'Snapshot' Art-quilts

As promised earlier, here's a collage of a few more from my 'Snapshot' series.  Four of these were inspired by 'found' photos, and two from my own old family pics.  Each measures 12"x17", though I have cropped them here to display as a group for the blog.  The great thing about commissioning these little pieces is that once done, they make great art-prints. Often family members come together to commission my art-quilts, and then purchase multiple art-prints of the finished work.  This is not only a great way to share your commission but appreciated as unique gifts.  Many of my studio art-quilts are sold as art-prints.  I'll share more about that in my next post as well as some larger pieces that I have designed around other found photos.

La mia Famiglia

Entitled House of Maffei, art-quilt 28"x36"

Entitled  Italian Laundry
With modern as well as vintage photos referenced in my figurative work, I am fortunate to be surrounded by friends that travel quite a bit.  I often ask them to snap photographs that I can then manipulate for use in my artwork in a variety of ways.  The art-quilt entitled Italian Laundry, is a perfect example of doing just that.  When I was working on my American Family Album series I wanted to focus on our immigration from Italy in a couple of pieces.  Because my research for the series continuously resulted in lost tales and interesting stories, the old adage about hanging out ones dirty laundry kept creeping into my consciousness.  When I heard that a friend was traveling to Italy I specifically asked for photos referencing this subject.  I remember her surprise to find laundry hanging out in such a fashion everywhere she went.  From the poorest areas to the more affluent, she was not at a loss for subject matter.  This piece truly served as a grounding element for the entire series.

Interestingly enough she also snapped a picture of a street sign bearing the family name that, through the immigration process, had been manipulated and eventually lost to us.  Somewhere along the way, without an Irish ancestor in the bunch, Murphy had replace Maffei!  Only three generations later and no one had even questioned this obvious Irish name in the midst of our obvious Italian heritage.  When I began my research for this series I found old letters and photos in Italian apparently belonging to my great grandfather, along with his seaman book that recorded his entry from port to port.  I watched his name gradually change spelling from Maffei to Murphy as the years charted his travels.  The art-quilt to the right is my attempt to at least creatively restore our family name.  Among the imagery of laundry and an antique map of Italy rests a vintage photograph of my grandfather with his father and uncle, who I was to learn were seamen from Genoa.  Thanks to Nikki Vick for the wonderful images of laundry and the thoughtfulness to also snap a picture of the street sign bearing our long lost surname.

These family pieces still hang in my home and serve as inspiration for the commission pieces I offer others who also want to tell their own American Family Album story.

American Family Album series

Victor and /Frances, art-quilt, 28"x36"
Two more pieces from my American Family Album series..... In my previous blog post the little boy in the art-quilt entitled Maffei, is depicted above, all grown up.  When I consult with clients commissioning their own family art-quiilts I always make sure they are passionate about the imagery.  Often people bring me the highest quality photo they have of their subject, thinking this will work best for my creative process.  But believe me, I'd rather work with a less perfect snapshot and have the artwork truly speak to the heart.  My expertise in digital restoration can go a long way to helping those old photos.  And besides....it's art, much of the beauty is in the patina!  Personally, I love this photograph of my grandparents!  It was snapped prior to their simple wedding in Galveston, Texas, where they lived and raised their family.  My grandmother had been a very young widow with a small daughter.  Because of this she could truly relate to my own years as a single parent and we became very close, even living together for a time several years after my grandfather died.  I loved hearing her stories of their meeting and courtship.  My grandpa was wonderfully crazy about my grandmother and it showed!  I know that my idea of what constitutes 'a happy couple' comes from spending so much time around the two of them. My husband Phil is so like my grandpa in that way. When out of the blue he complements me for the tiniest things, I smile and think of my grandparents marriage.  Phil simply adores me...and I thank my grandparents for modeling that kind of love so that I could recognize it when it came my way.

My mother, portrayed in the next art-quilt, was the couples third and last child.  The central image in this piece was taken from a black and white engagement photo that always sat on her dresser along side a Navy photo of my father.  In the digital process of manipulating the central photo for printing on fabric, I purposefully chose odd, somewhat subtle hues of lavender, gray and green. Remember, this is art, have fun with the colors.  In commission pieces my clients have to trust where I take the imagery for the finished piece.  While I consult extensively with my clients before beginning, the photos speak very loudly to me during the creative process!   The ability to listen to where I am being guided by the work is central to my work, and I believe it is what makes my pieces so compelling.

Depicting my mother 'through the years' was my way of documenting the milestones in her life; childhood, confirmation, graduation, marriage and the last photo, from her seventieth birthday which was celebrated at the time I made this piece for my series.  There are a lot of creative ways to do this, but I wanted the central image to stand out prominently, so I chose a very simple straightforward approach with this art-quilt.  This piece is amazing in person and always receives rave reviews when exhibited.  Those wonderful 1950's style photos are so striking...but then so was my mom, so I know much of the excitement about this piece is because the subject is so captivating.  Recently I edited a video of my parents young years and each time my dad watched he would announce to anyone in the room "how beautiful my wife" was.  Indeed.

My hope is that these posts reviewing the American Family Album series helps those considering their own family commissions.  But I truly love it when someone shows up with nothing more than a stack of photos and treasured memories they want creatively conveyed. My best advise is this, don't over-think the commission.  Often the best part of my job is to assist clients through the process of coming up with the story that simply wants to unfold.  Personally I believe that it is those in the photos that primarily guide the creative process..... whether they are ever physically with me or not!  :)

Here's a few more from the series....