Behind the Glass – part 2

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

In this second post in the series Behind the Glass, I’ll show close-up photos of a double page spread reproduced in Hey Diddle, Diddle! (2005) and 2 illustrations from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). You can see part 1 in the series here. These loaned pieces were temporarily removed from their frames in preparation for my upcoming exhibition, making it possible to get up close and take photos from different angles. I’m enjoying seeing the characters again and remembering making them all those years ago.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The retrospective exhibition, Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Thread will be at the Cape Cod Museum of Art Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 16, 2020. It will include original illustrations from my picture books, from the first (The Way Home,1991) to the latest (Pocketful of Posies 2010).  Between the borrowed ones and others that I’ve kept, there will be lots of original pieces on display, with a dozen titles represented. This show will be an opportunity for visitors to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person and also view pieces from private collections that are rarely shown in public.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

Yes, that’s a real silver spoon, a tiny one meant to go with a salt seller. The plate was cut out of Fimo clay with a cookie cutter. After hardening it in the oven, I painted the face and dish pattern.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005
Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The next set of images show closeups of 2 spreads from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). One illustrates the poem Sidewalks, which describes different ways of showing oneself and interacting on a public sidewalk.

Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

The last piece in this post is from the poem Snow. I hadn’t seen it for over 20 years and was happy to take it out of its frame and get up close with a camera. The owner seemed reluctant to part with it for a few months, but the timing ended up being convenient for her, since she’s selling her house and moving into a new place. I told her that it would be returned in better shape with sparkling clean glass.

SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

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Behind the Glass – part 1

MHALL_Molly-1

An original embroidered illustration from “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in a private collection.

This is the first post in a series that will show what my artwork looks like Behind the Glass. I’ve had to accept that UV glass is a necessary barrier that protects my embroidery from dust, bugs, light, and probing fingers. But, since these loaned pieces were temporarily removed from their frames in preparation for my upcoming exhibition, I was able to get up close to take photos from different angles.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

For the past few weeks, I’ve been gathering my embroidered artwork from local collectors who are generously loaning their pieces for my upcoming exhibition, Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Thread at the Cape Cod Museum of Art (Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 16, 2020). The retrospective exhibition will include original illustrations from my picture books, from the first (The Way Home,1991) to the latest (Pocketful of Posies, 2010).  Between the borrowed ones and others that I’ve kept, there will be lots of original pieces on display, with a dozen titles represented. This show will be an opportunity for visitors to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person and also view pieces from private collections that are rarely shown in public.

Close-up photos of illustrations for my first 3 books are shown in this post: The Way Home (1991), Come to My Party (1993) and Mary Had a Little lamb (1995).

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Luckily, many of the collectors who bought pieces in the early days live nearby, so it’s fairly easy to round up enough work to display. At this point, I should have 4 spreads from Mary Had a Little Lamb, the most that have been together for over 20 years.

People ask how I can sell my originals, because of the amount of work that goes into them. The simple answer is – it’s not hard to let them go. For me the joy comes from making more than having. It’s good to spread them around! There are practical considerations as well. Selling originals is how I’m paid for my work, since book royalties aren’t much. I also need to clear space to fill with new art, both physically and mentally. That said, I’ve kept pieces that have a special meaning and I’m holding onto some of my newer pieces, so that they are available to exhibit. The original illustrations for my upcoming picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World will eventually be offered for sale, after the touring exhibition, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

Judy Richardson loaned me her 2 pieces, one from each of the 2 books she wrote and I illustrated: The Way Home and Come to My Party. Read the series of posts about our adventures in children’s book publishing here.

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The Way Home

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Come to My Party

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The Way Home

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Studio goings-on

After being almost exclusively in making-mode for the past few years, I now wake up every morning with a different agenda. Besides paying attention to my husband Rob and having lunch with friends, I’m photographing my work, organizing exhibitions, and preparing lectures. Making art is one thing, but if you want to share it with the world, you have to figure out ways get it out there. It’s a different creative exercise that not all artists can or want to take on. Although I would rather be stitching right now, I know that doing the promotional part is worth it down the road.

