working when you don’t feel like it

March 2nd, 2015

Depending on where you live (and this year that includes pretty much anywhere on the planet) winter has gone on too long.  By the time February ends, we should be seeing bluer skies and warmer temperatures.  But March dragged itself on the scene yesterday with more snow here in the Northeast–more on top of what we didn’t shovel last week, hoping it would melt on its own.

I never put too much stock in the SADD (seasonal affective depressive disorder–or whatever it stands for) but maybe there is something to it.  This week I am feeling down in the dumps and unmotivated.  And that is probably in large part this cold and snowy winter that just won’t quit.

But every day I do force myself to spend at least an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon in the studio trying to get some work done.  Last week, I did a required straightening up and folding of all fabric–which did help a lot.  Once I was able to put things in order and actually see what I had, it did make going in the room a more pleasant experience–straightening up is not optional!  Some days I find myself really getting in the swing of it and spend more time, others I am practically one foot out the door.

What is my point?  If I had a real job in the real world I would have to be there every day, whether I felt like it or not.  Winter, cold, snow, whatever–if you have a job, you get there.  From that perspective, when I had a real job it did force me to put on nice clothes, makeup and comb my hair and get the heck out of the house.  Working from home means I haven’t been out of my sweatpants and my hair hasn’t been out of the ponytail for days now.  And we won’t even talk about makeup!  (don’t worry, I still shower!!!)

So if you are feeling the same way, take my advice.  Don’t entirely give in and slump on the sofa watching TV, push yourself to do at least a little work every day.  Especially with the right music (even Yendrik didn’t feel like dancing today) and getting into the zone of a project that is going well does help.

Spring isn’t that far away—is it?

spend your time where it matters

February 23rd, 2015

As many of you may know, for the past year and a bit I have been the chair of the SAQA Exhibition Committee and a member of their Board of Directors.  Earlier this month, I was fired (or as a friend cleverly dubbed it SAQed) from the Exhibition Committee, although I am still a Board member.  This delicate situation has meant I have hesitated to post anything about my firing, but ultimately decided my blog, my opinion.

I won’t go into why, or how hurt it made me feel, but it did make me think long and hard about how I look at volunteering and what it gets me in the end.  After putting in literally hundreds of hours for the betterment of the organization, I was tossed aside–and all that hard work, the sleepless nights and the uncountable hours spent on emails and phone calls and making thoughtful decisions were erased.  Where they worth it?  Probably not.

As women we often think we have no value, we let our insecurities rule our decisions.  Our time is precious, and therefore we really need to be judicious about how and where we spend it.  It may sound bitter (and maybe it is) but I am more convinced than ever that when you give your time away for free, that is how it is valued.  When someone has to pay for your time, they respect it.  Payment need not come in dollars, but when you put yourself out there and give of yourself the results should be a two way street.  Did I learn about how exhibitions work and will that benefit me in the end?  Sure.  So the exercise wasn’t completely pointless.  But was that education worth so much of my time that could have been better spent pursuing my own career?  Did I receive personal pleasure from all that time spent?  The answer to both questions is a resounding no.

So I am happily at work in my studio, making more pieces for the solo show at GPMA.  My takeaway is this:

others will not value you until you value yourself.


upcoming solo museum exhibition of my work

February 10th, 2015

Although I have been working on it for some time now (and have even shared some of the images in work on this blog) I have not officially announced my upcoming solo exhibition at the Grant’s Pass Museum of Art in Oregon this summer.  I am thrilled and so excited, and hope that any of you close enough will come see my work.

The idea started about a year ago when I was in Santa Fe, NM.  I spent an hour or two in the Plaza, taking random photos of strangers, as I always do.   When I got home and went through all the photos I took during that trip, I realized that most of those from the Plaza were people sitting on benches (the Plaza in Santa Fe has particularly pretty iron benches).

