Saturday, November 30, 2013

We are in Cuenca

On Thursday we flew from Quito to Cuenca in the evening—less than an hour flying time. It was Thanksgiving in the US and we were enjoying the pictures of turkeys and pie that our friends were posting on Facebook and feeling maybe a little regret at missing our favorite holiday. Our son-in-law's mother and sister met us at the airport and we arrived to their home to find more of the family and a full-on Thanksgiving dinner awaiting us. Given that the holiday is unknown In Ecuador and the turkey and traditional meal are not at all common fare in Ecuador, this was an amazing effort on their part and such a sweet and generous thing to do that we were very touched. This is a wonderful family.

We will be here for a few more days and are having a great time in this great city. Cuenca, a Unesco World Heritage site, is Ecuador's most beautiful city, filled with grand Spanish colonial buildings and beautiful plazas and churches. Our first outing, the day after we arrived, was to go to the city market with Chela, Cayo's mother. It is the most colorful, clean and bounteous market I have ever seen.

Just the beginning...

Chela checks the corn.

Fruits familiar and unfamiliar. I think the big prickly ones are guanabana.

Potatoes of all kinds.

"Chancho" is the Quechua word for pig and used instead of puerco in Ecuador. Whole roast pig, like this is called hornado. She can carve off as much, and whichever parts you want. She will pull off a bit of meat for you to taste. It is so delicious! (But the head really grosses me out) Note the curled tail intact.

Beans and delicious "tostado"—roasted corn.

Tree tomatoes, the source of that wonderful juice.

A feast for the eyes and the palate. Buen provecho!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Yesterday we went to one of my most favorite places in Ecuador, the home/museum/studio of Ecuador's most famous artist, Oswaldo Guyasamin, as well as his creation, La Capella del Hombre—The Chapel of Man, filled with his work and dedicated to the cause of ending war, human suffering and human enslavement. Guyasamin died in 1999, before the Capella was finished. We have visited the Capella del a hombre before and it is always a very moving experience. In the past photos were allowed and I posted them on a family Ecuador blog, but this time they did not allow photos either inside the Capella nor in the house, just up the hill that has become a museum since we were here before. So my photos are exteriors only.

La Capella del Hombre

This was the first time we were able to tour the house and studio—a beautiful place, filled with his collections of indigenous, colonial and modern art, including works by Matisse, Chagall, Picasso and others, as well as his own work. 

Guyasamin is internationally known, except in the United States, which seems to me a terrible thing. I suspect his politics, especially his friendship with Fidel Castro might be at least part of the reason. I find his work both deeply meaningful as well as aesthetically beautiful.  I could not leave this without showing at least some of it. These are poor photos, taken from postcards I purchased yesterday.

An early anti-war image.

From a series called "Faces of Ecuador". This represents the Africans enslaved by the Spanish in Ecuador, whose descendants still live here.

And my favorite, "Tenderness" part of a series about families and especially mothers and children, painted late in his life.

You can see my earlier photos from La Capella del Hombre and Guyasamin on our Ecuador blog at   Scroll down to the 4th and 6th entries.  Sorry, I don't seem to be able to embed direct links.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Revisiting favorite places

Today we were feeling more acclimated to the altitude and ready to get out and around and before seeking something new, we decided today was a good day to revisit some of our favorite places in Quito. We started in "Gringolandia" the nickname for the Mariscal district of Quito–once the neighborhood of the wealthiest families of Quito, it has been, for years, an area of hostels and caf├ęs and tour companies catering to American travelers. We became fond of The Magic Bean, a coffee house and restaurant there on our very first visit to Ecuador in 1999 and have been back every visit. The breakfasts are great and there is just something about the place that is welcoming–good energy. It doesn't change, though the whole of Gringolandia has seen a lot of changes since we were last here.

Our angel in Quito, who made all our arrangements and researched the dental clinic and takes care of us in Quito is Ani, the sister of our son-in-law and dear friend of our daughter. We had breakfast with Ani this morning at the same table where we first met her 10 years ago. That's Ani at the end of the table!

