Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lastly, it never ends

Creating piece(work) has been a very physical and mentally challenging task. If you look below, you will see the journey of the project through my (mostly) weekly posts about each swatch, and its meaning. The transformation will continue when it gets back into the studio on December 2, 2009, and I will put dated updates on the original posts.

I started out to physically sew in the window every week, with several objectives in mind: utilize only materials that were found or already in the studio; be very Providence-centric to make it site-specific; keep a rigorous weekly schedule to not over analyze each piece. Respond to the questions of the week or the day only. In a way, the individual pieces have become drawings and plans for future sculptural projects. From being in the window, and just being Downtown, I learned more about the community in the last few months than I have in years, and made some new friends. I have also learned some physical limits and how to plan a project of this size better next time. Learning never ends.

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by, Magnificent Meg, and to Mr. And Mrs. Park for putting up with me moving all of the wigs in the store to get in the door.

Wrap up

For my last swatch I am ahead of myself, as the store is closed for Thanksgiving. Being a season of giving, there is a wonderful exchange that happens Downtown on the State House lawn the day after Thanksgiving. Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is either "Black Friday" to some (those who want good deals for Christmas and care to shop), or the antithesis "Buy Nothing Day " ( for those who would rather stay away from the crowds or be charitable to the community in some way). This year, with the hard economic downturn, it may be hard to choose for some, if one has the option that is. Buy local or at least buy at a business to keep the economy healthy, or save money, downsize, an hopefully give to others. I think many are conflicted.

Well, for the latter, who want to reach out, the 13th Annual Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange is held this Friday, November 28, from 10 am to 2 pm, State House lawn (rain/snow site: St. Patrick’s School, 244 Smith St, Providence). Exchange a coat or leave a coat for someone in need. If you do go out and get some Christmas shopping done early, buy local if you can, and that is another way of giving back to the Rhode Island economy

Buy Art!

Did you know that for every dollar an artist receives, at least 3 times that amount goes back into the community? Providence has more artists per capita than any other US city according to some studies. The Providence Art Windows project can personally vouch for the % above, as I had past artists take a survey this Spring. For the $100 given to an Art Windows selectee, at least $200 went out for supplies, $20 for coffee and lunch, $50 if the artist needed a babysitter for the hours of installation. For out-of-state participants, the % was much higher, at least $700, which included air fare or car rental, and hotel stays. With the high unemployment rate, let charity begin at home. Buy local art, or locally funded projects, and you will let the wealth spread back into the community.

Can all you Can, Can, Can!

This October, I had a visit from some unwanted new friends-mice.

We had never had any in our house, but we knew our neighbor Charles did, and he was battling them all of the time. Charles decided to move this Fall after becoming seriously ill with pneumonia. He was in assisted living for awhile, and I would take him flowers from his beloved garden and straighten up the house while he was still away. He thought he would return within a few months, but all of the food went bad in the fridge, which I threw out,too. I missed him, as we would always chat on the porch when I took a break from working at home or passed him coming back from the studio. His relatives came and cleaned out the house in September, and right after he moved to Virginia, Charles passed away in his sleep. The neighbors and I still morn the man whom we called, "The Mayor of Pawtucket Avenue," always on the proch with a smile, a good word, and advice for the garden.

The new visitors came once the food was gone next door. I also think it was my prolific garden of sunflowers, dropping seeds throughout the yard, and me collecting them within the house for next year. I grabbed a few though Have-A-Heart traps and let the mice go in the woods, and got several plug-ins that emit a sound only mice can hear to drive them away. I started to think about how many people are being good little mice these days, canning and freezing food from the garden. I put up blackberry jam, tomatoes from the yard, pickles and peaches from local produce, and froze blueberries and peas, dried some beans. There is a shortage of food in the country, and more and more people are having a hard time providing food for their families. I hope many learn lessons from the dreams of mice, and put away for the future.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back in the Window next week

If anyone is dropping by the window to see something new this week, I had to take a break due to back strain the studio. I wish I could say it was something heroic, but long hours of sewing, and not stretching enough, can take a toll! I am about done with a bunch of swatches, the quilt will be at a point of finished. I will be updating the site with these swatches as I complete them this weekend. Sorry to miss you if you drop by!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This week's piece is about the residents many love to hate; we trip over them Downtown, they congregate in the plaza and fly in hordes near where we eat-pigeons. Pigeons have a long and intimate history with humanity, following humans into cities. These "Rock Doves" have survived on our garbage, and are often called "flying rats," but they are from the same family as doves.They are actually one and the same, just a different species. It is all semantics as to which is the better bird.

