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Interview with Sandra Ihly, October 26, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Sandra Ihly, October 26, 2007
Date:
October 26, 2007
Description:
Interview with local artist Sandra Ihly, in which she discusses her background, her association with ACME Studios, her attraction to assemblage art, and her creative process.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Ihly, Sandra Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  10/26/2007 Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes

 

Hayes: All right, today we are here with Sandra Ihly. Did I get that right?

Ihly: Oh, no.

Hayes: No, let's...

Ihly: Let's get that right. I have a little sign at my door that says, "Please say I-ly," and...

Hayes: And what's the full name?

Ihly: Sandra Harrison Ihly.

Hayes: Sandra Harrison Ihly.

Ihly: And I say, "I'm not ill," because most people will say Il-ly, and the then the worst is when they say Eel-ly and I say, "I don't think I'm that." And so I say I'm an artist. I use my eyes, say I-ly."

Hayes: Got it. I got it. And we're here-- my name is Sherman Hayes and I'm the University Librarian at UNCW Randall Library. Part of our oral history project is talking to artists in Southeast North Carolina, and I guess you qualify. We're sitting in a studio at ACME Art, is that right?

Ihly: Uh-huh.

Hayes: An interesting studio that we'll take later some images to add to this process. But before we get into talk about how you make your art and what kind of drives the creative process for that, why don't we get started a little bit of background context where you grew up, where you started from, how you eventually got to Wilmington.

Ihly: Okay. I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. When to schools there until they closed the schools and then my parents moved to Virginia Beach when the City of Norfolk closed the schools because they refused to integrate. And I attended several different colleges and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with majors in English literature and art history. Most of my life I thought of myself as an artist.

Hayes: Did you take actual formal art classes then at Chapel Hill, or?

Ihly: No, I did not.

Hayes: That's interesting.

Ihly: Yes. My husband graduated from the Naval Academy and was a Navy pilot and we moved around to many places. And then he joined IBM and we moved to Raleigh. We lived in Raleigh for 20 years, and then he took a very early retirement, and we moved to Wilmington in order to sail. And we had thought we were going to live on a sailboat and travel the world, but instead we bought a house on the water and just travel intermittently on our sailboat. And all the while I'm thinking, you know, I really want to be an artist, and time is slipping by here and I think I'm not going to get to do this, but I set up...

Hayes: During this interlude were you doing art on your own?

Ihly: I was doing some art on my own. I sold a few pieces in Raleigh. I belonged to an art guild in Raleigh.

Hayes: So what type of work was that? Was it more traditional?

Ihly: Oh, no. Even at that point I was doing non-traditional things. And it really began with going to Greece and traveling the back roads of Greece. And you would see these shrines on the side of the road, and there's more of that happening in this country now, but the shrines were dedicated to people who had lost their lives going off the road or something in their car. And there would be these boxes on a small post and in the boxes would be objects relating to that person's life, maybe their baby cup, maybe a photograph, but they were very moving. And I-- when I came back I wanted to do something that captured some of that sensation. And I was familiar with Joseph Cornell's work. I had been a docent and also a member of the education staff at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and so I had a strong background in art history, but I had not been getting my hands dirty into it, you know. And so a friend, when I explained to him I wanted to do boxes, gave me a wooden box. And if I can stop I'll go pick this one up.

Hayes: Oh good, go ahead, go ahead.

Ihly: I got it out this morning.

Hayes: I'm going to let it run for a second and keep going. Walking over to the-- oh, this is great.

Ihly: So this was the first box that someone gave me, Ned Trivet [ph?] actually, being a North Carolina ________. And the side of the box said Arm and Hammer. It's a lovely wooden box, and I'm sure he thought I was going to do something lovely inside of it, but when I was a child that symbol frightened me, the arm and the hammer. In fact I think I thought it was a communist symbol.

Hayes: It does have that element. In fact, you're right, in some communist things that kind of upraised arm even without the hammer.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: That's right.

