Featured Artist Barbara Harman; Revisiting a collaboration

This  month’s featured artist is Barbara Harman, who was my mentor for two years (2005-2006) as part of the WARM Mentor program. Barbara works in painting, printmaking, book arts and fiber arts. I was drawn to her as a mentor because of her wide-ranging facility with materials and processes, her appreciation of hand stitching and other fiber arts, and because she finds her primary inspiration in natural forms, as I do.

Here is an excerpt from Barbara’s artist statement.

“The longer I have lived in this part of the Midwest, the more my art has become about the abundance and compressed view of the natural landscape. When I go to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge south of Minneapolis, there are few places where it is possible to see for any distance. Over the years, I have become increasingly focused on what lies between me and that distance. My most recent works dispense with any attempt to separate intervening elements. I am engaged in reassembling my experience of layer upon layer: trees, leaves, grasses, water, birds, flowers, seeds. I want to reflect the crowded abundance of what I see, at the same time answer what I experience as a demand to pay closer attention. I often isolate something in a piece to comply with that demand. I’ll bring it forward, enlarge a small detail, incorporate text, add stitching or beadwork. I want to draw my viewers in, past what is transparent to what may be hidden or overlooked. I want my work to reveal the things that may be only imagined: the bird singing high in the canopy, the roots of a tree buried under earth and snow.

While working together in 2005-06, Barbara and I collaborated on the piece shown below. Our collaboration started with small pieces of hand dyed fabric, which we printed, painted and embellished, and passed back and forth a couple of times, each adding to what the other had done. Eventually we had a stack of pieces, which we decided to arrange quilt-like on a dyed, stenciled and hand-quilted background. When I look at this piece I see windows showing glimpses of the places we walked through; I also recall bits of conversations we had as we worked together over the two years.

 Wall quilt © Kit Eastman and Barbara Harman2006
Wall quilt © Kit Eastman and Barbara Harman2006

Here is a close-up of one of the rectangles. Barbara added the beading to this piece — click the image to zoom in.

 dyes, beads on linen
dyes, beads on linen

Symmetry / This Recurring Kindness

A work in response to a poet’s work on the theme of “Venus”.

 Symmetry. Multiple dyeing and printing processes on cotton and silk; hand stitched.
Symmetry. Multiple dyeing and printing processes on cotton and silk; hand stitched.

My piece, Symmetry (above), followed by the poem Tera Freese wrote in response. To read more about this project see my previous post.

This Recurring Kindness by Tera Freese

Every August it happens white blaze of afternoon ripens the fruit makes even the birds fat as queens.

Here they are now twittering and thrashing in the high sweet grasses, dark wings dusted with deep gold pollens throwing confetti of fireweed days of merriment and feasting.

Even in their tiny eyes – a bright exuberant health as in something that has come ’round again to meet it’s full potential.

These are the same mourning doves that eat dark oily seed from my pale palm after the curtain of Autumn has dropped.

Yes, even when there is not this bounty, there is still enough. For that which dwells in the first hung star is there, too, in the last to fade to morning’s tide.

Evening Star / A Walk With Sadness

Here is Tera’s poem (the one I chose to respond to of the four she shared with me) along with my piece. In working on my piece, I allowed the imagery and emotional tone of the poem to stimulate my imagination. 

A Walk With Sadness by Tera Freese
Sadness sits in my lap like a small child — Brown tears, hot plum breath.

Standing, I zip her up, safe inside my coat like an infant in a sling.

Look, I whisper — the white legs of birch, The lake’s many ice rafts rising and falling on her huge abdomen, The yellow globe of moon winding with the trail.

There, the cold ripples of ice resemble an elephant’s trunk, The slight thaw having dripped and froze again two massive wings growing from the steep silver cliff.

and — look — bright Venus Like a place you visited long ago and are waiting to return to.

I keep still — and – like a carpet rolling outward into shimmers of sky, like all of the sages reaching back through fields of time — Sadness unfolds and is gone.

 Dyes and pigments on cotton
Dyes and pigments on cotton