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swaddled

C_lindsay_obermeyer_swaddled_1997 How do you protect your child when your child is now a legal adult?  You can't bundle her tight and keep her close to the hearth.  Such wrappings may trip her.  But when is an adult child ready to fly solo?  Does a bell ring?  Is a message sent by special delivery?  How will I know?  I like to think I am fairly intuned to my daughter's needs, but these days I can't always discern her voice from those of her friends.   

I made this scarf one Chicago winter.  I didn't want my daughter to be cold.  Each day another inch or two were added.  But as I knitted, the scarf ceased to protect.  It verged on suffocating her.  Have you seen toddlers walking about in their snowsuits?  The protective gear they wear is so cumbersome that it frequently causes them to become unstable and trip. 

As my daughter grows up, I am quick to provide the snowsuit forgetting lessons learned in years past.     But I fear the lessons to be learned in the present and the future, so I rely on past habits to guide me.  Despite her wishes, I'm not ready to crochet a string bikini.

 

paper towers

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Art by Mary Bennett

The other day I mentioned turning the piles of books and papers stacked about my house into artworks rather than sort, file, and recycle through them, but this idea has already been explored!   I was being more than a tad flippant in my previous blog entry, so I was taken aback to see such brilliant work created with said piles of books.  A review of Mary Bennett's recent exhibition at Turner Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe is in the current issue of Artnews.  Most impressive is her "Book Tower."  That's right -  a floor to ceiling tower of books haphazardly stacked and waiting for the push of a finger.  Naturally, she has a steel rod inserted to prevent such clumsy disasters which my particular paper towers do not. 

The above image is from a 2004 exhibtion of her work at the Paul Anglim Gallery in San Francisco. 


children

C_lindsay_obermeyer_connection1997 I was on my way home from a meeting and listening to my satellite radio.  Lisa Belkin was interviewing several experts on how to become more organized.  As books and papers are stacked in pillars throughout my house, this subject was of particular interest to me.   After dinner I googled her name to look for information on the day's guests.  I couldn't find anything relevant on the guests, but I found a slew of irrate articles and blog postings in response to an article she wrote 3 years ago titled "The Opt-Out Revolution."  The article investigates why so many women decide to leave successful careers to raise their children.  Is biology is destiny?

This weekend I will be hosting a brunch for a friend who recently gave birth to her first child.  She had put off and then negotiated with her husband the terms in which she would have children.  She wanted a child, but she didn't want to step off her career path.   She knew from conversations and observations that the balance between the two was going to be difficult and that the brunt of the child's upbringing, especially the first year, would fall upon her shoulders.  Women lactate; there is no getting around the fact. 

I couldn't opt-out of my career.  I am my daughter's provider.  The basics of food, shelter and clothing rest upon my shoulders.  My "Woman's Work" series speaks to this very need to find a balance between work and children.  I could no longer spend long tracks of time at my embroidery table.  Teaching, trips to the doctor, basketball practice, music lessons, etc. pulled me in a zillion directions a day.  Rather than let the stress overwhelm me and stop my studio practice, I found a way to make art that allowed me to juggle all the other demands.  I began to knit installations and sculptures that could be constructed in parts and toted around in my backpack.  An inch completed on the subway, another two at basketball practice and soon I had a finished piece. 

Thousands of young woman graduate each year with a BFA.  The percentage of those who will continue to practice art without the extra juggle of raising a family is already slim.  Making art is difficult and underappreciated work.  It doesn't provide immediate financial stability. A fulltime studio practice is frequently supported by at least one parttime job.  Add the responsibilities of parenting and most artists give up, especially women. 

I don't think it is a matter of opting-out of one's career, it is a matter of wanting something different.  If one isn't satisfied with their career path, they will more likely choose to be a stay-at-home parent if that is a financial option.  Women have this advantage over men as men are still viewed as the family's primary financial provider and rarely given the option to be the stay-at-home parent.  (I will table the discussion that this decision is still frequently made vy a couple because the husband is accorded greater earning power in society.)

I found my balance when I let go of the ideals I carried in my head.  The home will always be clean and tidy.  Dinners will always be cooked from scratch.   My garden will be the envy of my neighbors.  I will settle only for art which is made in a studio setting.  My daughter will always have my undivided attention.  I will not ask for help from others.  Blah, blah, blah.  The balance came when I stopped trying to be Super Woman and just be myself. 

This of course hasn't solved the problem of the many pillars of paper holding up my roof.  Maybe I should call them installations and be done with it. 


       

eureka!

American_craft "They share similar forms and patterns...and are about the interconnectedness, transformation and evolution of all things in nature."  --  Eva Kwong 

If you have seen my website, then you know that I do a range of work.  The underlying theme to this madcap assortment of mediums and styles is healing.  But there is another theme which despite years attempting to articulate it, I find today that another artist has directed me to the very words.  Eva Kwong's work is featured in the current issue of American Craft.  Rather than post a scanned image of her work, I have inserted a scan of the magazine's cover so you will be sure to recognize it when next at your local newstand.  Her ceramic cell structures were recently installed at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  They are beautiful, illustrating what I already knew, that the body is an amazing structure.

For the past 10 years I been studying the interior landscape, that of the body, rendering visible the invisible.  This concept isn't new.  Leonardo and others have been doing it for centuries, but mine are done in bead embroidery rather than pencil or paint.  Beads have adorned medicine bags around the world.  The word also refers to the many bits of colorful medicine contained within a capsule.  They are also used in scientific research.  These aren't gorgeous size 11 Delicas, but microscopic beads attached to cells. Some of these microscopic beads aid scientists in the visualization of the cells they are studying.   