Before showing what’s happening in my studio, I’d first like to invite those of you in the Boston area to an Artist Talk I’ll be giving in Watertown, MA. It’ll be at the Quilters’ Connection, on Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 7:00 PM at St. James Armenian Church, 465 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA. $10.00 guest fee for non Quilters’ Connection members.

I will share the joys and challenges of making art that ranges from precious to poignant to provocative, as well as explain where this doll-infested needle and thread universe comes from. I’ll also bring along some original pieces, including Birds of Beebe Woods (pictured left) and books to sell. I look forward to meeting you!

Over the past few weeks, Rob and I have been photographing a lot of older artwork. My pieces are displayed in cherry wood shadow-box frames that Rob makes. Glass protects the bas-relief embroidery from dust, bugs and curious fingers.

The process includes removing each piece from its frame, taking its picture and then putting it back in the frame. So, why didn’t we take photos before framing them behind glass? It’s a long story involving deadlines, a broken wrist, and consequently being behind schedule. So, here we are, doing the job years later. Many of these pieces will be part of a solo exhibition this coming winter at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

The family-friendly exhibition, SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch, will feature a wide selection of original embroidered artwork from my 25 year career illustrating children’s books. You can see them here. Several pieces will be on loan from private collections. These are rarely seen by anyone other than the owner’s friends and family. This is a unique opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person.
SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch
Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020
Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 13 – 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm ~ Artist Galley Talk at 4:00 pm

To photograph the art, we set up the equipment in the spare room, with a light box to minimize harsh shadows. The room’s sky light affected the light balance, so we covered it with another defuser. The camera was propped up on a tripod, facing straight down. To counteract the weight of the heavy camera lens, we hung a bag of stones at the other end of the extension pole. When I asked why the camera had to be so far above the art, Rob told me that the long 100 mm focal lens maintains the correct perspective. I’m glad that he understands this stuff!

For closeup shots, we lowered the camera.

The closeup photos will be used for a treasure hunt for kids (and adults) that I’m putting together for the Once Upon a Thread exhibition.

An advantage of taking high resolution close-up is that the photo quality isn’t lost when they are blown up big. For the exhibition, I’m playing with scale by juxtaposing extra large details with my miniature artwork.

This week, we had a storm and the power was off for 3 days. So, instead of working at the computer, I settled in near a window and stitched, like a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although I’m glad to have electricity back, so that I can write and publish this post, I’m missing the simple pleasure of making things by hand by the light of the sun. That and a cup of tea is my idea of heaven!

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finding my voice

On April 13th, I had the pleasure of speaking about my work to an audience at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. I’ve given many talks, but this one was different. The arch of the story has shifted from a straight forward account of my development as an artist to one of personal transformation. Sure, I still gave a glimpse at my process and showed early work, but this time it was presented as a journey of discovery, with twists and turns that guided me to a place where I’m ready to take risks and be more outspoken with my art. I talked about how I found my voice and described what it’s like to go from the land of innocence into the real world. Not too long ago, it seemed like all anyone could talk about were my techniques and workmanship, but now people are commenting on the content, which is what I’ve always wanted. The audience was wonderful – they even laughed at my jokes! People who were there described the presentation as enjoyable and inspirational, with just the right amount of edge to keep things interesting.

My talk was not videotaped, but Rob and I are thinking about putting together a encapsulated version to share. As always, the challenge is to find the time to do it. Until then, I thought I’d offer the following excerpt of my opening remarks and a few slides from the beginning and end of my presentation. In my introduction, I refer to my exhibit, Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor, which just came to a close. I’m excited to say that a select group of pieces from the show, including the film and display case full of characters and movie props will be going to the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME for The Art of Cute exhibit (May 1 – Aug. 31, 2019). Two other pieces of mine, Displaced and Cover Up will also be shown. The large exhibition, which is curated by the Illustration Institute, takes a serious look at a powerful aesthetic that is often not taken seriously. From the little bit I’ve seen, it promises to be one of the most unusual art exhibitions you are likely to see this year. I hope to meet some of you at the opening reception on Friday, May 10, 5 – 8 PM.

Opening remarks before “Once Upon a Thread” by Salley Mavor
April 13, 2019 at the Cotuit Center for the Arts.

