Artist Who Dances
Objects of Desire
Tea Bowl Statement
Joan Schulze: The Artist Who Dances
This article originally appeared in the May
2003 ATASDA Newsletter, Sydney, Australia.
In the Rain
Quilt, silk, paper, cotton
45" x 67"
Artist quiltmaker Joan Schulze has recently spent seven weeks giving lectures and workshops in Melbourne, Adelaide, Mittagong, Sydney, Newcastle and Tamworth. Such is her reputation among textile artists that her master class at the Mittagong Textile Fibre Forum was over-subscribed on the day booking opened in August of last year.
Examples of Joan's quilts and more recent collaged works and prints are held in major museum, corporate and private collections. She travels, lectures and exhibits extensively in the United States, Europe (where she has spent time as an artist-in-residence in Holland and Germany) and more recently, in the People's Republic of China (where her work is included in the syllabus of Tsinghua University).
Joan lives in Sunnyvale California and divides her time between her home there and her live-in studio in San Francisco. Her studio is located on one of the seven hills that make up this city; its large window has views of its famous landmarks and the ever changing weather that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. Here are the elements that make up the inspiration for her work, the patterns and repetition of city life in architecture, advertising, the hustle bustle of people and life beyond her window.
Joan is an accomplished photographer and her lectures are illustrated by slides that reflect her fascination with changing light, the effects of time and weather on the walls of buildings, the passing of time and laundry (and to travel with Joan is to be ever alert to the cry, Stop! Look at that laundry! And yes, to stop and to take photographs at regular intervals along the route).
Joan is a gifted raconteur and she also describes her quilts as novels, some 380 pages long. They are large in size and complex in subject matter, equivalent to the structurally opaque works of literature that in Joan's words, "It may take a year to read" and, at least as long as one of her quilts takes to make. Many are visually unsettling; there is the ever increasing pace and clamor of urban living, an assault on the senses but infused too with a sense of humour and double meanings.
Joan's smallest sized collaged works, her Haiku series, are in complete contrast to her quilts and represent her meditative still point. Visual metaphors of the traditional Japanese poetry form that is restricted to 17 syllables, they consist of carefully juxtaposed scraps of fabric, fragmented text and previously discarded images producing intimate works that, in Joan's words taught her, "the power of limited means and focused attention".
Between the quilts and the Haiku are a series of scrolls, made up of juxtaposed images, monoprinted textiles and fragments of texts which Joan describes as, "soft muted visions, remembered lightly, submerging yesterday, today and tomorrow." These link her longer poems with her textile work, are more universal than the Haiku in their subject matter, and yet are still personal, revealing encoded commentaries on the status of women, beauty and philosophy.
In 1999, she self published her book, The Art of Joan Schulze, which beautifully illustrates the evolution of her work from her embroidery of the 1970s, to the recognizably traditional quilt forms of the 1980s to her more recent and highly innovative quilts, scrolls and Haiku series. I was fortunate to participate in Joan's final master class, held in the peaceful and isolated surroundings of Lake Keepit, just outside Tamworth and organized by Glenys Mann.
Joan is a generous teacher and over the 5 days we spent together, took us through each and every of her working techniques. Mark making, glue transfer, monoprinting, reverse printing, phototransfer; my notes are filled with comments, oil pastels "lay on colour card/cartridge/poetry/different surfaces; you never know where you are going; be open for new opportunities" and re-reading them takes me back to the feeling of achievement that accompanied the 5 days.
Joan's teaching communicates her personal philosophy of art as well as her technical experience and, although highly structured, her teaching style allowed time for personal exploration and individual expression.
Music was often played while we worked. Not music as background but music to listen to: the classics, Mozart, Beethoven as well as jazz; hear word jazz by Ken Nordine on colour and "(fat) burgundy" will never be the same again.
Joan loves to dance and this love of rhythm is reflected throughout her working process: in the tessellated images that make up her quilts, her poetry, the narratives depicted in her scrolls or the intimacy of her Haiku.
To participate in one of Joan's classes is not to learn some formulaic working process but to expand ones own repertoire of techniques, rather like a jazz musician might learn how to improvise and recreate anew. Also like the jazz she so loves, Joan continues to improvise and so evolve her own artistic vision. There is a new direction currently 'under wraps' and I, for one, eagerly anticipate it's unveiling.
When Joan returned to the United States at the beginning of May, she said that she hoped to return again soon. Those who met her and had the opportunity to hear her speak, see her work or attend one of her classes, hope so too.
- Sarah E Tucker
27h x 25w
you can dance thorough life shoeless
but baby it's all about shoes -
wooden, tap, ballet,
fancy or running
new pairs or old
find a spring in your step
trip the light fantastic
feel the incredible lightness of being
skip, hop, jump, prance
be footloose and fancy free
make your footprint
think of a dance
not set pieces perfectly performed
but improvised while stepping
lightly in great shoes
interpret the music
think of Fred and Ginger,
Nureyev and Fonteyn,
Gene Kelly singing in the rain.....
moving like silk
dancing for love
lost in an interlude
Tapestry International Exhibition and Symposium
The Forest diptych was exhibited in Art and Science International Exhibition and Global Symposium, National Museum of Fine Art, Beijing, China,
May 31 - June 17, 2001.
This event was sponsored by UNESCO. A catalog and CD ROM was produced. The event's basic philosophy was to present truth, honesty and beauty in the world.
