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Invisible Thread

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Invisible Thread comes to Auburn following its installation at The Baker Museum at ArtisNaples in Naples, Florida. With this expanded resource from Aaron Levi Garvey, the Janet L. Nolan Director of Curatorial Affairs, search beyond the concepts of spirituality, transcendence and the subconscious.

““...the gods give, and the gods take away. Even if you are not aware of having been granted what you possess, the gods remember what they gave you. They don't forget a thing. You should use the abilities you have been granted with the utmost care. ... All flesh, with only minor differences, is a powerless and puny thing doomed soon to disintegrate and disappear. That is an unmistakable truth. But what, then, of a person’s spirit? ... Setting aside the question of whether it has any practical value to do so, thinking about one’s own spirit is one of the most indispensable of all human tasks, is it not?””

Haruki Murakami1Q84, 2009

By Aaron Levi Garvey

Humankind’s pursuit of transcending mortality and the physical world to bend their existence between time and space is an ages-old journey. For as long as there have been free-thinking humans, there has been a certain longing in each of us to understand the intricacies of the universe, our places within the cosmos, the hereafter and the mysticism held within generations of these explorations. Throughout the centuries, artistic and self-expression have been ever present in these pursuits. Those fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the “other side” worked to create visual, auditory or literary representations of their journeys and experiences. Not only have these artisans, musicians, authors and performers worked under the guise of the aforementioned pursuits, but also under the effects of Stendhal’s Syndrome as they become physically taken over by otherworldly elements during their work and have the universe speak to their spirit and soul. Often these explorations are solo journeys for one to find their place, unsanctioned and unhindered, as they experience their ecstatic emotions, visions and manifestations.

From the writings of the Kabbalah and the use of Haint Blue throughout the southern United States to Edmund Burke and his explorations of the Sublime in painting and the Transcendental Painters Group’s search for a higher plane of mental space and the departure of representation within painting, mysticism and spirituality has been ever present across cultures and art practices. Though the theories of the Sublime and Transcendental Painter schools were separated by nearly two centuries, and their approaches to artmaking were vastly disparate, there was much common ground between the two areas of practice and study. The theory of Sublime Art focused on the creation of representational objects that would, in effect, cause an indescribable spiritual, physical/metaphysical reaction of makers and viewers, and the Transcendental Painters Group took on the task of creating works that would evoke similar notions of spirituality through complete abstraction and the use of color.

Invisible Thread explores the works of contemporary artists who approach spirituality, the transcendence of physical reality and the subconscious through abstraction and metaphorical representation. To say contemporary artists have continued in the lineages of not only their ancestors but also the artisans in generations before them as the transcribers of the mysteries within the universe while being bound together by the the Invisible Thread in the shared channeling of their collective linear histories. Building upon their meditative spaces in creating non-representational works and those that morph from full abstraction in the use of conceptual metaphors in representational works. Invisible Thread presents a broad swath of media and techniques, including photography, sculpture and painting, while conceptually threading abstract and representational elements to examine contemporary spirituality and the continued pursuit of transcending mortality.

Object Lab: Radcliffe Bailey’s “Tobacco Blues”

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What family photos from the past are special to you? How can they help us to better understand each other in the present?

Radcliffe Bailey explores American history and familial memory to encourage healing and reflection through art.

In “Tobacco Blues,” Bailey centers a photograph of tobacco plants on his grandfather’s farm in Virginia. He surrounds this image with a patchwork of different shades of blue, arching vines and branches, and drawings of historic African American architecture.  He bridges the gap between past and present with the inclusion of words from contemporary African American poetry.

By Christy Barlow
School & Community Programs Senior Manager
Education, Engagement & Learning

Cross and vine imagery surround an archival photo of a Virginia tobacco farm.

Radcliffe Bailey
“Tobacco Blues,” 2000
Gift of Lynn Barstis Williams Katz to the Imprinting the South Collection
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University

A wooden carving of a head.

Share Your Craft Story: Art from the Dean’s Office

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Lee Anne Patterson

Old Hickory Head has been on the family hearth since I was a child. He even gets a Santa hat at Christmas. He is just one of the pieces that my Dad, Charlie Patterson (1960) created while at Auburn. These pieces ended up in Dean Applegate’s office and stayed there for several years until he graduated. Already married to Mom, when they were ready to leave, she went to the Dean to ask for them back. I hear he reluctantly gave them up.

Hickory Head is made out of Hickory and continues to get more interesting as he ages. The Guitar Man also hung in the Dean’s office. The Thinking Man, a study in chalk was drawn in class in 1959. The student model was one of the Auburn football players. We don’t know who – it would be fun if we could identify him.

The watercolor is one of a collection done over the years. Dad painted them as he and Mom traveled the world, much of that on a tandem bicycle. The collection has 280 travel watercolors. All of them are here in Auburn.

