a plastic tree grows in Armonk

Last September, at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY, a community art project was started. The organizers of the show wanted a Hands On Art project for the attendees, I wanted to conduct a community art project that used repurposed materials and both wanted to emphasize the need to reduce the use of single use plastic. The stars aligned!

I chose the symbol of the Armonk Outdoor Art Show as our image and a local framing shop prepared our plastic canvas.

I sketched the tree outline on the canvas; cut out leaves from green plastic bags and squares and rectangles from orange, red and yellow plastic bags.

For the two days of the show visitors happily participated by gluing and stitching pieces of plastic on to our canvas.

I took the canvas back to my studio at the end of the show and added more plastic leaves and background pieces.

Several stitching sessions were arranged at the local library where the show attendees and volunteers were invited to come and stitch the details on the tree.

I returned the canvas to my studio again for the finishing touches.

And finally this weekend, in conjunction with Earth Day, the Armonk tree was revealed! It will be installed in the lobby of the North Castle Public library for all to enjoy. This is the library whose programs are funded by the Armonk Outdoor Art Show.

Please enjoy the photos of the progression of the tree:

The tree is being worked on by the show attendees.

The tree is being worked on by the show attendees.

Progress1a.jpg
Progress2.jpg
Progress2a.jpg
Now it’s starting to take shape!

Now it’s starting to take shape!

More progress..

More progress..

At the end of day two.

At the end of day two.

One of the library stitching sessions.

One of the library stitching sessions.

A detail of the final product.

A detail of the final product.

Another detail.

Another detail.

A bit of the background detail.

A bit of the background detail.

Tah dah! The Armonk Tree!

Tah dah! The Armonk Tree!

Iron Spine Aloft

Iron Spine Aloft billowing on the front lawn of the Rye Arts Center
A few blog posts back, I spoke about seeing plastic trash flapping in the trees along the roads in my travels. I have reinterpreted that imagery by creating a public art installation, made from plastic, that is gracing the front lawn of the Rye Arts Center, strung between two trees. Iron Spine Aloft can be seen as you drive by the arts center until the end of April. Feel free to stop in and enjoy it up close. Make time to go inside and see Fiber Now: Textile Artists on the Cutting Edge, in which five of my pieces are presented alongside the works of eleven other talented fiber artists. Do email me, if you're in the neighborhood. Perhaps I'll be able to meet you there and we can talk art, stitching, texture, recycling and the circle of life. You can also join me for two BYOB workshops that I'll be teaching on March 21st and 28th.

I am hoping to continue creating large-scale public art installations created from repurposed plastic. I am working on a series of proposals to further this endeavor. Raising public awareness about the excess of single use plastic in our society and the problems of litter in our environment are at the forefront of my art practice. If you know of an institution to which you think I can submit such a proposal, please let me know. I welcome your input.

I have posted a few videos of the installation on Instagram and Facebook for your viewing pleasure. I'll be posting more in the near future, as well as a more substantial video detailing the creation of Iron Spine Aloft from start to finish, which I will post on my YouTube channel when completed.

Iron Spine Aloft detail


Iron Spine Aloft detail


deep in art in the depths of winter

Work in progress - Home Portrait © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019
Home portrait work in progress
February has been a busy month so far and promises to continue to be so. I am simultaneously working on two projects in the studio. They could not be more different from each other.

One project is a home portrait for a sweet family with a brand new daughter. I am loving incorporating her hospital hat, onesie and sheet music of special songs into an image of their home. I am taking time to thoughtfully hand stitch all the pieces in place, making sure all the right details are included.


I am furiously stitching on my Bernina sewing machine for my other project: the installation for the Rye Arts Center exhibit in March. I have pieces of plastic bags and various sheeting all stitched together; I am about half way through stitching the outlines of the fire escape on them. After that, I will piece all the sections together. I'll likely spend a few days cutting out the negative spaces between the outlines. I am still figuring out the logistics of hanging the piece in it's outdoor space, between two trees.