Originally, I planned to do a small series of pieces based on those specific photos, but as I made more and more figures, I went back to my photo files and realized a large number of the photos I had taken over the years were of people on benches–not always in parks but waiting for buses, in front of buildings or in other outdoor locations.  This got me very excited about examining the whole concept on a much larger scale.

The concept (as yet untitled as I play with some ideas for what to call it) is a park bench and all the people who come to sit on it throughout the day, or days.  The bench is stationary, it cannot move but can only stay in one place in the same setting.  What changes is the world around it, the weather, the seasons and the people who come and sit–some for a very short time, some for longer; some alone, some couples and others in groups.

I am having a great time making all these figures, and am noticing that even out of context, it is often easy to identify where the photo was taken.  Those from Brooklyn look different from those in the city (lots of photos taken on the Highline in NYC seem to be couples making out).  Those from other countries have a different feeling to them.  But each one tells a story, and as I always prefer to do, in each the story is for the viewer to tell.

Of course, as we get closer to the exhibition date I will share all the information with you.  For now, I am enjoying being inside my studio, watching the snow and ice from the window.  This is a great time of year in the NE to be engaged in something pleasant and enjoyable that does not involve being outside.

So stay tuned for more information in the coming months about my exhibition at the GPMA.

shut up, smile and wear beige

February 10th, 2015

This afternoon my website was hacked, nothing that showed on the surface, but some folders embedded that may or may not have caused a problem.  That required restoring the site to the way it was on February 2, the day before the hacking took place.  This is a re-do of a post that originally appeared on February 3.  Unfortunately the comments on this post could not be restored.  So for any of you who did post comments, I apologize.

I thank you all for your thoughtful and insightful comments about what we call ourselves.

My son is getting married soon and someone jokingly told me the best advice for the mother of the groom is to shut up, smile and wear beige.  Funny, yes, but the deeper meaning is in that situation it is best to blend in and not make waves.  For some in our world, it seems change is difficult and remaining in the comfort of the status quo is easier than making tough decisions or taking decisive action.

The problem for me is beige isn’t my color and shutting up isn’t my style.  I understand that being outspoken has not made me lots of friends, but those I do have respect me for speaking my mind and being honest.

So how are these two situations related?  In order to get your work out in the art world, you need to stop wearing beige.  Unfortunately, for many of us being assertive is hard, marketing our work is the antithesis of creating it.  Most artists have trouble putting themselves out there.  Those who can do it are the ones who are most successful in their careers.  But being assertive is not enough, you need to learn to read the room; adapt, and stop whining.

Remember the saying “fake it until you make it”?  That holds true as you build your art career.  Let me tell you a little secret.  When I pitched my first book, I had only been doing thread painting for a short time.  I had not really exhibited much yet and was completely unknown in our little world.  But I didn’t even know then how inappropriate it was to ask someone to publish my book.  Had I known then what I know now, I probably still wouldn’t have the gumption to pitch one even now.  But I got it, and once that book came out I was an expert in the eyes of the art quilt world.  One day I was a nobody, the next I was a somebody.  I faked it until I made it.  Important life lesson.

Of course, your work has to hold up after you speak up, so we must always strive to be improving and growing.  But don’t be a wall flower, don’t sit by the sidelines quietly wearing beige waiting for the art world to come to you.  Take the bull by the horns and make it happen for yourself.  And if you think of yourself as an ARTIST, the world will see you that way, too.

And when you do speak up, and wear red, don’t apologize.  I don’t.  For some of you, you can read between the lines here.

exhibition reception

January 12th, 2015

Just a quick post to thank everyone who came out last night for the reception at the New Rochelle Library to hear me talk and see the exhibition.  It was so wonderful to see people I hadn’t expected to be there, and I really do appreciate your support.  Thanks to all of you!!!

If you are interested in the exhibition of my work but didn’t get there yesterday, the works will be on display in the library lobby until Feb 6.  The library is at One Library Plaza in downtown New Rochelle, NY.

new rochelle library solo exhibition

January 6th, 2015

If you are in the area please join me for a talk and opening reception at the

New Rochelle Library (downtown New Rochelle, NY)

Sunday January 11 from 4 PM to 6 PM

for a solo exhibition of my work entitled

Captured in Cloth, Fabric Collages of Leni Wiener.

