Thursday, January 20, 2011

More on Mary Belle's Book

Cover of altered book for Mary Belle

Last post I shared a few pages in the altered book I've been working on. I originally thought this book would be for all four of my great-grandmothers, but it turned out I needed the whole book for Mary Belle Denhart Wheeler. So here are some more page spreads and a bit of Mary's history.

Mary Belle's rug and painting with a photograph of Mary
and one of "Cousin Carrie"

Mary was a creative person. She painted, sewed, and hooked rugs. On the left above, Mary poses for her picture. I'm intrigued that she covered her mouth. She had a beautiful full mouth, the kind women pay thousands for today. I wonder if she was self-conscious about it, as a small rosebud mouth was more in vogue when she was young. Behind her is a closeup of the only hooked rug I have of hers. Unfortunately many of the rugs that have been scattered throughout the family have deteriorated beyond saving. Mine isn't in very good shape, but I'm going to cherish it as long as I can. On the right is the only painting I have of Mary's.

The little lost children

I have cabinet photographs of the three children of Mary's who died as infants. I can't imagine the sorrow so many parents endured before the advent of antibiotics. The children's names were: Beatrice, Esperence, and Henry. This page spread honors them.

A photograph pocket and my grandmother,
great-aunt, and great-uncle. Gretchen,
Pauline, and Harry lived into old age.

Mary with Harry on left, with Mary's embroidered
hassock cover in the background. Right, Mary with her three
children in 1947.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Overcoming SASAD

Mary Belle Page Spread 1

I began working on the above altered book to counteract a condition I suffer from in winter--Seasonal Affective Studio Avoidance Disorder!

Do you have symptoms of this widespread syndrome?

1. A desire to sleep 12 hours a night
2. A marked tendency to stay awake during the night, ruminating on all the embarrassing things you said and did in high school
3. An urgent need to spring clean your house in January
4. Despite being accepted at six art retreats in 2011, you decide you're probably nothing but a humbug
5. Undersocializing

This syndrome is seen to be particularly acute in those who just purchased their first TV in 20 years and who are now enabled to watch streaming netflix on said TV.

I fit all the above criteria, so I figured I needed to help myself before it was Too Late. Because of # 4 above, I have some assignments to do. I picked one and forced myself to work. I'll show you some of it below. I am happy to report I am now working in my studio more often, though I have a way to go before I am completely cured.

I'm creating an altered book journal of my four great-grandmothers. One I knew well, one I remember a little, and the other two I never met. As my PSU women's studies students know, I am fervent about the importance of women's stories, especially ordinary women. I'm lucky to know some about my ancestors and how they lived.

This section of the book is dedicated to Mary Belle Denhart Wheeler. She was a milliner before her marriage and a couture quality seamstress all her life. She made her own clothes and hats and those of her daughters. You can see this theme reflected in the above book pages.

Mary must have learned to sew from her mother, Gertrude, who appears in the left side of the book page below. Gertrude once shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln, so that gives you a time frame for her. On the right is the earliest picture I have of Mary. Mary's grandfather, Jacob Denhart, came from Kassell, Germany where he apparently grew up in the castle the city is named for. He must have been the son of a servant of some kind.

Gertrude (left) and Mary (right)
I used some paper I designed digitally, old material, old buttons and salvaged trim. Plaids and strips were popular in Gertrude's youth.

Mary Belle married Benjamin Wheeler of whom I know little. He designed and built houses in Eugene, Oregon. He died when my grandmother, Pauline, was in college. When I was a child I asked grandma Pauline what her father was like. She replied, "Oh, he wasn't worth much." Oh, okaaay. Wow. So go the family secrets!

I am lucky to have great grandma Mary's picture postcard collection. Here are some reproductions along with her picture. The mysterious Ben is on the left.

I'll be teaching a class on creating a journal like this at Art and Soul New Orleans this summer. Hope you find this idea inspiring. I'll post more of the book as I go. I'd love to hear ideas from other SASDA sufferers--united we can conquer this dread condition!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First Workshop of 2011

Straw Into Gold
Mixed Media Assemblage

Happy New Year! I'm getting ready for an exciting year of classes at my studio and at several art retreats. I'm starting the year with one of my favorites:

Join me for for a rollicking, banish-the-winter-blues workshop!

Assemble Yourself!

January 22, 2011 12-5

The Art of Your Life Studio
SE 80th between Salmon St. and Taylor Court

We'll meet at the SCRAP store (School & Community Reuse Action Project) at noon. Your goal is to spend 10.00 or less, collecting all kinds of found objects, paper, fabric, and valuable junk. When we go to the studio, you'll create a 3-D collage that expresses your dreams, using the supplies you found at SCRAP. More supplies, including cigar boxes, will be available for you in the studio. You'll leave with a unique assemblage, perfect for a special gift or cherished keepsake. Tuition: 65.

Register here
or contact me for more information.