.

Alice is Late white rabbit figure sculpture
Alice is Late

Take a look around

Several of my needle felted creations from “April Showers, Art Flowers” have already made their way to new homes. A few, like “Alice is Late” can still be seen at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, but you will have to stroll around the gallery a bit to find them.

Alice and Some Buzz

Another of my personal favorites from my recent feature show is “Honey Dance”. Honey Dance is a queen bee figure that hangs from the ceiling. She holds a bit of honeycomb and sports a small crystal tiara. She is one of those playful sculptures that both evoke a smile and provide a sunny pop of color.

Honey Dance hanging art doll sculpture
Honey Dance

Some Other Things to Look For

I also have a fair number of new needle felted jewelry items available in my glass tower at HGA. I always like to create jewelry that reflects what is going on in my sculptures. You will find pieces from simple felted hearts on leather chords, to some more complex and colorful flower forms with hand forged closures. I find these pieces of jewelry unique and playful, and quite fun to create.

I did remove the remaining needle felted hanging ornaments that I had returned to the gallery for my show. Never fear, I will return them to the gallery in the fall with plenty of time for gift giving.

"lush" bag with needle felted butterflies is something different

Something Different, and Reminder…

Pencil Us In.

Before something different, I think I will start with a schedule reminder. If your calendar looks anything like mine this week, a reminder might be a welcome thing. This Friday is the first official Last Friday of the season in Hillsborough, NC. That means that the Art Walk will be accompanied by music on the court house lawn, vendors, outside activities, and more. But, most importantly, this Last Friday is the opening reception for my featured artist show April Showers, Art Flowers. I hope to see you there Friday from 6-9!

Something Different

A few years ago when my work was more mixed media of a steampunk flavor, I created a little steampunk bag for the holiday season. I fondly recall that piece, and how happy I was that it was purchased for a friend as a gift. I am enjoying my creative play with needle felting so much, that I though that I’d include a couple of sculpted bags along with my cast of figurative characters for this show. The first bag I created is a fantastical evening clutch being “Clutched” by a aqua octopus. ”

"Clutched" clutch bag with needle felted octopus is something different
Clutched


Lush

"lush" bag with needle felted butterflies is something different
Lush

I titled my second sculptural bag “Lush.” This shoulder bag features bright blue butterflies and sunny yellow flowers. Tendrils and leaves complete this bag that looks as though it grew, rather than was made. Both bags have a large glass bead and loop as their closures, and hand sewn linings. I really enjoy the idea of creating items that will be a wearable pieces of art.

See you at the gallery

If you have the chance stop in at HGA this Friday night from 6 to 9 pm. You can see these one-of-a-kind bags, my new sculptures and have the chance to say hello. You can also check out the amazing new work By Chris Graebner, and Susan Hope.

Time for a Feature Show

New Work, New Materials

Any regular reader here might predict that my newest works are created utilizing needle felting techniques. My most recent felted wool creations will be featured at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts starting this coming Monday, April 22nd.

April Showers, Art Flowers

“April Showers, Art Flowers” is the title of my upcoming feature show with painter Chris Graebner, and glass artist Susan Hope.

Rain or Shine needle felted art doll by Lynn Wartski
Rain or Shine

“Rain or Shine” is the first art doll sculpture created for this year’s Featured Artist show. I like to start with a piece that speaks to the title of an upcoming show whenever possible. This sunny little figure popped straight into my head and onto the page of my sketchbook

As you can see, I took a a departure from the almost monochromatic look of many of my paper and book based art dolls. I embraced the vibrant color available in wool roving fiber. The wool allows me to use the same materials for the sculpting, costuming and wigging of the figures.

I have a few surprises for this year’s show, but I’ll save those for next week’s post after the show is installed. For now, here are a couple of other figure pieces heading to HGA on Monday.

