"Ardis and Betty: Making Salsa / 2 of Wooden Spoons in the Kitchen Tarot."

by Susan Shie Contact me

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Ardis and Betty. full view. ©Susan Shie 2011

"Ardis and Betty: Making Pasta / 2 of Wooden Spoons in the Kitchen Tarot.”

©Susan Shie 2011. 74.5"h x 85.5"w. #410. Peace Cozy #41.
Began 7-28-11. Finished 10-18-11.

Materials:  White kona cotton, airbrush paint, fabric paint.  Aurifil cotton machine thread, Artfabrik perle cotton embroidery thread, one flameworked Pink Buddha Girl bead (the last one I have) and one Green Temple Buddha Boy bead.  Nature-fil bamboo and organic cotton batting. Backing fabrics include Lunn Fabrics batiks.

Techniques: Whole cloth painting.  Freehand black line drawing and color areas painting made with Aztek double action airbrush.  Small journal writing made with Silkpaint.com’s Airpen.  Crazy grid machine quilting and one row of hand stitching (just on the border edge.)

Ardis and Betty is the short name for this piece, and it comes from the two women, who are the main characters in this picture.  They’re Spoon Girls, and they are Ardis James and Betty Ford, who died on July 7 and 8, 2011, respectively, and whom I chose to honor in my next large scale quilted painting, which is also the 2 of Wooden Spoons in the Kitchen Tarot. In a standard tarot deck, this card is the 2 of Wands.  This is a card of determined leadership, feeling personal inspiration and passion for your goals. Ardis and Betty both have had lives of strong direction and infividuality, so this card, chosen by me at random from the deck, to be what I worked on next, was a great choice for them to be coupled with.

 I started making sketches in my sketchbook on July 28th, and drew a lot of images, continually refining the ideas.  Like usual, I used a Rub-a-Dub black marker and a blue Bic pen.  When I got to what I knew looked right, I sewed together a huge piece of white Kona and pressed it nice and flat.

Then I studied my sketches, leaving my favorite one handy, but not easy to look at.  I like to only have the sketches around when I’m freehand drawing with black paint and my airbrush.  I don’t want to slide into left brain analysis, but stay in free-flowing intuitive drawing.  I make the sketches to decide who will be the players, what they’ll be doing, where they’ll be placed, etc.  I used to just start drawing on the big surface, but the pieces are way too complex for that now.  I plan and think and dream, and when it feels right, I jump in.  And sometimes that’s really scary, until I have the first image airbrushed in, and I then have to deal with the scale and placement I’ve given that image, as it sets the scale and placement for the rest of the complex composition.  Much less scary after that first shape’s committed!

I think drawing on the cloth with my airbrush and coloring in the shapes with the same airbrush in the first 2 or 3 days of making the piece is the most exciting work I do.  I feel like a hummingbird, floating and swooping with my Aztek double action airbrush, almost touching the surface with the nozzle, when I go in very close for finer lines, and hovering back from the cloth when I’m painting in the colors.

Then I heatset the whole thing and start the long process of the work: airpen diary writing and research commentary on news issues, which I do for the next couple of months, before quilting the piece.  Airbrush is done at a wall, and airpen on a table.  I jot down notes on what I write about each day, so I have a little semblance of a transcript, but much of the dated entry work is off the top of my head.  That’s much more satisfying than when I have to copy from research articles to get statistics right.  And the personal and political stories, along with news of disasters and wonderful events, are all mixed together.  The images, in this case two spoon women making salsa, are usually very innocent and innocently drawn. But some of the stories are rather poignant in my opinionizing or in their subjects.  I want the viewer who chooses to take the time to read some of my writing to be surprised at the topics I think to put next to each other.  But mainly, I’m not writing for shock value.  I’m writing to record a slice of time in history from my personal viewpoint.  I give my opinions sometimes, but I don’t want the piece to hit you over the head with my viewpoint. And I’m very serious about my role as a reporter, besides being a storyteller.  This is not silly stuff, but a mix of the highs and lows of our lives.

