My first solo Art Quilt Show Opens June 15 at Sleepy Creek Vineyards

Mark yer calendars! My first Art Quilt Show opens June 15 at Sleepy Creek Vineyards in hip, happenin’ rural-area-between-Urbana-and-Danville, IL.

Nina Paley Art Quilt Show 2013

Art Quilts will be on the walls June 15-September 15, 2013

Opening: June 15
Reception: 6pm
Screening of Sita Sings the Blues: 8pm

Sleepy Creek Vineyards is three miles south of Oakwood, Illinois, just off Interstate 74 between Danville and Champaign, IL.
Address:  8254 E 1425 North Rd., Fairmount, IL 61841
Phone: 217-733-0330
Directions

Want to see the place? Sleepy Creek has a funny webseries you can watch right now! My favorite is episode 6, it cracks me up.

Share/Bookmark

Blogger’s Quilt Festival – Air/Nude

Update June 3: This is cool – it won the “Art Quilt” category!

Air/Nude is from 2011, and it remains my favorite piece of quilt artwork. So I’m reposting it for the Blogger’s Quilt Festival.

Air/Nude is 77″ x 23″ (yielding a life-size figure) unbleached cotton muslin, cotton batting, polyester thread.

She counts as “Air” in my 4 Eelements quilt series (my first large-ish quilts ever) because that’s what the model is wearing. Also, unless you look carefully you see nothing, just like air.

The photo above links to a super high res, 3,000-pixel-high version so you can zoom in on all the detail. These detail shots link to 960-pixel-high versions:
Evident everywhere is the influence of Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting Project. In the section above you can see Free Motion Quilting basics like Basic SpiralPebbling,FeathersEcho Rainbow, and Stippling, along with some of Leah’s signature designs like Brain CoralSpaghetti and MeatballsFlame StitchOcean Current,WormholesGoldilocksChain of PearlsPebble MazeTrailing Spirals, and Circuit Board. I started filling in the quilt on the right side, just over the foot where those very dense spirals are, and worked my way around counter-clockwise.

By the time I got to the head I had internalized many of those stitches, which became part of my vocabulary. It becomes difficult (and probably pointless) to say which patterns are “mine,” which are “Leah Day’s,” which are derived from vague memories of pen-and-ink shading patterns and old Zip-A-Tones, and which are simply failed imitations. (“Originality is failed imitation” – someone on Facebook. Bill Benzon, maybe?). Some of the spirally flame patterns I used in Fire return for a cameo here.

I had bountiful opportunities to try new stitches and patterns. As long as the negative spaces were densely quilted, it didn’t matter what was in them. I tried various hexagonal-based “snowlflake” patterns, like the one above. In the midst of my experiments, Leah posted this Icicle Lights pattern, which is much easier than hex-based ones. Below it is an homage to DNA molecules, and a “scaly micropebbling” experiment.

As you can see, the nude depicted is a real woman-person, not a professional model. Who was the model, you ask? Suffice to say I will not be sharing the “pattern” as open source code. You’re welcome to copy this quilt, but you’ll have to reverse-engineer it, or use another model.

Here’s what she looked like before stretching. Maybe vanity drove me to it – I may be a little saggy, but I’m not that saggy. The subtle white-on-white quilting technique relies entirely on shadow to reveal texture and outline, and only works if light hits the surface evenly from the side. The quilt was professionally stretched on canvas stretchers by 567 Framing. It took 2 and a half weeks, but was worth the wait.

Here’s “Air” leaning against the wall with her friends EarthWater, and Fire, in my former apartment in New York City. I brought all these quilts with me when I moved to Urbana IL last Summer. Some of them will be in my upcoming art show at Sleepy Creek Vineyards – stay tuned!

 

My Tile Obsession Will Taper Off Eventually

I can already feel it slowing down, which means I’ll have to find something useful to do soon. Meanwhile I wanted to see the morphing tiles as a 2-color map. Easier said than done: Flash crashes every time I try to convert the various symbols making up the outline into “shapes,” so I had to export a PNG and use the clunky old paint bucket in Photoshop. There’s an ugly thick outline I added to close gaps, in order to make said paint bucket work. But at least my 2-color curiosity is now satisfied.

It reminds me of the far-more-awesome M.C. Escher Metamorphosis poster I had in college. And although the thick outline and various other flaws make not-print-worthy, yesterday I made a color version that is:

I ordered a few yards of it from Spoonflower. I can’t wait – once I start quilting this stuff I might get re-obsessed for days!

