McGuffey New Member Show Artworks/Concepts / by Brielle DuFlon

Hi guys! it's still safe to say Happy New Year, right? I'm totally behind on posting here, sorry for the inconsistency! Had a crazy month with the holidays and the McGuffey New Member show and when that was over all I did was sleep, read, and clean my poor neglected house and studio for days. Got back into the swing of things last week and got back to work in my clean studio, had meetings with folks about upcoming art events and did some organizing of ideas and such. I am back into actively making art and of course that feels amazing! Really excited for the upcoming year! There are some big things coming. First, though, let's get you all up to date on the McGuffey New Member show and the pieces that I put together for it. 

  Window and Wing , Recycled electrical wire, embroidery floss, bamboo. 2015. 

Window and Wing, Recycled electrical wire, embroidery floss, bamboo. 2015. 

This is Window and Wing, and it kicked my butt. It was the last piece I put together for the show and I completely underestimated how long it was going to take. I want to say I clocked in around 40 hours to make this, and made me truly appreciate weavers in a way I never have been able to for lack of experience. Granted, usually a person will have a loom that does some of the work and materials that are a little more giving (wire, not so much), but still! Holy Moly! 

I wanted to create something folkloric out of technology with this piece. I wanted to make something that was light and welcoming but that upon closer scrutiny would cause the viewer to take a step back and reassess the weaving with a less comfortable eye because all of a sudden it had a secret, or was less soft than it had seemed. I wanted there to be an unexpected weight to the weaving because of it's components. I think the title, Window and Wing, came out of that idea of heaviness and freedom, and also out of the shapes I left open in the piece. Technology is a thing I struggle with - I know it is useful when used wisely but it also frustrates me that we've become slaves to it in so many ways and that it has permeated our abilities to focus and watch and observe. In a way the open square is a caged window and the wing is a heavy wing (though there's a sliver of hope in that wing!). The piece turned out simple and elegant and I'm satisfied with that. It's also a little wobbly and amateur as it should be - not only because it's my first weaving on a rudimentary loom I made for myself but because of the unpredictable nature of the wire. I didn't know it at the time but this was opening a door for me.

The vertical colors are the wire and the off-white is the thread. The little knots or bumps that give the weaving an almost tweed-like effect are from where I tied the electronic wire together. It's about 2.5 feet long and about a foot across (if you include the bamboo rod).  Here's a close-up:

  Window and Wing , detail.

Window and Wing, detail.

  Leaves Caught in the Marking of Water Line , found organic matter, embroidery floss. 2015.

Leaves Caught in the Marking of Water Line, found organic matter, embroidery floss. 2015.

Leaves Caught in the Marking of a Water Line came together one day in early fall when I was walking down Market St., here in downtown Charlottesville. The municipality had just marked the gas and water lines on the sidewalk for some construction or other - blue and yellow lines. These leaves were basically just innocent bystanders caught in the fire. It was beautiful but it also just made me think about how loud our species is on this wonderfully calm planet and I wasn't proud of us for spraying everything that is in the way with paint. 
The leaves are hand sewn on to paper. The paper is floating on mat board and is framed. 

  Summer Harvest , found organic matter, embroidery thread, acrylic paint on canvas. 2015.

Summer Harvest, found organic matter, embroidery thread, acrylic paint on canvas. 2015.

Oh my sweet Summer Harvest. I guess you could say this is my baby, or the diva of the show. Definitely most people's favorite. I love it very much, too. It's 3 feet wide and 4 feet long. The organic things on it were all collected from walks I took through the woods, or from my own back yard, as the summer passed and the flowers bloomed and dried and fell to the ground. There is a piece of a deer hoof on the bottom that I found behind our house, two praying mantis egg sacks from various bushes around our house that I watched eagerly all summer and never seemed to hatch (lower center, one on a stick, one free), dried lilies from our flower beds and dried Roses of Sharon from our little trees, the darker knobby plants on the very bottom are basil flowers from our veggie garden. There are magnolia seed pods with their brilliant red seeds, hibiscus and bougainvillea blossoms from my house plants; elderflower, eucalyptus and sequoia from a trip I took to California in August, little twigs I found near Stokesville, VA when we were watching a dear friend race in the Shenandoah 100, purple tall grasses from my boyfriend's mother's house in Ivy (running along the top and in the bottom corners). The feathers I found all over the place, and it was an exciting thing when I happened upon one on a walk. The cicadas and cicada nymph exoskeletons were mostly from our backyard and the other bees and bugs were random finds. The clam shells were from Pancake Falls or the Rivanna river close by. Some of them were mountain snails and I found them in the woods (the nautilus shaped ones). What else? Acorn hats, burrs, even a snake skin from our back yard.

