Sunday, March 30, 2008
Woman in Foliage (in fond memory of Bev Cornwell)
I have been touched by those people in my life that have had cancer whether it be friends or relatives, so when it
was announced to do a piece of art for Fiber Art for a Cause, I naturally wanted to make a contribution. I recently was hit hard with the loss of my dear quilting friend, Bev, in October who was diagnosed with lung cancer but ultimately the cancer spread throughout her body and it was brain cancer that took her life. It was hard to know that you would loose a best friend in a short matter of time in the long friendship that you have known and become a close sister to. A person that you could relate to because she shared the same interests and adored her for who she was. It was the internet where we first met and the internet where I will share her memory to others. We lived just 60 miles apart and shared many times over the years our quilting and going to classes together. We swapped fabrics, laughed, cried and acted as though we were more than friends, we were in fact sisters in cloth and deeper in kindred spirits.
When I thought about the subject matter that I would use for my contribution, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I wanted the recipient to want to purchase the piece as a work of art and not that the fact that the piece was about cancer, Why would someone want something to represent such a horrible disease? Why would you even want a reminder? But cancer can't be merely swept under the rug. It does happen and it does exist. It happens to the best people we know. I tried to work this hiddenly and hadn't intended it to be part of my art. Instead, this mysterious piece evolved unexpectedly and subconciously. I chose to do a woman. Not a portrait of my friend, just one that was made up as it could have happened to ANY woman.
I have done dolls in the past, and I really enjoyed playing with this chartreuse fabric. It has become one of my favorite pieces for undertones of skin. To me it is mysterious and reminds me of a campfire glow on one's face. It could also be associated that one turns color in illness or I even imagine my own skin turning color when my friend first told me the news. As I wondered about the work in progress, I wondered if she would be sick or mysterious? I would let the viewer chose what they would see. I sketched her out directly on the fabric without a plan as to who she was or what she would become. She would just evolve! I had loaded fabric on my long arm machine and sketched a face directly on the fabric in white chalk. I would add some deep set eyes, perhaps a little tired looking but I was thinking mysterious in mind. I set out to use some Fabrico markers to form the shadows in a navy. I worked warm colors with Shiva paint sticks in attempts to play with something new that I wasn't all that familiar with. I liked what I was seeing added to the cheeks and lips. The lips became fuller and I was so reminded by Bev again as I watched her put on her lipstick and eye shadow. She had wanted reassurance that she looked alright even though she was ill, she wanted to look her best and refusing to be sick. There she stood in the mirror making her lips pucker up sensually! She was beautiful even bald but with her vanity she wanted to cover her hair up in public. She wanted to look as natural as if nothing had happened and I was one of the few that she would share her shiny perfect head too. There was no difference, to me she was still Bev! For vanity's sake, I added hair to this dear woman. I chose to use black contrast for depth and cut out a shape to go around her face and would add colors of high lights to bring the colors back in by painting it. Again I sketched in with chalk, the flow in her hair and casually dressed her in a roughly cut dress that would be raw edge pieced like her hair. I used variegated thread for her hair which at this pointed reminded me of childhood etching on colorful crayon colors underneath black crayon. I accentuated the face with navy blue stitching and stitched down her garment. I painted between the stitching lines of her hair with setacolor macre' paints. I loved the metallic sheen on black and it seemed to suit her well. I was finished, but somehow I wasn't. I added contour lines to fill in her face and I felt I could use some other colors to enhance her or embellishments. As I began to ponder and audition various tassels, jewels and fabrics into the foreground and layering, it just wasn't it! I had been working too hard. Finally it was as if it were decided all along as there was a piece of leaf fabric on the table that I had gotten from a friend in my Fiber Arts group. It was truly the turquoise that popped out that made it so inviting. As I was cutting it out and adding more paints, another meaning was coming out from this mysterious woman. It wasn't just about color and composition that I was striving for. She was hiding from her disease, Obscuring the fact that her hair was also tarnished in the process and hidden amongst the leaves. It also occurred to me, it was a time visiting in the back yard with Bev one evening sitting amongst the trees as we talked and the candle glow against her cheek. Ironically I began to know this woman all along! When she passed away, I was given many of her quilting things. The black fabric, the batting and Shiva sticks were a part of her possessions that now reside in this piece! It would be out of selfish reasons that I would keep this work, but have decided that this woman had a story to share. Not just of her, but our friendships together that will still live on in other lives. She would have given generously of her heart to find a cure for cancer. May everyone know a friend like Bev.
It was with great pleasure that this piece was accepted for Virginia Speigal's Collage Mania II, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.