A Few More Featured Friends

'Conversation" art doll figure sculpture by Lynn Wartski
Conversation
'Spring Dreams" art doll figure sculpture by Lynn Wartski
Spring Dreams
Needle felted wall hanging "Travel Photo #1" for Other Dimensions

Other Dimensions

The Challenge

Create art that takes you out of your usual display space. This is the challenge we gave ourselves for the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts group themed show, “Other Dimensions”. The initial idea was for 3D artists to create wall hanging art, and 2D artists make pedestal top pieces. However, each artist interprets the challenge in their own way. The results will go up on the walls and pedestals of HGA’s Featured Exhibit room this Thursday. Opening reception for Other Dimensions is this Friday, February 22nd from 6-9pm.

My Other Dimensions

I decided to take this themed show challenge at face value and create some wall hanging art. Currently, I am working on several needle felted art doll pieces for my upcoming featured artist show in April. I shared in earlier posts how much I am enjoying working with this new and versatile medium. The results are two felted “tapestries” that I am calling my “travel photos.”

Needle felted wall hanging "Travel Photo #1" for Other Dimensions
Travel Photo #1

I took a “slice” out of a couple of photographs from our family’s recent trip to Iceland, and used them as the basis of needle felted hanging relief panels. The result of the first of these is “Travel Photo #1.” I took the original photo for this piece at the first of many waterfalls we encountered. There were several more dramatic falls along our itinerary route, but something about the moody sky and bright wild lupins in the foreground drew me in. The finished hanging is approximately 12″x 22″.

Travel Photo #2 Collaboration

My second “travel photo” is based on an photo by my talented student photographer daughter, Alexcina. Alex’s original image is of an Icelandic horse who appeared to be very aware of just how magnificent he looked with the wind blowing through his mane.

Needle felted wall hanging "Travel Photo #2" for Other Dimensions
Travel Photo #2

This diminutive hanging is approximately 5.5″x 10″. Both of the “travel photos” are muslin backed and wired for hanging, and you can see them at HGA starting this Thursday.

Fashioned Freedom sculpture for Elizabeth Keckley inspired show

Authors, Artists, and Art Show

Special Show to Start

At the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts (HGA) we start the turn of the calendar year with several special art shows. The North Carolina statewide juried art show, “Resolutions”, is wrapping up. Next, we mount two group themed shows of work from the HGA membership. “It’s All About The Story” is the first of these shows.

Elizabeth Keckley

“It’s All About The Story” takes advantage of the the notable literary community that exists in Hillsborough. The artists of HGA create art in response to the work of one of the town’s many local authors, and this year we are doing something a bit different. This year’s author is long deceased.

Elizabeth Keckley is best remembered as dressmaker and confidant to Mary Todd Lincoln. Elizabeth was born into slavery, and it was during her teen years in servitude that she lived in Hillsborough as a slave in the Burwell household. The Burwell School historic site has marked the 200th anniversary of Keckley’s birth this past year with a number of events surrounding its most notable former resident. For our inspiration we drew from Elizabeth’s memoir, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.  My piece is titled “Fashioned Freedom”.

Fashioned Freedom sculpture for Elizabeth Keckley inspired show
Fashioned Freedom (photo by Alexcina Wartski)




Looking at Elizabeth

I took a step back from my art doll sculptures for this piece. Mrs. Keckley’s true story required something more than a depiction of a character or envisioning a theme from her book. Her life was one of both subjugation and emancipation, though neither as we typically see them. Elizabeth Keckley eventually purchased her and her son’s freedom, but she later became bound in a different way to Mary Todd Lincoln. I found a sense of irony contained where a woman is labeled as “free” in a society where she was anything but free, and she creates garments for other women that literally incorporate a cage structure.

I based my sculpture on a purple velvet dress that Elizabeth Keckley made for Mrs. Lincoln for the 1861-62 winter social season. This dress was a two piece garment with two different bodices, one for day wear, and the other as an evening gown. I reimagined the evening gown form in copper wire and chain around a miniature soft sculpture dress form I created. My intention was to express visually the contradictions of freedom and bondage I encountered in Elizabeth’s story.

Show’s run

It’s All About The Story will show at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts from February 1-20th. There will be a reading at HGA by William L. Andrews author of Slavery And Class In The American South on Sunday, February 10th from 3-4:30pm