Talent Scout

Archive for March 2010


Series 6: I Am Still Here

By 2007, my mom could no longer communicate due to her continued decline from dementia.  Around that time, I had been reading about the idea that music could evoke memory in Alzheimer’s patients.  Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California concluded, “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in their head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and they might all of a sudden see that person’s face in their mind’s eye.”  It is a part of the brain that is the last to deteriorate from the disease.

I found this concept interesting given my mom’s love for music.  Ever since reading this study, I have requested that the staff keep a radio on in her room and when I visit I wheel her in to the music room where I plunk away on the piano.  She expresses a very intense and loud combination of laughing and frustration when I do.  I told my husband she is remembering how awful I sounded while reluctantly practicing my piano as a kid.

It’s this idea that led me to create the piece “I Am Still Here”.  I knew from that experience that my mom was still there deep, deep inside. It is a fully constructed hand-stitched coat made from paper and old newsprint from my hometown paper.

Marilyn Stevens, I Am Still Here, 26w 7d 50h, 2007

Another great thing about this piece is that I collaborated with a poet friend, Zac Stafford.  I gave him the title without telling him about the piece.  I think the poem fits perfectly with what I was trying to say or what my mom would. You can see it hand stenciled on the inside back.

I Am Still Here, Detail

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

Beauty of the Written Word

Shahzia Sikander was born in 1969 in Lahore, Pakistan. Educated as an undergraduate at the National College of Arts in Lahore, she received her MFA in 1995 from the Rhode Island School of Design. Sikander specializes in Indian and Persian miniature painting, a traditional style that is both highly stylized and disciplined. While becoming an expert in this technique-driven, often impersonal art form, she imbued it with a personal context and history, blending the Eastern focus on precision and methodology with a Western emphasis on creative, subjective expression.

To find out more about Shahzia and other artists, visit Art 21, a fabulous resource for contemporary artist of the 21st century.By making contemporary art more accessible, the Art 21 series affords viewers and students the opportunity to discover their own innate abilities to understand contemporary art and to explore possibilities for creative thinking and self-expression.

Call for Artists: One Million Bones

I love this idea and hope that I can get some interest from my fellow artist friends or friends of artists. Last Sunday, Naomi Natale — installation artist, photographer, social activist and TED Senior Fellow — launched her latest project, One Million Bones.  She writes:

One Million Bones is a fund raising art installation designed to recognize victims of present genocides. Our mission is to increase global awareness of these atrocities while raising the critical funds needed to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced and marginalized victims.

One Million Bones will represent victims of genocide, creating a visual demand for solutions to this issue. One million people will each create one bone to represent one victim. Installed together, these one million bones will flood the National Mall in Washington DC in 2013, unearthing the memory of these victims, while calling citizens to action.

People of all ages and from all nations are invited to participate in this project. If you are interested in making or sponsoring a bone, please refer to the One Million Bones website–GET INVOLVED. The website is fabulous with “how to” videos and all sorts of options for participation.  Anyone interested?  Please pass this along to friends, family or artists that you think would like to participate.

Listed As Noteworthy Blog About Visual Art

Happy to say I was on the list of noteworthy Twin Cities–based blogs about visual art. Paul Schmelzer writes a blog called Eyeteeth and is editor of the Minnesota Independent and former editor of the Walker Art Center blogs. He states, his aim was not to create a comprehensive catalogue of all artist bloggers, but to highlight what he thinks are some of the more interesting examples of working contemporary artists discussing or presenting their work in a blog format. Cool!  And thank you Paul.

Spring Windows at Anthropologie

It was a spectacular Sunday in Minneapolis.  It started off with a disappointing visit to the current exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum however later I was delighted by Anthropologie’s new spring window display. It reminds me that art can be discovered in all sorts of places.

Anthropologie is one of my favorite stores.  Along with all the artful visual cues, Anthropologie trips my imagination. They have mastered the idea of discovery and do everything they can to make the store experience tactile and visual.  From the materials they use to how the space is laid out. There are no aisles — you wander and chart your own course. It’s subliminal but effective.  It’s fun because it’s stimulating and because you’re seeing things and connections you’ve never seen before.

Past articles that I’ve read about who Anthropologie appeals to is interesting as well.  They feel it is a woman who is not so much conflicted as she is resistant to categorization. Her identity is a tangle of connections to activities, places, interests, values, and aspirations. No wonder I like their store.

Garden hoses, moss covered bicycle and flowers made from recycled plastic bottles

Bicycle wheels and a well executed color story

A mixed media explosion!

