Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Garden and Still Lifes

Many centuries ago when I was an eight-year-old kid in Boise, Idaho, I went to Mrs. Hart’s house for afternoon art lessons. This lovely artist with a warm smile and wispy white hair converted an upstairs bedroom into a classroom. To venture through the door into her large victorian home was to enter a secret world. When I peeked my head through the door, the smell of oil paints enveloped me. I caught glimpses of strange and mysterious forms in the darkened rooms as I climbed the stairs. Mrs. Hart (Heart, in my mind) set up still lifes with extravagant objects from what seemed like a never-ending exotic collection, items that delighted the eyes with their shapes, colors, and designs.
        And then sometimes, we would go out into her beautiful garden or to the local park to draw landscapes. However, still lifes give me the most pleasure, so they seemed appropriate to express my garden’s abundance. Here is the beginning of the From My Gardenseries: "Fruits from My Garden" (Feb. 1996, 25" x 34" / 64cm x 84cm) includes grapes, figs, pomegranates, and that very bizarre fruit, quince. 
I think of quinces as "wanna-be" apples, however, one could break a tooth on them, they're so hard.  They redeem themselves by the fact that they make delicious preserves.
For those interested in the technical aspect, this piece is machine appliquéd, embroidered and quilted and contains some hand painted fabrics. 
            Along the way, I revisited one of those early still lifes from Mrs Hart's class. The original watercolor:
And the art quilt version, "Oranges from My Garden"(Sept. 1996, 43"x38" /96cm x 1m09):
Like the previous piece, this one is machine appliquéd, embroidered, pieced, and quilted with some hand painted fabrics. Notice that I did have to add the handle to the kettle--as an adult, I just couldn't let that detail get away. Yet somehow, this visit to the past brought Mrs. "Heart" and some of the magical moments of childhood into my present.
                          And the orchard, with this late variety of oranges, 
                             provides even more inspiration for still lifes. 
                              Maybe I'll get back to landscapes as well....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Laurels and "Ce n'est pas mal"

It happened: blogland has bestowed its approval upon the improbable Province of MulticoloredPieces. I'd like to thank Carolynn at "Artsy Stuff " for her encouragement by including me in her choices for the Liebster Blog Award.  I've noticed that quite a number of bloggers have received this award, which is meant to encourage blogs with less than 200 followers. It reminds me of the old-fashioned chain letters. I calculate that eventually just about everyone will receive it, but that's not a bad thing.
The Rules (of course, this is entirely voluntary):
1. Thank the giver and link back to her/him.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and leave a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love too!

Obviously, this award helps generate blog activity and introduce people.  Personally, I would change number 4 to read something like this:

            4. Have faith that your followers will be interested in discovering 
                                the efforts and creativity of other bloggers.

Somehow, the word "love" (as a noun or a verb) serves so many purposes that it has become emptied of meaning. I confess that I also fall into the trap of the overuse of superlatives. I mean, don't you just love, love, LOVE this or that? We are now into the use of multiple superlatives emphasized with capitals, italics, colors, underlining, and bold font. What's next?

On the other hand, the French keep their perspective (unless things have changed radically in the last ten years): they say lightly: "O, ce n'est pas mal" (literally: "Oh, it's not bad") which can be translated as "Oh, that's very good" or, by today's standards, "Oh, that's wonderful!" So the French leave themselves someplace to go. They get in more meaning with less (not for the faint-of-heart, however) and avoid gushing. In fact, the French national hobby is to contest everything under the sun (which is why I enjoy France and the French), consequently, one may be thankful for "Ce n'est pas mal."

In any case, I would give an award to all the blogs I read (a rather substantial number), knowing the amount of work it takes to create and maintain a blog. And being barely able to post once a week, I respect all who manage to post more frequently. However, I suppose I must choose five...reluctantly... 

1. First of all, I would like to draw attention to Toefeather. She is a full-time art teacher and has committed to creating a patchwork block-a-day for a year. I stop by occasionally to cheer her on because her work/play is original and interesting and she keeps at it e-v-e-r-y d-a-y. She deserves a larger audience.

2. Then, there's Alaskan artist Susan Christensen at the Flying Dog Studio Design Wall. Not only are her paintings and sketches beautiful, but the photography of her part of the world (more or less the opposite of mine) always draws my attention. I especially like her textile artwork, which is often big and bold.

3. Sarah at Narcoleptic in a Cupboard always impresses me by the number of quilting projects she finishes despite her proneness to falling asleep. A tendency towards dry British wit makes her blog fun to read as well. 

4. I don't know many Spanish bloggers, but Lola at Quilts Improvisados puts on quite a show with distinctive and exciting quilt designs.

