“Finding Home”

This piece was inspired by the beautiful red hermit crab I so abruptly disturbed along my walk on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico (see earlier entry: "Bringing Home").

As I started to type this entry a song by the group “The Head and the Heart” was playing….”I am on my way back to where I started…”

I am on my way… and I’m back… I have spent the last seven months learning to transition from a full time teacher to a full time artist… from being on a rigorous schedule to having to find the discipline to stay on a schedule…. to basically move forward in life.

Some of the work I began last summer at the Hermitage was calling out to be completed… I knew this piece was waiting for me…. The crab here is not a “hermit crab” as in the photo in my earlier entry “Bringing Home”… but is actually drawn from a “Ghost Crab”… little white sand crabs that run out on the sand at dusk and dawn… so quickly… it’s as if a ghost has passed by.  But the inspiration for the piece was definitely the hermit crab… so comfortable in its home…. retreating when disturbed.

Returning home after my wonderful summer at the Hermitage brought many challenges and transitions… I have a home… a bed… a family…. but I have abandoned much of my “comfort zone”… some by choice… some not.  I’ve spent the last few months trying to establish new areas of comfort… a place within that is “home”… Not every open door is “home”… Initially one feels that every open door should be entered… but when there is no comfortable place to sit down… you know it’s not “home” for you…. so I will continue to try out a few more sea-shells… maybe stay in one for awhile… maybe not… move on… and try a few more… but I do know … I’m on my way to Finding Home…. thanks for travelling with me!

Stuff!

Last February, “2 Plus 3”, the group of artists that I am a member of was hosting a show on the theme Conflict.  Over the years, I had created artwork that addressed various contoversial topics, especially environmental.  Prior to the exhibit, I was contemplating which of those pieces I would select.  Simultaneously, I and my family were just beginning to make decisions regarding my mom’s care and living arrangements.  The exhibit would have to take a back burner for now, and perhaps I would have to opt out of participating in this one.  When the decision was made to have my mom live in a place where she would be able to get more physical and medical support, we had to begin the task of packing her personal belongings and determining which she would need or want, and which were unnecessary for the moment.  This became a daunting and emotional task, sorting, reminiscing, questioning and deciding.  There is little to prepare someone to categorize a lifetime of accumulation of  material possesions and the various memories attached to them.  By the end of the weekend we were all emotionally drained, not only from this task, but from trying to make life-changing decisions in our mom’s best interest.  The concept that “all the possessions in the world cannot bring you health and happiness” became such an accute reality, concentrated in a single moment. 

Suddenly there was a realization of “Conflict”  in a much more personal and human form than I had previously addressed in my artwork.  There were two areas of conflict that seemed so real to me… one as an heir apparent, to differentiate between the actual objects and the memories attached to them… and the other… that we often fill our worlds with stuff to pacify the inner conflicts we face in our lives. 

My ideas for the exhibit began to solidify in my mind.  With only a few days remaining to prepare my work, I combed through my fabric stash… and pulled out various pieces of vintage linens.  I began by writing some of my thoughts on a linen napkin,then stitched a torn vintage handkercheif over the written area. Various other bits of materials were added including a piece of a decomposing crazy quilt, a piece of a pillow case and some rich, golden brocade fabric. To reflect a nail polish stain on the hanky, hand stitching in shades of red meander through the various pieces.  Charcoal and gold and acrylic paint images of decaying plant roots were drawn over the entire piece, unifying the various discordant parts.  Gold colored grommets were added at the top of  the final composition through which  gold thread connected it to a gold-painted wood molding.

The entire piece, “The Decay of Pretentious Relics” reflected the contradiction between fine luxury and its eventual decay; between possession and loss, between prescence of mind and fading memory.  I stayed up all night, finishing the piece just in time for the deadline, all the time, processing these contradictions though my work.   The opening reception happened to fall on my birthday….I celebrated that I didn’t need more “presents”, but precious memories.

 Below is a quote from South Florida art critic Candice Russell’s review of the Conflict Exhibit.

<“The Decay of Pretentious Relics,” an intriguing fiber work by Andrea Huffman, is cleverly layered with bits of cloth. The interplay of shapes and the suggestion of time’s ravages engage the mind as one’s eyes travel up and down, following the tracery of stitching.>

Link to George Carlin’s comedy routine “Stuff”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac&feature=related

The Guardian

 

 

Four years ago I attended a workshop where I learned how to print digital images onto fabric.  I played around with Photoshop, altering some of my original images.  The figure seen here was taken from an old book with black and white photos of Renaissance sculptures to which I added some color, text and diagrams from an old biology book.  The fabric sat in a pile of  “maybe someday I’ll get to it” stuff.  When  packing materials to use on my work at the Hermitage, I noticed the shell motif

Over 100 hatched egg shells are discovered in one nest. These five will be returned to the nest..

surrounding the sculpture and thought it might find its life here. 

 

 I also happen to have a silk-screen of sea shells I wanted to print on fabric.  I had no idea how it would all come together. 

In doing research on the sculpture I learned that it represented “Charity”, part of the three virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, created by Mino da Fiesole, only this version of  Charity was holding a baby.  I thought with the shell for her crown, perhaps she was really caring for the sea and its creatures. In taking the translation of Charity even further, the original Greek was Charis or Kharis, whose name came from a character in mythology named Algaea, who symbolized beauty, splendor and glory.  I also found Amphitrite, the wife of Poseidon, who according to legend, fed all the creatures of the sea.

 

The mother loggerhead turtle tracks when she comes on the beach to nest.

I wanted to represent some of the many creatures I’ve encountered here, with the same simplicity as in the sculpture.  Using some of the decorative stitches on my sewing machine, I created turtle tracks, dolphins leaping, sea oats and turquoise waves.  I NEVER use the decorative stitches, but this time they seemed to say what I wanted without fuss.  The old “biology diagrams” became the waves at the bottom, filled with strange sea creatures.  A small nautical map accompanies the crescent moon, directing its light.

Here on Manasota Key, there are those we call the turtle ladies.  Every morning from early May until the end of October, they each walk a one mile stretch of beach at first light.  If large tracks indicating a new nest are discovered, they mark it with the date on a post and tape it off so people won’t walk over it.  If an older nest shows small tracks, or is more than 70 days old, these genteel  ladies will get down on the sand and dig up the nest, reaching a full arm’s length into the ground to make sure all the babies have made it out safe.  If there are live babies, they will carefully carry them to shore’s edge to find their way out to sea.  Any unhatched eggs are carefully returned to the nest and covered with sand.  occasionally there are  hatched turtles that never found their way out, and need to be removed from the nest.  These “turtle ladies”, or Guardians of the sea are volunteers, carrying out a labor of love, of Charity.  Walking with them and gleaning their knowledge, they not only look after  baby sea turtles, but they also pick up trash found along the way,  toss a live sand dollar  or hermit crab back into the sea, and will encourage children, tourists and anyone else to walk with them and learn about the life in the seas.  To these Guardians, who are so very charitable, I dedicate “Kharis Oceana”.

Sea Grape… complete

I finally finished the Sea Grape. I incorporate a lot of techniques, both traditional and experimental.  I painted the seeds on a  sheer silk overlay which was first dyed.  The stem was hand embroidered directly onto the silk.   Underneath I printed the actual sea grape leaves, drew the tree,then  added hand and machine embroidery (the foliage on the tree is all machine stitching). Using silk is new to me…. I’ve learned a lot through doing this piece.    Although labor-intensive, I really enjoyed creating this.  Now I’m ready to move on to something new.

Finding Inspiration in the small things.

For some reason, I’ve always been intrigued with drawing the seeds from plants.  I think because we are usually attracted to the showy, flamboyant characteristics of the plant, the seeds are not usually as obvious; its like finding  hidden gems.  When I arrived at the Hermitage two weeks ago, I was amazed at the variety of plants that grow wild here, from the grandest Banyan tree to the tiniest painted flower.  I didn’t know where to start, so I dragged my chair outside and began sketching the seeds of some of these plants.  For my first piece of artwork, I settled on the Sea Grape, a tree I’ve always loved to look at.  The piece is almost complete, so here are some of the photos, sketches and stages of the artwork.  When complete I will repost the finished artwork.

Colors that sparkle

Although it is already three weeks into summer, today I feel like I first stepped foot into my summer vision.  I ordered silk organza, and some semi-sheer cottons to dye.  Using vinegar as a pre-soak for the silk, I dyed the organza with some beautiful, jewel like colors.  The cottons also came out with some rich, variegated hues…. absolutely delicious…. and I have learned more about process.