Before launching into my slide presentation, I’d like to share some thoughts about the Liberty and Justice exhibit that’s upstairs. Truth be told, I hate talking about politics. At a dinner party, I’m the silent one, watching and listening to the sometimes heated debate swirling around me. But when political forces invaded my safe little existence, I felt compelled to act. In the first days after the 2016 election, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before artists, writers, comedians, playwrights, filmmakers and musicians began using stories, irony and metaphor to help America and the world cope with what is happening. I think that all sides can agree that we’re in deep doo doo. My art may not help make sense of it, or offer solutions, but it exposes the elephant in the room.

2 years ago, when I posted scenes from the Wee Folk Players series on my blog and Facebook, there was a lot of reaction, both positive and negative. One person was so mad that I was making fun of the president, they threw my books in the recycling. Another told me that I’d ruined her hobby. My favorite was from someone who said I was not qualified to have a political opinion. But for every criticism, came many, many more saying things like, “You go, girl!” and “You made me laugh so hard, I peed in my pants.”

My fans have come to rely on my art as a safe haven from the viciousness of the world. I don’t blame them for wanting to stay in the land of innocence. My dolls may be revealing a darker political reality, but you’ve got to admit, they’re still adorable. I just don’t do ugly or grotesque. For me, it’s about finding the sweet spot, even in the scary places we don’t want to go.

People wonder how I can speak out this way, considering the potential for backlash. I can take a risk, because at this stage in my life, I don’t need the approval of others in the same way that I used to, nor am I invested in a certain outcome. I realize that this is a luxury that many people do not have. And that adds to my sense of urgency. I feel a responsibility to document and reflect what I see happening around us and to bear witness, like artists have always done.

I’ve learned that my art helps people process what is going on at a deep and emotional level. What started as my own outlet for managing the barrage of news, has turned into a way for others to experience their own catharsis. Someone recently wrote to tell me, that after seeing this show, she burst into tears, realizing that my art helped her deal with her distress and dismay over the state of the country. She said that she felt uplifted for the first time in three years. When I hear this kind of reaction, I know it’s been worth it.

Having my work deemed too divisive and labeled as controversial has led to a chain of events that brought it to the attention of many more people. The episode has opened up conversations within our community about the purpose of art, which isn’t exactly an everyday topic of discussion. And I can’t help thinking that it has revealed an undercurrent of fear that we all have. Fear of upsetting people, fear of other points of view, fear of losing a way of life and most of all, fear of what is happening to our country. This experience has taught me that art can be a powerful way to face fear. It can be seductive, unsettling, stunning and confronting, which spark conversations about what it means to be living in this beautiful and terrifying world.

I have worked hard to get to where I am and this latest chapter is the strongest and most satisfying so far. Stretching myself artistically makes me realize that I am not what I thought I was. I am transformed, and everything I make from now on, whether it’s political or not, will be influenced in some way, by this adventure into forbidden territory.

What I make and how I do it didn’t just come out of the blue. It’s been a slow and steady process, from early childhood to today. I come from a long line of quiet, but determined people. My late parents, Mary and Jim Mavor were my role models. They created an environment where art mattered, a lot. It was not an extra. Dancing, playing music and making art was our family’s way of feeling human and connected to our Woods Hole community. My mother was an artist and business woman who left me with the belief that making art is the reason to get up in the morning. My father was an engineer with a visionary streak, who followed his ideas, no matter how esoteric. I am grateful to my family, including my husband Rob, for helping clear a path and never standing in the way, as I pursue my passion.

Before I continue, I want to squelch a rumor. Some people have been overheard saying that I must use a sewing machine. That is not true. OK, I use one to make clothes and pot holders and that kind of thing, but my artwork is all stitched by hand. Period. Even in this day and age, machines just can’t do what I do. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s move on to “Once Upon a Thread.”

At this point, I spent 45 minutes going through my whole life up until now with photos and commentary, showing work and talking about the experiences that helped form who I am as an artist.

In the section about making our animated film, I showed the following time lapse.