Making sure to keep my inspiration tank full, I was recently on a photo safari in NYC. And while I was quite busy trying to get good shots of buildings, rusty bridge undercarriages, and sidewalk cracks, I could not help but notice plastic litter in leafless trees. I abhor litter of any kind, but it's especially plastic litter that makes me want to weep. For goodness sakes, if you can't recycle it, is it so hard to put it into a garbage container? To carry it just a few more feet to the trashcan on the corner? Ok, rant over.


Here's the interesting thought... as much as I despise seeing plastic trash flapping in the wind on trees, I am also inspired by it. Is that crazy? I don't think so. I think that the installation that I am working on right now is partly inspired by the plastic bags I have seen caught in tree branches along highways. In my case, the plastic that will be waving amongst trees is obviously not trash. It is quite intentional. I can't wait until you see it!
Snowmelt, blue skies, bare trees through the clear plastic lens of Urban Edge/Iron Spine Installation detail © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019
Snowmelt, blue skies, bare trees through the clear plastic lens of Urban Edge/Iron Spine installation detail

a week in pictures (and videos)

Some weeks are crazy busy in the studio, and I have lots to share. Others seem that way, but because I am working on the same project day in and day out, I feel as though I have nothing to share.

But even when I feel that way.... I realize that I do have plenty to share. Sometimes not in words, but always definitely in pictures. Here are a few pictures and videos of what I have been working on this past week.
Layers of plastic waiting to be stitched for one of the portions of my installation in progress

a thread nest encased in a plastic air pocket

plastic thread nests being stitched

rain on a portion of Irons Spine/Urban Edge installation hanging on my deck

A little video of a portion of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation moving in the rain.


Lucky that the pup needed to go out on a frigid morning during sunrise as I got to take this video of the plastic crackling as it moved in the wind.

Hope you have enjoyed these peeks into my studio happenings, stay tuned for more soon!

going big, bigger and BIG!

portion of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation is being weather tested!

The first month of the new year is only half way done, but my calendar is already filled with plans for the start of 2019.

First on my agenda is ArtShow:Bedford starting January 25th. It's a wonderful, small show in the picturesque town of Bedford NY, now in its 46th year. All proceeds from the show go to local charities supporting a wide range of services. 

In March I am delighted to be participating in Fiber Now: Artists on the Cutting Edge presented by the Rye Arts Center in Rye, NY. In conjunction with the exhibit I will be teaching a Stitching+Embroidery workshop on March 21st and 28th. As part of the exhibit I've also been invited to create a large installation −more than 15 feet across− on the front lawn of the center. The installation will help raise public awareness of plastic pollution crisis we’re facing, while enabling me to repurpose plastic into my art. I believe this installation for the Rye Arts Center is a perfect fit for my art practice. 

At the moment I am rifling through my stash and pulling out the biggest, sturdiest pieces of plastic that I have to start assembling the substrate. I’m conducting weathering tests for the plastic and my stitching. I took a portion of the Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation and hung it on my deck to see how it holds up to the wind and weather for the next month or two. This experiment will inform some of the design and construction choices I’ll have to make going forward.

pattern for the installation to be is laid out on the floor taking up all the space!

another shot of the weather test from Iron Spine/Urban Edge

a tree grows in Armonk

Wow! Sometimes that's the only word that can be uttered. My reason for the word in this case, is that I am amazed and grateful that so many people loved to participate in a hands on community art project!

I was delighted to organize a collaborative art piece created with reclaimed and repurposed materials at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show. Thank you to the Friends of the Library, who collected materials and provided the space, thank you to the volunteers to helped visitors to the Armonk Outdoor Art Show participate in the project AND thank you to those visitors who took the time to stitch on or glue on a piece of plastic and help our tree grow!

We're hoping to schedule a stitching day at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk in the near future, so that interested collaborators can come help me put finishing touches on this artwork.

Meanwhile please enjoy the photos from the project and stay tuned for further developments!
This is how our tree looked on Saturday morning at the beginning of its journey.
By Sunday morning it was well into its transformation!
And here it is by the end of the day Sunday! Wow!
The following are pictures taken by our talented photographer Ilene Africk, of all the hands which made the art!