Polyester Silk Shedu Obsession

If I had known how long this would take, and how unable I would be to do or think about anything else, I would never have started. But I didn’t know, so on Sunday I bought some polyester “silk”, because I’ve long wanted to quilt on silk and this was on sale and pretty and no silkworms were harmed and I could just experiment with it.

Pleased with my previous shedu quilt, I decided to make another, but with smaller, more oblong “bricks.” I cut strips and sewed them together, then cut those into more strips and sewed them in a staggered, brick-like pattern.

I’d heard polyester silk was difficult to work with, but didn’t know exactly why. Now I know. It unravels into fuzz everywhere that gets tangled in your machine.

If you don’t lock the seams down quickly, it feels like the whole thing will disintegrate. It stretches every which way, making precision cutting impossible. It’s slippery.

On the other hand, it’s beautifully iridescent and, well, silky. It’s vegan; no worms are harmed in its production. Unlike real silk, it doesn’t attract moths or other insects. It could survive an apocalypse. Needles glide through it easily. It doesn’t show needle holes, so you can rip out mistake seams with little evidence. Anyway, once I started working with it I felt I’d invested too much to stop.

I pieced together a set of gold bricks and a set of blue. Then I traced my Shedu design onto a solid gold piece, pinning down both the fabric and the paper design to minimize slippage.

I layered, basted (I had to baste about 3x tighter than usual, because the polyester is so slippery) and free-motion quilted it in light blue thread. (Speaking of fre-motion quilting, here’s a link-back to Leah Day’s blog.)

For the dark blue Shedu, I traced the same design onto while polyester silk – the blue was too dark to see through – and quilted with gold thread in the bobbin.

Flipped over, it looked just fine.

Basting and quilting the backgrounds was a huge pain, and some distortion was inevitable. I’ve heard of this thing called “fabric stabilizer” you’re supposed to use in cases like these. If I ever use poly silk again – and I swore “never again” over and over like a mantra throughout most of this project – I will try fabric stabilizer.

I thread basted the shedu trapplique cut-out onto the background, and satin-stiched it down with polyester thread.

Everything in this quilt is pure polyester – polyester fabric, polyester batting, polyester thread – except the cotton backing, which I chose for some stability.

I pinned hanging triangles on the back, and sewed them down into the binding.

I felt an urgency to finish the binding quickly, because all those little polyester threads were unraveling everywhere and needed to be locked inside. And locked inside they were – the finished pair of quilts looks nice and clean, and even feels somewhat strong.

The wide-angle lens on my pocket camera distorts these; the edges are actually pretty straight and the corners square.

They’re now hanging over my boyfriend’s bed, guarding the gates of our dreams.

TLIM Quilt on the Auction Block!

TLIM quilt darkI’ve had some requests for This Land Is Mine quilts. I can produce a small edition of them if the price is right and the buyers are there. The question is: how to price them? I’ve sold signed limited-edition prints in the past for $350-$500. This quilt is essentially a print on fabric, but requires an additional day of work for me to layer, free-motion quilt, and bind it (and sign it too of course). So I’d want no less than $500 a piece. However, it’s technically a quilt, one of the most under-valued art forms out there. Plus it’s rather small (about 34″ square), and meant for the wall – not even a particularly useful quilt. And it’s not even pieced.

So I’m doing an experiment: auctioning this one on eBay.

If you have other ideas about pricing more artist-made, signed TLIM quilts, let me know in the comments. What would you pay? What size edition would be acceptable? Would an open edition make any difference? Realistically, I probably don’t have time or stamina to make more than maybe 10 of these, so I could easily claim “50” as the limit to an edition and it would functionally be open. Any other thoughts most welcome.

And you can bid on it here.

Shedu quilt

This is a Shedu on a background inspired by the blue-glazed bricks of the Ishtar Gate. It combines trapplique with pieced quilting – my first! It’s approximately 42″ x 29″.

My Shedu design laser-printed on 6 pieces of letter paper and taped together. To maximize size I allowed gaps in the margins.

The design traced onto light fabric with an air erasable marker, layered, basted, and free-motion quilted in white thread.

I used scissors to cut out the Shedu as close to the sewing line as possible, then thread basted it onto the background which I previously free-motion quilted with simple spirals.

shedu quiltFinally I satin-stitched “the snot out of it” as (Leah Day would say), machine-bound it (with fast-finish triangles on the back), and hung it on the wall. The trapplique gives a lovely bas-relief effect. The air-erasable marker is still faintly visible, but will fade fully in a few days.

Canaan Quilt?