Yesterday I hung the show at the Lumen Winter Gallery in the lobby of the New Rochelle library.  So I thought I would share my thoughts about organizing and hanging a show.

This is the second time I have had an exhibition of my work here, many libraries like to show local artists’ work which is a wonderful way to see what people in your town are doing–and to get your own work out there.  So one of my constraints was what pieces I had available (not traveling) that hadn’t been at the library a few years ago.  That limited my selection right from the start.

My theory about showing work has always been that the more breathing space you can provide each piece the more important it looks.  This goes back to my days as an art photographer when I entered a photo exhibition.  We were all given three walls, each measuring about (I don’t really remember) maybe 8′ wide.  Money was tight and paying for professional enlargements and frames was not something I could do for a lot of pieces.  So I enlarged only six pieces, put them in much larger white mats with frames and hung just two on each wall.  Other people had 8″x10″ or 11″x16″ or larger framed the size of the photo with no mats, and layered on the walls so the space was filled with photos.  I took first place.  To this day I am convinced that it had less to do with the photos I showed, but more to do with their presentation.  Important lesson, but enough reminiscing.

Lucky for me, the library has these movable walls that I could configure in whatever way I wanted.  So I decided on this arrangement:

wall configurationEach of these lines is a wall, and of course each wall has two sides, which gave me eight walls to fill.  I liked this arrangement that felt like two small rooms in a gallery space (the exhibition before me had the walls in rows that people walked in and out of).  To me it felt intimate and invited viewers to move in closer to see the work.

Next I made a list of which pieces would go together on which wall, thinking about similarities in size, color and theme.

  • #1     Sightlines all together on one panel
  • #2     After /icy perch/in the moment
  • #3     jagged, old woman / original afghan girl/man with dog
  • #4     Bittersweet/old man/Brandon
  • #5     Out in the Cold/Empty Chair/Strangers who Pass
  • #6     Parade/discourse/in her footsteps
  • #7     graces/tracksuit/ shifting tide
  • #8     Fading light and Secret

This meant when I arrived to hang the exhibition I already knew where everything would go–I was able to put the pieces for each wall in front of that wall, and then hang them.  Went pretty fast (with the help of my friend, Sandra).

When I left the signage hadn’t been added (the library does that) which will make the walls look less empty, I am sure,  but here are some photos:

as you enterfirst wall on entering

room oneroom one looking in

room one other sideroom one other side

room two frontroom two looking in

room twoone side

room two other sideand the other

back wallback wall.

Simple, lots of breathing space and I am happy with how it looks (you can also see how small my work has gotten in the past several years).  It is always interesting to see my work hanging in a space other than my studio or my house, and particularly when it all hangs together like this.  If you are around, please join me this Sunday.

And think about asking your local library to exhibit your work.

Fiber Art for a Cause

December 31st, 2014

I am always happy when I can use my artwork to “give back” and support a worthy cause.  This year, I am honored to have been invited by Virginia Spiegel to participate in “The 100 Fundraiser to Fight Cancer” to be held on February 4, 2015.  The idea is unique and pretty simple.

Virginia invited 100 artists (some pretty heady company, I must say, and I am blown away to be included) to make a piece to donate to the fundraiser.  The first 100 people to donate $100 each will be sent one of these pieces, chosen at random.  The goal is to raise $10,000 in one day.  Pretty cool idea.  Here is how it works:

1 Day – 100 Artists – 100 Patrons – $10,000
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Opens 10 a.m. Central

1. On February 4, the first 100 people to contact beginning at 10 a.m. Central will be given a link to donate $100 by credit card directly to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause. (Please note your donation to the ACS will be credited through the Forest Lake Area Relay For Life.)