THANK YOU!!

is it opera or art season?

detail of City Sketch 10
It's back to school and back to routine time around these parts. How fast the summer always flies by! Did you know that's it is also the start of the Metropolitan Opera season?

Why am I telling you that it's opera season? Because I have just the right piece of art for the New York City opera lover. It's a depiction of Lincoln Center in the heart of Manhattan. It's called City Sketch 10, part of a new series of city scenes. It's available on Saatchi Art, where you can buy the original or a print. So get your tickets for Samson et Delila, or whichever opera makes your heart flutter and buy my art to get your season started on the right note!

If you're in the New York metro area at the end of this month, come see me at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show on September 29th and 30th in Armonk, NY. I'll be exhibiting the other collages that are part of the City Sketch series and leading a community art project too. Booth V-08,09.
City Sketch 10 © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2018


detail of a City Sketch ©Natalya Khorover Aikens 2018

Hello friends!

At the end of this month, I would be delighted to greet you in booth V-08/09 at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY. September 29th and 30th, 10AM to 5PM, rain or shine.
 
The exhibit was just ranked as the #2 Fine Art and Design Show in the entire United States by Sunshine Artist Magazine, August 2018. The #2 Rank, based on sales reported by exhibitors to Sunshine Artist, is a spectacular jump from the previous #46 position! This is THE show for sophisticated art lovers expecting to find top quality work available to purchase!

I will be bringing brand new series of stitched collages that I am calling City Sketches. And, of course, a collection of your favorite urban subjects - fire escapes, bridges, and graffiti - will also be on hand.

In addition to presenting my artwork, I will be directing a collaborative art piece created with reclaimed and repurposed materials, a portion of which will be brought in by community members. Visitors will apply layers of plastic to the outline of the Armonk Outdoor Art Show tree logo. After the show, I will finish the artwork with my signature stitching and it will be installed at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk.

chromorama-bahamamama?

collages pre-stitching
After a very busy July, I took a stab at organizing the havoc in my studio. Instead, I discovered a stash of vintage 1980's Chromorama papers. They are still as luscious as ever! And despite several online searches, it seems that they don't exist anymore.... insert sad face here.

collages post-stitching
I took out my plastic scraps and worked up a bunch of collages with smaller paper segments. I experimented with some simple stitching and was thoroughly pleased with the results. I'm hoping the recipients of my August subscriber birthday cards will be pleased as well.

Now I have the larger sized papers laid out on my work table among the plastic scraps. I am looking forward to how these collages will turn out and the much more intricate stitching that will go on them. I am planning to debut these at The Armonk Outdoor Art Show at the end of September.
fresh batch of vintage paper to stitch on!
In other news, I'd like to extend an invitation to join me at the opening reception for the Creative Climate Awards on Monday, September 17th at 6PM. My piece called Sunrise has been accepted into the exhibit.

I'll be sharing photos of all happenings on Instagram and Facebook. Hope to see you at one event or another! 

thoughtfully repurposed

If my solo exhibit had a title, it would be Thoughtfully Repurposed.

But it doesn't have an official title, and as it's coming down on Friday, I thought it was time to share a few photos. Those of you who were able to see it, I sincerely appreciate that you came, your kind words mean so much to me! Those of you who are too far to come, I appreciate all your well wishes also. Thank you.

art and seed pods at the entrance

Iron Spine 6XL makes it's debut surrounded by older relatives

Rhetoric with Iron Vessels: Reclaim Love and Iron Vessel: Enough

The top portion of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation

another view of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation

a small portion of the bottom of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation

Full view: Iron Spine/Urban Edge

a visitor from the insect kingdom

food matching art/art matching food

viewer matching art

artist with art (Iron Spine/Urban Edge)
What a whirlwind summer!

stuffing it

Expanding on an idea. Or rather expanding my explanation of an idea.

In the last post I mentioned that I was stuffing undesirable bits and pieces of plastic and styrofoam into containers and making building out of them. I thought that this needed clarification. For the latest set of buildings that I made, I spent the time photographing the items that I stuffed them with.