Series 5: I’ll Catch the Words As They Fall

A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune story, Dementia’s Glimmer of Light features Ruby Fairbanks who at 87, despite a shaky gait and sight in just one eye, retains her innate curiosity about people. Although some words are lost, her agile mind creates new and often playful word combinations. Ruby recently held court from her recliner in her daughter’s living room. “Careful,” she warned . “My head isn’t loaded anymore, but I think my finger is.”  My mom has come up with some real zingers as well.  I remember on one visit, she looked at my husband Gregg and said.  “Gregg, you have great legs.”

My mom broke her hip in 2005 which accelerated her dementia and by 2006 most of her speech was gone.  I’ll Catch the Words as They Fall was created in the spring of 2006.  When she spoke, I wanted to catch each word and hold on to them for as long as I could.  Some made sense and others I had to piece together.

Each letter attached by twine hangs from the bodice piece.  Individually crafted, each letter is unique—some with fabric, others with old letters written to my mom from friends in the army.  It’s fragile, complex and gives a sense of holding on.

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

Marilyn Stevens, I'll Catch the Words As They Fall, 14w 4d 30h, 2006

I'll Catch the Words As They Fall, Detail

Fashion Tribute

I am taking the week off from posting but couldn’t resist this tribute to Alexander McQueen.  Some beautiful work.  See you next week.

Series 4: I Know You By Heart

By late 2005, my mom’s memory was severely declining.  She no longer recognized family members and her conversations were limited. This is my fourth post in this series.  Go to the personal storytelling category link to read the first three in this series.

My mom was the family archivist.  She meticulously compiled photo albums that documented our families history from the late 1800’s through early 2000.  Now in my possession, I felt a responsibility to store, share and honor her commitment to keeping such an accurate account of our past.  It’s funny because I think at some level my mom realized what was happening to her.  She put post it notes on every item in her home that was of any value, indicating who gave it to her, the year, and its relevance.

I heard a song during this time called “I Know You by Heart” by Eva Cassidy.  This artist and song resonated with me and our changing relationship.  This song was the basis for a new piece of work that marked a new stage in my mother’s illness.  Here is a clip.

The vintage dress form (shown below) was the basis for my new piece. I liked how it reflected so much about my mother—a seamstress, daughter, mother, grandmother and friend to many.  Shredding memories was an important part of the process.  I shredded copied photos and pages from her high school scrap book—don’t worry the pages I shredded were football stats–my mom kept everything!  All of these fragments were pieces and parts of her memory and life scattered chaotically throughout the piece.  It really didn’t matter that my mom couldn’t remember any longer.  It just meant I was going to have to work harder to remember her by heart.

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

Marilyn Stevens, 2005, I Know You by Heart, 14 x 43

Breaking the Veils

I went to the art exhibit, Breaking the Veils this weekend at St Catherine’s University in St Paul, MN. It is an extraordinary collection of works by women artists who live in Islamic countries. While the work spans a variety of mediums and subject matter, there is a common underlying theme which challenges the typical stereotypes attached to women in the Islamic World. The exhibit contains work by established women artists; some live behind veils, some do not.

My friend and I discussed how difficult it is to start a conversation about misunderstandings between cultures, especially those that lack direct exposure and interactions in our daily lives. Where do you start?  The idea of the show is to illustrate that we all have something in common. That “something” is the essence of all art. It is the spirit of creativity and humanity.  Through this exhibit they are helping to break the veils of misunderstanding and ignorance.

I decided to explore this idea further.  What connection could I make to these women artist? I chose Hana Mal Allah whose work I was drawn to for her utilization of organic materials. Her abstract work was comprised of paper, cardboard and textiles among other substances mostly in their original forms and colors.  There seemed to be clear signs referring to humanitarian issues. You have to see this piece in person because this photo doesn’t do it justice.  Each of those squares are pulled back pieces of fabric with frayed edges.

Hana Mal Allah. (Iraq, 1960). Moving. (1995). Oil on canvas. (80 X 80 cm).

Upon further research I discovered that Hana and I are two years apart in age. Though we lived in different parts of the world we were experiencing similar things from very different perspectives.   Hana Mal Allah experienced life during and after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. As one of the last artists to leave Baghdad, she witnessed some of Iraq’s darkest days. But through her art, Hana sought to bring freedom of expression and life into a war-torn landscape.

Hana wants to make sure her works are properly displayed in order to communicate her life, her memories of war and how they shape her art. Just with this little bit of effort I found many things we share and hope to have the chance some day to connect our worlds.

Breaking the Veils

Women Artists From The Islamic World

February 6 – April 1, 2010

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