Months ago I had the idea to design some This Land Is Mine fabric, get it printed by Spoonflower, and quilt on it. But I never got around to the designing part until today. What do you think? Light background, or dark? The design of This Land Is Mine was inspired by Assyrian wall reliefs, and this expands on the style. I’ve never used Spoonflower before but it seems worth a try.

dark background

This Land Is Mine

I envisioned This Land Is Mine as the last scene of my potential-possible-maybe- feature film, Seder-Masochism, but it’s the first (and so far only) scene I’ve animated. As the Bible says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

This Land Is Mine from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide

Because you can’t tell the players without a pogrom!

Early Man

 

Early Man
This generic “cave man” represents the first human settlers in Israel/Canaan/the Levant. Whoever they were.

Canaanite

 

 

Canaanite
What did ancient Canaanites look like? I don’t know, so this is based on ancient Sumerian art.

Ancient Egyptian

 

 

Egyptian
Canaan was located between two huge empires. Egypt controlled it sometimes, and…

Assyrian

 

 

Assyrian
….Assyria controlled it other times.

Israelite

 

 

Israelite
The “Children of Israel” conquered the shit out of the region, according to bloody and violent Old Testament accounts.

Babylonian

 

 

Babylonian
Then the Baylonians destroyed their temple and took the Hebrews into exile.

Macedonian/Alexander

 

 

 

Macedonian/Greek
Here comes Alexander the Great, conquering everything!

Greek

 

 

Greek/Macedonian
No sooner did Alexander conquer everything, than his generals divided it up and fought with each other.

Ptolmaic

 

 

Ptolemaic
Greek descendants of Ptolemy, another of Alexander’s competing generals, ruled Egypt dressed like Egyptian god-kings. (The famous Cleopatra of western mythology and Hollywood was a Ptolemy.)

Seleucid

 

 

Seleucid
More Greek-Macedonian legacies of Alexander.

 

Hebrew Priest

Hebrew Priest
This guy didn’t fight, he just ran the Second Temple re-established by Hebrews in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile.

Maccabee

Maccabee
Led by Judah “The Hammer” Maccabee, who fought the Seleucids, saved the Temple, and invented Channukah. Until…

 

Roman

 

Roman
….the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and absorbed the region into the Roman Empire…

Byzantine

 

 

Byzantine
….which split into Eastern and Western Empires. The eastern part was called the Byzantine Empire. I don’t know if “Romans” ever fought “Byzantines” (Eastern Romans) but this is a cartoon.

 

Caliph

 

 

Arab Caliph
Speaking of cartoon, what did an Arab Caliph look like? This was my best guess.

Crusader

 

 

Crusader
After Crusaders went a-killin’ in the name of Jesus Christ, they established Crusader states, most notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Egyptian Mamluk

 

 

Mamluk of Egypt
Wikipedia sez, “Over time, mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies…In places such as Egypt from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be “true lords”, with social status above freeborn Muslims.[7]” And apparently they controlled Palestine for a while.

 

Ottoman Turk

 

Ottoman Turk
Did I mention this is a cartoon? Probably no one went to battle looking like this. But big turbans, rich clothing and jewelry seemed to be in vogue among Ottoman Turkish elites, according to paintings I found on the Internet.

Arab

 

 

Arab
A gross generalization of a generic 19-century “Arab”.

 

British

British
The British formed alliances with Arabs, then occupied Palestine. This cartoon is an oversimplification, and uses this British caricature as a stand-in for Europeans in general.

Palestinian

 

 

Palestinian
The British occupied this guy’s land, only to leave it to a vast influx of….

European Jew/Zionist

 

European Jew/Zionist
Desperate and traumatized survivors of European pogroms and death camps, Jewish Zionist settlers were ready to fight to the death for a place to call home, but…

Hezbollah

 

 

PLO/Hamas/Hezbollah
….so were the people that lived there. Various militarized resistance movements arose in response to Israel: The Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

State of Israel

 


 

Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/TerroristState of Israel
Backed by “the West,” especially the US, they got lots of weapons and the only sanctioned nukes in the region.

 

Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist
Sometimes people fight in military uniforms, sometimes they don’t. Creeping up alongside are illicit nukes possibly from Iran or elsewhere in the region. Who’s Next?

Angel of Death

 

 

 

and finally…

The Angel of Death
The real hero of the Old Testament, and right now too.

 

Note: If you want to support this project, please notice I have Paypal and Flattr buttons. TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donations accepted via the nonprofit QuestionCopyright.org.

Gatekeepers

Shedus. Designs modified since yesterday’s post.