Here is the collage of my documentation:
stuff that got stuffed
Then, while I was all set up for photography, I continued.. Here are my containers, patterns sketched out on scraps of upholstery fabric. Then layered with scraps cut off from other art, stitched for texture till my hearts content, and glued onto the containers. Then the edges were all hand stitched with a nice, satisfyingly thick thread.
the how to
 And now the results:
Urban Tower 5 © Natalya Aikens 2018 (3"x3"x9")

Urban Tower 7xs © Natalya Aikens 2018 (3"x3"x5")
This one's insides were not photographed because I realized that I still had scraps left, but was already out of time to photograph the stuffing ephemera. But it's basically the same bunch of stuff.
Urban Tower 8xs © Natalya Aikens 2018 (2"x2"x5")
 And here are all three together. Don't they look swell?
Urban Tower family? ☺︎
I enjoyed the photo documenting process so much, that I created a tiny little book of it. Just photos, no words.
I decided that if someone buys all three of these little Urban Towers, they'll get the little book as a bonus. That way they know exactly how it happened. And knowing feels good.

documenting the process

Why? Why do I use the materials that I use for my art?

I have always thought the answer is obvious. But lately I have been giving it a lot of thought, talking about it with other artists, and I have discovered that it's maybe not so obvious... and I am not sure if I can always speak about it clearly.

The basic answer is that I like my materials. I like the way they behave, I like the way that they feel, I love what I am able to achieve with them. I also love that I am creating something beautiful out of trash. I love that I am keeping even a tiny amount of plastic out of the sieve that is the local recycling process. And maybe somewhere out in the ocean, one less little or large aquatic creature will have one less bag to strangle itself in...

I have decided to start documenting my process. And in writing about it, maybe I'll make clear to my collectors and even to myself what it is exactly that goes into loving my materials and why I feel it's important.

In the last few weeks I have spent quite a bit of time communing with these materials of mine. I need to prepare quite a bit of them for future artworks and that meant a lot of time with scissors in hand. The plastic supermarket shopping bag seems so pedestrian. Yet so graphic. I am cutting apart all the graphics, the lettering. Only to put in back together again in completely different ways. This, below, is my pile of large-ish letters.

I have also been sewing plastic netting to vintage linen. I am in the process of trimming away the excesses now to reveal the lines and I just could not throw away the trimmings. For now I am gathering them in a container, one day they will tell me what to do with them.


On my walk with the pup one day a couple of weeks ago, I spotted these plastic bags. Trapped in a tree and gently swaying in the breeze, there was something beautiful about them. Yes they are trash, yes they are polluting the area... and yet... 

Unfortunately I could not reach them to take them off. But they inspired me, as did that scene in American Beauty of the plastic bag dancing with the wind. 

And I love this quote from the script : "Ricky Fitts: It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes." 

So yes, I'm going to dance with some plastic bags....soon.



Back to the graphics of those plastic bags - I am also cutting out all the verbiage. It talks about how to recycle this bag, or where the store is located. I am interested in only the graphic nature of those lines. And I have amassed piles and piles of long and short, skinny and fat ribbons of plastic lettering. They will be my brush strokes...


And then there are pieces of plastic that have no graphic value to me. Or color value, or they are just in a awful shape and would not hold up to torture by stitching. Or I don't like the feel of them and don't want to use them in my art.

Those bags, and bits and pieces, and small hard plastic parts that get thrown in the trash and then quite likely wind up in the Pacific Garbage Patch; all those things, I am stuffing them into rinsed and thoroughly dried containers.

Those containers eventually become 3D buildings. Sculpture if you will, stitched sculpture. On their own they are very light, stuffed full of plastic they are still light, but have a bit of sturdiness to them. Enough to keep them upright and not blow away in the breeze.


I hate styrofoam. Yes hate is a strong word as I always tell my daughters. But I hate styrofoam and avoid purchasing anything in it. But sometimes it's inevitable. Especially if someone well meaning gives me something in styrofoam. I have discovered that if it's clean and dry, I can break it apart and stuff into my containers. That puts it to good use.