In 8 days I had enough adventures to keep me inspired for years. My article about the exhibition and symposium will appear in Surface Design Magazine, Fall 2001. Beijing: The Summer Palace is the first finished work in my China Series. The Great Wall is in words, some poems. No quilts or collages are finished yet.
Climbing The Great Wall at Simatai
Yesterday was warm and sunny. Today the rain comes unexpectedly. Our bus drives up into the mountains. No trees. Here and there are stacked bundles of sticks and twigs. Winter is coming. 3 hours out of Beijing, we arrive at our destination-The Great Wall.
The bus staging area is not busy. I'm sure the weather had something to do with it. We were given colorful rain capes before the climb. Short people surround us. Are they guides? We are told that the tram can take us part way. It was not part of the original plan but once I see the long and slippery ascent, the rough stones and steep steps with oblique angles, I vote for the change.
At times there were too many offers of help from what I now know are postcard and souvenir book sellers. How do I say no? Occasionally I give up and accept the necessary arm. My camera stays under my rain cape. I can only think about my steps, each one measured and tested. There would be a quick descent if I wasn't careful. Yellow chains are found in sections that were clearly for mountain goats. Stops to rest and catch a breath are never for very long. The climb is steep. The weather does not cooperate.
The Guard Tower appears! One of the last to arrive at the top., I am incredibly giddy and joyful. The arrival is sweet. Just in time for our picnic in the sky.
- Joan Schulze, 2001
Quotes from the prospectus
"Science and art share a mutual goal that is human's creativity. They both seek truth. They are as inseparable as two sides of a coin."
- T. D. Lee, Professor, Columbia University, Nobel Prize Winner
"Science reveals the secrets of the outside world. Art reveals the secrets of the inside world."
- Wu Guanzhong, Professor, Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
[Surface Design in den USA: Wechselwirkungen zu Europa]
Objects of Desire
(Danish Textile Museum)
DK-7400 Herning, Denmark
Tel. 97 12 29 80
December 17, 1999 - February 24, 2000
Reception Dec. 17, 1999
Artist will be present and give a short talk followed by a book signing.
Monoprint and collage workshop December 18, 1999.
September 9 - October 9, 1999
Opening Reception: September, 1999, 19:00
Mainzer Strasse 31
50678 Köln (Cologne, Germany)
Tel. 02 21. 31 20 47
Joan Schulze was a Cultural Specialist for the United States Information Agency in 1991. During her three weeks at the Dutch Textielmuseum, in Tilburg, The Netherlands she led docent tours of the exhibition Contemporary Quilts USA which toured Europe and the UK from 1990 - 1994, gave demonstrations and workshops, plus participated in small discussion groups with quilt artists from Germany, France, and The Netherlands.
Joan will be exhibiting 25 quilts at Gallery Smend, including several that she began while at the museum in Tilburg. Several of these quilts led her to the Objects of Desire series that she will be showing during this one-person exhibition. Joan will present lectures, workshops, and create an 'ephemeral' quilt based on her visit to Cologne. Visitors to the gallery will be able to observe the process Joan uses in making her quilts.
The Art of Joan Schulze has been in production for the past two years. There are 141 full color plates, an extensive bibliography, introduction by Constance Howard, MBE, former head of Goldsmith's Textile Department, London, England, and essays by noted people in the arts – Jette Clover, curator at the Dutch Textile Museum; Dyana Curreri, Director of Art at Washington State University, Pullman. Joan has also contributed several essays about her installations and current work. A special boxed edition features a selection of 100 one-of-a-kind haiku's, small jewel-like collages, that are an extension of her work in fabric and paper.
Joan Schulze creates image and text based collages often combining advertisements with her photographs. She uses the photocopy machine as a camera, and with methods she has developed, transfers these collaged paper copies to fabric. These one-of-a-kind 'fabrics' become the basis for her visually exciting quilts. Schulze, in this new work refers to today's visually complex and image based culture. Her work consistently challenges the 'idea' of what can be thought of as a quilt.
The Tea Bowl Series
by Joan Schulze
I became interested in tea bowls over 30 years ago. My collection is varied. I have vague criteria–must fit into my cupped hands, have interesting surfaces, sometimes a surprising color or flaw, the shapes can be symmetrical and are often not. In other words, I go with a feeling "I must have this". No words can explain that.
What has this gathering of bowls have to do with my work? I think they have educated my eye for texture, my taste for risks people take when they create, an appreciation for contrasts such as rough next to smooth, colors which glow from underneath another layer of color and over time the connection between my idea of what is a tea bowl and what I understand is the esthetic as practiced in the tea ceremony. While I haven't formally studied the tea ceremony, I have read much and been exposed to the ritual through group events, my first being at the Kimball Art Museum in the 60's. A serious student practices over a lifetime. I have only scratched the surface.
In 2001 I began to document my collection. It began out of a need to organize and create a history for these objects, in other words, curate my collection. It was a slow and methodical process which I enjoyed, especially when I looked at the photos of the bowls. I never finished this curatorial project because I became so interested in the photos. I saw things in various bowls that I hadn't noticed before. Serendipity took over. My experiments led to quilts, scrolls and collages using these images in various ways, dare I say a series.
My first artwork with tea in the title was 1996. It was 2002 when I began the use of my collection as inspiration. It fit in with my frequent use of found images, photos, text and collaged fragments of paper and cloth which I glue, stitch, peel and scrape to create the surfaces of my quilts and collages.
Joan Schulze, 2004