Mary Pal Designs

Element of Surprise (Pt I) Some Radical Thoughts (Radical Elements Exhibition)

It has been a busy few months! And the tough part after all this hard work is that I cannot yet share the finished pieces.  Both exhibitions I've been burning the midnight oil for were invitationals, meaning the artists may not reveal the finished work until it has premiered at its first venue.

BUT ... we are permitted to share snippets and detail shots.  Not only that, but both required the artists to make not only the artwork but a journal outlining their process. So over the next couple of months, I am going to post weekly excerpts of those journals so that anyone interested in the process of completing a work for a specific theme can follow along and see my approach.  

The first exhibition is entitled "Radical Elements" and truth be told, after I read the call I realized it was not for me and didn't enter.  The curator, Jill Rumoshosky Werner, phoned me after the deadline telling me she was permitted to invite three artists of her choice to enter the exhibition and she was very curious what I might do with cheesecloth for such a theme. A longtime admirer of Jill's work, I was flabbergasted and think I stammered out some kind of shocked acceptance.  We discussed which elements were left over and I selected einsteinium as I already had approval to use a photo of Albert Einstein and this seemed a perfect opportunity.  I had made an earlier very large portrait from that photo, but scrapped the piece in the end because it was not a successful work. 

The call read:

Our physical world is created out of the chemical elements, from hydrogen to platinum to arsenic. For this exhibit, each of the selected artists will create a new work that is influenced by an element from the periodic table. Inspirations can come from anything relating to that element, whether it is a play on the name, its color or the products made from it. Both representational and abstract works are welcomed.

As the second part of the Radical Elements theme, the artists will also be asked to move quilting beyond the usual materials of fabric and thread, exploring the function and decorative properties of different surfaces and stitching materials. This exhibit is the first to embrace the newly expanded definition of an art quilt and will be a signature exhibition for SAQA.

That's a lot of challenges at once!  No fabric?!  Ai yi yi. Life got busy and I focused on other commitments, but the concept was always in the back of my mind, especially whenever I visited a home reno store.  As the deadline loomed, I had to begin experimenting with unfamiliar materials, and nothing had the allure that fabric holds for me, so it was especially challenging.  But enough chatter.  Let's start the story!

Mary Pal – Element of Surprise - Part I

Einsteinium is an element with many surprises. I used these surprises to guide me in making this piece for “Radical Elements.”

Detail from  Element of Surprise

Detail from Element of Surprise

The first surprise is that Einstein did not discover it. But as it is named for him, his portrait is sculpted here, based on a photograph by Yousuf Karsh.

The second is how it was discovered, in the radioactive debris of the 1952 detonation of the hydrogen bomb, with five hundred times the destructive power of the Nagasaki atomic bomb. This radioactive quality is represented by the phosphorescent glow of this work in the dark or under a black light, with the cloud of smoke suggested in the background.

The third surprise is that very few people in the world have actually seen this element. This presented a challenge in how to represent it.

The final surprise is the irony of this element being named for a man passionately committed to peace. The only solace of his iconic equation E=mc2 being used to create the world’s most destructive instruments of war might be that the US did so before our enemies did. The quote I selected, made from individually sculpted letters to denote applique, is a stern admonishment of our use of this power.

There were many surprises in store for me as I worked on this design. 

 The adventure begins ...