"Bicycle Face = Imposter Syndrome," doily, mounted on canvas. By Elaine Luther

“Bicycle Face = Imposter Syndrome,” doily, mounted on canvas. By Elaine Luther, Copyright 2023.

Solo Show at Orland Park Public Library, July 2023

I have a solo show up right now at the Orland Park Public Library, in the second floor gallery space. The show is called Ghost Prints & Shadow Work and gathers many of the doilies with quotes on them that address shadow work and women’s labor. In addition, there are new and larger works, including stretched quilts. Most of these artworks have never been exhibited before.

We’re starting off with a look at the group of three works about “bicycle face” and imposter syndrome!

Amy Diehl Quote in Bicycle Face Collage by Elaine Luther, 2023

Bicycle Face Collage with quote by Amy Diehl, Ph.D. By Elaine Luther Copyright 2023. The quote from Amy Diehl, Ph.D, author of Glass Walls, says, “In the 189s men made up a women’s disease to dissuade them from riding bikes. Bicycling allowed women to be more mobile on their own and encouraged more practical women’s attire. Women’s mobility & freedom was a threat to men’s status.”

I first made the doily printed with the image of the Penny Farthing bicycle, shown at the top. Then I realized I hadn’t explained what bicycle face was, or it’s connection to imposter syndrome. I made two more pieces to tie it all together.

A historical note – the choice of a Penny Farthing bicycle for this print is not historically accurate. I know that bicycling, or “wheeling” as it was known at first, didn’t really take off among women until the invention of the “safety bicycle,” the one with two wheels the same size, more similar to what we ride now. (Women also rode the three wheeled “Bone Crushers.”) However, I needed an image that communicated “old fashioned” and this one did the trick. Apologies to bicycle historians everywhere.

This collage, second image, is 12″ x 12″ on wood panel, ink jet prints made with permanent ink on resume paper, using all photos, imagery and maps from the 1890s, except of course for the social media post by Amy Deihl, Ph.D.

Are artists allowed to say when they’re delighted with a piece? It’s not always easy to track down the perfect public domain/royalty free/okay to use images, and all of these images are so perfect! It delights me that every single image used, except the tweet/Mastadon post, is from the 1890s! Helps make up for the Penny Farthing. And I just love how it came together.

The third piece in the series makes the connection.

"Imposter Syndrom is a misogynistic scheme..." magenta doily on 14" x 18" canvas, by Elaine Luther, 2023

“Imposter Syndrome is a misogynistic scheme…” magenta doily on 14″ x 18″ canvas, by Elaine Luther, Copyright 2023. Full quote says, “Imposter Syndrome is a misogynistic scheme to keep women focused on their supposed inadequacies, instead of the system that holds us back.” – Amy Diehl, Ph.D

I found out about bicycle face from Amy Diehl, Ph.D., and in her tweet pictured in the collage above, she linked to this article on Vox.com

Another author who has written about bicycle face is Reshma Saujani.  You can read an excellent article by Reshma on the subject, and see a video of her speech at Smith College, on Glamour.com.

Another set of companion pieces in this show addresses the loss of parking meters and their attendants who removed the change, and the rise of the dreaded Pay to Park machine.

“Your Meter Maid Today was Self”

Two artworks about parking meters and pay to park machines by Elaine Luther, 2023

Top: “Your Meter Maid Today was Self,” and Bottom: “Pay to Park Machines Discriminate Against Parents with Small Children and Anyone with a Mobility Issue.” Both Copyright Elaine Luther 2023. Each one is 12″ x 12″.

I apologize for using the term “Meter Maid,” as it is surely outdated and sexist, but “you know, that person who goes around and empties the change out of parking meters” isn’t as catchy and wouldn’t fit on a doily.

Pay to Park machines are awful, really awful. You have to walk further, stand in line, they’re annoying and they take waaaaay more time to deal with than parking meters, where you pop in some coins and turn the dial. Or used to. As the tile says, “Pay to Park Machines Discriminate Against Parents with Small Children and Anyone with a Mobility Issue,” there was a time when I had both of those – small children and a temporary mobility issue, and these pay to park machines made my life harder.