With the slide below projected on the screen I said, “I will end by showing you what my work table looks like now. You can be assured that its surface will never be completely clear of thread. At a time when most of my friends are retiring, I’m just gearing up. For as long as I can, I will keep making art that reflects both the lightness and the darkness of the world, in my quiet, but determined way.”

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The stitching lady speaks!

Thank you to all of you who’ve already made the trek to see my show, Liberty and Justice, at the Cotuit Center for the Arts . If you haven’t been yet, there are just 2 more weeks to get yourself over there! They report great traffic, with many smiling faces seen on folks coming from the Upper Gallery. To read a review of the show from the Falmouth Enterprise, click here.

You are invited to come hear my talk on Sat., April 13th at 11 AM. I will give a peek behind the scenes at my working process (including making the film) and share what it’s like to shift from safe and secure subject matter to political art.

Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor 
Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts
March 2 – April 20, 2019
Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., April 13, 2019 at 11 AM

The exhibit will be in Cotuit until April 20th and then a portion (including the film) will go to Kennebunk, ME for The Art of Cute exhibit at the Brick Store Museum (May 1 – Aug. 31, 2019).


I’d also like to remind you that 4 large bas-relief embroidered pieces (Including Displaced, below) are in the Migration exhibit for 2 more weeks.

MIGRATION
Imago Foundation for the Arts, Warren, Rhode Island
March 14 – April 20, 2019 – 
Show Dates
IMAGO Gallery is located at 36 Market Street, Warren, RI 02885 – 401 245 3348 – Open Thurs 4 – 8; Fri and Sat 12 – 8; Sun 11 – 3 and by appointment. 

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/orInstagram.

Liberty and Justice exhibit in Cotuit

Last September, when my Liberty and Justice exhibit was cancelled at a local venue, due to its political content, 2 arts organizations immediately came to the rescue. The New England Quilt Museum quickly rearranged their exhibition space to accommodate an expanded version of the original concept, which they showed for 3 months last fall. It was their idea to add a section of my earlier work, which my husband Rob labeled “The Innocent Years”. Now, the Cotuit Center for the Arts on Cape Cod is hosting Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor until April 20.

To read a review of the show from the Falmouth Enterprise, click here.

The Cotuit Center reports great traffic, with many smiling faces seen on folks coming from the Upper Gallery. They’ve also received applause for their willingness to host the show. A friend told me that she surprised and embarrassed herself by continually laughing out loud, while perusing the exhibit. It’s nice to hear this, because that’s how I imagined the response would be, way back when I first began planning the exhibit. The show has also triggered an emotional release in some viewers, like this woman who wrote to tell me, “I’m uplifted for the first time in three years. I burst into tears last night and realized your art helped me deal with my distress and dismay.”

A friend passed on this comment she received from an acquaintance named Zoe, who went to see the show on her recommendation – “The Mavor exhibit was so perfect and captivating! I’m so interested in the moment where she must have realized that her medium was perfect for what she wanted to say.” She and everyone else can find out on April 13th at 11 AM, when I give my Artist Talk.

For the Cotuit show, I’ve added more framed cartoons and early pieces, and I’ve set up 2 display cases with scenery and props used in the filming of the movie.
The exhibit includes the following:
18 enlarged photographs from the Wee Folk Players series of satirical cartoons (including the doll house set), 13 minute stop-motion animated film – Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, Displays of 3-dimensional characters, props and scenery from the animated film, A collection of earlier work from “the innocent years” – embroidered bas-relief pieces, children’s book illustrations, Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion , Rabbitat and Birds of Beebe Woods.

Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor
Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts
March 2 – April 20, 2019
Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., April 13, 2019 at 11:00 AM

The exhibit is an opportunity to see a wide array of works by fiber artist and illustrator, Salley Mavor, who has recently added political satire to her repertoire. She uses small dolls as a metaphor for living in a safe controlled environment that has been taken over by outside political forces. The exhibit features a collection of photographs of scenes she created in a doll house and a stop-motion animated film, which satirize the Trump administration. The original dolls and props used in the film will also be on display. Although Ms. Mavor’s foray into political art is the centerpiece of the show, the exhibition also includes original embroidered children’s book illustrations and other artwork from earlier in her 40-year career. The inclusion of these pieces tracks the evolution of her artistic journey from “innocence” to tackling real world issues.