The whole process was so tender and delicate and exciting. I would really like to do something like this again, it changed how I feel about everything in my backyard. I notice feathers now when I walk past them more than I ever did before and I feel tenderly about all of these things that a plant discards or loses. My favorite thing about it I think is that even when you are looking at the muted, dead version of a flower you never forget what the flower looked like in full bloom - in it's prime, and yet you can appreciate it for what it is now, too. I'd like to think that we feel that way about humans who are close to us who we lose or who grow old before our eyes and worry that we'll never see them the way they were when they were vibrant and full of life. It's so comforting to think that it's not something one can forget, it's truly the part that might be the most resilient. 

During the show people asked me about the temporariness of this piece. How was I planning on saving or preserving it? It was something I thought about the entire time I was making it. I was making something temporary, ephemeral, and ethereal too - an altar, almost. I had to become OK with putting a lot of time into something that wouldn't last. Nothing lasts forever but most of the pieces I make last a good while at least - they're intended to last at least as long as the person who buys them, ideally for generations. That usually matters a lot to me. But the beauty of this piece was that it was a process in letting go. Of realizing that it's worth it to spend time making something beautiful for the sake of making it and sharing it, even for a short time. To realize that beauty is a recurring thing. There will be more pieces, there will be more flowers. I have thought about putting a glass box around it or pouring resin into it and I might do that someday with other pieces in this vein, but for now the piece is exposed to the elements and we are free to get up close and personal with the feathers as they rustle in the breeze, and the multitude of textures of all of the little things in close proximity to one another. 

  Items Found Walking Between Hogwaller and Water St. Via Carleton Ave,  Found material, embroidery thread, acrylic paint on canvas. 2015.

Items Found Walking Between Hogwaller and Water St. Via Carleton Ave, Found material, embroidery thread, acrylic paint on canvas. 2015.

It's hard to follow up Summer Havest but this piece is a whole other can of worms. It's actually really similar to it in some ways (outside the obvious display materials) - my friend Julie Slater put it really well when we were comparing them at the show. She said something around the lines of "It's interesting that this one is stuff that humans discard, and the other is stuff that plants discard" (not verbatim, ha!). It was the first time I'd thought about it that way. Not only discarded because we didn't need it any more, but in some cases lost. I'm sure the earring with the rhinestones in this piece fell out of an ear at some point, the sock and the spoons were on their way home and never made it, the soccer ball got lost beside the road... in the same way that I cut the tall grasses and the basil flowers before nature gave them to me. 

The other thing I wanted people to think about when they saw these pieces side by side (and I did place them that way) was the difference in the delicacy and degradability in the objects found on both pieces. The heavy heavy hand of humanity and the delicate touches and whispers of the planet. 

I won't lie though, this is not an ugly piece. It's quite tender- it brought me into an intimate relationship with my neighborhood that I've never had before. I feel like these are my people now: the sweet and playful, the gross and the ugly. It's not just tender for me, though - as an observer you can't help but think of the people and pets that lost the things on this canvas with a certain touch of sympathy or sadness, and you can't think about the people who willingly threw the cigarette cartons, soda cans and bottles without a hint of disgust for your fellow man. There are also things on Items Found Walking Between Hogwaller and Water St. Via Carleton Ave that just make you think about the daily lives of average people: tiny ziploc bags that could have been used for a multitude of things, hospital bracelets, playing cards, shoe straps, rubber duckie heads, doggie toys, you name it. On top of it all, the color grouping and all of the twinkling metal and glass actually make this piece pretty. 

Lastly the collage-like composition of this piece as opposed to the loose symmetry of Summer Harvest was intentional. I see nature as organized and deliberate and humanity as sort of chaotic and wandering. I also like fitting the human things together in a sort of puzzle, nudging the idea that all things fit in somewhere in our species - we have room for everyone and there is no hierarchy amongst humans. We all throw shit away and lose things, too.