Ihly: And so it was scary to me. And so I couldn't bring myself to do just something light. And so-- and I don't know if you'll be able to get this image or not. I did this rather scary image of this young girl who has been abused and this large shoe last, which obviously is a man's foot, and that's another scary image. Well, it's in relation to this young girl. And then there's a Beatles song about a woman who kept her face in the jar. I can't remember the lines, but anyway I put these eyes in this jar. In the process I had to cut up a doll and it was very frightening when I took the eyes out. It was a very, very disturbing image and so then I put it in the trash can and I thought, "Oh, my gosh if the trash collectors see this they're going to think I'm a really strange person." So I remember I wrapped it all up in newspaper. And to make the matter even worse the doll, which was the only one I could find that had the eyes that flipped up and down, happened to be a Black doll. And so I though, "Oh, my gosh. I'm going to get arrested, you know?" But I did manage to disguise this and put it in my trash. This was the beginning of my art dealing with emotions and feelings and some pretty strong...

Hayes: But you said it was driven primarily by this kind of tragedy in Greece. In other words did you feel like you needed to then always be in a death mode because of that or have you moved beyond that?

Ihly: No, it wasn't a death mode. It was just a personal mode. And shortly after this my mother died. And my mother and I had had a somewhat troubled relationship. And I think as often happens when you lose a parent you start to review a lot of things. And so I-- in the process of disposing of her household goods I came across a lot of things that I wanted to use. One of these-- I'm sorry to keep popping up, but...

Hayes: No, that's great. That's great. Keep going.

Ihly: I just happened to remember this was back here. I really didn't plan this.

Hayes: This is wonderful. This is wonderful. That makes it a much more...

Ihly: One of the things I found in going through the attic was this box of cards which she received when I was born.

Hayes: Oh, my goodness.

Ihly: So these cards are almost 70-years-old.

Hayes: I didn't say anything. You brought that up, I didn't.

Ihly: Yes, but they are beautiful images.

Hayes: Isn't that wonderful? From the nineteen-- what decade would that be?

Ihly: That would have been 1939.

Hayes: Thirty-nine, okay.

Ihly: So I couldn't believe that she had kept these cards. And that was in a way, a way of showing affection maybe after she had died that she had not been able to show when she was alive, so.

Hayes: But it was again about memories, so your work...

Ihly: It was again about memories. So then my work began to evolve and I began to realize I really liked working with objects from the 1940s, which is when my memories first began. And so because I was a woman and essentially a housewife I decided I would use objects women had used in the 1940s, wooden ironing boards, washing machine parts. I adopted the iron as my own personal symbol of power. Now, most people think of someone ironing as being subjugated and I never thought of it that way. I found ironing to be very satisfying. You start with something all rumpled and you end up with something nice and smooth. And so I adopted it as a symbol of strength and patience and steadfastness. And so over and over in my pieces I've used these irons, but they're always a power symbol.

Hayes: Interesting. Do you think-- do you get a sense that other people find-- in other words, one of the challenges for an artist is you know what you put into it.

Ihly: Yes, that is a challenge.

Hayes: Your own myth, or your own story, but have you ever had a response whether somebody else is getting that? Of course, it doesn't matter if they like the work it's...

Ihly: Right. A lot of people do have trouble with it. And since mainly I have shown in university settings or museum settings, not gallery settings, I usually have the opportunity to talk about my things. And so, I don't know if people catch it sometimes.

Hayes: Can I come back to kind of a more technical question? What would-- in the art world, what is your media called? Is the construction?

Ihly: They are constructions if you-- I think more I'm called an assemblage artist because I assemble found objects.

Hayes: Okay, good.

Ihly: The ironing boards and some of-- I very seldom fabricate something myself. Sometimes I will alter something, but mainly I bring to the work an identity of the object. Sometimes I like to say that I'm utilizing nostalgia and it's like the bait that I use. People will look at something and say, "Oh, I remember my grandmother used to use that. And so that kind of draws people in, "Oh I remember white gloves, oh yeah," and that draws people in.