After breakfast we walked toward the Artisan's Market and stopped at a favorite gallery. It has the best of the local art and craft and is always inspiring.

A mirror framed in small, handmade vignettes of Indigenous life. Detail below. Amazing.

When we got to the Artisans Market we discovered a camera crew following the reigning "Queen of Quito" who was being interviewed while strolling through the market. Ani insisted that she take our picture with her.

Ray says his life is now complete!

We got a little Christmas shopping done at the market, then headed into the Centro Historico, the birthplace of Quito. The oldest church in Ecuador, The convent of San Francisco, was started in 1534. many of the buildings in the historic center are nearly as old. It is a vibrant, bustling area, filled with pedestrians, small shops and street vendors amidst the grand and ancient buildings.

hats for sale.

The Basilica.

The hill is called the Panecillo (little bread loaf), the statue is the Virgin of Quito, the very iconic symbol of Quito.

Before returning to our hotel for Andy's appointment, we went to the Museum of the City of Quito.  It was a grand day.

Someone asked about why Andy was having his dental implants done in Ecuador, instead of the US. The cost quoted in Portland was heart-stopping. My daughter lived in Ecuador for 5 years and knew of people going there for complicated dental work at about half the US price, including travel costs. Ani did the research in Quito and found an excellent Dr. And Clinic. Andy went down in June for the preliminary work and is now back for the permanent teeth. So far we have been very impressed with the Dr. And his work. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

From the equator

This is a test post from Ecuador. I think I have set everything up on Ray's iPad so that I can post photos, so here goes:

I stepped outside our little hotel this morning and took this photo of the typical residential scene in Quito, across the street. Quito lies in a long valley high in the Andes and mornings are usually misty with clouds rolling down the sides of the green valley.

This photo is a little dark, but is the typical Ecuadorean breakfast of bread, coffee and tree tomato juice. Eggs came later. The flavors of this breakfast are very specific memories to me, especially the wonderful juice, so it was a nostalgic pleasure to sit down to this this morning.

I am feeling tired and somewhat affected by the altitude today, so I'm taking it easy. If this post works I will try to post some more interesting photos in the coming days.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963

Friday, November 22, 1963

This is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. Today the president of the United States was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

The day started out normally. At 11:45 (MST) I went to government class. When I got into the room, I was greeted with the news that the president and the governor of Texas had been shot in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. I didn't believe it. I thought that it was some sort of joke or wild rumor that had been started. About 30 minutes later our teacher, James Wagstaff, confirmed the report. He said that Mrs. Kennedy had been sitting between the governor and Mr. Kennedy, she had not been hit, but that the two men were in a Dallas hospital in critical condition.

At about 12:40 our principal, C.H. Teuscher, came over the loudspeaker system. I believe these to be his words: "This is one of the saddest days in the history of our nation. Our president, John F. Kennedy, was shot at 12:25 PM and died at approximately 1:00 PM." The entire class sat in stunned silence. Then our teacher left the room with tears in his eyes. Most of the members of the class were crying, both boys and girls. I couldn't really believe it was true.

We were let out for lunch and I have never been in such a depressing atmosphere. A lot of the  students and teachers were crying, there was a stillness about the building. Two friends and I went down the street to the Catholic Church. We went inside and sat and prayed for a long time. The church was very full of people.

The two afternoon classes were lost to the cause of educating. There was a lot of quiet talk, some anger and a lot of sitting, staring into space and disbelief. One girl said, "I don't know why everyone's so upset, people die everyday. He wasn't God or anything." I feel very sorry for that girl.

Upon arriving at home this evening, I saw on television, the swearing in of the new president. He is Lyndon B. Johnson, former Vice-president. He was sworn into office in a plane from Dallas to Washington D.C. by a woman federal judge.

From what I have been able to find out, the president was shot in the temple and through the neck.