So about this piece:  Ardis James was born Ardis Maree Butler in Lincoln, NE on Dec 5, 1925 and died on July 7, 2011.  Ardis and her husband Bob James collected a huge amount of traditional and art quilts, including my 1989 piece “The Calendar Fetish: An Altar to Time.”  When they outgrew their Chappaqua, NY home for quilt storage, they endowed the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with their full collection and gave the money to build the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, as well as to endow a program for earning both a BA and an MFA in art quilting.  The IQSC&M purchased two more of my pieces in 2007: “The Calendar / Moon” and “Mom and Apple Pie / The Sun,” which are both pieces in my Kitchen Tarot project. 

Jimmy and I first met Ardis and Bob when I won “Best of Show” at Quilt National ’87 in Athens, Ohio, and they came to the opening.  They have sponsored the artists’ banquet for as long as I know, and they have always been down to earth and friendly with the artists and their families.  Jimmy and I are very sad at the quilt world’s and the James family’s loss of such a feisty and brilliant woman as Ardis.  She is irreplaceable, and her passing at age 85 is extra sad, as you’d like for her to keep going til at least 105!

Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in Chicago on April 8, 1918 and died on July 8, 2011, the day after Ardis died, at the age of 93.  In preparing for telling her story on this piece, my research made me realize that I had never understood what a fine liberal and feminist Betty was.  I should have really loved her, but I realized her special feistiness too late.  Because her husband President Jerry Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon, absolving him of charges of various crimes connected with the Watergate scandal, etc, I didn’t pay attention to Betty, along with Jerry.  I didn’t notice how hard she was fighting to get the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) passed, co-chairing its rallies around the country with Alan Alda.  I also didn’t notice how she continually shocked the press and conservatives with her very feminist attitudes about subjects from abortion rights to marijuana.  Betty WAS my kind of girl, and I threw her out with the bath water, for being a Republican.  Back then, they really did have liberals in that party!  Too bad I was that close minded in my youth!

So you can read all about both Ardis and Betty on this piece, and yes, they would have loved each other.  Ardis was a Democrat, belonged to Mensa, and gave up on attending college at Radcliffe, in order to raise a family with Bob.  Betty was a professional dancer with the Martha Graham classical dance studio and also modeled.  Both Ardis and Betty had fizzled first marriages at an early age … and then got it right with the second man! 

This year I read biographies of both Pete Seeger and Nelso Mandela, who were both born the same year as Betty Ford, 1919, the same year as my Uncle Floyd Snyder, my Mom’s next younger brother.  After watching a super good documentary called “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song,” made in 2007, I connected Seeger’s life with the HUAC hearings that ruined so many Americans’ lives, accusing them of anti-American activities. I was stunned with Seeger’s perseverance in finding ways to continue his career, in spite of constant threats from the FBI and HUAC for many years.  His and Mandala’s stories are so inspiring, I feel I need to do more in my own life, to help heal the world. I put them both into this piece to honor them, but may do more on them later, too.

When I was getting ready to make this painting and some of the sketches were done, I went to Colorado at the start of August, to film an online “tv show” episode of The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims in Boulder.  I stayed with my dear friends Patty and Wes Hawkins and their sweet dog Mandy, in Estes Park, where I’d stayed with them two years ago, when I taught for Frontier Quilters at the Salvation Army Camp up in the Rockies in the middle of NOWHERE!  We had a blast with the show taping, and the next day, we went to a Target in Boulder and found the little El Paso Pepper Company Quesadilla Maker, which we immediately used at Patty’s house for supper, and which she insisted she give to me for an early birthday present.

When I got home, I knew I had to add Patty and Wes and Mandy and the Quesadilla Maker, which had to become huge, as it’s so pretty and fine, to my plans for this quilt composition.  And I knew that therefore, I had to alter the plans from having Ardis and Betty making strawberry jam, to making SALSA!  What had I been thinking, with that strawberry jam???  Way too passive for two very feisty and stylin’ women!  Yes, the same canning jars and big bucket of cooking goo could now be salsa, instead of jam!  That little quesadilla maker just spiced up the whole story greatly, and of course, was just what was needed!