The Shedu Knows

I know some people will call me anti-semitic (that’s why I have this), but there’s just not that much Jewish art out there. Sure, there’s great art by Jewish artists – I’m no slouch myself. But there’s not much art illustrating Jewish scripture, the books of Moses, the Torah, by Jews. Most illustrations of Exodus are by Christians and this guy; illustrations with historical weight are all almost all found in churches and Bibles, the exception being some illuminated Haggadot from the Middle Ages. Yes, I know there’s Jewish art outside of illustrations: Torah cases, Torah ornaments, Kiddish cups, book covers, candlesticks, textiles. And there’s lots of abstract art: decorated Hebrew letters and symbols. But I’m trying to find a way to illustrate Exodus in animation (see Seder-Masochism), and there’s just not much visual art tradition to build on.

What did ancient Hebrew art look like? Egyptian aesthetics influenced Assyrian art, and vice-versa, and Canaan lay between the two. Surely Egyptian and Assyrian visual art must have influenced Hebrews, just as their mythologies influenced the concept of Yahweh (the “no other gods before me” referred to neighboring deities, at least that what scholars, friends and the interwebs tell me). I can hardly find any pictures of the famous Megiddo Ivories online; I imagine they’d be a great source for me, but what can I do?

Turn to Assyrian art, that’s what.

This shedu is a gatekeeper, part of a pair. I love these things. Why aren’t there more mythical composite animals in Abrahamic religions? The Book of Kells has awesome fanciful creatures, but it’s not Jewish, and the creatures it depicts aren’t overtly mentioned in the text – although the text has been interpreted any and every way, so fanciful creatures might honestly capture its spirit as revealed to the artists. As an artist myself, I know that some things just look cool. Really cool. So cool you don’t care whether they accurately illustrate anything. That’s how I feel about shedus.

Fortunately, shedus may have influenced the Mosaic concept of cherubim. And right there in Exodus, after commanding the Hebrews to not make any graven images, Yahweh commands the Hebrews to make him some graven images of 2 cherubim to put on top of the Ark of the Covenant!

I’m so fascinated by shedus I made my own “shedu puppets” in Flash, with the possibility of animating them. Whether or not I ever make Seder-Masochism, or these guys make it in, I’m happy to be inspired by such great, ancient design.

Gnaana “Avatars of Vishnu” Calendar

http://www.gnaana.com/images/uploads/dir/hindu-cal3.jpg

This came out really nice! A small company called Gnaana used my Avatars of Vishnu art to make a very lovely wall calendar. The art is Free Culture; the printed calendars are rivalrous goods which you can buy here. I just got my copies, and they are really handsome.

Dear Internet, we need better image archives

Dear Internet,

You know what should be really easy to find online? Good quality, Public Domain vintage illustrations. You know, things like this:
Hats / chapéus

I found this on Flickr, where someone claims full copyright on it. That’s copyfraud, but understandable because Flickr’s default license is full copyright (all the more reason to ignore copyright notices!). But copyfraud is not the main problem. The main problem is that images like this are painfully difficult to find online, especially at high resolutions (and this image is only available at medium resolution – up to 604 pixels high, which is barely usable for most purposes but higher than much of what you find online).

The images are out there – and with zillions of antique books being scanned, their vintage illustrations are being scanned right along with them. But the images are buried in the text, and often the scan quality is poor. Images should be scanned at high quality, and tagged for searchability.

Are archives ignoring the value of images?

Take the American Memory archive of the Library of Congress. Lots and lots of historical documents here, but no way for me to find an image of, say, a horse.

Most bookscanning projects focus on texts, not illustrations. Many interesting and useful illustrations are buried within these scans, uncatalogued and inaccessible. Scan quality is set for text, not illustrations, so even if one can find a choice illustration buried within, its quality is usually too low to use.

Archive.org is great (I love you, archive.org!) but does not have an image archive. Still images are not among their “Media Types” (which consist of Moving Images, Texts, Audio, Software, and Education). So I went spelunking through their texts, starting with “American Libraries,” and searched for something easy: “horse.” Surely I could find a nice usable etching of a horse in there somewhere. I eventually found “The Harness Horse” by Sir Walter Gilbey, from 1898.


Nice illustrations! Can I use them? Unfortunately, no. The book is downloadable as PDF and various e-publication formats, but when I try to extract the illustrations, I get a mess:

Copied and pasted from Adobe Acrobat. WTF?

The same image, inverted. Doesn't work.

"Save Image as..." from Acobat. This worked, except where it didn't: part of the image is simply missing.

Clearly something is messed up here. Was it just that page? Alas, no:

This sad image from another page has the same problem

The scans have some flaws that PDFs and Photoshop can’t cope with:

Screen grab of zoomed-in view from Acrobat. What looks like a blur in the PDF renders the image unusable when extracted.

