Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Interview with Deidre Scherer and Mary Pal

When Lark Publishing decided to  use the month of June as a blog tour for advertising People & Portraits they asked the artist, represented in the book, to post something about the book on their blog.   We could critique the book , do a book giveaway, interview the author Martha Sielman or interview two of the artist.

I decided that I would love to interview two of the artist.  I choose two of my favorites portrait  artist Deidre Scherer and Mary Pal.

About a year ago I began putting together a PowerPoint presentation, The Many Ways to Fabricate Faces.  I emailed the artist, whose work I wanted to use, and asked permission to use photos and information from their web site.  Not one declined.

When I emailed  Deidre I told her that I look at her as the "Mother of fiber portraits" this makes her one of my choices.
I am in awe of Mary Pal's work, the fact that she can take cheese cloth and create a portrait astounds me.   Mary gives a brief idea of how she accomplished her work in this book.   Both Deidre and Mary answer questions that might be obvious to ask of an interviewer.  I tried to come up with questions that haven't been asked of these two artist or questions that expounded on some already answered.

Because the wealth of information I received from both of Deidre and Mary I am going to present my interview in more than one post.  I hope that you will follow until I share all of that information.

                                              DEIDRE SCHERER

 Hanover Hands   27" X 30
Photographys by Jess Baird

Question: It is amazing to me that you can free-cut your patterns yet achieve such exactness.  Most fiber artists use a pattern so they can accurately depict their subject.  How did you come about your technique of free-cutting?

Deidre never uses a pattern nor does she consider what she creates to be quilting.  She expresses it this way.

“I look at my image for the positive and negative spaces as geometry.  There is something about the idea of using a pattern or projection that flattens the head for me.  What I want from my medium is for it to ‘be’, .to exist, to emanate the presence of a person. I came to this through drawing and painting. Through a painter’s eye, I develop energy, spirit and form using line, volume and shadows.

I draw three times in my work: first with pencil on paper from my model, second with scissors on material, and third with thread on machine. I rely on drawing using my eye, trusting what I see. After placing the drawing (and/or photograph) in front of me, I pick up scissors and cut directly into fabric. While eyeballing the drawing, I lift the fabric up, freely turning and cutting the contours of that head. By really looking at what is the distance between the eye and nose and considering the spatial relationships, it appears three-dimensional to me.”

Late May     15 x 13

Why did you choose to create art out of fabric when you are so talented with a pencil and paint?

“I think of my work as ‘thread on layered fabric’, analogous to ‘watercolor on paper’ or ‘oil on canvas’.  Fabric is an amazing tactile medium: people know how it feels and yet still want to touch it.  Sense of touch is our largest sense –encompassing the entire surface of our bodies. From the time we are born until the grave, we are wrapped in fabric."

                                                        MARY PAL 

Waiting   28" X 22"
Photographs by Ray Pilon

     Question: What made you decide to portray the elderly and homeless in your work?  This is answered somewhat in the book; would you expound on what was written in the book?

"I discovered the sculpting technique in the unexpected way described in the book; the original piece looked like an elderly man; my hunt for a photo of another elderly man with which to test the technique, using adhesive, led me to a photo of an elderly woman instead, which I used for “Waiting.” I realized then that cheesecloth was the perfect medium for aging skin because it can be sculpted to mimic the lines and folds and even the translucency of older skin. My quest for photos of interesting faces leads me again and again to the elderly and the homeless, for you can see their whole lives – the expression of their pains and sorrows and laughter – etched in their faces."
 Nereids      25 X 52

Question: Share with us an unusual twist that’s happened in your work? 

"My early works were white cheesecloth on a black background for the high contrast and drama they provided.  But I missed working with color and I missed the pleasure I derive from painting on fabric.  I lead a busy life outside of my art and it’s not like I have endless days in the studio; in my limited studio time, I want to focus on producing a body of work, so I discovered a way to include all three things in each piece. My first departure was Memories of Gombe, where the background was painted dark brown on one side, fading to a soft parchment color on the other.  I dyed the cheesecloth a parchment color for Jane Goodall’s portrait, which I placed on the dark side of the background.  'a photo of Memories of Gombe can be see in the book.'  This gave me the courage to go a step further with Nereids, where I needed to paint the ocean background in shades of teal and aqua.  It worked and provided sufficient contrast, so more and more I have been painting the backgrounds, allowing me the pleasure of working with color again.  

This concludes today's post but more is to come in a few days.

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  1. These are two artists I also admire, so I will be eager to read more about them! Thanks!
    Martha Ginn

  2. I just got the book in the mail yesterday and what a delight it is. The portraits from these two artists are very moving.