2. Each donor will receive an artwork from one of the 100 generous and talented artists listed below. Assignments of artwork will be made using a random number generator. Artwork may appear on artists’ websites or other social media before the event. See also our Pinterest board.

3. The artwork may be any size as long as the minimum retail value is $100. Artwork smaller than 8″x10″ will be mounted to 8″x10″ or 9″x9″. The artwork will contain fiber and may or may not be stitched. The artwork may or may not be made specifically for this event.

3. Each artist will receive her/his patron’s e-mail address to arrange shipping. Artwork will be shipped directly from the artist. Please note this is an international roster of artists. Please thank the artist for not only donating the artwork, but also shipping it to you.

4. Each artist would love to receive a low res photo of the artwork in situ from the new owner. This is not required, but the best photos may be shared here after the event.

Questions? Contact

Special Note: Our goal of $10,000 will make Fiberart For A Cause’s donations to the American Cancer Society a nice even one-quarter of a million dollars over the years and FFAC will be happily retired.  Virginia deserves a huge thumbs up for all her efforts to raise so much for such a good cause!

The 100 artists are:

Carol Larson
Susan Lenz
Eleanor Levie
Susan Purney Mark
Jeanelle McCall
Judy Momenzadeh
Susie Monday
Carol Moore
Gail Myrhorodsky
Fannie Narte

Kathy Nida
Karen Stiehl Osborn
Frieda Oxenham
The Pixeladies – Deb Cashatt and Kris Sazaki
Valarie Poitier
Yvonne Porcella
Cate Coulacos Prato
Daren Pitts Redman
Wen Redmond
Sue Reno

Lesley Riley
Karen Rips
Lora Rocke
Kristin Rodriquez-Girod and Janelle Girod
Beth Schillig
Norma Schlager
Susan Friedman Schrott
Sandra Sider
Cheryl Sleboda
Carol Sloan

Lura Schwarz Smith
Mary Ruth Smith
Kay Sorensen
Sherrie Spangler
Virginia A. Spiegel
Cynthia St. Charles
Terri Stegmiller
Melanie Testa
Jeanette Thompson
K. Velis Turan

Larkin Jean Van Horn
Mary Ann Van Soest
Gordana Vukovic
Terry Waldron
Judy Warner
Laura Wasilowski
Vicki Welsh
Leni Levenson Wiener
Kathy York
Vivien Zepf

Judy Gula and Eleanor of MeinkeToy:
Our Safety Nets
in case of unforseen circumstances.




All that brings me to my piece, entitled “on the edge” (finished size 12″ x 12″) just completed and added to the pool:

on the edge  Leni Levenson Wiener 2014I hope you will consider this great opportunity both to own a fiber art piece by one of these amazing artists AND help the American Cancer Society at the same time.  Win win!

my wish for you in 2015

December 30th, 2014

As we rapidly approach the new year, I want to wish all the readers of this blog a very happy and productive 2015.

My hope for you all is that you find the time to be creative, without feeling guilty;

that you set goals for yourself and strive to reach them;

that you come to understand it is ok to spend time doing what you love just because you love it.

I wish you inspiration, patience and most of all, success (however you measure success).

May you collect lots of fabric,

spend may relaxing hours at your sewing machine,

feel proud of your accomplishments and

continue to grow as artists.

Happy New Year!

non-original art that the art world accepts as art

December 19th, 2014

This topic was still in my head today while the brain was getting some blood circulation.  That got me thinking about lots of examples of art (well accepted in the history of art) that are not “original” but no one challenges whether or not they are true art.  In no particular order:

