Materials - Rashid Johnson

I have been thinking about an artists choice of materials. What got me thinking about it was reading an interview with Rashid Johnson in Art in America. The choice of materials and objects Johnson uses are infused with both personal and social significance.  He places them within a formal structure that is often architectural and references the domestic which not only fascinates and entices you to think but the work is drop dead gorgeous (at least on-line I have yet to see in person).

I love the smooth sleek lines and the reflective quality of the material he uses in this work literally with the use of mirrored tiles

or in this with black ceramic tile

He creates the look of an altar. His abstraction is successful because of the symmetry and simplicity of the line against the grid of the tile edges.  But there is a tension in the abstraction at the focal point as he breaks the edges with paint.  He presents a literal introduction of the hand in contrast to the chosen objects strategically placed or held on shelves.

I admire how he plays with pattern using a zebra skin on an oriental rug.  Johnson adds gold embroidery which references the tradition and cultural heritage of rug making.

What's on the wall or on the floor what do we walk up to and see?   What do we look down on or walk on? The notion of what is precious what is a status symbol? Examining that which has been taken from other cultures stolen or poached. Johnson shows tension not just in issues of race but class in his choice of objects and how he presents them.

Here is a video clip of him talking about his work:


Stand! #8 Protest Series Part 2

I was delighted to have Stand! accepted in the 2012 Westmoreland Juried Biennial. The juror was Kerry Oliver-Smith, Curator of Contemporary Art, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.  My first installation and thankfully not far from home.

I completely under estimated how much space it would take to pack up and move.  I had to rent a van in the 11th hour.  Randy was awesome he was able to assist at a moment's notice.

The size of the installation varies according to venue.  The potential number of heads used is 25 - 52.  When I saw the number of pieces accepted into the show I guessed that I wouldn't be using all 52 but was prepared to none the less.

Packing them was a challenge.  I originally thought I would wrap the stands end to end with a moving blanket but none available big moving day I guess.  So I wrapped them in disposable paint cloths.  To protect the bases from chipping during travel I thought I would wrap them with thin foam padding also out of stock so I cut up insulation material.  

Giant zipper ziploc bags are wonderful for head storage and packing up drop cloths.

The initial unpacking took up a lot of room.  I fear the museum staff thought I was going to take up the entire floor!  In fact I was putting them together and getting acclimated to the surroundings.  I love installing artwork it reminds me of a technical rehearsal in the theater it is quiet, unruly and exciting.

The head count and that is just one table...

Starting to pull them all together.  I am used to working in two dimensions so I am still feeling my way around presentation varying the height of each stand plus intermingling the pattern.  Not to mention this is the first exhibition for Stand!  I anticipate it will change according to venue. 

Next the placement of the two onlookers.

Almost there with Barbara Jones, Chief Curator in the background in the shot.  I thought I took a photo of her but apparently not oversight on my part.  I was a bit overwhelmed with the entire process, wonderfully so and Barbara was helpful and generous with her time.  She did a wonderful job installing the show more on that later.

The final shot pre-opening.  A total of 32 heads used.   A tremendous learning experience from beginning to end.  


Working with oilcloth

Oilcloth is not the most forgiving fabric to work with. Pinning it is not an option.  Some time ago I received a product update from and a very nifty and useful product was listed: Wonder clips.

They looked promising at the time wasn't sure for what. Now I know I use them for piecing together oilcloth.

The problem with oilcloth is if you use a pin the pin perforates the fabric but if you use these clips voila no holes! And they stay clipped even as you manipulate the fabric.

Action shot! The downside is they are not inexpensive but worth the cash for what it saves you in lack of aggravation and damage to the fabric.

It is also handy to have painters tape around to tape oilcloth to the surface you are working on if you don't want it to slip no sticky stuff.

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All Things Stars and Stripes

With thanks Happy Memorial Day.

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Making Stand! #8 Protest Series Part 1

My first installation and it is more sculpture than fiber but fabric based.  Basically the project took over our home.  Last project I needed help with Norman came to the rescue for sound.  For this project my dear friend LInda helped me to head in the right direction.  She created the pattern for and made the masks, figured out construction stitched strips together etc. etc. John our carpenter made the star stands.

I started with the idea to cover the styrofoam heads with stars and stripes and republican and democrat fabric.  I knew I wanted to make isolation masks from patriotic commercial fabrics. They come later.

I considered many ways of displaying them and then it hit me, stars.

They multiplied...

The poles needed to be covered

Here's Linda who was amazing

A confab.

