Saturday, April 9, 2011

skinny page on Martha Graham

For the front of Heather's skinny page: part of a painting, 'Martha Graham
dance class' by Paul Raphael Meltsner was printed onto fabric. The inks were
manipulated with water + shimmer mist. A quote by Martha Graham was overlaid.
I belong to a yahoo group where we have been exchanging skinny pages sized 4" x 8" - once a month for a little over a year. March was my month to make a skinny page for Heather, whose theme is Women who dared. Yes, I am a wee bit late, but Heather assured me, "Please take your time. I'm not at all worried about you being late. Whenever it arrives, it will be welcomed. So looking forward to your interpretation of my theme." Thank you very much, Heather!

It took me some time to think about what woman I might like to create my art around. You did not have to have a specific "woman who dared" in mind, but that was the direction I wanted to go. After talking it over with my husband some weeks ago and doing a search online, I came across Martha Graham. Of course! Perfect. Quoting the introduction of the PBS program on her in 2005: "Martha Graham’s impact on dance was staggering and often compared to that of Picasso’s on painting, Stravinsky’s on music, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s on architecture. Her contributions transformed the art form, revitalizing and expanding dance around the world. In her search to express herself freely and honestly, she created the Martha Graham Dance Company, one of the oldest dance troupes in America. As a teacher, Graham trained and inspired generations of fine dancers and choreographers. Her pupils included such greats as Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, and countless other performers, actors, and dancers. She collaborated with some of the foremost artists of her time including the composer Aaron Copland and the sculptor Isamu Noguchi."


I studied the Martha Graham Technique for many, many years with my teacher Truda Kaschmann, who taught this technique to my sister and my mother too, not to mention countless others. I knew of Graham of course, but I never realized what pioneering and daring a woman she was until I set out to do this piece of art for Heather. Thank you again, Heather-truly. You have opened my eyes to so much more about her!

I started by gathering materials and searching for quotes, images and writings about Martha Graham. I found a few paintings by Paul Raphael Meltsner that really drew me in. I have since learned that he was a contemporary of Everett Shin, who studied painting with my Great Uncle, William Glackens! This is beginning to sound like 7 degrees of separation . ..  but anyway, this struck me as very interesting. And since this is a gift to Heather, I did not worry about using a copy of part of this painting to represent her theme.


I printed out a variety of photographs, images, paintings and quotes onto paper, fabric and transparency film. I collected a 4x8 piece of flat batting and a soft piece of washed canvas-like material to work on. Heather likes earth & jewel tones, history, quotes and words so I knew I was on the right track. She also said a horizonal page was fine with her, leaving room on the 4" side for holes. I started with the fabric print of the Meltsner painting and wanted to add to it -- so I spritzed, dribbled and dropped both water and Perfect Pearls mist on to the fabric... the ink from the inkjet printer is not permanent so doing this makes the ink migrate. When I liked how it looked I layed this fabric print over some flat batting, onto the canvas fabric and sewed just the edges, leaving the edges raw and the fringe hanging.


Then my sewing machine stopped working - eeeep! Here I am, late with this project that I've only just started sewing and now my machine has stopped??? oh no. Fortunately, between my husband and I we figured out there wasn't anything wrong with my machine, just the foot control piece. When I unplugged the foot control from the machine and used the manual start and stop buttons on the front of the machine -my sewing machine still worked perfectly! phew.

Over the manipulated fabric print of the painting, I added 2 quotes by Martha Graham that I had printed onto a Transparency film. The second, longer quote I printed out 3 x in a row to make it more like wallpaper. I attached the quotes on the transparency film by stitching the clear film on both the top and bottom with a straight stitch.

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep  the channel open." — Martha Graham

"The only sin is mediocrity." — Martha Graham
For the other side of the skinny page, I used photographs I had manipulated in Photoshop elements. I am just learning about this program but have fooled around in it so much that I have become adept at putting a couple of photos together as layers. That is what I did with both of these images, which I then printed on fabric. The image on the left is a portrait of Martha Graham with another photo of her dancing behind it -you may only be able to see her hand, across her own forehead. Click on the image for a larger image. The image on the right is 2 different photos of dancers performing in the Martha Graham Dance Company that I melded together into one image. I like how it looks like she is gazing at her dancers . . .


I added water to this side too, you can see it on the right . . . Then I added another Martha Graham quote printed onto a transparency by sewing it to just the edges of the skinny page. I also added some bright trim to the bottom of this side to correspond with the dancer's bright dress. The trim and the main fabric images were glued on with Sobo fabric glue. Then I knew I was done!

“I wanted to begin not with characters or ideas, but with movements . . .
I wanted significant movement. I did not want it to be beautiful or fluid. I wanted
it to be fraught with inner meaning, with excitement and surge.” –Martha Graham

One of my favorite quotes by her:
"Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion." 
— Martha Graham

Thanks for sharing this art journey with me -I will be sending this women who dared skinny page off to Heather on Monday! This is my favorite kind of art to make: art with meaning, feeling and emotion.  
; ^ ) lenna

5 comments:

  1. Oh Lenna what a fantastic post it was a pleasure to read it and your skinny page is really wonderful, love your work.
    Hugs Anni

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  2. This one is really cool, Lenna. I had first thought that the stitching along the bottom was the piano keys, or at least the thumbnail gave me that impression. Very nice!

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  3. Oh Lenna this is stunning!! It must've taken you quite some time to put everything together-the pages, the research ,the pics and the story and it is SO appreciated!!Thank you for sharing the details :)

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  4. I'm sure Heather is going to love these wonderful pages, Lenna. Great research and lovely fabric elements and I love reading all about Martha.

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  5. Lenna, this is absolutely stunning! I've been trying to re-gain my grasp of my art and blogs again. I don't know how I misplaced either, but I am glad I have been digging deep in other peoples blogs to find inspiration . . . . I found you again, and by golly, you never fail to have something to get the Mojo fed again! What inspiration on your bog!


    Love ya, love your art (and I love love love my little box!

    La Paix!

    Judy :D

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