5. And, of course I must mention at least one French blog although the choice is difficult, so many good ones exist. Cécile Meraglia writes in French (Google Translator available) at Aventures Textiles, however, she is actually Belgian. Her felted, stitched, and crocheted artwork is exquisite.

I would like to mention an additional blog that does not qualify for this list because it has too many followers, but deserves recognition. Teri, an American, lives and works in Libya near Tripoli. She remained through the Libyan revolution with her family and tells about it. She continues to struggle to maintain family life and a semblance of normalcy, a difficult task at best under the circumstances. Fascinating to read--a reality check. Teri deserves a special award for courage.

              And yet, despite all the uncertainty, Spring appears clothed in 
                  colorful wildflowers and vibrant greens on certain days.
        Then the weather suddenly turns cloudy, rainy, and cold. Such is life    
                    in the improbable Province of MulticoloredPieces....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The cat photos that were published in "Winter Garden, Part 1" created unrest in the tranquil Province of MulticoloredPieces. Those animals left out are unhappy and have demands. As this is the New Tunisia where protests are no longer illegal, the animals are exercising their rights. The cats have been whining endlessly and went on strike, refusing to go catch undesireable rodents.
The dogs threatened to block the road with burning tires, stop all passers-by, and hijack any trucks of milk and bottled gas—they would pay for the merchandise, of course, because they are not theives. However, after an open meeting held in the barn (to which all animals were invited—even a few of the neighbor's cows showed up), they decided to stage a sit-in instead.
They maintain that they want equal representation because they are part of the garden landscape and threatened to call in the Press. 
Indeed, a TV station considered showing these events on the evening news. The pigeons, partridges, sparrows and swallows have been on Twitter. Rumors abound on Facebook. In addition, the animals insist on a diplomatic visit from an American Senator, since Senator Lieberman came for the humans several weeks ago. 
                                              Ok, ok, I got it !
"Post-Revolution in My Garden" (30"x13"/77cm x 34cm),  hand and machine appliquéd, embroidered and quilted.
The gray background of this piece represents well the unusual damp, gray weather we've had since mid-December that parallels the political climate of Tunisia.
And HOW did my artistic strands of thought on War, Revolution, and Chaos creep into my peaceful garden theme?????
                                   And that’s life in the New Tunisia…. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Unruly Utensils

The kitchen gets a lot of traffic. Few industrial or convenience foods appear on grocery shelves in Tunisia and if they exist, the price is prohibitive. This means that in any functioning household, someone must cook from scratch everyday, usually the mother. Every day. The good news: obesity problems do not plague Tunisian society and Tunisian cuisine is healthy.
       When I first arrived in Tunisia, my father-in-law would set off for market every morning with his empty basket and return home with fresh meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables that were in season. Every day. And my mother-in-law spent the morning in the kitchen preparing delicious main dishes, salads, and deserts for the day, enough for the family and any possible visitors that might appear at the door. Every day. All the recipes were in her head—no cookbooks. My husband says that those were the good ol’ days, and heaves a heavy sigh. I say he didn’t appreciate his mother’s good cooking when it was in front of him, but, such is human nature—we don’t appreciate what we have.
        Because it was the man’s job to fill up the basket for his family every day, there existed an unwritten code between vendors and shoppers—a sort of male code of honor. Produce is sold from crates and the shopper asks for the quantity needed and the vendor does the necessary choosing and weighing. My father-in-law never came home with so much as a rotten tomato because he knew the vendor and expected to be well served if the vendor wanted his (male) estime and future business. A good system—it worked.
       Then women began to take over the shopping duties and the vendors became sly, slipping in sub-standard produce. When I shop once a week, I go to vendors who allow me to pick out the produce. It’s a constant battle—no more honor code. Something has broken down. In addition, prices have risen steeply due to the chaos and uncertainty in the region. In the end, we are thankful that the produce remains available.
Cupboard door
       Back to the kitchen where I find myself every morning, cooking. Every day. I have stream-lined the process and have a set of recipes in my head. However, I require organization in the kitchen for things to go smoothly. This brings me to the subject of the unruly utensils. I could put them in a drawer, but then I would have to fish in the drawer every time I needed a wooden spoon or a ladle or some other item.
My solution: a pot painted to match the cupboards, which sits on the counter and keeps utensils upright and within easy reach. Recently, the bottom fell out of this 30-year-old pot, so I glued and cemented it back together. It didn’t look so great; it was worn.
So I mosaicked it. Of course, I could have drilled a hole in the bottom and planted it, but, those unruly utensils were driving me nuts!
A new life. I think the pot can go another 30 years. And order has been restored in my kitchen. Now if the current government could restore a semblance of order as well…