All the people of the United States feel grief tonight. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a good, wise man and a great president.

As a 17-year-old High School Senior I think I needed to write all this because I knew I never wanted to forget any detail of that day. What I didn't know was that I would never need my written account to remember. It has never left me. I folded the three pages into a small rectangle and tucked them into my jewelry box, which has traveled with me for the past 50 years.

Rest in Peace, Mr. President. We have not forgotten.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Artist's Statement


Remember about a month ago I posted that silly, pretentious internet-generated Artist's Statement? (here)  Then I told you that for the next SAQA meeting our assignment was to write a real Artist's Statement for ourselves—we are working through all those tiresome " how to be professional" topics. Today was the next meeting and we brought our statements. Here is mine, a work in progress.

My artwork begins as memory—impressions of places I've been, people I have known, the world around me, yesterday's walk, last summer's garden. Memory is imperfect, exaggerating certain things, discarding others altogether. And similarly, while my work may resemble something real, it is reality edited, biased, and colored by time and circumstance. I am always hoping to connect to the part of the memory that held meaning for me, regardless of absolute accuracy.

Recently I have begun using recycled clothing fabric, which seems to come to me with its own memories. It has a depth and richness that I respond to. My background in painting and drawing is fundamental to what I do, but I choose to work with fabric for its familiarity and emotional connection to our human experience. 

It seemed to be pretty well received. It was shorter and different from most of the others. I actually kind of enjoyed writing it. Does it sound pretentious? I hope not. Would it enhance your interest in looking at my work?

It was illuminating to hear the statements others wrote. Some were quite good. I especially liked one that started out something like, "there are already too many hard edges in the world and so I work with fabric..."  Many people seemed to include a lot of biographical information and we were pretty well agreed that a biography is a different document—the statement should be about the art. The exception would be when the artist's history is directly related to the art—"After retiring from a 30-year career as a civil engineer, I now make art about bridges..."

After hearing about 10 different statements I began to notice oft-repeated phrases about "learning needlework from my mother (grandmother)..." and how "I love color..." and "I am inspired by Nature..." While all those things probably are true for the person who wrote them, they have become overused and generic. Better, we decided, to convey that idea through a more personal example like "my past as a circus clown instilled in me a love of bold, saturated color and polka dots..." There were some statements that were heavy on technique details, which we discussed. Some people felt that was an essential part of the statement, others disagreed. I am usually put off by technique descriptions in artist's statements. In general I think technique should be transparent when you view art. Of course it is always the other artists who are interested in technique!

It was a useful and engaging discussion. Nice to leave a meeting feeling like your brain has gotten a little workout.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Heading to the middle of the world...

It has been nearly a week since I posted on this blog. It has been a busy one. On Saturday I drove to the The Dalles, Oregon to talk to the Columbia Gorge Quilt Guild about the Twelve by Twelve project. It was a rainy, gray drive through the Gorge, but even in such weather it is still one of my favorite drives.

The quilt guild was lovely—warm and welcoming—and I managed to embarrass myself by allowing the battery in my laptop to deplete while I was waiting to talk, so when I started my talk, a couple slides in, it conked out and I could not show the planned slide show. Fortunately I had brought copies of the book and my Twelve by Twelve quilts so I just talked and showed the quilts. Thanks, probably to that terror-induced adrenaline rush, I found myself telling stories and even making the audience laugh. I think it was OK in the end, but geez, how dumb was that?

We are leaving this Saturday for three weeks in Ecuador. We will be standing on the equator, as we were doing in the photo above, taken 10 years ago, while visiting our daughter who was living in Ecuador at that time. That's my sister-in-law, Jamie; me, daughter, Emily; brother-in-law, Roy; Ray; and son, Andy. The yellow line we are straddling is where the equator runs. We each have one foot in the southern hemisphere and one foot in the northern hemisphere. Behind us is the monument and museum called "Mitad del Mundo," or the "Middle of the World."

