Monday, April 11, 2016

Welcome Spring: A Field Journal

"Field Journal" by Cindy La Ferle
Spring has been dragging her snow-covered boots en route to Michigan -- and having some fun with "April Fool" pranks along the way. Last month she teased us with balmy weather and early primrose blooms, then threw some snow our way.

No wonder I'm fighting a case of spring fever; I can't wait for the start of gardening season.

The "field journal" shown here is an homage to spring. It was made from a children's board book I found at a thrift store. I covered the boards first with handmade paper, then added a variety of found objects -- twigs, feathers, shells, vintage jewelry, and an image from Botticelli's "Primavera."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cycles of the Muse

"Cycles of the Muse" by Cindy La Ferle
Inspired by a slip of paper in a Chinese fortune cookie, "Cycles of the Muse" is a tribute to the creative process -- and a playful nod to Sandro Botticelli, one of my favorite Renaissance artists. I was happy to learn last week that it was selected for the Michigan Annual XLII Art Exhibition, which opens at the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens January 30. Detroit artist Andy Krieger is the juror.

"Cycles of the Muse" combines many recycled elements: two thrift shop picture frames, broken costume jewelry, metal scraps, twigs, and bird feathers. (The "shell" from which this Venus emerges is actually a tin can lid I found in the street, while the crown on her head is an electronic scrap I swept from the floor of the studio space I share with my husband.) 

As a writer, I look for the beauty in ordinary life – and I try to bring that same sensibility to my artwork. I believe broken and tarnished things are magical, and that each one has its own story to tell. Over the years I've also learned that creative dry spells come and go, and that fallow time is as important to the process as bursts of productivity. 

And what about the fortune from the Chinese cookie? If you look closely at the lower left of the piece, you'll see that it reads, "On Friday, your creative side will shine forth with exceptional ideas." Botticelli would have been thrilled to find that one in his fortune cookie, I'll bet. 

The Michigan Annual exhibit runs through March 30. 
Click on each image for a larger view.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Self-portrait exhibit

Self-portraits created by members of the Berrien Artist Guild are exhibited throughout the galleries at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Michigan, now through September 27th.

The concept for the Box Factory exhibit began with the belief that every artist should attempt at least one self-portrait. My own "Autobiography"-- which was built around a photo taken of me in 1978 -- is included in this show. Whether you're creating a self-portrait or writing a memoir or an autobiography, the process begins with "I" ... so I had some fun punning around when I added an image of an eye to this piece. Did you spot it yet?

A three-part tutorial on how I started this mixed-media project is included on my blog, Cindy La Ferle's Home Office. Click here to read the first installment.
At the Box Factory for the Arts

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Michiana Annual Art Competition

"The Importance of Ancestors" by Cindy La Ferle
At long last, it's summer -- the season of outdoor art fairs and exhibitions. Last night I attended the opening reception for the Michiana Annual Arts Competition, which draws scores of creative entries from southwest Michigan and northern Indiana.

Two of my own mixed-media pieces -- "Fairy Tale" and "The Importance of Ancestors" -- were selected for the exhibition. Since this is my first time entering a show on Michigan's west coast, I was also honored to learn that "Fairy Tale" won an Honorable Mention award in the juried competition. Both pieces illustrate my passion for telling stories with discarded vintage treasures and natural found objects.

"Fairy Tale" by Cindy La Ferle
The Michiana Annual Art Competition runs from June 20 through August 2 at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Circus acts

"Damn Everything but the Circus"by Cindy La Ferle
The circus rolls into town every year in March. I have many happy childhood memories of watching the circus with my dad and grandfather. And the heady aroma of cotton candy never fails to conjure the cheesy thrill of "the greatest shows on earth."

Early in my journalism career, one of my local newspaper editors asked if I wanted to interview a lion tamer at Detroit's Shrine Circus before the show opened. Of course, I jumped at the rare chance to explore the Big Top behind the scenes. That assignment remains a favorite of mine today.

For all its bright lights and vibrant primary colors, a traveling circus also boasts a darker palette, a legendary cloak of magic and mystery. Think of the great Houdini and his death-defying acts. Think of the autumn carnival in Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, with its eerie gypsy fortune teller and sinister parade of clowns.

The pieces shown below are my homage to the mystery and thrill of the circus, past and present.

"Victoria Fortune's Magic Box" by Cindy La Ferle

"Victorian Fortune's Magic Box," detail of assemblage with vintage found objects and carnival doll, by Cindy La Ferle
"Damn Everything but the Circus," detail of altered board book by Cindy La Ferle
"Damn Everything but the Circus," altered board book by Cindy La Ferle

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Homage to the domestic arts

"House Wife" (detail) by Cindy La Ferle
Vintage cookbooks and household manuals are another passion of mine... When I find them in good condition, they're given a place of honor with other domestic collectibles and keepsakes in my kitchen.

The Creda Housecraft Manual: A Treasury of Useful Recipes and Household Information was published in 1958. When I found it at a thrift store decades later, its cover and pages were badly damaged, making it a good candidate for an altered book project. Renaming the book House Wife, I painted its covers and embellished them with vintage trims, safety pins, buttons, sewing notions, a photo from a catalog, and an old silver teaspoon. The pages were altered with old fabrics, favorite recipes, and ads from 1950s women's magazines. 

Altering a cookbook is a handy project for beginners. Gather your own recipes, family photos, and stories about memorable meals, then paste them to the existing pages of a damaged book. For charm and interest, allow some of the original text to show.

"House Wife" (altered book) by Cindy La Ferle 
"House Wife" (page detail) by Cindy La Ferle

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Art and soul, saints and shrines

Detail from altered book by Cindy La Ferle
Mexican milagros. Roadside shrines in Italy. Wooden santos tucked in the niches of Catholic churches.... Religious shrines and icons have always fascinated me, and I seek them out wherever I travel.

When I began crafting mixed-media assemblages, I happened to be reading Beverly Donofrio's memoir, Looking for Mary, which inspired me to alter a small vintage photo album with Blessed Mother holy cards and found items (shown below).

I’d already started scouting yard sales and flea markets for castoff treasures to use in my altered art projects. And if luck was with me, I’d stumble on cardboard boxes or plastic bags stuffed with dashboard saints, broken rosaries, tattered hymnals, and religious medals. 

The beauty of these spiritual relics – and the comfort they once provided their original owners -- was never lost on me. While I’m not Catholic, I wanted to treat these discarded items with respect and give them new homes in my art.    

Combining elements of the sacred with the ordinary, I've made shrines and reliquaries from vintage advertising boxes, Altoid tins, key racks, miniature photo albums, and scrap metal.
For inspiration, I look to the art of Renaissance Italy and modern Mexico -- or I might let a particular “find” from my stash of relics influence the outcome. Either way, my hope is that my spiritual pieces will evoke a sense of mystery and move viewers to find their own meaning in them.


"Our Lady of the Lost & Found" by Cindy La Ferle

"Our Lady of the Lost & Found" (detail of mosaic tile wall) by Cindy La Ferle

"Tin Can Icon" by Cindy La Ferle
"The Book of Mary" by Cindy La Ferle

"The Book of Mary" (interior view) by Cindy La Ferle

"Altered Santo: The Saint of Recycling" by Cindy La Ferle
"Reliquary" by Cindy La Ferle
"Reliquary" (detail view) by Cindy La Ferle
A collection of altered board books and albums with spiritual themes, by Cindy La Ferle

"Pocket Shrine" by Cindy La Ferle