That we’re all spending more time just paying to park, and that no one is getting paid to empty the machines, makes this shadow work.

What’s Shadow Work Again?

"Shadow Work," by Elaine Luther 2023

“Shadow work is work that you do that someone else used to get paid for.” Blue light reactive dye printed doily, stitched to 12″ x 12″ canvas, wrapped with gingham cotton fabric. Copyright Elaine Luther 2023.

Shadow Work is also the title of a book by Craig Lambert, a quote by him is coming up. This one isn’t a direct quote, but it’s my own summary of what shadow work is. He writes persuasively that corporations are transferring more and more of their work onto us, and it’s part of why we all feel so busy. Another example of shadow work is that doctor’s offices now email you paperwork, or make you download it yourself, and fill it out, at home, on your own time, instead of writing it down by hand in the waiting room, and then having a data entry person or administrative assistant type it up. Which leads us to this next doily.

Admin. Assist Doily in Magenta, by Elaine Luther, 2023

“Your Administrative Assistant Today was Self,” light reactive dye printed doily in magenta, stitched to a fabric wrapped 12″ x 12″ canvas. Vintage fabric is a poly-cotton blend. Copyright Elaine Luther 2023.

Here’s how all these doilies that say, “Your ________ today was self” got started.

"Inspiration Receipt" collage by Elaine Luther, 2023

“Inspiration Receipt” collage by Elaine Luther Copyright 2023. Inkjet print out of image of receipt, with permanent ink on resume paper, collaged over a collage of paper bag pieces.

I was at my parent’s house and there happened to be a grocery store receipt on the counter. I noticed that it said, “Your cashier today was self.” ! What?! I’m sure I have personally had hundreds of receipts that say that, but I never noticed. I took a picture and later printed a doily that says, “Your Cashier Today was Self.” Each doily in this series uses the exact same font as on the receipt, and includes the dashes above and below, just like the receipt.

"Your Cashier Today was Self" light reactive dye printed doily by Elaine Luther, 2023.

“Your Cashier Today was Self” light reactive dye printed doily by Elaine Luther Copyright 2023.

Whew! This is a big show! Let’s step back and take a look at the walls.  Here are the first two pieces in the show if you’re approaching it from the left side in the library.

Two artworks by Elaine Luther, shown as installed at the Orland Park Public Library, July 2023.

“And I began to wonder…” and as of yet untitled piece, (large work with lace collar print) by Elaine Luther Copyright 2023.

Wall view at the Orland Park Public Library of part of the show by Elaine Luther.

Wall view at the Orland Park Public Library of part of the show by Elaine Luther.  Largest work in center is 24″ x 36″ stretched quilt.

Another wall view at the Orland Park Public Library of part of the show by Elaine Luther.

Wall view of show, Ghost Prints & Shadow Work, with 36″ x 36″ textile collage at the center.

Introductory wall of Ghost Prints and Shadow Work, show by Elaine Luther at Orland Park Public Library, July 2023.

Introductory wall of Ghost Prints and Shadow Work, show by Elaine Luther at Orland Park Public Library, July 2023.  Show statement, bio on the left.  Largest piece is a 24″ x 24″ stretched quilt.  The doilies say, from L to R: top: Your Administrative Assistant Today was Self; Housework is the original and fundamental form of Shadow Work. – Craig Lambert; Your Gas Station Attendant Today was Self; Bottom: Your Furniture Assembler Today was Self; Your Housekeeper Today was Self; Your Stock Trader Today was Self.  

Large Stretched Quilts and Textile Collages in Solo Show by Elaine Luther

Let’s take a closer look at the largest works in this show. I don’t usually work this large, in part because if I make large art, and it doesn’t sell, I have a storage problem. But this gallery space in the library is nearly 43 linear feet. I needed to make some large works not only to fill the space, but for visual variety.

Textile Collage with Blue Printed Hankie of Lace Collar, by Elaine Luther, 2023.

