"Obama's Garden: King of Paring Knives (swords) in the Kitchen Tarot."
Â©Susan Shie 2017. 60"h x 90"w. inventory #504. Peace Cozy #73.
Began 6-26-17. Finished 8-21-17. Many large detail images follow this artist's statement.
Materials: White kona-like cotton from Test Fabrics, airbrush paint, fabric paint, Aurifil cotton machine thread, Artfabrik variegated hand dyed perle cotton embroidery thread, one Green Temple Buddha Boy bead. Nature-fil bamboo and organic cotton batting. Mostly Lunn Fabrics batiks in backing and border.
Techniques: Whole cloth painting. Black line freehand drawing and color areas painted with Aztek double action airbrush and airbrush paint. Small, black writing and drawing lines made with Silkpaint.comâ€™s Airpen, using black fabric paint. Mostly machine sewn, with one row of hand stitching of perle cotton thread (on the border's outside edge.)
Statement: President Obama served our country as its 44th President for 8 years of calm, kind, reasonable, dignified, informed, caring, progressive taking care of all citizens' needs. He had taught Constitutional Law for 10 years, and he knew his stuff. If he didn't know, or wasn't sure, he consulted his many very qualified advisors, and ht was always consulting anyhow, making sure that his plans were teh best they could be, to improve our nation's people's lives. He would have achieved even more than he did, had the opposition decided to block everything he wanted to achieve.
This President's achievements were phenomenal, especially in light of that solid opposition, and I knew I had to make a piece about what President Obama did for us in those 8 years, starting with pulling us mightily out of the terrible economic recession he inherited, and turning our economy into a boom one. In many people's opinions, he was the best President we've ever had, but his detractors say the opposite, and their racist hatred of him continues to make them constantly pretend that he was a bad President. This is not about our team v your team. This is about facts, and my art piece here is full of well-documented facts about what happened during those wonderful 8 years, before the current President's tenure began.
On 6-26-17, I selected the Tarot card that would represent my Obama's 8 years piece, pulling the King of Swords, which are Paring Knives in my Kitchen Tarot deck. This card represents a mighty ruler, whose main strength is his intellect and communication skills. He is constantly thinking of how to best take care of his people's needs, and he puts his mind to problem-solving on the people's behalf. Yes, that is President Obama.
In my Kitchen Tarot deck, I chose Paring Knives for my version of the traditional tarot suit of Swords. Paring knives are small kitchen tools, that cooks use every day, to prepare our foods. They are not weapons, but rather are tools used to help nurture the people. Paring knives are not associated with violence and control, but with helping us make good food to feed our loved ones. So my Paring Knives in my Kitchen Tarot deck project are about serving others, taking care of them, nurturing them. Obama was truly a King of Paring Knives, as our President. He cared most about helping the People, the poor, the elderly, the women, the minorities, the immigrants, the marginalized. All of us.
In preparation for making this piece, I read lots of articles about Obama's presidential achievements, during the time when we were working hard in our gardens here at home. Sometime during my research, I realized that drawing and painting a big garden, with Obama tending it, would be a great way to show how hard and diligently he worked through both terms of his presidency, weeding out the bad parts of our policies and introducing or enlarging, nurturing the good things, tirelessly giving his all for his Country and his People.
I made many sketches before putting up my large white cotton cloth to draw the lines of this picture with my airbrush and black paint. Each sketch was a reaction to the ones before, as I moved closer to what I wanted to have this piece show. After studying a drawing that my granddaughter Eva and I had made together in the Summer of 2011, I also decided to make my figures in this Garden be more primitive looking, more innocent, than the figures I'd made in my earlier sketches. As I continued to make planning drawings, I figured out who would be in the picture, and what they'd all be doing. Then I put my last, favorite sketch near me, and started to draw with my airbrush, at the big wall, on the very large white cloth.
I love this part, this exciting 2 - 3 days, when things happen really fast, as I paint the lines of the big painting, peeking now and then at the last sketch I'd made before this airbrush part started. The composition jumps at this point, from 14 x 22" on paper, to 60 x 90" on cloth, so it's critical to not get uptight about getting it started right, though it takes some thinking and planning, to decide how large to make the first image on the big cloth. It's scary, and it's a thrill.