A wooden carving of a head.
A handmade quilt with heart design

Share Your Craft Story: Quilting

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I’m not a quilter, but I have made a few quilts over the years. My quilting days began in the ’80s, quilting with my grandmother and great-aunt while we talked and watched “the stories.”  Back in the day, old dresses, shirts, and pants were cut up for the quilt. It was fun to look at the quilt and remember the clothing it was from.

To make a quilt pick out a pattern or make your own. Cut and sew the pieces together to make the quilt top. Next, put the quilt together. Find a backing (material) that matches the quilt. This will be the back of the quilt. Lay the batting on top of that. I use cotton batting. The backing and batting should be a few inches larger than the quilt top. Lay the pieced quilt on top of that. Baste together and now it’s ready to quilt.
I prefer to hand quilt, but I have recently made a baby quilt using a sewing machine. There are various quilting machines available for purchase, but I feel hand quilting makes it more special.

–Michele Waters

A geometric quilt
A basket and flowers made from yarn.

Share Your Craft Story: Floral Memories

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My mother was one of the most talented and artistic people I have ever met. She could work magic with any type of fabric and needle, and she loved to crochet and quilt. She made clothes for my Barbie dolls when I was a little girl; she made me Halloween costumes that were unique and beautiful. When I became a working professional, she hemmed my dress slacks and tailored my clothes.

She loved all things floral, and so she designed and created crocheted flower baskets. Some she gifted, such as the one pictured here, and some she sold for practically pennies at flea markets. What I love most about this flower basket is that each individual flower and green leaf was hand-crafted, and she arranged them in the basket as a florist might arrange a vase. No two baskets were ever alike.

Although I still have many of her wonderful creations, I see this flower basket every day due to its placement in my kitchen’s curio cabinet. I’m reminded every day of her talent – and how much I miss her.

A soft basket of handmade flowers

I'm reminded every day of her talent - and how much I miss her.

Lori Bugg
A plate with a silouette

Share Your Craft Story: “Dutch Girl Plate”

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Shannon Westerman

I am not an artist, but I’ve always loved handmade ceramics, and I’ve thrown more than a few pots in my life. My grandfather was an artist, graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago during the Depression. My great-grandmother was a very creative woman, and she hand-painted this China platter in 1908.

The date is significant for two reasons: one, it’s an heirloom piece of porcelain that survived intact for nearly 115 years, and two, my grandfather credited his mother Beulah for his artistic sensibilities—even though he never knew her. Sadly, Beulah died during childbirth to my grandfather in 1909. After he passed in 1988, I inherited the porcelain plate my great grandmother hand-painted in 1908. The Dutch Girl always brought a smile to my grandfather’s face, and now, nearly 115 years after its beautiful production, “she” still brings a smile to my face, too. But more importantly, “Dutch Girl” reminds me of the transformational power of art & craft as a thread to familial history.

A plate with a silouette
A quilted teapot with a warm and cool colored butterfly.

Share Your Craft Story: Grammy’s Teacups in Grandma’s China Cabinet

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Cynthia Reinke

My grandmother Florence Nichols taught me to sew and knit before I went to school. This early exposure to working with fiber led to a life-long love of fiber arts.

Shortly after I began creating quilts, I joined the Cotton Boll Quilt Guild. An early challenge was to complete an appliqued teacup from a pattern distribute each month for a year. I chose fabrics that reminded me of the teacups in my grandmother’s collection.

Once the twelve squares were finished, I was determined to make the completed piece special. I found the solution in the china cabinet which had belonged to my husband’s Grandma Euly. The wall hanging shows the teacups proudly displayed in this cabinet, honoring two special women.

The china cabinet and wall hanging bring back memories of both our families.

The china cabinet and wall hanging bring back memories of both our families.

Cynthia Reinke
A quilt with floral teacups.
A wooden china cabinet filled with delicate teacups.
A child's dress hangs in front of a window.

Share Your Craft Story: My “Names” Dress

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Hannah Pickworth

My mother, Edith Simmons, and aunt, Sarah Simmons, made this dress for me when I was about five years old. At the time, there were no other little girls named Hannah that I knew of. I loved wearing this dress and when I outgrew it, there was no one to pass it on to so I kept it. I think at one time, I temporarily loaned to a Hannah in the mid-’80s and then it was returned to me.

I believe my mother was a charter member of the New Comers’ Club and Campus Club at API. My father and Aunt Sarah’s husband were both API graduates as were many others in my family.

A child's dress hangs in front of a window.
Stacked quilting squares with colorful stars

Share Your Craft Story: “My Special Quilt”

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Avon Langston

My special handcrafted item is a beautiful quilt that was made for me by my daughter, Gay Solomon, as a gift for my 80th birthday, with one star representing each of my 80 years. Gay is a very talented quilter who lends her talent to several quilting groups, making quilts for such organizations as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). She also gives quilting demonstrations to various civic groups.
Gay uses her own original designs and patterns as she makes her beautiful and unique handcrafted quilts.

Stacked quilting squares with colorful stars

...a gift for my 80th birthday, with one star representing each of my 80 years.

Avon Langston
Two women smile, holding a quilt with 80 stars.