This one was the most unexpected piece to come out of this show. This is 24″ x 36″, fabric wrapped canvas with layered vintage linens. The blue handkerchief is from 2022 and is a light reactive dye print of a Battenburg lace collar, a small doily, and some pressed plants. The base layer is a vintage sheet. Machine and hand stitching.

36" x 36" textile collage by Elaine Luther.

Textile collage with photo of ghost sign, by Elaine Luther Copyright 2023. Inkject printed photo, shibori dyed fabric by the artist, overdyed quilt fragment, overdyed vintage linen, found quilt block and embroidered tea towel.

This piece combines many of my interests/things I collect/processes I do: abandoned/found quilt blocks, embroidered works, vintage linens, ghost signs on the sides of buildings, photos printed on fabric, shibori dyeing, overdyeing and chopping up old quilts. I think that’s everything! By the way, that quilt is not a precious heirloom, it’s a 1980s made in China quilt that I was ready to give new life in art.

Here are two groups of printed doilies and napkins from the show.

Photo grouping of 4 doilies from the solo show by Elaine Luther. Each light reactive dye printed doily or piece of fabric has a quote.

Light reactive dye printed artwork on (mostly) vintage linens by Elaine Luther. Top row, L to R: “Your chauffeur Today was Mom;” Craig Lambert quote; Elizabeth Catlett quote; Deborah Frances-White quote. All Copyright Elaine Luther 2023.

Prints on doilies and napkins by Elaine Luther 2023

Top row: “Your Housekeeper Today was Self;” Your Stock Trader Today was Self;” Bottom row: “Your Furniture Assembler Today was Self;” Your Gas Station Attendant Today was Self.” Light reactive dye prints on vintage doilies and napkins by Elaine Luther Copyright 2023.

And that is almost every work in this show! This show includes 31 pieces, all are available for sale.

Notes on Process

How are these works made? This show is mostly made up of prints on fabric made with light reactive dye, specifically, Jacquard Solar Fast. It works like cyanotype, if you’re familiar with that, only it’s a dye, and it’s available in many colors. I like the blue a lot, which seems to reference cyanotype. (I also sometimes make cyanotype prints.)

In the past, I’ve often installed these doilies in galleries using T-pins and pinning them directly to the wall. For this show, I needed to use the library’s hook and wire system, so I needed to frame the works, or otherwise make them hangable on the hook and wire system. I almost bought frames, but didn’t commit in time. Instead, I wrapped 12″ x 12″ canvases with fabric, some new, some vintage, and staple gunned the fabric to the back of the frame. I was delighted to discover that electric staple guns are a thing.

While this decision was purely practical, I like the way the addition of fabric behind the doily adds more color, and the canvas gives the doily a firm background.  In addition, I printed a quote directly on fabric for the first time.

Unpaid Labor that Went into this Show

Ever since I started making art about unpaid labor, I like to list and acknowledge the unpaid labor that went into creating this show. There’s my own, of course, making the art. My mom and teen daughter assisted with the stitching down of the doilies to canvas. My daughter also helped with the fabric wrapping and staple gunning of the fabric to the canvas frames. My husband documented the show and the artist talk event. Photos in this most include my photos and his.  Thank you, everyone!

Library as Incubator

There used to be a blog called The Library as Incubator Project. Actually, it’s probably still out there, though it’s no longer being updated. The idea was that libraries can be incubators, supporters of the arts, artists and the artistic process. A project or two of mine was featured and the authors went on to publish the book Tactical Librarianship, which includes a project I did with a local library.

This show is a wonderful example of the library being an incubator. I’ve been making these doilies for a couple of years, but never had this much space to present so many of them together; never had a reason to present them on canvas like this. And, I had to make some larger works, in sizes I haven’t really worked in recently, or much.

It was a great challenge and I’m excited about the new pieces that I made. What’s that quote about accomplishing a lot when you have an idea and not quite enough time? Thank you to the Orland Park Public Library and Outreach Librarian Mary Lynn Maloney for being terrific supporters of the arts!