Sunday, September 13, 2009

Layers, not time, significant in Maya Schonenberger's art

Photo's artist's statement for Quilt National 09 piece: Rejection: Reflecting on the elaborate and artful phrasing of my various rejection letters (and there are quite a few) I decided to use them in my new art work. After a ‘call for rejection letters’ among my artist friends I started the project. China, the Olympics and especially impressions of the ‘Yangtze River’ provided the background for my work and should be a reminder that rejection is the other side of winning.

I took one look at Maya's art and felt myself pulled deeper and deeper into it. It is, for me, like poetry. I have a love-hate relationship with poetry and most of the time I don't get it. Other times I have an ahhhh moment and everything falls into place and changes my perspective. Maya's work gives me an AHHHHH! moment. I hope you feel it too. And, as a writer, I can thoroughly understand her inspiration for this first piece: Rejection. Her other work resonates as well and I love her sense of humor.

So I am pleased to present Maya Schonenberger in her own words. -- Dawn

'How long did it take you?’…..

I am sure you all have heard that question many times in your life. In general I appreciate very much when people ask questions about my work. But years ago I decided, that ‘how long did it take you’ was for sure my least favorite one. Every time I am asked that question I am very tempted to answer ‘what difference does it make’.

Think about it, does it really matter (except for yourself) how long it took to create a piece? Is the piece worth more if I have spent more time on it? Is the question asked to compare the sale price with the time it takes to create the piece or is it true admiration and one would like to know how many hours it really took to create a piece like that.

Both are legitimate reasons and I of course try to answer the question. That is when the problem starts. What can I include in my working hours? Where is the beginning of a new piece? When do I start adding up the hours?

Should I include the time I needed while studying and practicing the new Photoshop program that I needed for my new creation? Are all the experiments in painting, printing and other techniques part of my hours even if not all of them are finally used? I think yes, but then maybe they are not?

I do not and cannot keep track of my hours anymore; I simply have way too many things that I need keeping track of like receipts etc. Therefore I try to answer the questions by describing the different steps that are involved in my artwork. By doing so I hope one obtains a better feeling for the various parts that make up my artwork and can therefore relate to the hours it takes to create one of my pieces.

These three photos: 'Dusting the Bottom,' 'Lady in Red,' and Sea Slug Frank (Tridachia crispata)are pieces I made for Nature Conservancy exhibitions at the Nature Conservancy in Jupiter Florida.


I start out with cotton fabric (light color) the size of the piece. The background of the pieces contains several layers of different materials such as all kinds of fabrics, print material and papers. I then glue, fuse and stitch the layers together. At that stage I basically chose whatever technique creates the effect I want and leads me to my goal, anything goes. The amount of stitching on that first level depends a lot on how easily I can glue or fuse the materials on top of each other. Decorator fabrics for example are often very difficult to glue or fuse, therefore they require a lot of stitching, while cotton and silk stick together without any problems. I make certain that all pieces are well secured on this first layer. Since almost all of my pieces contain environmental, political or social statements I add quit a bit of newsprint to my work. (I am not going to touch the copyright problems at this point but I can assure you I observe all those laws and ask for permission whenever they are needed).

Photos, either transferred onto fabric or on paper are also a vital part of my backgrounds. The next step in the background process is the first layer of painting. I like painting wet on wet but usually let the piece dry in between layers. If desired I add more layers of fabric and paper, again securing them with stitching.

Photo inspiration: During the last year I started a new series called ‘Hindsight’. The expression ‘Hindsight is 20 / 20’ led to this new series of work. (Thus the animal butts.) It focuses on issues such as endangered animal or plant species, political, economical and social issues. Living in southern Florida exposes me to more than just lush, rich tropical life and beautiful waters but also brushfires, floods, droughts, spills, pollution and ‘raw’ politics. I have always been interested in nature, in our evolution and our history. Here I focus on the interaction of humans with nature and the changes that result from this process. Intrigued by the possibilities that textiles offered I started exploring different techniques guided by my sense of colors and the feelings they invoke. I strive to be in tune with my mind, body and surroundings, continuously searching for new ways of expressing my thoughts, feelings and concerns.

The last photo is my newest work: Brain-E-Scape: left and right Hemisphere. I haven't written my artists statement, yet. It is a difficult one for me to write because it is a 'complex' idea. Menopause influenced this piece and I borrowed the shape of the planet to signify the way 'losing my mind' makes me feel like I'm in outer space. You are viewing a planet -- planet Maya. I've hidden several ideas inside this mysterious me -- some appear primeval -- others I leave for you to discover.

Bio: Maya Schonenberger is a certified arts and crafts teacher from Switzerland. After teaching for several years she started her career as a studio artist and is now living in Miami. She teaches her workshops in the US and in Europe.

Her award winning artwork has been shown nationally and internationally in exhibitions such as Quilt National, FAVA, Art Quilts at the Sedgwick, Art Quilt at the Whistler and Fine Focus. Her work is in private and public collections in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the US.

Maya was the featured artist in ‘Quilting Arts Magazine’ June / July issue 2008. Her latest solo show ‘See Sides’ was at Biscayne National Park, February 8 through May 11, 2008.

Several of Maya's works will be featured from Sept. 18 through Nov. 6 in a special exhibit Earth Elements at Pensacola Museum of Art in Pensacola, FL. To see more of Maya's work and learn more about what she's up to, visit her website and her blog.

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