Even in the early sketches I’d done, I had my Double Doodle dog Libby sitting on the floor under the table, hoping some of that canning food would work its way down to her tummy.  She and I are on opposite sides of the compositon, but that’s ok.  I often have to leave and go fly somewhere to teach, etc, and I can’t take Libby with me, since she’s not a guide dog.  With my eyesight, it would come in really handy, if she was a service dog, but it ain’t gonna happen.  So when we’re apart, I miss her like I miss Jimmy, and at least I’ve got him accepting that she needs to come along in the car to the airport and anywhere else we can take her.  Libby is VERY social and loves a good car ride!  And a good cooking session in the kitchen.

Here are a few interesting topics I wrote about on “Ardis and Betty”:  Castro’s 85th birthday was Aug 13;
my granddaughter Eva was here that week, along with her cousin Olivia for two days of it.  Didn’t get much work done on this piece then, but we made drawings for the Wooster Natural Foods 40th anniversary tee shirt design, and we used Eva’s first drawing for it! I put tiny Eva and Olivia figures in line drawing above Libby on this piece.

On Aug 17 we took Eva to Orrville, to see her and my show at Heartland Point Community Center.  It was her first show, and we included the drawings we’d made here in June, as well as the two paintings we’d made on canvas, her first time ever to work on a real stretched canvas!

On August 19 we had a huge roof repair job done, like a roof overhaul, really. Two hikers in Iran were sentenced to two more years in prison for supposedly trespassing, after serving two years already. (Later they were released, I think in September.)

On Aug 21 Michelle Bachmann won the Ames Iowa Straw Poll, by 1% over Ron Paul.  Bachmann, a star of the Tea Party, is from Iowa, though she’s a Minnesota congressman. I wrote the recipe for Vinegar Water, a tonic of apple vinegar, honey, and water, that I drink every morning as a tonic, and put the recipe on Libby’s tail here.

Aug 22: Libyan rebels enter Tripoli without resistence, so are hopeful that soon Gadhafi will surrender.  (It takes til October 20, when Gadhafi is murdered in the street …)  NATO is helping the Libyan rebels, and we are reminded of Gadhafi’s almost certain role in the Pan Am flight 103 crash in Lockerbie, Scotland. 

Aug 23:  Hurricane Irene hits Puerto Rico and heads to the US.  A rare 5.9 earthquake hits the eastern US, damaging the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.  Jerry Leiber, who wrote “Stand by Me” died on Aug 22.  I’m reading Nelson Mandela’s story “Higher than Hope” by Fatima Meer, 1988.

Aug 24:  36 international news reporters were released today from the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, where they’d been held hostage by Gadhafi supporters for five days without electric or much food or water. Gadhafi remains at large til Oct 20.

Sept 17: Occupy Wall Street begins as a protest of the top 1% of citizens running the world and in particular, the US, re how corporations run our government.  Protests focus on Zucotti Park in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan and grow over time, to include peaceful demonstrations in cities around the US and the world.  People speculate that this will be a force equal to the right wing Tea Party.  Members call themselves the 99% and include both liberals and conservatives.

Oct 5: Steve Jobs dies in San Francisco, of pancreatic cancer. (Born Feb 24, 1955 in Palo Alto, CA.) The founder and CEO of Apple Computer, Jobs died at 56, Adopted at birth by a working class couple, he ended up with a net worth of $7 billion. He had a wife Laurene Powell and four children. He was a Buddhist. He changed our lives a lot.  I think I’ll do another piece with a lot more about Steve Jobs in it soon.  Maybe the next big piece will include him much more.