The exhibit is located upstairs, with the wall facing the balcony dedicated to the sweet section of the show. By far, the favorite in this group is Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion , which a lot of people can relate to.

The politically satirical portion is shown in 2 side spaces. One has the Liberty and Justice film and display cases full of the real dolls, props and scenery used in the film-making process. The other side has the photographic “cartoons” and the doll-house stage set.

For the show, I matted and framed 18 enlarged photographs of the Wee Folk Players cartoons, which were produced in the first 6 months after the election.

Michelle Law, the center’s gallery manager, was incredibly helpful and a delight to work with during the installation.

The doll house, which I made in art school over 40 years ago is also on display. It served as a stage for the Wee Folk Players in many of the scenarios we photographed.

I hope that those of you who live within a manageable distance of Cape Cod can make a trip to see the show, which runs until April 20 at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts. I will give a talk about the evolution of my art from “Sweet to Satirical” on Sat., April 13th at 11 AM.

Next, a portion of this exhibit will be included in The Art of Cute, which takes a serious look at a powerful aesthetic that is often not taken seriously. Some of my topical and political work will be displayed in the Meta Cute or “beyond” cute category. This part of the exhibit explores how cute, combined with other aesthetics, can create meaningful art that is ironic, disturbing, political, joyous humorous and provocative.
THE ART OF CUTE 
Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine
May 1- August 31, 2019
Curated and produced by the Illustration Institute

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Migration exhibit

Friday night was the opening reception for MIGRATION at the Imago Gallery in Warren RI. The curated exhibit includes a wide array of art on the subject of migration, refugees and displaced peoples. The amazing sculptor, Harriet Diamond and I are the featured artists in the show. I really enjoyed meeting her and look forward to our gallery talk on Sunday, March 24 at 1:00 PM. Harriet and I will begin with short visual presentations about our art and then we’ll have a conversation with each other and the audience. The show will be up until April 20th, so I hope that those of you from Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts can get over there to see it. IMAGO Gallery hours: Thursday 4-8 | Friday and Saturday 12-8 | Sunday 11-3

Harriet and I chatted about the many facets of our art that we share – we both make sculpture, use small doll-like figures, present narratives that tell the human story and portray a range of social scenarios from the everyday to topical subjects. Please scroll down to see photos of her powerful and ambitious project. Four of my bas-relief embroidered pieces are on display: Face Time, Cover Up, Whiskers and Displaced.

Artist Harriet Diamond’s work “Driven From Their Homes,” is a hybrid installation sculpture and illusionistic scene that chronicles the horrors of the Syrian War and diaspora. As Diamond notes, the work “depicts an episodic journey of refugee people fleeing from the terrible destruction of their home city” to an unknown future.  Each figure struggles to cope, to grieve, to endure.  “It is a dark scene, but it’s also roiling with life.”  Because of the size and scope of this piece, viewers will be surrounded by the scenes as they unfold.  All human emotions, from fear to desolation, from courage to heroism, are etched in the faces of these victims of war.  It is the artist’s fervent hope that by telling this story the “terrible truth of war” will become “more present and real to us.”

I am blown away by the power of “Driven From Their Home”. There is so much to take in. The figures are constructed of clay and the building structures are styrofoam slabs painted to look like concrete. She has set up this installation in several locations, piecing together the many parts like a puzzle.

If you make the trip to see the show, please know that there’s a great little eatery next door – Eli’s Kitchen. Here are the dates of the show and talk:

MIGRATION
Imago Foundation for the Arts, Warren, Rhode Island
March 14 – April 20, 2019 –
Show Dates
Sunday, March 24 @ 1:00 PM – Artist Talk with featured artists Harriet Diamond and Salley Mavor.
IMAGO Gallery is located at 36 Market Street, Warren, RI 02885 – 401 245 3348 – Open Thurs 4 – 8; Fri and Sat 12 – 8; Sun 11 – 3 and by appointment.

To see my current schedule of exhibits and talks, click here.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram