The Art of Cute

This post is playing a bit of catch-up, since The Art of Cute exhibition opened way back in the spring. The good news is that it’ll be at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME for another 6 weeks, so there’s still time to see the show (until Aug. 31st). The exhibit, which is curated by the Illustration Institute, includes a broad spectrum of art and products that could be considered “cute”, from cloying to edgy and from innocent to provocative. My topical and political work is part of the Meta cute or “beyond” cute category.

People ask, “How do you feel about having your work called cute?” In the context of this exhibit, I can happily embrace the label. Otherwise, I find the term cringe-worthy, even though I know it’s a valid description of much that I make. It’s just that the word “cute” can sound belittling and dismissive when characterizing art. But recently, I’ve experienced the power in making art that draws the viewer in, in a non-threatening way, so a message gets through. This show is thoughtful and wide reaching in its interpretation and begins with this premise — “The Art of Cute is an exhibition that takes a serious look at a powerful aesthetic that is often not taken seriously. Our culture has a love/hate relationship with “Cute”.”

The exhibit is spread throughout several adjoining buildings, so that the displays move seamlessly from one theme to another. My work is grouped together on a wall in the Meta Cute room, with a nearby station set up to sit and watch the film Liberty and Justice.

At the opening, I met some wonderful folks, many of whom were seeing my work for the first time.

Cover Up, a bas-relief embroidered piece about women’s head coverings is there…

…as well as Displaced.

The exhibit also includes some of my political satire, which is definitely cute and provocative at the same time. There are photographs from the Wee Folk Players series and a display case with characters and props we used to make the Liberty and Justice film.

Museum goers can sit and watch the film with head phones, so they don’t disturb others. I loved watching people pick out the different characters from the film in the display case.

It has been a pleasure working with the curators of this exhibit, Scott and Nancy Nash of the Illustration Institute. They found out about my work from news stories covering the controversy surrounding my previous exhibit Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor. Having my work shown in the context of cute art has been an unexpected delight!

If you’re going to Maine, Kennebunk is in the southern part of the state, right off Rt. 95. The Art of Cute will be at the Brick Store Museum until August 31st.

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.

fiber art at the Cahoon Museum

Last Friday was the opening party for Twisted, Twined and Woven: Contemporary Fiber Art at the Cahoon Museum of American Art, which is located in Cotuit, Massachsetts. The exhibit will be there until Dec. 22. On display are four of my fabric relief pieces (Whiskers, Cover Up, Face Time and Displaced) and the work of Jodi Colella, Jacqueline Davidson, Anna Kristina GoranssonSarah HaskellAndy MaueryDiane Savona and Elizabeth Whyte Schulze. 

Whiskers, Cover Up, Face Time and Displaced

It was fun to see old friends and meet new people in the museum’s beautiful new gallery. The space was added on to the Colonial Georgian home (c.1775) that constitutes the original part of the museum. By early 1800’s, the building was operating as a tavern, an important overnight stop on the Cape Cod stagecoach line between Sandwich and Hyannis. I love how the new addition creates more opportunities for showing art, while maintaining and complimenting the historic parts of the museum.

Stinger by Jody Collella

The exhibit is as diverse as fiber art is and includes framed works as well as hanging installations and large scale, free-standing sculpture. Jodi Collella’s extraordinary scorpion made of vintage lace doilies dyed black is the dramatic centerpiece of the show. When the museum director and curator, Sarah Johnson, asked for recommendations of other artists for the show, I told her about the incomparable Diane Savona. As expected, her piece, Security Blanket is powerful and moving. Other pieces on display are Anna Kristina Goransson‘s vibrant felted work, Sarah Haskell‘s framed embroidered houses and baskets by Elizabeth Whyte Schulze.

Detail from “Security Blanket” by Diane Savona

“Beauty in Growth.” by Anna Kristina Goransson

The following pieces of mine are included in the exhibit – Displaced, Cover Up, Face Time and Whiskers. As with all of my work, including illustrations that are reproduced in children’s books, seeing the originals is a different experience than looking at photographs. If you can make the trip to Cape Cod, I encourage you to come and see for yourself.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum will be hosting the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for my new picture book, MY BED: Where Children Sleep Around the World. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the fall of 2020. Like the traveling show for Pocketful of Posies, I hope to schedule other exhibits, so that more people can see the “real thing”. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the illustrations make their way across the whole country!

Displaced

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All winter long, while I sat and worked on this piece, I listened to news stories on the radio about people who are fleeing their home countries amid war and conflict. Even though Displaced is inspired by recent world events, it could very well represent the universal and timeless plight of refugees throughout history. When forming an idea, I often think in terms of creating miniature shallow stage sets and with this one, I envisioned a melodramatic scene full of foreboding as well as hopeful anticipation. The trail of heavily burdened figures are like an operatic chorus, winding its way upward through a threatening landscape. To help create tension in the design, I thought of opposite forces, such as dark/light, despair/hope, trapped/escape, harsh/tender, sharp/soft and horror/beauty.

Cover Up

COVER UP is a collective portrait of women from around the world, each with a head covering that reflects the conventions of a particular place, social class or time in history. The 45 depictions invite comparison, pointing out contrasts and similarities between different societies. They all wear some kind of scarf, head piece or mask that serve as identifying markers, whether they are forms of self-expression and fashion, or dictated by religious and cultural tradition.

Face Time

FACE TIME is a broad interpretation of a family tree, showing the faces of humanity through time, from early in history to today. The 41 individuals represent a variety of peoples and cultures throughout the world, all connected through branches of the center tree.

Whiskers

WHISKERS focuses on beards and mustaches, showing an array of male characters from different cultures and historic periods. The piece explores diverse societies and their origins, using needle and thread to signify the unraveling and mending of human cultures throughout history. The large face and beard that contains the various heads is inspired by Assyrian sculpture.

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.

Hanging by a Thread exhibit

gallery65-1-of-1This month, Hanging by a Thread: Needle Art of Salley Mavor will be shown at Gallery 65 on William in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The owner, Nicole St. Pierre has graciously agreed to hang five large pieces in her gallery’s changing exhibit space. The show will be there until April 1st, 2017. Gallery open hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 – 5:00.

Opening Reception: Thursday, March 9th, 5:00 to 8:00 pm, during New Bedford’s monthly AHA! Night. This month’s theme is “All Sewn Up”, a celebration of the city’s rich textile history, as well as its current day love affair with the textile medium. The streets and venues of downtown New Bedford will be alive from 5 to 9pm with performances, art exhibits, lectures, and much more.

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The following works will be shown: (click on title to find out about each piece) Face Time, Whiskers, Cover UpBirds of Beebe Woods and Displaced.

If you’re in the neighborhood, you can also take in the Excellence in Fibers exhibit, which is at the New Bedford Museum of Art until March 19th.

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Cover Up Poster Giveaway winners

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Poster – Cover Up

Congratulations to the 3 winners in the Cover Up poster Giveaway! Thank you to all of you who wrote about a style or fashion in a particular time period or region of the world that interests you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the descriptions of your favorites, which were as varied as the world we live in. Not surprisingly, the common theme was attire that emphasizes detailed needlework, embellishments, color, and texture.

The winners are Stacy Shrader, Wendy from Splendiferous Fiber and Avis Withers from Annie’s Needlearts. They will each receive a Cover Up Poster in the mail. The 12 x 17 poster featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up sells for $12.00 and is available in my Etsy Shop here.

Read posts about making the piece in the Cover Up Series: (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4) and (Part 5).

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Cover Up (part 5)

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This is the final part in a series of posts about my new embroidered bas-relief piece Cover Up. In Part 1 and Part 2, the collection of “covered” women are introduced and discussed. Part 3 shows how I made the pieced felt background and Part 4 is about the felt covered wire border.

Before sewing all of the heads in place, I added squares of 1/4″ thick felt in between the holes. That way, the pieced felt background would lay flatter. I then stitched the heads so that they peeked out of the holes and covered the entire back with a piece of neutral colored fabric.

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I pinned the heads inside the openings and shuffled them around quite a bit to get an arrangement that balanced color and contrast. It just took a few stiches at the hole rim to attach the portraits.

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My husband Rob took photos of the finished piece downstairs. I hope that you have enjoyed this series of posts. You can receive notice whenever I publish a new post by subscribing to this blog (at the top of the right column on the home page). Rest assured that I will not share your information.

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12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up are available in my  Etsy Shop here. Information about entering the Giveaway is at the end of this post.

Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

 Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

Read the other parts in the Cover Up Series: Part 1), (Part 2) and (Part 3) and (Part 4).