Oct 16: Indy Cars huge 15 car wreck at Las Vegas kills Dan Wheldon, 33, two time Indy 500 winner.  I’m reading Jane Fonda’s autobiography, “My Life So Far,” 2005.

Oct 17:  Pat and Floyd’s black lab Xena died today. She lived a long time and was friends with our dog Hattie Spooler, who died in 2007.  They say they won’t get another dog, so they’re more free to travel to see their grandson Connor and his mom, their daughter Carrie.

Stuff about my 61st birthday, Sept 28, including the fancy and fun breakfast we were invited to at the Mirabelle B&B in Wooster, to meet a new birthday sister Carine Vandervoorde of Belgium and her husband Marcel, thanks to the innkeepers Steve and Susie Ellis.

On Oct 12, local singer Josh Krajcik, whom we’d never met, made a gigantic splash on the new X Factor show, singing “At Last” by Etta James.  He “blew Simon Cowell away.” He was an art student of our friend Sherrie Dennis at Triway High School and is now 30.  Hope he makes it big!!!

On Oct 19, I took this finished piece along with me to show in St Louis, where I gave a lecture about my work, as part of the Quilt National exhibition being there, via Safe Connections, a St Louis charity that raises money to aid endangered women and children. I had rushed a photo session the night before I flew, since I won’t take works out of the house until I’ve documented them. “Ardis and Betty” hung with five of the Cookbook Print Quilt project pieces (out of 19 that we made between 1999 and 2008.) It was the first time to exhibit any of the print quilts, and Maryanne Simmons and Amanda Verbeck, two of the five of us artists who worked on the Island Press (Wash U) project were there with me.

It was only exhibited during a luncheon and my talk, but that’s a start.  Plus, Amanda had created a print-on-demand catalog of the project, and it’s available for the first time now.  Maybe we can get a big show now!  It was breathtaking to see those five pieces hanging together, each 75”h x 48”w, all hand printed, hand painted, hand diary written, hand stitched and quilted, and hand beaded.  Magical!  An extra fun thing about them is that each print quilt has a different recipe as its title, and has my diary entries of that time period included with the recipe and comments about it.  Maryanne, Amanda Verbeck, Roxanne Phillips, and Jessie Van der Laan each own one of the print quilts.  Wash U’s Island Press owns seven of them, and I own eight of them.  Wanna have our first serious show of them?????  Let me know!

===End of notes on my diary entries on this piece.====

When “Ardis and Betty” eventually becomes a card in my actual, second printing Kitchen Tarot deck, it will be cropped to form a vertical rectangle, so the left side, beyond the title writing will be cropped out.  Pete Seeger, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy and me, and Patty, Wes, and Mandy  Hawkins, along with the quesadilla maker will all be missing from the playing card image.  But they’ll always be in the actual art piece, of course.

An interesting aside about this piece is that, when I was airbrush painting the colors in, I felt they got too bright and dark.  So before heat setting the colors, I washed the whole painting out in a bucket of cold water and hung the piece on the clothesline to dry.  It faded just enough to bring it back to a more pastel color range, which I love to have be the base for all that airpen writing I do.  Kinda gets me going, to risk washing out a piece like that, but I’m always glad if I know I have to do it, and I get up the nerve and just do it.

This is the 12th piece of 56 in the minor cards of my Kitchen Tarot series.  I had made the first 22 cards of the major cards between 1998 and 2008 and then began the minors. There are 78 cards, in this case quilted paintings, in a tarot deck, including both major and minor cards, and I expect to finish all 78 by the year 2022.  I hope!  The deck of my 22 major cards is published as The Kitchen Tarot, by me and Dennis Fairchild (who wrote a guidebook to describe my cards) via Hay House publishers, available on Amazon.

You’ll find products offered with images from “Ardis and Betty” on my Susan Shie Art Store at Zazzle.com, at http://www.zazzle.com/susanshieart.

I have a photo essay of my sketches for this piece, along with my airbrush painting of it, on my Turtle Moon Studios Facebook page.

Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.


Ardis and Betty. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2011.



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