Hayes: But you're not creating a venue that was like that. You're not trying to reassemble like in the museum setting what it looked like for an ironing board at that time period.

Ihly: No.

Hayes: You're using the symbolism of whatever the object is to do your own message, right?

Ihly: Yes, exactly.

Hayes: Now, let's just ask the question, you know, if you think about it for a painter, you know, their found objects are in a sense the paint and the pigment and they create whatever they want. You just happen to be using a very already manufactured or physical.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Now, are almost all of your things manufactured items? Is that what you-- or do you do driftwood and nature pieces?

Ihly: No, not so much. Yeah, I would say they are manufactured.

Hayes: They're man-- let's say manmade objects.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Taken out of whatever context they may have been.

Ihly: Yes, but I also bring the context along with it, because there is-- the objects themselves are so loaded with sentiment and nostalgia. So I bring that into it. I don't try and say, "Oh, this is not an ironing board."

Hayes: Right, you're really wanting them to grab what this is.

Ihly: Yes, and associate ironing with that strength and steadfastness.

Hayes: Interesting.

Ihly: But at the same time it becomes my canvas. And so...

Hayes: Interesting. Now, I see behind you though a piece. Is this yours?

Ihly: This is-- this was a whole new thing. I went through...

Hayes: I'm just showing the edge of it so that we know if somebody is looking at-- that's...

Ihly: This is part of a piano that I took apart. Now, this was a whole new series for me. After doing the women's pieces, I call them, for nearly ten years maybe more than ten years, I reached a point that I felt I've achieved what I wanted to with this. And I've healed myself. A lot of this was about self healing. And so I started going to the concerts at Airlie Gardens, the jazz concerts, and it was the most joyful thing to sit on that beautiful green lawn under the giant oak trees and hear this wonderful jazz music. And the small children dancing around in the grass and turning cartwheels and responding to the music, and I thought, "I've got to capture that." And about the same time, Dick Roberts, a fellow artist here, had an old piano that he wanted to dispose of. No one wanted to pay to have this repaired.

Hayes: He just wanted it gone?

Ihly: He just wanted it gone and I said, "Well, how would you feel about me taking it apart and using it?" And so he said, "That's just fine." So this piece happens to be the part of a piano where you-- it was a big old upright piano so you would have the music sitting on this part, and I used it. I also used all of the keys. I used the hammers. I used a lot of the board.

Hayes: So they became your objects, right?

Ihly: They became my objects. At the same time my son-in-law called me one day, and he's a home remodeler and he restores old houses, and he called me from the dump in Durham. He said, "You're not going to believe this, but someone just is dropping off another piano. Do you want it?" And so he brought it to me. Actually my daughter brought it down. It scared the daylights out of me. And we got it into my house and it was in tune. And it was also about 100 years old with ivory keys. But when I found out it was in tune I just started kind of fiddling with the keys. I fell in love with it. I could not take another piano apart. And I had fallen in love with the previous one that I took apart. I don't think I ever realized how intricate the interior of a piano was and how wonderfully made they are.

Hayes: But you didn't feel bad about it.

Ihly: No, at that time I didn't.

Hayes: I mean, there's some objects we get in the library, for example, we get so many gifts that the person knows they really should just throw the book away, but emotionally they just can't throw a book away. So you haven't found objects that are such that you couldn't-- I doubt if you would use your mother's cards. I mean, somebody might use that, but...

Ihly: Well, I have used some of them.

Hayes: Oh, have you?

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Okay, so.

Ihly: But that makes it very hard for me to part with my art because there's so much personal history in my art, so many objects that I found when I was cleaning out the attic of my parents' home. And so I've used those, and it gives a lot of power to the pieces in my mind, but at the same time...

Hayes: You don't want to let it go.