Most of the plastic bags come from my own household. I have been saving them for years, before I knew what it was that I wanted to do with them. Since I have started using them for my art, several friends have sent me their own collections. At the moment I have more than I can use for a long time. I now do grocery shopping with reusable bags and very rarely bring plastic bags into my home, and yet still have so many to make art from...

Since I have started filling the empty containers with rejected plastic and bits and pieces, I have become aware of how many of them there are! How many I have thrown into the trash, not even the recycling over the years... and I think of how many have found their way into the ocean. That thought saddens me.

Besides An Inconvenient Truth and the Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, see The Plastic Ocean and see what we're up against...


Here's how I used those strips of verbiage in a recent piece, Iron Spine 8, 12"x12".

fire escape love story

I love fire escapes. There. I've said it. Wait. I may have said it before. Well it's true. I do love them. Let me count the ways. I love their graphic lines, their rusty or sleek texture, their negative space, the layers upon layers of straight lines, the angles.
research...

research...
 I love interpreting them in stitch. Large, small and medium.
detail of Iron Spine 4 (snow dyed pine thread on plastic)

detail of Iron Spine: Hot in the City ( embroidery thread on plastic and thread snips)

Iron Spine xs2 (variegated thread on plastic)

details of Urban Towers (embroidery thread on plastic and fabric over repurposed containers)

detail of Green News ( thread over newspaper and plastic)
And extra large of course.
in progress Iron Spine 6XL

in progress Iron Spine 6XL

trying to do good

I have been thinking a lot about what I can do as an environmentally and socially conscious artist and human. It is not enough for me to be using materials which, when not properly recycled, are destined to be trash that pollutes our waterways and makes its way to the Pacific Trash Vortex.


While I am still trying to figure out exactly what I could be doing, I can be helping already. And so can you. I am making a pledge to donate 25% from the proceeds of the sale of the artwork above to Riverkeeper, New York's clean water advocate.


It seems appropriate to me that the first artwork I will be selling to support clean water efforts is TZB Span. It depicts the old Tappan Zee bridge, which spans the Hudson River from Westchester county to Rockland county. It'll soon be gone as the new bridge is being built right next to it.

Let's help Riverkeeper keep the Hudson clean for us all. Every little bit helps. Thank you. Follow the links to see and purchase the art on my website or just click here! This piece is $650, so $162.50 will go to Riverkeeper. There is a $10 shipping fee. It's not much, but it's a start! Together we can make a difference!
TZB Span, 8"x8" © Natalya Aikens 2017

Rauschenberg and I

Grand Black Tie Sperm Glut by Robert Rauschenberg

If you're in NYC or visiting soon, don't miss Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends exhibit at the MoMA. It's up till mid September thankfully!

As I wandered through this exhibition with my friend Nathalie, I felt more and more empowered. So odd. Usually I feel inspired by an exhibit. But this time I felt empowered! What the heck?

After some pondering I realized that it's because of the materials! Yes materials. Rauschenberg's and mine. I loved peering into each of his pieces on display and figuring out what he used where. I found cardboard and fabric of course. But also plastic! Plastic bags and balloons. And I must say that they still looked good after all these years, one was from 1961! I have heard that his work is a conservators nightmare, so I am being much more careful with mine. All my materials are archival, except for the plastic. But the plastic is indestructible as we all know....

And now that you see Rauschenberg's street signs above, I can make another connection. Perhaps an obnoxious one on my part.... but I've made some street sign art myself. Mine are a bit more delicate though... and a lot smaller! Stitched on plastic of course. And made completely by my hands.
Bump © Natalya Aikens
Other Side © Natalya Aikens

Crosswalk © Natalya Aikens

Dip © Natalya Aikens

No Turning Back © Natalya Aikens

One Way Or Another © Natalya Aikens
I've updated my website with new work including three of the pieces above. The other three were already there. There is still more new art to add, so check back every few days as I'll be adding a few on a regular schedule. And for everyones convenience, I'm adding PayPal buttons as I go.
Thank you!!

teasing apart thread nests

Yup, that's the title of this post. I'm sure any long time reader of this blog must have suspected that I collect thread snips from various projects. I pile them up into little cubbies until I figure out a way to use them. I try to keep them in color families, but sometimes I fail and then I don't stress about it.

