Thursday, October 28, 2010

Simple Gifts

It Simply Stays Within the Heart • 20"x 20" • Dye on Cloth • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay

My mother is very good at the art of gift giving, (she's also skilled in the art of letter writing, but that's another story). When my brother and sister and I were young, birthdays and Christmases were filled with what we really, really wanted: bicycles, record players, dolls, choo choo trains or the longed for latest Nancy Drew mystery. We never got socks or pj's or any of those practical but disappointing gifts of everyday life. My parents knew that presents should be extraordinary, not ordinary, and part of their success was to not over do it—no distractions of excess—you were grateful and content, but never overwhelmed.

I forget the exact time when my family stopped giving multiple gifts to each other, but my mother has continued to show off her gift-giving skills even when she only has one chance to choose the perfect thing. Since I am an artist, the gifts she gives me are often made by other artists: a set of three Shaker boxes to hold my jewelry, a book of woodcuts, signed by the artist, a ceramic bowl she found on a trip to Door County. Each one has meaning and a story, each one is precious.

Six or seven years ago for my birthday she gave me a membership to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. At the time I was working as a product designer and traveling a lot so I wasn't able to make much art. I loved reading the articles and looking at the artwork in the museum's quarterly publication. I would dream of a future time when I could have a studio and make my own work and be a "real" artist like the women in the magazine. Once again my mother had given me the perfect gift.

Fast forward a few years to a couple of months ago and imagine my surprise when Denise Garner, a woman I had just recently been introduced to, approached me and asked if I was familiar with the National Museum of Women in the Arts? "Oh yes," I said, "I am a member!"

Last week the Arkansas State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts held their annual conference in Bentonville. On Sunday evening we were led on a delightful evening walk through Compton Gardens to the observation deck of the Crystal Bridges Museum building site by Sandy Edwards, Crystal Bridges’ Associate Director. Then we experienced the mind-blowing skyspace sculpture, The Way of Color, by James Turell. That was followed by a dinner of delicious food, wine and delightful conversations about art. It was, in other words, a wonderful night.

 NMWA Artist Reception • October 2010 • photo ©2010 Rob Andes

Sharon Guthrie and I helped coordinate an artist's reception for the conference attendees, so the next day while the Committee held their annual meeting, eleven artists set up their work in a reception room. It was an exciting group of talented women and I was honored to be included. After their meeting, the committee members took the time to speak to each artist, inquire about their work and were generally excited to see such amazing art set up just for them. The artist's were especially pleased to have the chance to talk to Ilene Gutman, development director for the National Museum of Women in the Arts who was visiting from Washington D.C.

As the reception came to a close I realized how blessed I was to be in that room filled with art, meeting great people and making new friends. I couldn't wait to tell my mother about my experience…and just when I thought it couldn't get any better I heard a voice say, "I really like your work, is it for sale?" "Oh yes," I said, "it is!"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Small Accomplishments

Felicity.01 • Dye on Fabric • 5"x 5" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for The Arts Center of the Ozarks. Readers of this blog will remember back in July I was awarded the Postcard Prize for the Artist's of Northwest Arkansas Regional Art Exhibition by their Visual Arts Director, Leslie Callison, Ph.D. When she asked me to participate in their annual fundraiser, the 8th Annual 5"x 5" Auction, of course I said yes. Artists from all over the area are given 5' x 5' canvas and asked to create a piece of art to donate to the ACO. On the first Thursday of November they have a big party featuring jazz music and delicious food while they hold the silent auction. I have heard that people line up early to get in and bid on their favorites!

I used the opportunity to experiment a bit. I am, as are many textile artists I know, conflicted about putting fabric under glass in the framing, or finishing, process. Behind glass textile art can (but not always) loose the depth and texture that I love most about fabric. Ironically, my recent work, which is traditionally matted and framed, is selling very well…so like I said: conflicted.

Felicity.02 • Dye on Fabric • 5"x5" • ©2010 Jennifer Libby Fay
Since I knew that the 5"x5" couldn't be framed I had to work differently and I was given permission to work differently. This is what I love about challenges, they force me to solve the problems I have been avoiding out of fear or laziness.

I love to stitch, but I haven't incorporated it into my work for awhile—I am especially adverse to putting stitching under glass, although I have done it (yep, still conflicted). Since these pieces would not be framed I decided to get out the needle and thread and enjoy the process. After I dyed and stitched the fabric, uncertainty set in. Should I glue my fabric to the canvas already stapled to the 5"x 5"? Would the glue seep through? Should I back my fabric? With what? In the end I decided to remove the canvas and stretch my fabric around the frame, stapling it in the back. I am very pleased with the results. This little project has sparked ideas, pathways and connections for a new body of work that includes stitching and finishing in the same manner. My debt of gratitude to Dr. Callison continues to grow!

In Other News
If you are in the Seattle (are you in Seattle?) area during the month of October, check out the Shift Collaborative Studio show, Thirteen Underground, that is part of an artist member exchange and features work by members of the Fayetteville Underground, including yours truly.