With the weather still holding it's warmth, I have passed by many children at the bus stop running through packs of these birds, enjoying their company. Seeing the lift off from the child's play reminded me of the exploration of Eadweard Muybridge's photos, and how simple and curious investigation can lead to something profound. The city is a place of work, but is it a place of play outdoors enough for families? I grew up in Omaha, NE, and in the very heart of Downtown are built in slides. Big, bright, and large enough to sit in your mother's lap if you got scared. Located in the Gene Leahy Mall, an outdoor park in the middle of the city, the park edges a massive library, fountains and shops, what you want in the heart of a city. Burnside Park in Providence has had a lovely transformation in the last few years, and it has become a place to congregate and celebrate during the warmer months, and through the winter months at the skating rink.

When I first came to Providence, I would walk Downtown on weekends and it would be me and a few pigeons. I would maybe run into a few people. The city echoed. Pigeons have historically followed humanity and its ephemera. The flocks are so numerous now that they have attracted predators like hawks and owls. It is only because of Providence's success at attracting more people to live and work Downtown that they have been able to multiply.

Included on this section are quick sketches of rock doves I have seen while waiting at the bus stop. Many of these were done while seeing children running through large gatherings of them. The pigeons are not only on this swatch, but they fly and eat elsewhere on the quilt, scattered like in real life, and everywhere!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Art New England reviewer Doug Norris recently called to interview me in my capacity as Providence Art Windows Director and the current show, which I am a part of. He also writes his own independent blog, the independentsartsblog, where he had this to say about my work:

Lot of Art
"A Providence artist has found a way to make something of value from all of those shredded hopes and confetti dreams. Rebecca Siemering’s “A Fine Suit,” made from more than 1,000 discarded scratch tickets and representing over $3,500 in gambling losses, was presented as one of the Providence Art Windows in 2007 and now stands in the offices of its new owners, Fidelity Investments in Smithfield.

Siemering, now the director of Providence Art Windows, began creating additional objects out of lottery cards, while developing installations for other projects that represent some of the most intriguing art being made in Rhode Island. Among them: Her latest art window, “piece(work),” a time-based installation on Eddy Street, and “The Bells Ring for Thee,” still decaying in the North Burial Ground as part of the Cryptic Providence group installation. For her window, which she visits and works on weekly, she designed a “crazy quilt” that reflects the news of the world and the buzz of conversation around Providence. For the graveyard, she created a landscape of sound in an adjacent field, “planting” rows of metal flowers that played a vibraphone’s range of tones in the breezes, gusts and rainfalls that filled the seasons."

Thanks Doug!

When it is a good thing not to be first.

"Unemployment will reach 13.8%" is the prediction that Rhode Island will reach this number by 2010. At least we are still not the highest. Our little state has been hit very hard.

Providence just hosted the National Arts Marketing conference this weekend. I was privileged to participate in the Artist Boot Camp, among the many offerings and volunteer at the tourism table to let the attendees from across the country know what great things there are to do around town. Everyone was impressed by the small size, excellent offerings of art and food, how easy it was to walk from one thing to another. It was nice to be reminded we are doing things right in a lot of ways, and if we pay attention, our "Creative Capital" can help everyone benefit and make the % go down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


There will be no sewing in the windows this or next week, as I prepare two large pieces in the studio, and finish several smaller ones....

Caduceus, symbol of communication and the healing arts. From the Encyclopedia Britannica," staff carried by Hermes, the messenger of the gods, as a symbol of peace. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans it became the badge of heralds and ambassadors, signifying their inviolability. Originally the caduceus was a rod or olive branch ending in two shoots and decorated with garlands or ribbons. Later the garlands were interpreted as two snakes entwined in opposite directions with their heads facing; and a pair of wings, in token of Hermes’ speed, was attached to the staff above the snakes. Its similarity to the staff of Asclepius the healer (a staff branched at the top and entwined by a single serpent) resulted in modern times in the adoption of the caduceus as a symbol of the physician and as the emblem of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Let's hope the two sides of our government can come to an agreement, and decide to help and heal, rather than hold back on healthcare for everyone. Stay tuned for some pictures of the work in progress.

UPDATE: I finally finished this piece this week, and have left my pencil tracing on the background to show my original tracing of the caduceus. I started to think more and more about the fight for healthcare, and imagined two blind snakes reaching with their tongues in the air, hunting, seeking...something. Seems visually apt for the discussion that keeps going back and forth in committees.