Recently I thought they (the thread snips) would make a great texture representing a brick wall and heat rising. So I used them in this piece - Iron Spine: Hot in the City.
fire escape detail

another fire escape, more to follow, but please note the threads in the back ground



Iron Spine:Hot in the City ©Natalya Aikens 2017
As you might suspect, I have a few more thread nests to unravel. Here's some that I am using for the sky in a piece about water towers. Still working on this one.
teasing out the thread nest over repurposed plastic

sketching out the water towers

building up the rungs
Stay tuned! Hopefully this piece will be finished before the end of the month..

a conversation

As I prepare to share some of my art with you, please enjoy this interview recently recorded with Nathalie Kalbach. It's really more of a conversation than an interview, Nat is lovely to talk to! And you'll love her new book Artful Adventures in Mixed Media! So grab your favorite beverage and settle in...

click for the interview!

approaching

I love when deadlines are approaching. Sometimes deadlines are looming... that feels daunting and dreaded. But when they are approaching it's a bit more light hearted and exciting. Yes still lots of work ahead, but it feels happy. My favorite kind of deadline.

That's how things are now in the studio. I am getting ready for CraftMorristown in Morristown, NJ on March 17th, 18th and 19th. I finished my Street Signs pieces and stretching them on canvas now. And yesterday I finished the Brooklyn Bridge! Yes I now have a bridge to sell you. Well right after I stretch it on canvas and frame it.

Here are a few pictures of the bridge in progress...
choosing colors

putting in the starting stitches through my mock up (photo by Vivien Zepf)

filling in the details

the back view is fun to see and will never be seen again!

lot's more details to go here

approaching the image in my head

almost there

just a few more
Hopefully in the next blog post I will share the finished piece in a lovely frame. The picture I snapped of it with my iPhone is not up to par.

Meanwhile as part of my preparation for the show, I've set up my booth in my living room. It barely fit, there was no room for anyone else, but I needed to see how it looked. I will have to do it again and try it out with my art in it. Oh boy.... the dog did not appreciate it at all!
eek! It's bigger in person!

artsy shot of envelopes with invitations
If you're in the Northern New Jersey area and would like to come see the show, email me for your personalized invitation! I have just a few left.

Ok now back to framing and other details. Hmmm.... can I stitch one more in two weeks??!!

one way or another

Done with costumes, and back to art! Last year, at the very end, I posted the last piece I made before the year was over. Today I want to tell you about the two pieces I am making that could be considered companion pieces to that one. All three could actually be companion pieces to these that I made a couple of years back. As you can see street signs still intrigue me...

Looks like these pieces are all about circles! Not really, but I am using layers and layers of cut up Target shopping bags, which I free-motion machine stitched in a circular pattern. Then I painted them with acrylic paint and now I am in the process of hand stitching the signs.
this one is in the embroidery hoop right now. I think I'll call it "one way or another"

a close up in progress

going for tons of texture here

this one is waiting to be hand stitched. I might call it "no turns"

can you see the turns?

all three - in progress, waiting and finished

crossing to the other side

It's very close. The end of the year. I'm ready to cross that line.

Usually at this time of the year I do an overview of all the artwork I have created throughout the year. But since I did an overview of the art created this summer not too long ago, I was in the mood for something different now.

This is the time of the year to finish up projects and artworks, put everything in order and generally clean up. I am doing that. But I also went and started a brand new piece and then got the bee in my bonnet to finish it before the year was over. Luckily it's a small piece and I was able to do exactly that.

You could probably have a great time psychoanalyzing the image and the name of the piece. But I'm choosing to look at it as moving on and crossing the street to new and bigger and better things. Come with me!



Other Side © Natalya Aikens 2016
Repurposed Target plastic shopping bags, layered (many layers!); free motion machine stitched; painted; hand stitched in many layered stitches and wrapped around a stretched canvas. 10"x10". Waiting for a frame.

By the way... I am trying to explore the online art selling universe a bit further, so I opened up a trial Shopify store. If you would be so kind as to take a peek and maybe even share, I would be very grateful. Thank you!