All of this is interesting information, but why such a "Eureka!" moment?  I had not put together in my head that rendering visible the physical cells that link us is little different from my Red Thread Project which renders visible our emotional connections.  Hurry!  Stop the presses!  It is time to write a new artist statement.


green sweeps

Img_1338"This is the foundation of all.  We are not to imagine or suppose, but to discover, what nature does or may be made to do."  -  Francis Bacon

Yesterday was the second hottest day of the year and there I was in my garden vainly attempting to control the jungle.  I cut a path from the backdoor to the garage, picked the last of the cherries, and did some basic weeding.   A praying mantis gave me the honor of his presence.  I was startled by his size, a good 3 1/2 inches in length. 

My garden is a welcome respite from the studio.  The perennial beds I dug last year are proving worth the effort.  Though I have spent precious little time in my sanctuary this year, I am rewarded by hydragea blossoms the size of grapefruits,  fragrants sweeps of lavender, and lilies poking their heads here and there to nod hello in the breeze. 


tension

_lindsay_obermeyer_2006 "It is the tension of being on the brink of a major commitment, and not being quite sure whether one has it in one to carry it through - the stage where the impossible almost exactly balances the possible, and a thistledown may shift the scales one way or the other."

- May Sarton from Plant Dreaming Deep.

Scattered on nearly every surface of Larry's office are postcards, magazines, and newspaper clippings about artists whose work he has photographed.  These are people who are making a living from their art.  They aren't waiting tables, teaching, or working at any other job.  For them, art is it. 

While looking at this amazing "gallery" of images, I realized that the tension within me has been to deny that this too is what I want.   I like teaching.  I am reasonably good at it and find the lessons learned in the process to be invaluable, but I need more time in the studio. 

The Red Thread Project may prove to be that bit of thistledown to tip the scales.  I never expected such a small idea to take on such grand proportions.  In a way, the project is becoming its own entity, separate from me.  I am receiving requests to bring it to cities throughout the United States and even Canada.  I am intrigued by this challenge, but first I must free myself from my own emotional ball and chain.

* Thanks to Larry of Sanders Visual Images for taking amazing photos of my work today, including the detail of Ball and Chain.


balance

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Detail of Leucocyte 1 - 2004

Balance is the enemy of art. - Richard Eyre

Each day one activity tends to dominate all others.  These last few days I have been finishing three new pieces for a photo shoot.  Saturday at noon is my deadline.  As luck would have it, three galleries are interested in the same body of work for exhibition at the same time.  Each exhibition is an opportunity not to be missed, so I am rapidly finishing off these pieces.  Sketches for four more are completed and ready to be worked.   

As a result, my garden looks like a jungle, my house is a maze of stuff to be put away, and my kitchen is filled with fresh vegetables waiting to be turned into delicious meals.  My daughter is beginning to learn the art of balance, or lack thereof, as she works for Gallery 37, a job training program for teenage artists.  Our time together has been reduced to a few moments late in the evening. 

Is balance the enemy or simply an elusive goal to obtain?


investments

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Paris, France April 2006

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.  -  Joseph Chilton Pearce

I spent two hours yesterday sorting through the lists I had written and the those yet to reach paper before developing a definitive to-do list that will quite possibly lead me to the point I want to be.   As I wrote, I kept analyzing and censoring my ideas.  How could I possibly ask a bank to sponsor the Red Thread Project?  The project doesn't have solid collateral for investment.  On the other hand, the publicity generated from the project in Grand Rapids should be enough to prove the amount that could possibly be generated here in Chicago.  Publicity is advertisement and advertisement could lead to new customers.  And so the ramblings continued until I was so tired I could no longer write.

This morning I can see the path I need to take and still I question whether it is the wrong one to choose, but I sense that it's not.  I need to trust my instincts.  And if I am wrong?  Smile and keep on knitting.


the blank page

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The view from my office window, July 2006.

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." 

    - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When I first met with the career consultant, she spoke frankly, "I am not sure what I can offer you.  You have a great resume."  Thanks.  I didn't know whether to laugh or sigh.  Resumes are records of past deeds.  They may assist in opening doors as they are the stock and trade of the business world, but they do little to sort out ones challenges.

Yesterday I took a fresh journal with me to the studio.  Maybe I could circumvent my mental block if facing a blank page rather than a blinking cursor.  New journals fill me with the anticipation of life to be lived.  What stories would this new one tell?  But once again, I began to write to-do lists. 

I am juggling several ideas for expanding the scope of the Red Thread Project.  I want to return to my landscape series, but work them in machine embroidery as much as beadwork.  And then there is my Chirurgi series which always sparks regenerative interest in me.  It dawned on me as I was writing that my challenge isn't external, but internal.  I simply need to set some goals and use my to-do lists to achieve them.


Ball and Chain

Img_1359 Yesterday I sat down to the task of planning my life.  One Excel spreadsheet, a cup of tea, how hard could it be?  I stopped after listing 8 items.  This isn't a to-do list, but a naming of challenges I face and how I will attempt to overcome them.  Looking at the hurdles in black and white was overwhelming.  I wanted to run and hide behind my knitting needles.  I added another item and then another, but now I am only at 12.  Knitting a ball and chain is much easier.  I spent this afternoon knitting one. 

If you haven't seen the extraordinary images taken by Sandi Gunnett at the performance of the Red Thread Project, you need to take the time to follow this link:    http://redthreadimages.blogspot.com