Tom my photographer taking a head count


Mother's Day in Pittsburgh

The wonderful thing about living within the city of Pittsburgh is our home is on the route for the Race for the Cure an annual event.

Every year a minimum of 20,000 run or walk by our house it is an amazing sound all those voices chatting, cheering, whatever to support or honor those diagnosed with breast cancer. I look forward to it every year.
 You see every shade of pink, the young and old, some with their pets, folks of all types.
Usually we see someone we know not true this year but it was warm enough to sit and watch everyone go by.  
Until next year!


Flying Machines a Show of Uncreatables Part 1

This spring I was invited to participate in a show entitled Flying Machines a Show of Uncreatables curated by Staci Offutt and Natalie Conti.  
This is the premise of the show:

Flying Machines is a salon style exhibition of proposals, blueprints, partially created work, illustrated machines and futuristic designs by some of the art world's most daring dreamers. These artists took on the challenge presented by curators Natalie Conti and Staci Offutt of thinking the unthinkable and creating highly detailed and carefully calculated plans for uncreatable art objects. These are works that can't actually be fully realized due to constraints such as gravity, time allowance, fiscal limitations, engineering impossibilities or lack of adherence to basic physics. These unique inventions are explorations into the depths of the imagination. They stretch the edges of our known reality and present us with something new, fresh, and extraordinary. 

It was the first time I have been challenged to create something without a constraint easy in concept harder to execute.  I had to pursue my current passion getting out the vote.  So I decided to use the format of a formal proposal.

“Taking it to the Streets”#10 Protest Series
by Penny Mateer

Background:  Graffiti street art is typically found on vacant buildings, concrete expanses or temporary facades.  Yarn bombing decorates manmade structures or natural habitats.
Proposal:  Banner Blasts.  Banner blasts are the fusion of both concepts:  temporary art banners made to attach to commercial structures.  
Vote! banner blasts will be installed in high traffic area environments:
grocery stores and gas stations.  The banner design will capture attention and attract new customers which is good for business while the message will fulfill the goal of the artist to promote civic engagement. Great persuasion skills are a requirement for participation in this project as banners will be installed on commercial property.
Construction:  Appliqu├ęd nylon banners.  A breathable print mesh background with a collection of stars-and-stripes printed patterns on rip-stop nylon for lettering and punctuation will be used (see cotton mock-ups).
Three sizes:  3’ x 10’, 4’ x 15’, 6’ x 20’.  Banners will be hung from reinforced grommet holes and attached using bungee cords and rope as needed.  Estimated total yardage of all designs required will be assessed.  Individual banner size is site-dependent.
Assembly:  Cutters and stitchers will be needed to construct banners. School districts, quilt groups, all manner of fiber enthusiasts, and politically-engaged individuals will be contacted.  Social media will be used to generate interest.
Installation Locations:  Grocery stores and gas stations with 152 zip codes. Future expansion to include more suburbs.  Giant Eagle (24),  Shop ‘n Save (11),  Family Dollar (10),  Dollar Tree (7),  Wal-Mart (2), and  Gas Stations (approximately 240) various companies (TBD).
Workers needed:  1:  A committee of individuals to seek permission from store or station managers to install banners at specified sites. This is an opportunity to engage in conversation about the importance of voter participation and to stress it is a non-partisan effort.  Great persuasion skills are a must.
2:  Installers 2 -3 per team with a van or truck, tools and ladders.
Timeline:  One year preparation to secure permission, determine yardage to be printed, and assemble banners. 
Install 5 days prior to Election Day and remove shortly after Election Day, and store in storage unit.

I designed two different types of banners and made mock ups. (It was hung next to a window photography is not my strong strong suit so please forgive the glare.)

The show is on exhibit in The Headkeeper in Greensburg a gem of a place to hang out. The exhibit is on view until May 21st.


The Green Rhinoceros

Last night I had a dream I was sitting on a large grassy hill the hill that you need to climb to get to my old grade school, Falk.  It is a windy road up the hill by car but in the dream there were no roads only grass.  I was sitting on a wall on one of the hair pin turns and a green rhinoceros came up to me and nudged me I wasn't afraid but I must have moved too quickly which startled the green rhinoceros so it charged me.  I don't recall if it rammed me per se or if was I injured but I wasn't particularly worried. rhinoceros.  Had to do a search on the elusive green rhinoceros for clues.  

So I had a talk with the woman who cuts my hair about this dream (only after she relayed an amazing dream she had)
The rhinoceros was green on a green lush hill.

Is it time to bring someone into the fold?  Guild show is opening this friday Lenses and Filters we are trying to broaden our base.

I have been working with photomontage from the New York Times.

