Saturday, July 7, 2018

It Was a Busy Sabbatical

From Ellen Kochansky, Executive Director

(Above:  Ellen Kochansky with her artwork at Clemson University's Lee Gallery.  This invitational exhibition was called Upstate 8: SC Fellowship Women and was part of the South Carolina Arts Commission's 50th anniversary.)

After five years of non-stop Rensing Center residency administration work, I was anointed by the board with a sabbatical.  Countless others have found their serene place here at Rensing, reframing their outlook and their work by watching the goats and the waterfall. I did too.  Since September 2017, the critical priorities have presented and arranged themselves into a new and clearer form, with my mother's needs, the opportunity to make new art, and some traveling to visit my friends and family taking center stage. Perspective, the reason we chose to look at life from the small village of Borseda in Italy, has appeared in Pickens. As those priorities became clearer, I remembered how artwork falls into place when we squint.  I call this VALUE JUDGMENT, and I've given this lecture often.  Here was my chance, in the nine month gestation period, to give the note to self!  

At a Penland funeral for the icon Paulus Berenson, old friends came through with just what I needed.  Bobby Kadis asked me, "How's that Rensing thing going?"  I said, "After five years and 84 residents from nine countries, I'm exhausted. I need a week at the beach!"  He said, "I can do that for you."  Nol Putnam, my mother, and I had a glorious rest.


The undercurrent is that Rensing's best and most compatible alumni and friends stayed in touch, and my choice to anoint a group of Rensing Fellows turned out to have been a good one.  These fellows were given first dibs on the single, summer session for 2018, and they all said "Yes!"

Many other wonderful things have happened including the return of Catherine Cross Tsintzos.  During Catherine's May 2017 residency, she planted indigo on the Rensing farm.  She returned for a harvest and dyeing celebration on Saturday, October 28th, teaching a sold-out workshop on growing South Carolina indigo, bundling, folding, clamping and exploring the vats of blue dye.There was an exhibit of examples, reading/study materials in the Rensing Library and a festive spread in the gallery space with celebratory snacks and glorious florals by board member Ron Few.

Participants worked hard all afternoon creating fabulous fabric!

Catherine returned to the Rensing Center on January 28th and 29th to teach "The Art of the Page", another wonderful workshop where so much creativity was unleashed.

Participants for these two workshops came from all over the country.  They contributed to the life and mission of the Rensing Center but also made their economic impression on the local community.  Many hope to return and bring friends, spouses, and other artistic types.  These were the most profitable workshops held at the Rensing Center and promised a new potential for us.

As the new summer session began in May, the Rensing Center partnered with EMRYS, a Greenville literary society, to host the winner of their chapbook award for the second year in a row.  Dr. Mary Moore, Professor Emerita in the English Department of Marshall University, was this year's winner.

On Monday, June 4th the Rensing Center unveiled Timshel/Thou Mayest, a new sculpture by Rensing Fellow Dr. Keith L. Andrews.

Dr. Keith L. Andrews says of his sculpture, "Human have always been uncertain of the relationship between our free will and the great forces that impinge on us.  In Genesis 4:5, Cain was told that he must meet sin (or was it disobedience or ignorance?) Depending on the translation of the Hebrew word timsel, Cain was either being commanded to overcome the challenge or was being reassured that he would confront it successfully.  In East of Eden by John Steinbeck, the translation from Hebrew is "Thou Mayest". 

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Cocoon by Rensing Fellow art resident Susan Lenz

(Above:  One completed section of my fiber installation, The Cocoon, with my Bernina sewing machine in the foreground.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

My name is Susan Lenz.  I'm a fiber and installation artist from Columbia, South Carolina and very happy to be back at the Rensing Center for a five-week art residency.  I was here for just three weeks during the summer of 2015.  At that time, I worked on several projects but this time is quite different!

(Above:  The Cocoon in progress inside the Rensing Center "Pottery", one of the accommodations here at the Rensing Center that functions as both studio and apartment.)

I sent a proposal asking for time and space in which to create a two-sided, fiber enclosure from an enormous stash of vintage household linens, antique garments, buttons, lace, and other collected textiles. I'm quite grateful by the acceptance of this proposal. 


I'm calling the installation The Cocoon.  It is being made on a specialized pipe assemblage system that is ordinarily used to create individual booths on a convention center floor.  The South Carolina Arts Commission awarded me a quarterly artist project grant to assist with the cost of this structure.  I got enough pipes to create up to a 20' x 20' cube.  The system is quite flexible though and various other, smaller dimensions will be possible as needed to future opportunities.


I envision this installation as a 21st century quilting bee without the strict demands of stitched perfection, pattern, or function for bedding.  The enclosure will become a fun, comfortable way to share common threads between people of all ages, races, and cultural backgrounds. 

From the beginning, I've wanted this fiber installation to do several things.  I wanted to have a place where a mother and child could thread a needle, fasten a button onto a piece of cloth or learn a basic running stitch. I wanted people of all ages to share stories of family members who quilted, stitched, made all the garments for their family or crocheted doilies for the house.  I also wanted to inspire others to DO SOMETHING with their treasured textiles.

I am most pleased that the Rensing Center will be hosting the first public viewing for The Cocoon in the Rensing Library on Thursday, July 12 from 6 - 8.  If in the area, please consider this your invitation!

As a regular blogger, I've been documenting this installation and am already receiving positive feedback from readers.  My posts to date include:

ARRIVAL at the Rensing Center

The First Week

A YoYo Couple of Days

Two Weeks Completed

Check back as I will put up at least one other post before the July 12th reception!