  • Jasper Johns American Flag
  • Joan Miró’s The Tilled Field, inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights
  • Claude Monet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, inspired by Édouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe
  • Duchamp’s overturned urinal
  • Devorah Sperber’s Mona Lisa done in thread (and then a tailor shop in Beirut that stole the idea and did it with larger spools and hung it in their window).  How is that for a copy of the copy?
  • Roy Lichtenstein’s Bedroom at Arles, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles
  • all Lichtenstein’s comic book pieces
  • Paul Klee used pictorial symbols and signs like arrows, letters, musical notation, ancient hieroglyphs and the art of children in his work
  • Ellsworth Kelly used geometric shapes in repetition (which look like quilts)
  • Greek canons for sculpture of human form were employed by every artist in ancient times
  • Claus Oldenberg sculptures of enlarged every day objects (lots and lots of them)
  • Jim Dine Hearts
  • Renaissance art inspired by the Greeks and Romans (after all, art in the Renaissance was all about revival of classical art)
  • Tattoo art inspired by art of other cultures
  • All things Starry Night, Marilyn, Last Supper, The Scream, The Kiss and Mona Lisa
  • The Saatchi Gallery’s show entitled “inspired by Picasso”
  • The new Romanian Soccer Stadium that was inspired by Brancusi sculpture
  • Dior fashion New Look inspired by Picasso, Modigliani, Renoir, Cezanne and Gauguin.
  • The famous Mondrian dresses of the 1960s
  • Paul Gaugin’s Spirit of the Dead Walking, inspired by Édouard Manet’s Olympia (another copy of the copy, because……)
  • Édouard Manet’s Olympia, inspired by Titian’s Venus of Urbino
  • Monet starting an entire art movement called impressionism
  • Dada starting a movement characterized by mocking and inverting all art that preceded it

That is only a start, there are lots more examples.  My point?  That art does not (necessarily) (apparently) need to be original to be ART.  It is expression, intention and execution that makes art art.  Inspiration, outright copying in another medium, copying for the sake of commentary or expression are also valid ways to make art.  There is a fine line between this concept and plagiarism, derivative art, or outright copyright infringement, but all the above have been well accepted by the art world and have become icons in their own right.

And don’t even get me started on conceptual art…….another day another post!

what makes art original….and does it need to be?

December 18th, 2014

Someone recently mentioned to me that art that is not completely original is not real art.  That immediately brought to mind Andy Warhol, who made a career of lifting commercial images and the likenesses of celebrities.  My next thought was the Mona Lisa and all the iterations of her over the centuries, including the moustachio’d ML by Marcel DuChamp, and the silkscreen of 30 ML’s by Warhol himself.  How about all the cross pollination between Picasso and Braque?  Or Modigliani’s work based on African masks?  I am sure if I taxed my brain I would come up with better examples, but it is already 4:00 in the afternoon and that is when my brain calls it quits for the day and clocks out.

The next thing I thought about was my own work.  Although I mostly work from my own photos, there are instances when my work is derived from a photo by a friend or relative who has given me permission to use it in my art.  Does the very fact that the photo was not mine to begin with make the resulting artwork less original and therefore not ART?  I hope not.

The slippery slope here is that although most serious artists do not need to be told not to lift someone else’s creative endeavor, even the most famous artists DO.  Some do it as commentary, which becomes more and more common in the days of conceptual artworks.  Some build on it as inspiration.  But the question remains, when is it ok and when is it not ok?  I guess the simple answer is when the first artist files a lawsuit against the second claiming copyright infringement.  But this is more than a copyright question, it is a question of whether every single thought surrounding the artwork must be completely original for the result to be considered art.  And frankly, that seems close to impossible.

We are influenced all the time by lots of things around us, not just other artworks.  Some are obvious, and some are subliminal.  We cannot even be sure ourselves whether or not our subconscious brain is holding onto something stored in deep memory when we think we are having an original thought.

And what about our own artwork?  One could argue that working in a series, or using the same format or a similar piece to something already in one’s body of work is not original and therefore not art.  Does a technique need to be truly original for the result to be art?  If that is the case, much of what exists in the world isn’t even close to meeting the criteria.

No conclusion, but something to think about.  I am not sure I can encapsulate into a nice clean definition “what is art” but I do think the word “original” isn’t necessarily a part of it.

So I will close with these two pieces of mine you have seen before.  Can you tell which would be considered ART because it is completely original and which would not make the cut?  Does it matter?


sarlat and private world