LayersofMeaning – 2004

March 2004


Layers of Meaning was my blog on art, design and textiles.  It was active mostly between 2001-2007. This period  was in infancy of blogging. The earliest pages were written on a blogging platform created as an experiment by a local college.  The software eventually collapsed and two years of writing vanished into the ether.  The entries shown below are a snapshot of one month  in 2004.

See more at the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

Living Outside the Lines

Monday, March 29th, 2004

Boy Scout for Hire by Ann Stamm MerrellLiving Outside the Lines is a homage to quilt artist Ann Stamm Merrell, who died of breast cancer in 1999. The artwork is extraordinary, but most fascinating about this web site is the perspective of how an artists work can change and evolve through major struggles of life.

Husband Gregory Merrell writes: In April, 1993, Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer. This had a profound effect on her physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It also had a major effect on her quilt making as she began to express more of her anger, frustration, despair, hope, faith and joy through her works. Her style changed significantly as a result of the diagnosis. Instead of the nice neat stay inside the lines and do everything according to the rules (well, mostly) type of quilt making that she had been doing, she quickly began to go outside the lines. Gone were the nice clean edges. No more square corners and parallel lines.

The site features over 50 artworks, arranged in chronological order and grouped by developmental periods in the artists life. The works begin with Triple Rail Barn Railing, a very traditional piece, to emotional, gyrating pieces, such as The Blood of Christ, Adriamycin and contemplative liturgical stoles.

Anns words are highlighted in her Quilt National 97 application:

Much of the content of my quilts now deals with my faith, especially as it relates to cancer. Even in quilts without overt meaning, the design elements…  raw edges, quilting outside the lines, slicing through already finished sections… speak metaphorically of my life post cancer. My technique is driven by the need to keep creativity present as far into the process as possible, and to eliminate as much (of what I perceive as) busywork as possible.


Frida Kahlo on self-portraiture

Thursday, March 25th, 2004

Frida Kahlo: self-portrait with monkeyWhy did Frida paint herself? Her preferred exercise seems to have been shaping and perpetuating the image the mirror returned, enriched by her own art and imagination. Her friend, Alejandro Gomez Arias, a Mexican writer, to whom she gave her first self-portrait, commented: Frida painted as a final means of surviving, of enduring, of conquering death. On the other hand Frida herself answered this question by saying, I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone. Because I am the person I know best.
[Espacio, Art Magazine 1983] reprinted from

image: Frida Kahlo; self-portrait with monkey, 1938 Albright Knox Museum Scroll down on the museums web page for art exercises relating to the image and Kahlo.

Arts Opportunities

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Skagit River valley by Dr. Astrida Blukis OnatQuiltart has expanded and improved their calendar of arts events for art quilters. Arranged in chronological order, the list gives details on a wide variety of arts opportunities available worldwide. The opportunities on todays list run the gamut from Artist Residency In India to Small Art Quilt Exhibition

These notices are provided by Quiltart subscribers or are selected from the more extensive listings available at The Art Deadlines List. The art deadlines list is more extensive because it covers all media, not just art quilt and related areas.

Its fun to look at the list and dream. I found one notice this morning for an art and archeology fellowship on the Skagit River in Washington state. I went to college just north of there and it is a magical area. I spent a good twenty minutes daydreaming about waking up to the snowcapped mountains and the sweet smell of the hemlock trees; whitewater rivers with salmon jumping in them. What an opportunity!