Ihly: I can't let it go. So I have a real dilemma about what the future of my art is. I may endow it.

Hayes: Well, now I see, as I look around the area here I see some really large colorful paintings. Are these yours, or?

Ihly: Yes, now these are the music series. So all of this was done...

Hayes: Let me just pan a little bit, because we were talking about found objects and assembly and yet this is-- this is really a mixed media of a more traditional...

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Well, not really more traditional, where you would put a whole piece of chair rail.

Ihly: Right and these are the hammers of the piano.

Hayes: Oh, the actual hammers of...

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Oh, I love that.

Ihly: From the keys.

Hayes: They're colored in various...

Ihly: Yes. And then I have some that I actually have used the keys.

Hayes: But the purple one that I'm panning over here behind is that a correct term, purple?

Ihly: Yes. That's fine.

Hayes: That's a more traditional...

Ihly: Very definitely.

Hayes: Modern.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: And then I love the red one up there. That's just-- is there objects in there? I can't tell.

Ihly: No. There are no objects in that one. That was just pure painting.

Hayes: So there is some more traditional.

Ihly: Uh-huh. Well, I was sort of feeling that I just wanted to express myself as a painter and so for the last year and a half I've been doing more painterly kinds of things. But people keep bringing me objects. Now, this is where things really get fun. Initially I was using the things that I found in my mother's attic, and then people said, "Oh, I have an ironing board." Well, all of a sudden I had 15 or 20 ironing boards, you know, and then dress forms. I did one dress form, now I have 15 dress forms, and they are so much fun to work with. And it just kept exploding. So now one of my great pleasures is I walk into the studio and someone has deposited, you know, maybe it's a typewriter from the 1940s, or some object that I never really thought about before, you know, and that's just totally fun.

Hayes: That's interesting. That is really interesting.

Ihly: So I rarely-- people say, "Oh, you must spend a lot of time at flea markets and things like that." I never go to flea markets. I never go to yard sales, but people bring me this wonderful stuff because they've caught on. White gloves, I have probably still a dozen pairs of white gloves from the 1950s.

Hayes: So you did the box for a long time and I've seen lots of people using the box as medium. You mentioned that a famous artist that you said that had...

Ihly: Joseph Cornell.

Hayes: That he had-- are there others in that who made their kind of feeling out of a, you know, a box because it forces your eye into how does that fit and what your choices were? But I see the others-- traditional matted frames and then working with it, and then the one up here I think is what we were kind of talking about is the actual ironing board as the canvas, right?

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Is that a wooden-- what era would that be? Is that a...

Ihly: All of the wooden ironing boards would be from the '40s and earlier.

Hayes: Boy, those must be hard to find, I mean, I get a sense that they're...

Ihly: They are hard to find, yes

Hayes: I mean, I get a sense that they were durable, practical.

Ihly: Yes. Many of them are handmade. A few of them are Sears' products.

Hayes: Oh, wow.

Ihly: But I only have maybe two or three that are the same. Almost everyone is different. And I started collecting irons also. And it's amazing the number-- the variation and shapes of irons. And those are fun to work with too.

Hayes: Is it one of your cohorts, I think, in the founding of ACME, Traudi Thornton, do you know Traudi?

Ihly: Oh yes.

Hayes: Who's a potter.

Ihly: A potter, yes.

Hayes: Some of her work, which is pottery, strikes me as irons. It's a...

Ihly: Oh, yeah, those triangular shapes that she uses, uh-huh.

Hayes: And, of course, the interesting thing is the iron goes out of almost practical existence. I wonder if a generation is going to be-- need to be brought back to what that is.

Ihly: Yes, to understand, right. Yes.

Hayes: I mean I wonder how many of us even ironed? Do you still iron yourself at home?

Ihly: I do.

Hayes: Oh, you still do.

Ihly: Sometimes, you know, I may even iron sheets just because I enjoy it.