Cover Up (part 4)

CoverUp_lowresWMThis is part 4 in a series of posts about my new embroidered bas-relief piece Cover Up. In part 1 and part 2, the collection of “covered” women are introduced and discussed. Part 3 shows how I made the pieced felt background.

The next phase in the project involved making a felt covered wire border, which is a new technique I’ve developed over the past few years. The idea originated with a desire to form and stitch lines that have a 3-dimensional quality. I’ve used wire in my work for many years, but mostly in miniature scale. With larger gauge wire, covered in strips of embroidered felt, I have been able to incorporate bolder, linear patterns and designs into my work, like in the pieces shown below; Birds of Beebe Woods, Face Time, Whiskers and Rabbitat.

coverupsketch3Cover Up’s border started with a sketch of a vine-like pattern. As usual, plans changed once my hands began the process of forming and articulating the wire lines. It ended up looking more like a lattice topped pie or a chain linked fence.

I sewed strips of felt to lengths of insulated electrical wire and embroidered the felt with pastel shades of variegated floss. Straight lines seemed too rigid and unwelcoming, so I wiggled the wire and arranged them in a diagonal grid.

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This video shows close-ups of me covering and stitching wire with my non-manicured fingers.

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For the lattice pattern, I used many worm shaped lengths of covered wire. I joined the wire ends in a way that’s hard to explain. Let’s just say that it involves poking wire through felt, with lots of fussy sewing to keep the wire from pulling out.

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Here I am, working on the border downstairs, all cozy and warm in front of the wood stove, with snow outside.

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When the border was finished, I spent a long time repositioning the doll heads until I was satisfied with the arrangement. I then secured each portrait inside their hole with a few stitches on their shoulders.

Perhaps I should mention the time commitment, because people are always curious. This size (24″ x 30″) piece usually takes 3 or 4 months of solid work. But, I must add that I believe time alone doesn’t give a piece of art its value. Like other artists who do labor intensive work, I am not deterred by the prospect of spending countless hours on a single piece, as long as it holds the promise of transcending the effort involved. I hope that you are enjoying this series of posts as much as I relished the process of making Cover Up. Stay tuned for one more post in the series! By the way, you can receive notice whenever I publish a new post by subscribing to this blog (at the top of the right column on the home page). Rest assured that I will not share your information.

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Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up are available in my  Etsy Shop here.

Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

The next post (part 5) will show the end of the process, with the finished piece. Read Cover Up (part 1), (part 2) and (part 3).

Cover Up (part 3 & video)

CoverUp_lowresWMThis is part 3 in a series of posts about my new embroidered bas-relief piece Cover Up. In part 1 and part 2, the collection of “covered” women are introduced and discussed. Now, I will show how the pieced felt background was made. There’s also a short video my husband Rob filmed, which shows me stitching various stages of the project.

In the beginning, I knew that the piece would be populated with portraits of women, with each peering through an oval opening, but I didn’t know how many characters would be included. I did some simple drawings to get an idea of its composition and proportions and then calculated that 45 portraits would have enough breathing room within the 24″ x 30″ size. As you can see in this sketchbook page, there were lots of possibilities for border treatment.

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The background needed to be done in a way that would compliment the portraits and not compete with the detail of the individual women. I also wanted the colors and design to work from a distance and also entice viewers to take a closer look.

I grouped my felt scraps in piles according to color and pieced them together crazy quilt style in diagonal strips according to their hue. It was done in a similar way to the beard in Whiskers. I find that large solid colors can be too overpowering and simplistic, whereas breaking up the field into small parts brings a softer, more natural appearance. I guess it’s more like impressionist art that way. I used plant dyed wool/rayon felt that I bought years ago from Textile Reproductions. Unfortunately it is no longer being produced, so every little piece is as good as gold.

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The odd-shaped pieces are held together on the back with a simple slip stitch. On the front, I used a fly stitch to join and outline the felt pieces. Here’s a video of some of the stitching:

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It was great winter project, which I worked on through the holidays and into the new year.

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I used Soft Flex beading wire to outline the holes and give them a clean edge and some structure.

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I had fun playing around with the arrangement of the women.Cover_Up_process_3WM

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Before sewing the portrait heads in their holes, I sewed the pieced felt background to a stretcher frame covered with upholstery fabric.

The next post (part 4) will show the process of making the border for Cover Up. Read Cover Up (part 1) here and (part 2) here.

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Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up are available in my  Etsy Shop here.

Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.