(reprinted from Art Deadlines List) ART ARCHAEOLOGY FELLOWSHIP Artist Fellowship for Washington State Archaeological Project. As a part of its new Community Fellow Program, the nonprofit volunteer organization, Earthwatch Institute is looking for artists from a wide variety of media (including paint, photography, poetry, sculpture, audio, performance art, etc.) to award participation costs to join Dr. Astrida Onats archaeological project, Traditions of Cedar, Salmon and Gold, located in the Skagit River basin in Washington State from May 17 – 28, 2004. The concept is that winning artists would be able to incorporate what they learn on their Earthwatch expedition into their art work as a way to communicate their experiences and insights to a diverse audience. Any artist in North America is eligible to apply. Contact: Rachael Dobson, Earthwatch, 978-450-1251 OR OR

image: Skagit River valley by Dr. Astrida Blukis Onat

Quilting in America Survey

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Quilting in America Survey 2003 reveals the Profile Of A Dedicated Quilter (do you fit the pattern?):

  • 99% Female
  • 58 years old
  • Well educated (76% attended college)
  •  Affluent ($80, 397 HH income)
  • Spend on average $1,934 per year on quilting
  •  Quilting for an average of 12.3 years
  • Dedicated Quilters:Purchased an average of 100.7 yards
  • Purchased an average of 5.5 quilting books with an average price of $21.80 per book
  • Subscribed or read an average of 4.2 magazines
  • 25% purchased a new machine spending $1,811

note* The survey was commissioned by International Quilt Market Festival (divisions of Quilts, Inc.) and Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine (a division of Primedia). The research was conducted by independent firms NFO Research, Inc. and Abacus Custom Research, Inc..

Self-Portraits: creative non-fiction

Friday, March 19th, 2004

22nd Year by Sarah McEneaneySarah McEneaney is a Philadelphia painter who creates creative non-fiction paintings of her life and environment. The works are small, and created in egg-tempera, a medium made famous by Andrew Wyeth and also used by the early Renaissance painters. Her images are realistic, in the sense that they are identifiable and use naturalistic colorings. But they are fantasies in the distortion and emotion that they convey. Particularly poignant are the paintings reliving her rape: June 15, 1998 I and June 15, 1998 II

McEneaney says of her work: I have been painting for over twenty years. My paintings are autobiographical narratives. They describe life experiences, physically and emotionally. I paint looking out from within and back inside from my own particular place in the world. My aim is to be honest and straightforward in the subject matter I choose and in how I paint it, to make the personal universal.

New York Times article Self-Portrait With Epiphany states Ms. McEneaneys works belong to a prolific tradition of painting that has flourished worldwide for centuries, in blissful ignorance or willful rejection of the vaunted vanishing point of High Renaissance art. It is a longer and wider tradition than that of Western realism, one that has arguably succeeded more consistently at achieving pitch-perfect balances between form and narrative  between the telling and the tale.

With the scale and the liberation of the expressionist realism, Sarah McEneaneys work might be a path of inspiration for fiber artists looking to create representational portraiture.

For those going to Philadelphia for the Art Quilts at the Sedgwick show, McEneaneys paintings will be showing at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art until April 4, 2004.

Self Portraits: Neel and Ringgold

Thursday, March 18th, 2004

Faith Ringgold, Picnic on the Grass... Alone

Still more on self portraits June Underwood was kind enough to introduce the topic to her Ragged Cloth Cafe group and there have been many interesting thoughts from that list. June has been reflecting on the interest of the face as it grows older: puddle faced, she calls it. What she is seeing is the reality of the lifts and furrows that we are all gaining each day, in contrast to the slick, shiny skin that we see in the mass media.

Painter Alice Neel celebrates these irregularities in the portraits that she made from the 1930s-80s. Neels most famous portrait is probably the painting of Andy Warhol, showing the gunshot scars a murder attempt.

Terry Grant posted her wonderful self-portrait doll, which made me wonder why fiber artists appear to be more comfortable with representational portraiture as dolls, but often shy away from realistic portraits in 2 dimensions (not pointing fingers at anyone, just a general musing).

A wonderful example of portraiture in quilts that I missed before is Faith Ringgold. What was I thinking?!? Ringgolds quilts are poignant, funny, beautiful sermons on her lifes experiences as a Black woman born in Harlem in 1930. They are also exquisite works of art.

image: Faith Ringgold, Picnic on the Grass Alone, 1997