This trip is mainly for our son Andy to finish the dental work he went to Ecuador in June to start. I wrote about it here. He will get his permanent dental implants on this trip and Ray and I decided to go with him. We will try to plan some side trips and times to visit with our son-in-law's family while there, but I am also looking forward to relaxing, eating some good Ecuadorean food, drawing, revisiting some of our favorite places and doing my Christmas shopping in the indigenous markets while there! I will try to blog, but it remains to be seen how difficult or easy that may be. So, if I seem to be missing, I am!

Back to laundry, ironing and packing...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quilting, quilting, quilting

I have been quilting the piece I am working on for the past two days.  Sometimes I refer to this as "the boring part" and sometimes it is, but it can also be kind of inspiring as I improvise the stitching design. This particular piece has some color combinations in it that are so pretty and fun to watch under the needle. In the end this is why I love working with fabric. The stitching transforms it. 

On a practical note, I find that I can manage quilting a big piece better if I can roll and/or fold the parts I am not currently working on to keep the quilt from dragging or hanging up on the table edge as I work. I have tried pinning it, using clothes pins and even bicycle clips to manage it. None of these worked very well. Awhile back I found some little clips that worked pretty well, but they didn't prove to be sturdy enough and most had broken, so I went looking for something to replace them. 

I found these at Harbor Freight—same basic design, but a little bigger and sturdier.  They worked great! (And were very affordable at .59 each). Thought I'd pass that info along....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Judith's Garden

This piece was created in 2005 for a guild challenge on the theme "the unexpected". The original title was "Judith's garden was unexpectedly successful this year". The use of one of the printed floral fabrics, designed by Jane Sassaman, was part of the challenge. I added additional Jane Sassamon florals, individually cutting out the floral motifs to combine into a new floral design.

The figure of Judith is my own design, created in Illustrator and inkjet printed onto cotton fabric.  The fused composition was layered and machine stitched and quilted. This piece was the first place winner in the challenge competition and one of the pieces I have most enjoyed making in all of my quiltmaking experience.

Though a favorite, Judith languished in my closet for several years, then Virginia Spiegel invited several artists to donate a quilt to be auctioned for her "FiberArt for a Cause" fundraiser for Cancer research. I knew this was a wonderful opportunity for Judith to go out into the world and do some good. She was purchased through the auction by Del Thomas, who had already purchased at least one small piece of mine. Del is a collector who lives in Placentia, California. She has since become a dear friend and was the generous angel who made the Twelve by Twelve exhibits possible in Houston, Cincinnati and Long Beach. As the owner of the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection, Del is the friend of quilt artists everywhere. A couple years ago, because of her longtime support and patronage, the Visions Art Museum in San Diego named one of their galleries for her.

Right now, one of the exhibits at the Visions Art Museum is "Recent Acquisitions from the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection" and Judith is a part of the exhibit. I'm so proud of her! If you are in the area you can see it there until January 19. Information here:

So, perhaps you are wondering who Judith is? She is no one, in fact. I designed the face and put the quilt together. The first time my friend Beth saw it she asked what the gardener's name was. I confessed I hadn't thought of a name yet. I had referred to her only as "garden lady." "She looks like a Judith," said Beth. And Judith she is.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What you see....

Last week I got  nice email from a woman who reads my blog, with a photo attached of her standing in front of my "Red Domes" quilt, which is part of the High Fiber Diet "Simply Red " exhibit that is currently on display in Coos Bay, Oregon. She said she had watched its progress on my blog and so when she saw it was going to be in the exhibit there she was interested in seeing it in person. It was one of those really nice gestures from someone I didn't even know and it made my day.

