Sunday, February 03, 2019

kom med mig... / come with me...

my friend christina and i have been planning an exhibition together for over a year. and by planning, i mean we made a pinterest board in january of 2018. we've put it off a couple of times because life and mostly work got in the way and we didn't manage to create anything worth exhibiting, but on saturday, we redeemed ourselves and held an opening - with snacks and drinks and everything! and i have to say that i'm really proud of what we made.

back in october, we had a getaway on the island of samsø, where christina's sister has a lovely summer house. while we were there, i made sewed up this little paper feathery dress that had been rolling around in my head for ages. once i allowed it to come out, it came out very quickly and i had it made in under an hour or so. i had painted abstract atoms on the newspaper and cut out the feathers in advance, so it was just a matter of coming up with a design and sewing it all together. when we were first hanging the works, i didn't think it was going to work as part of the exhibition, but was very happy that we found a way to show it as well.

the centerpiece was this mannequin with a spectacular headpiece/bird mask (more about that below), encircled by long banners of different scenes painted on old book pages and sewn together on the sewing machines in long garlands of 7 pages each. the book was chosen randomly from my collection of old books that i was saving to violate.  it was the right size and the pages were quite thick, decent paper and there were illustrations, so i cut it up and painted a whole lot of abstract atom-like shapes on one side using payne's grey ink. those abstracts are my attempt to try to break out of my fear of placing brush to paper and of making mistakes and being a bit more wild. it's surprisingly hard for me to do that. but after painting a 100 or so pages, i felt a bit more free.

christina then got to work painting her speciality - birds and bits of birds - on the other side of the pages - sticking to a limited palette of payne's grey, bordeaux and yellow, with small accents of a more true red and some black. the book turned out to be biblical illustrations and a retelling of the old testament from 1923. though the book was chosen rather haphazardly and without thought for the subject matter, the pages began to speak to us - causing painted wings to seem like they belonged to angels, rather than birds, and provoking christina to paint a few scenes with breasts.  i painted quite a lot of birds and feathers as well. and a whole lot of small boats came out here and there. i found myself surprised by what ended up on the page when i gave myself over to the process and let it flow.

we knew we didn't want to hang the works on the walls, but have it be more of an installation. we painted ourselves a payne's grey forest on sheets of plastic that's normally used under insulation in building a house. the way the light comes through it looks pretty amazing and we hung it in two rows so that it felt like you had to step into the forest to enter the world of the exhibition. we did one tree in bordeaux, which was one of the other colors we had in our limited palette. the limited color palette helped our individual styles come together and harmonize, despite the differences in the way we paint and the lines we put down on paper.

i spent hours cutting out paper feathers for this mask and enlisted husband's help in forming the headpiece itself - which is a beak. it was originally a mask in our minds, but ended more as a kind of hat. the creative process sometimes takes you in surprising directions. naturally, when husband got involved, he wanted to use wood (i had been thinking paper or maybe papier mache). he used a big hunk of wood and started off what ended up as an absolutely exquisite piece, by whittling down the log with a chainsaw. i wish i'd filmed that.

he also was the one to place the paper feathers i had cut out, taking ownership of the piece and finishing it absolutely spectacularly. it really was the crowning glory of the exhibition, bringing together our vision, which started with this video by thievery corporation. we loved the uncanny feeling of it - the way it was repulsive, yet attractive and fascinating. we wanted our bird woman to be the same, tho' she ended up not at all repulsive, but strong and assured, eclipsing our birdman, who was painted flatly on one of the sheets of plastic. she was the star of the show and although she is beautiful, she is also rather uncanny.

i found a dress for her in a second-hand shop - it had flowers that matched our payne's grey, with a kind of white slip underneath. once we had the headpiece on, the dress was the wrong pattern and took away from the beautiful headpiece, so we stripped her down to the slip and it was absolutely perfect.

at the opening, people could walk in among the works, looking closely at the details on the pages. people noticed things we hadn't even noticed ourselves. like wings on pages that spoke of angels and breasts on a page that talked about the lord's heaven. we had many wonderful discussions with people - about the creative process, about the biblical pages, about the payne's grey, about sewing on paper. it was such a pleasure to share the work and to see how it was received and to once again be reminded that ideas are always better when they are in dialogue with other people's ideas. our work became richer and deeper, even to us, when we shared it with others.

this little boat was another thing that's been in my head for some time and which just had to come out during this creative process. the paper is some very thin but strong chinese paper that we used to make  seaweed prints on the beach during that weekend on samsø back in october. i fashioned the small boat out of fine wire and just glued the paper in place. The boats are light and airy and looked just gorgeous in the window against the blue sky when i took the pictures today.

i'm really proud of this work and this collaboration. we had a few prints done up of some of the best of the small paintings we did on the book pages and there are a few leftover from the opening. i put them in my big cartel shop here, if you're interested in having a look. they're signed and numbered and will only be available in a limited edition of ten of each.


Elizabeth said...

All the pictures tell that it was a wonderful creative exhibition and I hope the two of you will continue this collaboration. Congrats!

Molly said...

Yay! Lovely to have you back here, and to catch up a little bit.
I'm so impressed with the hard work and dedication to get the exhibition together - and the work! That feathered mask is gorgeous and the ethereal trees too beautiful. All this after a month of flu too!
Well done Julie, what a great way to kick off YOUR year xxx