Talent Scout

Archive for February 2010


New Work in Process

Marilyn Stevens, Untitled, 2010, 34" x 43"

Worked on this new piece last weekend.  It’s probably about two thirds of the way to being complete.  I’m struggling with how I should handle the background?  And you know it’s not finished until I add some text!   All the material used so far are paper and graphite.

Series 3: Mom’s Last Dance

This is my third post in the series about my mom’s decline from dementia and the work created  marking subtle and significant changes in her life and the impact on others.  To read the first two in the series go the personal storytelling category link.

My mom loved to dance. As a kid she tried to teach us by having us stand on her feet while she danced to her favorite TV show, Lawrence Welk.  Unfortunately none of us picked up her talent as hard as she tried. You can get a sense of the fun we had watching Lawrence on a Saturday night from this video clip.

My mom was known to snub any male suitor if they couldn’t dance. Luckily she found Walt her dear friend and companion of ten years. They rarely missed an opportunity to dance together often more than three times a week.  Even when they visited us in Minnesota they had to check out the happening dance venues.  When I cleaned out my mom’s closet I marveled at all of her beautiful dresses.  I brought a couple to her new home at St Joe’s.

Walt was devastated to lose my mom as he knew her.  Although painful, he did try to get her out dancing a few times after she went to St Joe’s.  Their last dance was the night he arrived and she had her dress on inside/out and backwards.  Moments like this, you know things are changing quickly.

“Dress Backwards” is a mixed media piece crafted as beautifully as one of mom’s dance dresses I found in her closet.  There is a chaotic feel,  a whirl of old memories, her glow in the dark rosary beads, experimental drug prescriptions, and the sense that everything is slowly falling away while piling up at the bottom.

To see all posts in this series go to the category, personal storytelling .

Marilyn Stevens, Dressed Backwards, 2004, 26" x 45"

Dressed Backwards Detail

Dressed Backwards Detail

Crochetdermy: Life-Size Crocheted Animals

I must be on an animal art theme.  This is my second post in two weeks that features animals.  I ran across UK-based artist Shauna Richardson on Design Boom.  Shauna creates life-size animals through the process of crocheting. She uses the term ‘crochetdermy’ to better explain her work which makes strong references to taxidermy. Her pieces incorporate coarse wools such as mohair mixes, glass eyes and reproduction claws. Each piece usually takes her months to complete. Beautiful execution. I would love to have the deer for our weekend place in Wisconsin.

Series 2: Me, My Mom and All of the Saints

In 2003, during the  Women’s Art Institute 3-week intensive course, I continued to explore  work that was more emotionally connected.  Given my mom’s dementia I couldn’t help reflect on our relationship through the years.  This seemed like a good starting place for my next work. I knew I wanted it to be something you could pick up and be with–like a book and that it should reflect personal conversations with my mother.  The three pieces are a triptych which together form a short narrative of past and present.

Me, Mom

First in this triptych are two dresses that became one, inspired by the above photo of me and my mom.  As I’ve mentioned before my mom was a talented seamstress who made many of my clothes throughout my youth. (and they were fashionable!)  Although I think this was the only time they matched!  This photo has always meant a lot to me. It was a time when I couldn’t let her out of my sight.


Marilyn Stevens, Mother & Daughter, 7" x 7", 2003


My mom, Bonnie

The second piece in this triptych centers on religion where my mother and I had our differences.  You can see the church in the background of this photo.  My mom grew up across the street and it’s where I went to church through high school.  My mom loved all of the Catholic traditions.  For me, church brings back memories of things like lent—sitting through the stations of the cross and burning incense while the rest of my friends enjoyed a day off from school.  My mom loved the church and was truly devoted.  I know it disappointed her that I didn’t share this passion and questioned some of the practices. I think she is still happy and amazed that I turned out to be a good person in spite of it. And it did give me comfort to know she could draw on an army of saints to pray to on my behalf.

You can see that there is a split down the middle of the dress representing our struggle.  And the hidden image and medallion are Saints prayer cards from the early 60’s.


Marilyn Stevens, All Saints, 7" x 7", 2003

The last piece in the triptych represents past and present.  Underneath you can see a mother’s day card that I sent to my mom when I was around seven.  It said “to my sweet mother, with love, Marilyn.” This piece is more fragmented given my mom’s loss of short term memory.  And I love the parallel of the pendant since it is something she made for her mother when when she was six.  It is a four leaf clover that she found with a picture of herself on the other side.

To see all posts in this series go to the category, personal storytelling .