And then, the more I draw with my airbrush, the more fun and excitement gets going in me, as I watch the images come to life on the big white cloth, in bold black lines. I clean the airbrush out a LOT, while using that opaque black paint, and if the paint and I are working well together, it's my biggest art thrill - for the airbrush in my hand to hover like a hummingbird, thinking what I want to be on the cloth, and seeing it come out through my airbrush. I also add the big words writing during this initial drawing stage, with the airbrush, too. Before I take it off the wall to heat set the black lines, I stare and stare at the line painting, to make sure I've got everything I want to put into it, before cleaning that intense black paint out of my airbrush.
Heat setting is done with the painting face down on the ironing board, with the iron set at its hottest with no steam, with me wearing my respirator again (as I do while using the airbrush also, of course), and with the big exhaust fan going full tilt in the window on the other side of the ironing board. I heat set many times, while making one of these art quilts: after each process, and heat set many times, while writing the small writing I do for weeks, with paint in my airpen. Fabric paint must be heat set, to make it permanent, locking the pigments to the cloth's fibers.
After heat setting the black line drawing, I put the cloth back up on the wall and use the airbrush again, to put in all the colors. 3 days or so after starting the line drawing on the big cloth, my airbrush painting is done, and I can heat set the colors, before starting to write on the painting with black paint in my airpen, with the cloth lying on my big studio table. That part of the making process always takes weeks, in which I date and write things going on in my life, or things that I want to talk about, in this case, things that President Obama did during his 8 years of "no drama Obama-ness." OH, how we miss that calm and kind No-drama Obama!
Here's the cast of characters in this "Obama's Gardent" piece: President Obama, working on the big tree in the center of the garden and also in the flame of the Statue of Liberty's torch; Michelle Obama, as the Statue of Liberty, on the right; Malia Obama, as the Statue of Freedom, on the left; Sasha Obama, as the angel flying down from the top left, hugging her father from behind; Hillary Clinton, the large face to the right of the central tree; Fearless Girl (the statue), on Michelle Obama's skirt; and 4 Buddha Girls, across the bottom of the piece, representing Peace, Courage, Fairness, and Kindness.
Where before I listed all the issues and events I wrote about on each of my art quilts, in their long statements here in my galleries, I've decided that yuo can read the things I wrote about, by studying the detail images, below this statement. In making this shift, I risk the future regret of not providing a list of topics that I wrote about on my art quilts, but I gain having a shorter statment and more time to get busy on my NEXT piece. With all my teaching now, I have a much harder time finding studio time for working on my art quilts. My online classes take up as much time as i can give them each day, every day. So now I'm cutting back on my documentation of topics I wrote about on the quilts' statements. I already regret this, so I may come back later and add many paragraphs of listings, after all!
I really loved making this piece, and one of my favorite things to write about on it was the big Solar Eclipse of August 21, with the Sun and Moon at 29Âº Leo, seen all the way across the US, in varied degrees of totality. We had friends here, and we all shared 2 pair of eclipse glasses, to witness the partial eclipse we could see from Ohio. I drew the glasses and wrote about the eclipse, as the very last thing I added to this quilt. It was then time for my big photo shoot and shipping this piece, along with the others, to Texas, for my upcoming solo show at the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange.
The show "The Way I See It: the Narrative Art of Susan Shie" will have 15 of my large art quilts, all made from 2005 to present, with this hot-off-the-presses "Obama's Garden" as the newest work in the show. My art quilts arrived at the museum before Hurricane Harvey flooded the town, but miraculously, the museum was spared by the flooding. The museum is up on a hill. I send healing prayers for all the hurricane survivors in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and everywhere else that these monster storms made their destruction. And the hurricane season isn't over until Nov 1. My show in La Grange is October 5 to December 22, and I will be there, giving a talk about my work, on October 14, in the afternoon. Reception 2 pm, my talk 3 pm
Isn't that an awesome statement??