Later on in the season, "Can all you can, can,can!" This is the time of saving and storing. How could I not speak of how many are trying to save money and share the bounty of their own gardens? This year, I planted potatoes, which are now in the fridge, along with blackberries and blueberries from the yard. Tomatoes, cucumbers and more blackberries went into the pot to savor them later. I hope everyone enjoyed their yard as much as I did (despite the extended rain).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guess Whoooooooooo's Coming to Lunch?

On October 9, Downtown Providence had an infrequent guest-a stippled barred owl- which sat in a birch tree in Financial Plaza,sleeping, resting, and causing a stir among the workers and lunchers below it. So what does it mean,having this night creature appear in such a public place? The owl was probably resting before starting a hunt in Kennedy Plaza or the streets later on in the evening. Of course, there is much symbolism placed on owls-symbols of wisdom, symbolic of guiding souls to the land of the dead among others. Whatever one makes of this surprise visit, let's enjoy it.Mr. Owl will be resting high in the corner, watching over the progress of the piece, and extending his stay.

Me and the owl will be in the wondow for a late lunch (1:30) on Thursday, September 15.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dive in.

This week's piece is about retaining mystery.

Last week, I had a confluence of events and thoughts. I went to see photographer Joe Deal's New Work show at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. Mainly known for his large and expansive views of the Plains states and Western America, he has recently turned to photographing cave structures, specifically the mouths of them. There were a few I found particularly striking, staring into an abyss of darkness. The dark tones of the photographs became a mirror, and caused a reflection of me within the darkness. The second event was me doodling around on Facebook, and looking around at what friends were up to. A high school friend of mine, Violet Clark wrote on her page, "The Need For Approval Is The Enemy Of Art." Violet is an artist and musician, and I am assuming she was having one of those moments where too many people want to tell you what you should be doing. As an artist, I have had those moments, and so have friends. Working in the art world, you get surprises you would never expect. The simplest art can can cause the strongest reactions. It started me thinking how no art would be made if we did not jump past all of the eyes and into the abyss.

So here is my homage to art making. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and listen to nothing else; let it shine; let it burn. I made three versions of this piece before paring it down. When you see it, there is a place for your mind to rest, and no-one has to know what you are thinking.

Monday, September 28, 2009

When it rains, it falls on everybody's house.

This Sunday it rained. It rained hard, like it did most of the summer, a summer where I did not put my winter clothes away until July. One swatch of the quilt has been delayed until now, and if anyone is reading this that is not an artist, it will explain how sometimes a mundane experience can trigger an idea to be finished.

I was riding in the car a few days ago and got behind a cab which had the following vinyl lettering, "When it rains, it rains on everybody's house." I love phrases that on the one hand seem contradictory in image and different in what they mean. I think this makes the message stronger. The image of rain could be torrential, black clouds, hail pelting those huddled in houses below trying to stick it out. It can also be the same, but a hard, spiritually cleansing rain, washing away what needs to go down the drain. In both interpretations, it reflects that we are all affected by things larger than ourselves.

When I started the quilt, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was in the news. I listened to survivor's stories. Within the horror of the situation, there were so many who stuck together, and rose above the situation. New Orleans is in transition, but the spirit is surviving. I was not sure how to put this in a visual form, and then Sen. Kennedy died and that flooded the news, so to speak. So I put off.

So when I saw the phrase on the cab, I knew how to finish the swatch..I thought of raindrops, rooftops....all together now! It also reminded me of the acute hosuing crisis we are having in Rhode Island.

Come and see this section placed on the quilt this Thursday, Oct 1, from 11-1 p.m.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My name is...

While monitoring all of the installations for Providence Art Windows last week, a woman named Jenny stopped and helped artist David J. Delay at the 203 Westminster site, and inquired about what the project was. Jenny is an enthusiastic woman who had an interesting story herself. Jenny is an advocate for the homeless, finding shelter, transporting and giving hope to many. She asked if I could sit down for an interview for the homeless newspaper Street Sights, and talk about the project with one of the staff writers, David. I agreed, and I met her and David this past Friday outside of Tim Horton's on Westminster Street.

I work down the street from Tim Horton's, at the Arts & Business Council of RI. I had passed by David almost every day I was Downtown working, and he seemed to be a person of note, giving advice, his writing being interrupted by the many who stopped by his table trying to find Jenny. I had met David briefly last year when my husband Erik Gould started a photographic project on the economic crisis, and we had visited the tent cities that had recently cropped up in the area. I always try to pass by with a smile when I see him.