Meanwhile, I have been working away on the piece for submission to another show and those submitting to this show have been asked not to show any progress photos on blogs or other online sites. Since this is a pretty big project, it leaves me with little to share here. I would love to be sharing some of that process and decision-making, but I will comply with their request. I understand that they feel the resulting exhibit will be fresher if pieces have not already been seen online, but thinking back to my nice message from last week, I wonder if instead they are missing a possible building of interest in the show that might be gained by engaging the potential audience in the artists' processes and previews of some of the work in progress.  My own experience of art over the years is that seeing a work of art in a book or on TV or online makes me want to see it in person. Indeed I have traveled great distances and spent plenty of money to see art that I knew first as a reproduced image. And it is always worth it. It is always better in person. Always. And it is always thrilling to discover that.

So I won't show it, but I don't like that rule and I hope it might be reconsidered next time around.  My piece is coming along. I started quilting it today. In time I can show the completed piece either if it is selected and even sooner if it is not. But you won't be seeing the front of it as it develops. Here is the back–quite different from the front, but kind of interesting in its own right, I think.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Odds and ends

In my last post I mentioned the cool piece, by Abby Miller, that Sofia and I saw at the Portland Art Museum. The link I posted was wrong, but a couple of people were nice enough to send me good links. This is a cool video of Abby Miller putting the piece together with zippers in a exhibition setting.

Here is the actual piece. It is really pretty cool. Large enough to stand under. She had several similar pieces in the Portland show, but this red one really stood out.

On a different note—There is a discussion going on on the QuiltArt list about art and craft and the differences or not. It is an oft-repeated discussion as new people join the list, but it is always interesting. I think what I have learned through so many of these discussions is that the word "art" is imprecise and defined in many ways, and after staunchly defending my definition for years, I no longer really care. If you want to call a velvet Elvis painting art, that's fine with me.  One of the elements of this morning's discussion revolved around quilts and whether bed quilts are art or not or if they aren't originally art, do they become art when you hang them on the wall? As it happens, I have an old wool quilt hanging on the wall in my living room. It was undoubtedly made, originally, for a bed. I told the story of how I came into its possession back here.

Is it art now that it is hanging on the wall? Not by my own personal definition, but what it is, is something handmade and beautiful and something I still love looking at. Which, when I think about it, may be one definition of art after all.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Art date

Sofia did not have school today so we went to the Art Museum. We took the MAX train from Beaverton to downtown. It was a crispy, foggy day and as we walked through the South Park blocks toward the museum the leaves were falling from the trees and swirling around us. I love this about Portland—so many trees and open spaces in the heart of the city. The changing seasons keep the city real and alive.

I had heard that the Samurai exhibit was wonderful and it truly is. It is mostly Japanese Samurai armor from the 16th and 17th centuries. Somewhat surprisingly it is a special treat for those of us who love fibers and finishes and embellishments and details.

Looks like this guy is peering over the edge of the rock at Sofia doesn't it?

The piece below was fascinating. This is mostly intricately woven and plaited silk cording. The texture and pattern were really interesting and I would loved to have been able to handle it and look at the inside for more clues as to how it was done.

The exhibit was set up beautifully, with dozens of these armors, including horse armor and fantastical helmets. The black and white graphic crests on the wall behind the displays indicate the families the armor came from.

Sofia and I agreed on the one below as our favorite. We are both suckers for red and turquoise!

We found some postcards in the Museum shop—we always buy postcards to remember our visits to the museum—and headed down toward Pioneer Courthouse Square, looking for someplace for lunch. We settled on Elephant's Deli, a Portland favorite, and Sofia declared their mac and cheese "excellent." We walked down to the square and caught the MAX train back to our suburban environs.

I love going to the museum with Sofia. What a treat for both of us. I wish I had been able to visit a first-class art museum easily as a child. I enjoy Sofia's "critiques" of the art and what particular things she notices. We wandered through another exhibit of regional work and she sniffed at one piece, "I could have done that." I had to agree. Then she became completely entranced with this Abby Miller construction that is pieced vinyl that is constructed with long zippers that allow it to fit over a metal armature. It was big, it was red, it was sewn, it was shiny! I liked it too.