"Beloved: 9 of Paring Knives (Swords) in the Kitchen Tarot."
by Susan Shie Contact me
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"Beloved: 9 of Paring Knives (Swords) in the Kitchen Tarot."
©Susan Shie 2019. 58"h x 59"w. inventory #511. Peace Cozy #77.
Began 8-7-19. Finished 8-31-19. Many large detail images follow the artist's statement below.
I am a social activist painter and fiber artist. I airbrush whole cloth works which I then sew. My artwork and writing are all spontaneous first drafts on the cloth. This piece is just finished, about Toni Morrison; the massacres in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy; the Squad; and Trump's most recent behavior and statements. Morrison, who died on Aug 5, 2019, was a real force for social integrity, both in her work and her speeches.
The title of this artwork is a reference to her book "Beloved." The subtitle, "9 of Paring Knives (swords) in the Kitchen Tarot" places this piece in my tarot art project, begun in 1998, and probably finished within the next 3 years. There are 78 cards in a Tarot deck. The project began a lot less political, but by the time I finished the first 22 card quilts, the part of a tarot deck called the Major Arcana, I was making some pretty strong political statements, as we had just gotten through the 2008 primary and then moved into the general election race.
The first 22 cards were published as "The Kitchen Tarot" in 2010, by Hay House, and only had one edition printed, but to get the whole deck published will be harder, as it's gotten a lot more political. The art quilts (or soft paintings) are all different sizes - many are much larger than this one - and they get cropped into a vertical rectangle, card shaped, for turning them into tarot cards. But I have to say, I never expected to get any of them published. Just got lucky on the Major Cards publication.
I don't want to have to worry about what anybody thinks, when I'm making my art. I don't want an editor telling me what to do, for instance. So I've just made them the way I wanted to. But in the last few years, I haven't been getting into some of the exhibitions I was used to having my works in. I figured out that my work was too radical for quilt shows to want to risk it. Hmmm. So I've just kept making it, showing it where I can.
When I start a new Kitchen Tarot card, I pull a card from the traditional Tarot deck, then start thinking about what it means to me. Sometimes I have my basic idea already in my head, when I pull the card. I come up with something regarding the Kitchen, to fit this card into my deck. My suits are: Pyrex Cups for cups; Paring Knives for swords; Wooden Spoons for wands, and Potholders for coins.
This card is the 9 of Paring Knives, which in my deck, are always used as tools in the kitchen, to nourish people, from our families to the world. They are NOT weapons, but important tools for good. Nines are Completion, the culmination of a lot of effort, in whatever suit you're using.
So I was thinking about what all that would mean, but I knew I wanted this piece to be about Toni Morrison, who died on August 5, this month. I pulled my card at random 2 days after her passing. I love Toni Morrison's work and have a special place in my heart for her, for her activism and commitment to truth, and because she gave a commitment speech at my undergrad school, The College of Wooster, while I was a student there.
So I started sketching ideas. I hadn't made an art quilt painting since March, because of breaking an arm, and because I teach freehand drawing online full time. Between those issues, my usually prolific work production was all coming out in finished double-page drawings in my large, hardbound sketchbook, as I always do the same assignments I give my students. But I was figuring out how to get back into the swing of my soft paintings again, as I've made quilts as a feminist statement since the late 1970s college art days. And I'd always made a LOT of them.
I decided this year I'd work smaller now. So the piece I finished in March, and this one are both about 60 x 60", down from the 60" x 90" size I'd been making. And with my arm healing, I decided to do most of the writing on my piece this time with my airbrush, which I always use to freehand draw and then color the painting. Before, I was quite contented writing with a gizmo called the airpen, with which I put black paint through a surgical needle on a syringe, with the pushing coming from a much smaller compressor than my airbrush uses.
The airpen gives me a really fine, crisp, rich line, and I can write really small with it. But for now, I decided this time, I want my writing to be bigger all over the painting, so people can read it much easier, and so it doesn't hurt my wrists to clean that crazy little airpen out! So, I was able to make this piece in a month, while teaching full time and drawing for that class full time. I'm pretty happy about this!!!!
I feel like I'm back in the swing of being able to keep up with current socio-political events, not just in my class drawings in my book, but back in my favorite format, pretty good sized art quilts. So I looked at my sketches a little, but I don't want to copy from them, when I'm airbrushing the painting. So I stared by drawing in Toni Morrison's eyes with black paint coming through my airbrush. Ratz! I realized right away that those eyes were so big, Toni M was going to take up a huge amount of the piece. Oh well! Here we go!
I finished drawing her from memory, as I didn't want to try to copy, but have a really spontaneous drawing come out of my airbrush. Then I looked at a few pix of the Baby Trump balloon and set them aside and drew one. Oh, maybe that was after I drew Beto O'Rourke and Mayor Whaley, of El Paso and Dayton, respectively. Yeah, I put in one Baby Trump Balloon, and then got this cool idea: to put in another one, on the other side of Toni Morrison's big head! So there they were, floating over those towns, annoying everyone to no end! Just like Trump really did!
I added four of the new women of the House of Representatives, who call themselves the Squad, at the bottom, putting them standing, with their arms interlocked for unity, in poses I made up as I ran my airbrush. You know, an airbrush can be really fussy, especially with black paint. You have to stop and clean it a lot, because that thicker paint clogs so easily! But when it's running really well, it feels like my index finger, which runs the lever on the double action Aztek airbrush, is just pointing at the cloth, and the picture is magically coming out of my finger!
So, sometimes it's that good. Sometimes it's a lot of work. But I love using my airbrush! And when you get around to coloring with it, it's the best! I water my paint down so much, it hardly clogs, while I color in my black paint images.
I decided to not give Toni Morrison crossed arms, which had been my sketches' plans. I wanted her to be more open than that. So I made up a pose with her arms outstretched, and her hands open. (Much later, when the painting was all quilted, I sewed my Peace Cozy into her right hand. I put a Peace Cozy on all of my quilts, but can't plan where it goes, until the end, and it has to make sense where it is. In this case, Toni M is offering Peace with her love for humanity, and it's now coming from her Angel Self.)
So I wrote all the things on here, after coloring the images, and I decided to not censor myself. I figured that my works were getting not shown, anyhow, so why not just tell all the true things I wanted to. I did.
The topics start with Toni M's life - with a marvelous quote by a book critic named Webster Schott, that I wrote on her face. It says "Morrison owns a powerful intelligence. It's run by courage. She calls to account conventional wisdom and accepted attitudes at every turn." He wrote that years and years ago!
I also wrote that she gave a speech at Howard University in 1995, titled "Racism and Fascism," in which she offered 10 steps fascism uses to take control of a society. You'd think she was talking about Trump and his behavior, but this was 1995! It was so close, even including picking out a group within the society to pick on, abuse, even lock up. And especially lock up the men and the children. I don't remember if I put that here, but I think I did. I hope I did!
I wrote some of Beto O'Rourke's frustrated statements about Trump, as he dealt with the massacre in El Paso, his hometown, where the shooter was inspired by Trump's rhetoric. I gave stats on the 3 shootings that happened so close together so recently, and in the top right corner, talked about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and how Trump needs to look at that document he violates each and every day.
So I went on like that, and then ran out of writing room on the body of the painting, so I had to quilt it then, and quilting it means for me, that I get to add a border, where I can write some more. So I listened to some of Tony Morrison's essays and speeches, while I mostly machine sewed this piece for several days, and hand sewed around the outside edges of that border. Then I used a big black acrylic paint marker and wrote all over that border, telling Trump's latest outrages, when he went to the G-7 meeting in France. He makes me tired!
I sewed on the little Green Temple Buddha Boy bead, in the bottom right corner, by the title and signature info area. And I sewed the Peace Cozy - #77 - onto the palm of Morrison's outstretched right hand. I've read some of her novels over the years, but am now in a Toni Morrison marathon, in which I will read all of her books. Wish I'd done that before she died! She was born in Lorain, OH, up near Cleveland, and I'm a Northeast Ohio girl, too.
Wish I'd met her at that commencement she spoke at, at the College of Wooster, while I was a student there! It was the late 70s, and I'd never heard of her before that. But my college is really cool, and they always bring in pretty feisty speakers, who push us to think for ourselves and not just swallow the System's stories.
So that's it. Thanks for reading this. I am starting to think of the next piece now. I think I'm going to study up on Extinction Rebellion. I have a feisty niece who's a member. And I really love Greta Thunberg and her school strikes for saving the Earth. We need to listen to those kids and help them do just that - save the Earth. Maybe I'll put Rachel Carson into my next art quilt, too. Can you imagine if she hadn't died in the prime of her life! Her books push us to protect the Earth, but there hasn't been a money incentive for that ... and then there's the Trump of the Tropics, that scoundrel, Jair Bolsonaro! No shortage of things we need to pay attention to, in this world. Thanks for reading my story here. Sorry it's so long.
-- Susan Shie, Wooster, Ohio, 10-22-19.
Please keep scrolling down this page now, to see all the detail pix, and be able to read my stories better, in the close-ups of my piece "Beloved: 9 of Paring Knives (swords) in the Kitchen Tarot." Thanks!
Visit my Facebook album of making this piece.
If you want to take a Lucky Drawing online class with me, you can find the information on my website or my Susan Shie Turtle Moon Studios Facebook page. I teach 4-week sessions with 12 day breaks in between them. Most of my students consider my class to be like taking a yoga class: You just keep going with the group. You can find info about my next online freehand drawing classes on my Turtle Moon Studios front page.
In all the classes I teach, I am only teaching freehand, intuitive drawing and painting on paper now, using a format very much like my online Lucky Drawing classes. I continue to make my art quilts, but no longer teach those processes. You can learn quilting from others. I teach how to open up and express yourself as an adult who draws. I work to convince you that there are no art rules, no right and wrong. When you knew that instinctively as a small child, you happily drew and painted wonderful things on paper. That innocence is healing, is un-stressing, and is about impossible to find in our adult world. We can get it back, while we draw together, with curiosity, eagerness, and joy.
Drawing is one of our natural skills, and we each deserve to reclaim it. Like singing and dancing, like making up poetry without rules or jazz that just improvises, freehand drawing is easy, and it feels good. So, that's what I teach now. And I will convince you to let go of your adult-self's ideas of right and wrong. I've found that there's no place for that stuff in real creativity.
Read all about my Turtle Art Camp - how it works for your weeklong artmaking experience here in Wooster, Ohio, and see the changes I've made to the camp agenda. I have many large photos on the Turtle Art Camp page, to show what goes on at this biosphere-like art experience. The emphasis in this adult students' art camp is on freehand, intuitive drawing and painting in large, hardbound sketchbooks now, because I’ve figured out that with these processes, everyone can relax and focus on expressing herself. I want my art camp to help you become more open to letting your art flow out later, in whatever medium you want it to be in.
I started my Turtle Art Camps in 1994 and they continue. See my 2019 TAC schedule on the main page ot Turtle Moon Studios, along with a link to my current online Lucky Drawing class description and enrollment info
The detail pix:
This is the label on the back of this piece, "Beloved: 9 of Paring Knives (swords) in the Kitchen Tarot."
Turtle Moon Studios: Outsider Art Quilts and Paintings
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