Artist Susan Lenz, poses in front of a wall of small pieces that are part of her Cyber Fiber exhibit at Gallery 808 in Columbia, S.C., Friday, Jan. 2, 2009 (BrettFlashnick.com/Special to The State) Today CYBER FYBER opened! Today The State newspaper ran this article with colored images on the front of the Life & Style section!
Thursday, Jan. 08, 2009
Blogging inspires fiber artist in new Columbia exhibit
Susan Lenz makes her art in an old-fashioned way — with needle and thread. She communicates with other artists working in fiber in a new way — through blogging.
The two come together in “Cyber Fyber,” made up of about 400 pieces of small fabric artwork (none more than 4 by 6 inches) as well as another 40 larger works. The pieces come from as close as her studio and as far away as Australia.
“I knew I wanted an exhibit to show people how access to the Internet changed my art,” Lenz said. “It created my supportive, global community, ; and it’s fun.”
Both sewing and blogging sneaked up on her.
“I didn’t learn to stitch while a Girl Scout or from my grandmother — though both tried on at least one, horrible occasion,” said Lenz, who grew up in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Instead she got interested looking through the crafts on display at the Ohio State Fair. There she saw all kinds of needlework, none of which she knew much about.
“One was called tatting, and I didn’t know what tatting was,” she said. (Tatting is a technique used to make a kind of rugged lace; it’s how those chair-arm doilies at grandma’s house were made.)
They looked simple enough, said Lenz, who has a degree in medieval and Renaissance studies. So in 1985, she entered an embroidered pillowcase and won a blue ribbon. For the next year, she immersed herself in studying sewing, embroidery, knitting, crocheting and yes, even tatting.
“I checked out — repeatedly — the ‘Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework’ from the library,” said Lenz, who owns and operates the Mouse House, a framing business. “My only supplier was Frank’s Nursery and Crafts — a local version of a 5- and 10-cent store.”
Since then she’s gone off on many nontraditional tracks — cutting and burning fabric. She’s recently been doing installation art projects that involve almost no sewing.
Although she had been making items from fabric for almost 20 years, she didn’t consider her work to be “art” until a few years ago, after she moved into Vista Studios in late 2002.
“My first ‘art’ was created in my current studio, and really, nothing dates to years in the 20th century,” she said.
The Web has become a big part of her life as well, but that too was happenstance.
About four years ago, she volunteered to keep the Gallery 80808/Vista Studios online listings (a kind of blog) up to date.
“I’d never even heard of blogs,” Lenz said. “But it was just like sending e-mail, and since I’d journaled all my life, it was not a big deal, and no one was reading it anyway.”
Then two years ago, she began a blog to keep people abreast of a ballet competition in which her son, Mathias, was participating. It was in Bulgaria and not much news was getting out — except for hers.
“It got like 1,000 hits,” she said.
That’s when she saw the power of blogs to connect artists , and in her case, artists who work with fabric.
“I’m part of the 21st century, and the Internet is definitely part of the journey.”
And part of blogging is also, like sewing, an old-fashioned skill: writing.
“Through writing you spot trends you’ve experienced, developments in your work you might not have been aware of when you were doing it,” she said. “It gives you the ability to step back and say, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
And in the end, it can lead to a show that connects the small group of people like Lenz making contemporary fiber art in Columbia to Dijanne Cevaal, a Dutch artist who lives in Australia and has curated and been in exhibitions around the world, to a Washington state stitcher who has never been in a show.
“Basically,” Lenz said, “everything is possible in an Internet community.”
Artist Susan Lenz, holds a piece by California based artist Natalie Richards, which is part of her Cyber Fiber exhibit at Gallery 808 in Columbia, S.C., Friday, Jan. 2, 2009 (BrettFlashnick.com/Special to The State)
- Brett Flashnick /Brett Flashnick