Onto something here and inspired by Salvador Dali's rhinoceros

Back to a family theme my parents had a print of Dali's rhinoceros

Food for thought.


Maurice Sendak

Today I celebrate Maurice Sendak who died at the age of 83.  

The Art of Maurice Sendak is the first "real" art book I ever owned given to me by my mother.  

My mother gave me this poster signed by Maurice Sendak.  I remember taking it to the Framesmith in Sq. Hill it was the first time I had anything framed.  

And my mother gave me WT that's what we called him.  He has been with me through my many adventures college, my first apartment, first house, all of it and now he watches over me in my studio.

I can't think about Maurice Sendak without thinking about my mother I miss her so.


Installing #9 with Johanna and starring Johanna

The greatest thing about this world of fiber is the people you meet and I am lucky enough to live in Pittsburgh home of an incredible Fiberarts Guild.  Yesterday was the installation of our member show Lenses and Filters juried by Susan Brandeis. I am honored to be included in this show.  It looks fabulous! 

You Better Think THINK Think about...#9 Protest Series was accepted and it is my first grid wall installation that requires precision to hang.  Yikes!  I have learned alot about what not to do as well as what to do when hanging exhibits for the guild specifically Fiberart International. It is amazing how some artists put zero planning in what work they send and how to hang it.

For this piece a template is the way to go.  I punched holes in  a paper template so I could mark the walls.  Once the paper is level away you go.  Each mask attachs to the wall on a form using push pins.

Johanna and Ann were hard at work attaching the masks to the forms when I arrived (I was late...)  and the hard part of placing the template had been done. Johanna (pictured below) helped prepare the rows. 
Johanna also has work in the show and her work is amazing!!!  She is a quilter and uses this medium to express her views and life experience.  She is an inspiration!  

I had little sleep so remembering to bring the camera (NOT) so had to use the iphone (NOT WELL) the photo below is of Johanna with her quilt. I will provide a better photo later this doesn't begin to do it justice.
Here is a photo of her work Iraq War which was exhibited in our show Unveiled juried by Arturo Alonzo Sandoval.  Johanna won the Kor Award for the most Compelling Inspiration. Once again this photo does not begin to do it justice. And it is another example of a US flag interpretation.
Thanks for all your help Johanna and Ann and Carolyn!


Celebrating Keith Haring

I am a huge fan of Keith Haring who would have been 54 this year. I love how he developed a visual vocabulary to express human emotion through his use of line to develop symbols. HIs work is deceptively simple.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a copy of his journals in a used bookshop in Camden, Maine. His journals are endlessly fascinating he writes so well about the development of his work and process.

Quote from January 22, 1979 after a drawing class and critique:
"Things to be considered:  The importance of individual forms.  Do they transcend symbols and are they expressing my most creative powers?...Try my favorite shapes in a number of different scales, placements, mediums etc.  Create images that reflect my own spirit more clearly, more precisely.  Trust my own taste, don't be self-conscious."

A major retrospective of his work is on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum through July 8th. 

Fun video Get into the Groove!:


Stars and stripes

Much of my work is political commentary. I enjoy playing with the pattern of stars and stripes using red white and blue patriotic commercial fabric. Of course the ultimate source of stars and stripes is the flag of the United States.

I found this amazing book in an antique store in Massachussetts. An incredible collection of art and memorabilia of all types and things US flags. What inspiration particularly timely as I just completed my first work that not only uses the red white and blue palatte but is a direct nod to our flag.

I was apprehensive to use the flag motif was it too pat? Too easy? I was reassured looking at the images in this book. Sometimes I get caught up in how others may view my work and I step away from what drives me and guides me through the process.

What excites me is finding and using commercial fabric to express my ideas.

Here is a current example of flag as art by Luke Haynes. It is made of an old flag he found in a goodwill. He reworked the fabric that was still intact. It is part of his American Context Series. The size is 9 feet x 13 the original flag size 20 x 30 feet.

Haynes has a solo show which just opened in NYC at the Eli Alexander Gallery. Always exciting to read about a solo show of quilts in NYC but that's another post.

You can find his work at

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Studio Eye Candy

This is a photo of Yoko d'Holbachie's studio. For some her studio is too colorful too chaotic not for me. Not only colorful, but playful and fanciful like her work.

Pictured here are some of the collections in her studio which clearly inform and inspire some of the imagery she creates.

What attracts me to d'Holbachie's work is her use of color which is masterful. Her imagery is haunting with a touch of innocence mixed with the grotesque. Quoting a description in Direct Art Magazine the author describes her work as "apocolyptic Disneyland."

To see her work go to: