Saturday, April 18, 2009

Studio Ramblings...



that's my mother in the upper right hand corner...


i am going to be making headdresses of some sort...








some old linens from my mother's house will be making their way into my project...









my mother's patchwork skirt, made in the 50's...




i don't know if i will just use it for source material, or actually incorporate it into my costumes. my mom had started to take it apart and it was sitting in a bag destined for the deep six when i snagged it a few years ago...i could do a whole series of drawings of this skirt alone. i love it.






I've done some cleaning and organizing in my studio the past couple of afternoons, getting all my materials out and ready for action. This latest project of mine is merging my sewing and my artmaking, two realms that felt very separate for a long time. My mother's patchwork square dance skirt seems key to this entire piece of mine that is unfolding. The colors, the patterns, the love of sewing, of making. Bright colors, like the wild wallpapers that decorated the rooms of my 1950's childhood, a love of flair and drama and performance that I learned at a cellular level from my parents with their square dancing and the costumes that they wore, my father's singing - he was always singing boisterously around the house and in the car and at church and in his barbershop performances.
The mix of bright colors with black speaks deeply to me - these are the colors in a favorite crocheted afghan my grandmother made that I adopted as a teen, and the colors of Halloween, a time that was fully and joyfully celebrated in our house. It's my brother Ken's birthday and we had many wild costume parties for him. My parents also dressed in costumes for their square dance Halloween parties, and my mother designed and made their costumes every year. There was a deep love of color, of drama, and of celebration in our home. (It's interesting that when I met my husband and first visited his home in Millerton, NY, I was struck by the blank walls of his old house, and the lack of music and merriment. The focus in their home was on their huge vegetable garden and the meals that resulted from that produce. After awhile I found visiting there a relief, a sort of respite. There was not so much focus on how things looked or how people looked. It was more of a meat and potatoes sort of existence. And his parents swore! No, I did not hear my parents swear, ever. We were all about looking great on the surface. "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" was my parents' mantra...)
So we had this profusion of color and expression within the bounds of what/when was deemed appropriate. It came out in my parents' hobbies and extracurricular activities. My father was an accountant for the electric company and my mother did piece work in a factory. This brings to mind that scene in Pleasantville when the soda jerk (Jeff Daniels) who is trapped in a mindless job, speaks about his happiest time of year being the holidays when they let him paint a scene on the diner window...
I now realize that my strong expression and my propensity to speak aloud the truth in my art frightened my parents because it threatened to rattle and crack the seal on some of their tightly closed secret compartments.

7 comments:

Susan Beauchemin said...

Wow! I'm excited to see where and what all this will be! I'm impressed with the organized bin of supplies and really love the two photos of just mom's dance skirt, rippling out and over with such beautiful colors!

Jeane said...

first of all, Carolee Schneeman? over the top! wow! and your work in progress just gets better and better.....the evolution of something like this is what art is for me......

Martha Miller said...

hi sue

yes, mom's skirt - so beautiful!

Martha Miller said...

thankyou so much, jeane!

Elizabeth Seaver said...

I love seeing your work space and watching the bits and pieces come together in your "puzzle." It is exciting to be on a new road. I look forward to your stops along the way!

Martha Miller said...

thankyou, elizabeth!

Martha Miller said...
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