These images are not useable, which is a pity because they are very nice illustrations. And they seem to be among the higher quality scans, which again isn’t saying much.

Let me add that it’s great these books are being scanned at all! That’s definitely better than losing them entirely. But as an artist, it saddens me that we’re neglecting this wealth of visual art. I’d like to see our rich visual history properly archived. Our bias favoring text over pictures is especially ironic considering how much more efficiently information is communicated to humans through images; “A picture is worth a thousand words,” or more. That’s why I’m a cartoonist, after all.

I was able to extract one clean image from the book, on page 48:

Unfortunately I can’t use this illustration for my purposes, but maybe someone else can. I’ve already gone through the trouble of finding it in a text, extracting it, and rotating it. If only there were some image archive I could upload it to at high resolution, so someone else could use it. I could tag it, to make it easier to find. I could include all kinds of useful metadata, like what book it was from and when it was published; but even if that was too bothersome, I could at least include tags like “horse,” “rider” and “engraving.” Wouldn’t it be nice if such an archive existed? Wikimedia Commons is close, although I dread uploading things there after having all my open-licensed comics deleted by an overzealous editor. But maybe they’re our best hope.

Continuing my searches on archive.org, I found this ostensibly Public Domain, vintage horse book with line illustrations. Unfortunately this is controlled by Google Books. It’s “free” to read online in Google’s reader, which doesn’t allow any image export. It also doesn’t allow me to zoom in.

All those illustrations, trapped at low resolution, unusable (even if they were tagged/catalogued, which they aren’t). This is our “Public Domain.” Who exactly is benefitting from having these 18th Century illustrations inaccessible to today’s artists?

Then there’s Dover Books. I loved Dover books growing up – they introduced me to the idea of the Public Domain. Dover reproduces vintage illustrations in books for artists and designers. Their paper books were reasonably priced, and you could use the illustrations for anything, without restriction. Browsing was free, so I would flip through the pages in the book store, and if it had what I needed, I’d buy it. <p class="pzoomtext">See larger image</p>

Dover is still selling books, but the prices are now relatively high, few are carried in bookstores, and they prohibit browsing online. You have to shell out $15 to find out if what you need is in the book, and how could you know? They seem to be clinging to an outdated copyright model, and rather than selling things of added value, they are simply blocking access to existing Public Domain works, in order to collect a toll.

What else has kept a good public archive of Public Domain images from existing? Some artists and archivists do make high quality scans of vintage illustrations – and keep them to themselves. I guess we could call this “image hoarding.” I assume the reasoning is, “I went through all the trouble to scan it, why should I share? Others can pay me if they want a copy.” Also there’s the “finders, keepers” reasoning: “anyone else is free to find the same illustration in another antique book, but I found this one, so it’s mine.” And so these images remain inaccessible, not part of any public archive.

Wikimedia Commons is the best public image archive I know of right now. A bit of searching led me to their “Engravings of Horses” category, which yielded some nice images. Unfortunately, many of these are not available at sufficiently high resolutions.File:Fotothek df tg 0005647 Nutztierhaltung ^ Tiermedizin ^ Pferd ^ Krankheit.jpg

The maximum size of this image is 800 × 608 pixels, which limits its use.  Limited image sizes and limited selection have been the biggest obstacles to my relying more on Wikimedia Commons; but it can get better. Maybe it will. It would be nice if something became the public vintage image archive I and so many other artists need.

Seder Masochism: Phase I

Behold, self-hating Children of Israel! I have a new Kickstarter project, which could become a new film.

The Highest Praise

Some people love Sita Sings the Blues enough to devote time and energy (and probably money!) to protesting it in public. My movie is now in the same league as the paintings of the late M. F. Hussein. I have arrived.

Article: Troll Sena protests Sita Sings the Blues in San Jose

Related: Aseem Chhabra on Sita Sings the Blues and free speech, in the Mumbai Mirror.

Bruno Quilt

This small project took a long time to finish, because it’s hot and my interest in sewing has dropped precipitously. I only touched it every few days, and then usually for less than an hour at a time. Anyway, it’s done now, and on my floor:

Just like Bruno himself. Here’s the source photo, taken a few years ago but not at all an unusual pose:

And here’s what it became in fabric and thread:

It’s 30.5″ x 17″. Very small compared to what I’ve been making lately. Here’s the back:

This technique looks a lot better stretched, as in Air/Nude. But since the black side has contrasting thread, it’s OK.
The quilt came out smaller than I expected. Bruno is a huge cat, this quilt leaves the impression of a normal-size cat. Here’s Bruno being an art critic:
But before I got the camera out he was trying to sit on it, which I interpret as praise.