Marilyn Stevens, Lost, 7 x 7", 2003

Art Books I Can’t Live Without

I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite art books that I go back to time after time for inspiration.  I would love to hear some of your favorites so I can add to my list.

Frida Kahlo

From Publishers Weekly:
“A delicately beautiful woman who smoked and drank “like a mariachi” and enjoyed her own sexual freedom even as she suffered the infidelities of her adored husband Diego Rivera, Kahlo painted ferociously honest visions of her private world. In this first volume of the Bantam-Barnard Biography series, Drucker graphically recounts the artist’s devastating accident and tortured physical life with a fearlessness to match Kahlo’s own. We are irresistibly drawn to this woman whose life has much to teach about passion, courage and self-determination.”

Sculpture Today

“Sculpture Today” is written in a scholarly yet accessible style, and offers a comprehensive overview of its subject, celebrating both the vitality and sheer diversity of sculpture during the last two and a half decades.

Many reviews have complained about the typewriter like text. I agree it’s hard to read but I found the breakdown of types of sculpture interesting and relevant.  Still a book I love having on my shelf.

Series 1: My Mom, My Art

This is a topic that I have avoided since starting my blog. I didn’t know whether I felt comfortable sharing something so personal yet it is has been at the center of my work for the last 7 years.  I started making art later in life, taking several years to find my direction and voice . After taking a three week intensive course in 2003 through the Womens Art Institute I was encouraged to make more of an emotional connection to my work, to make it personal and tell my unique story.  Well, what better place to start than with my mother!  Good emotional content to fuel several years of work.

Through this series I will bounce around between past, present and future.  I’m not sure how many posts will be in this series but you can relax, it won’t be consecutive posts.  To set the stage, I am the youngest of three children and the only daughter.  My mom and I share many loves—fashion, scarves, coffee, sewing, humor, creativity, and music. Where we part ways are topics surrounding—religion, independence, family tradition, and our approach to life’s possibilities.  Through many ups and downs, there has never been a doubt that my mom believes in me and loves me unconditionally as I do her.

In 2003 when my work took a significant shift, my mother was showing signs of dementia.  I knew the remaining years with my mother would be filled with uncertainty.   Posted here is the first of many pieces that document this journey.

Marilyn Stevens, What's Next, 2003, 7" x 7"

Hand written text: Friday, June 6th, 2003 my mother was taken to St Joseph’s Home in West Point, Nebraska.  This will be her permanent residence and home. My brother said on a scale of 1-10, it was a nine meaning she left Omaha with little resistance.  She had her suitcase ready (a 1940’s suitcase she must have found in the attic).  An indication this was a good decision.  I like the idea of this place for my mom. It gives her a sense of community again.  Almost like the small town where we lived and grew up.  There are lots of activities for her to get involved which will keep her mind active and alive. I want my mom to like this place.  It is where she will live the rest of her life.

Nora York Sings “What I Want”

I recently ran across Nora York on Ted Talks. (Ted are conferences that bring together fascinating thinkers and doers)

Her performance of “What I Want” resonated with me in a way I think we can all identify with–that constant cycle of yearning for something. She is described as an adventurous jazz singer and performance artist whose genre-crossing work defies easy categorization.

Voice is at the center of Nora York’s expression and creative invention, engaging the diverse disciplines of composition, live performance, visual and multimedia arts.

Find out more about Nora on her website and purchase her CD’s through ArtistShare.

“An ingenious, radical, extravagant talent.”

The New Yorker

My Submission: Foot In The Door 4, Minneapolis Institute of Art

I hope everyone is submitting their work and will be part of the state’s largest art exhibition! Celebrate opening night of “Foot in the Door 4,” the wildly popular exhibition held every 10 years. Rub elbows with hundreds of Minnesota artists and view thousands of submissions in this wonderful art event. Wear your most fab footwear for their “Best Shoes in the Door” Flickr gallery. Bring and donate a pair of new socks to the Saint Stephen’s sock drive and enjoy live music by Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles.

Thursday, February 18, 2010   (FREE)
6 – 9 p.m.

Below is my submission that you’ll have to see in person to appreciate the finer layers and detail. The outer wire shell is a three dimensional skirt cut from an early 1900’s metal cast.  I know you are probably wondering why I would have such an item but I bought it a long time ago on Ebay–I liked the character of the material.  It’s laced together with a very delicate hand-stenciled dyed ribbon.  Behind the wire skirt you can read bits and pieces of a poem by my friend Zac Stafford. Lot’s to see and discover up close!

No art will be for sale at the exhibition. I hope to see all of you there.


Marilyn Stevens, My Skirt, 10" x 10" (framed) $325

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