So now, last Friday, we sat down together to talk about Providence Art Windows as a free, open art project that is available for anyone to look at 24hrs a day... at least that was the premise of the original story. We had a little time before Jenny arrived so I wondered about David's story. He is living at a Vet's center, writes constantly and finds it to be his salvation to keep writing. If he is writing, that is all he needs to be content. When Jenny arrived, we started to talk about piece(work) and I think they will talk about the project as they asked for my picture in front of the last panel. Erik came along to introduce himself and talk about his project,and we were invited to attend a editorial meeting to learn more about the paper.

This meeting and interview inspired my current panel, which will go up tomorrow. I have been reading a lot of negative information about the homeless in the major papers of the region, and I decided to give the voice of my current panel to the people who come to David's table. I cut up a pair of old Carhart's (a la Gee Bend quilt style), and gave them to David to collect individual stories or positive messages from individuals he knew. Some of these requests I got to make in person(a particularly nice one is from Paul H. Botelho), but for others David carried the pieces of cloth and some Sharpie pens in his rucksack.

I will be adding these pieces tomorrow, from 11AM-12PM. This section may grow, with different colors, but for now each piece is stacked upon each other, at least 12 so far. Not all are signed, as not everyone felt comfortable to do so. I know most of these individuals by first names only. BUT-I think viewers will find some of the commentary insightful and/or hopeful.

Many thanks to David, Jenny, Dave, R.W.M., Paul, May, D', RAM, and anonymous contributors.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

There is WORK to be done.

My first panel at the cornerstone of the quilt is a dedication to the late Senator Edward Kennedy. I was very moved watching his funeral, and the title of the section is , There is WORK to be done., after his famous and touching oration at his own brother Bobby's funeral many years ago. As I watched a lot of the news commentary, the phrase would not leave my mind. With all of the debates about healthcare, the economy, the world....the news seems flooded with angry Americans, spouting hateful words, and all I can think is,"Well, what are you doing about it? How are you personally going to make it a better place to live?" There is work to be done. Let's get to it. Let's work hard and be compassionate while we are at it.

The panel is 6'3" long, the height of the late Senator, and made of sailcloth, velvet, and suit material. As part of my ongoing "lottery series", I have added stars from found lottery tickets,which hang from the panel and spread across the floor in the shape of stars and words. This is the majority of the material I find in Providence and Pawtucket where I live, which says a lot about our economy at the moment. We just passed the 10.3 % mark for unemployment. Small wishes on the ground, fluttering away.

Like many Americans, I feel I have a personal connection to the Kennedy's,with all of the family's tragedies and triumphs so public. My brother Bob was born not long after Bobby Kennedy's assassination in 1968, and is named after him. My father Art Siemering, was a reporter in the 1960's, and took photos of Senator Kennedy when he stopped in Omaha, NE, on his train trip across America, campaigning to be President. One of these photos always had a prominent place in our home, where ever we moved to.

My condolences to Sen. Patrick Kennedy(my Rhode Island Senator) and his family.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Thank you to everyone who came to see my Cryptic Providence installation that lasted through the Winter. The group is trying to bring back this exhibition next year, so stay tuned!

My current installation is a time-based piece called piece(work). The title is a wordplay, the installation being put together piece by piece, like a quilt, the work being finding and reflecting on Providence itself, and making a visual commentary.

piece(work) is part of the Fall installation for series for Providence Art Windows(of which I am Director), and contains artists invited by me that reflect intensive labor, obsession for materials or passion for subject matter. Several artists and collectives within this round of Art Windows have an intense enthusiasm for making Providence a better place to live and work. My “crazy” quilt, with pieces culled from the streets of Providence and the news of the day, will be a reflection of the time from September 1-December 1, 2009, the duration of the show, and a new section of the quilt will be added every week. Since a window reflects the viewer and the city, the installation as a finished piece of art will also reflect the City of Providence. The city is a work in progress, and this quilt is a hopeful, demonstration piece.

Come back to this blog as I document the process, and go to to see the other fantastic artists!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bells in Winter

The Bells Ring for Thee has been enjoying an extended stay in the North Burial Ground. Even the tough winter weather has not kept the Bells from tinkling away, and the recent blanket of snow has created a new landscape of sound. Drop by and enjoy if you are in the neighborhood.