Hayes: Just for fun. Now, tell me a little bit about the figures, which I think are striking. You're using various figures here. I have the one that we're looking at. You might describe that as-- is there a dress form? Is that what you're...

Ihly: No, this one was actually a mannequin.

Hayes: A mannequin.

Ihly: That's was missing its arms, I think, and I had the legs and I used the legs in a different piece.

Hayes: And then you put the shoe-- those are...

Ihly: The shoe last and the ________.

Hayes: Now, what about the dress form behind you? How would those have been used normally? And this would be like a seamstress, or...

Ihly: Yes, or a...

Hayes: Or it could be a homemaker?

Ihly: A homemaker could do it too. And you would buy it relative to your own size. They came in sizes, but they were also adjustable. Inside they have little wing nuts that you can pull them in and out so that if your proportions are different than, say the sewing pattern that you were using, the Simplicity or Vogue or whatever, then you could pin it onto this instead of trying to pin it onto yourself and make the adjustments. And that way the dress would be fitted to you.

Hayes: So you get the sense that many of these were home products, and actually a commercial establishment would have these products.

Ihly: They would also have them, but these were mostly designed to be used by homemakers. And most of them the brand name is Acme, Acme dress forms. I think that was so funny.

Hayes: Now, we haven't made that connection here. Maybe we should explain why both of us find that humorous, because you're...

Ihly: In ACME Studios.

Hayes: Working in something called ACME Studios, which is what? What is ACME Studios?

Ihly: ACME is a building that's a former warehouse that was purchase by five artists. Then they carved out big chunks of space for their own studios and what was left over they carved into smaller studios and they rented them. And I have been renting my space now for 12 or 13 years.

Hayes: Excellent.

Ihly: It was one of those ironic things. I had a little studio space set up in my townhouse. We live on the water, and hurricane Fran struck and we ended up being cantilevered, one part of our townhouse, and it was the part where my studio was so I could no longer use it until the repairs were done. And at that time this space became available and so something good came of hurricane Fran, because it was just such a wonderful experience to be able to come here with the other artists. There are 17 artists in here. At the time Al Frega was here and he was a sculptor. Moving his objects around...

Hayes: Who was that?

Ihly: Al Frega.

Hayes: Frega, F-r-e-...

Ihly: g-a.

Hayes: g-a, good. Okay.

Ihly: And he was one of the founding owners and artists.

Hayes: And who were the other owners, Dick...

Ihly: Dick Roberts is one. Pam Toll, Carol Collier. I am not sure, and Marshall Milton.

Hayes: Oh, Marshall Milton, sculptor right?

Ihly: And sculptor, yes.

Hayes: He is a sculptor?

Ihly: Yes. And I lost what I was telling you, but...

Hayes: As a group you work and have events and like bring people in?

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: I love it when you, you know, have a come to ACME Art. It converts your workspace into kind of a viewing space, so it's a multi purpose, right?

Ihly: Oh, it's just amazing.

Hayes: But for you it's a separate professional space to do your work right there.

Ihly: When I came here and signed that lease it was like, "Now I am a real artist." As long as I was sitting at home working in my little space I was a dilettante, but once I was being here paying rent then I thought I was a real artist. And that was so important to my self esteem as an artist. And I was going to say Al Frega was here, and he did these really large sculptures and he moved his parts around with a forklift inside here. Now, here I've been doing these little boxes at home. I hadn't branched out into the ironing boards at that point, but I was doing these little boxes. And I thought, "I don't have to do that. I can do as big as I want, and I don't have to worry about spilling paint on the floor. I don't have worry about cleaning up and putting things away." So it was just the most liberating thing. And Virginia Wolfe had it right, "A woman needs a room of her own." And so this was my room, and it has been just the most rewarding time of my life.

Hayes: And I do see bigger forms. I mean, I think that you're right that the space many times for an artist is pivotal, right, of how-- we interviewed one person who had one room and had to work after their child went to bed. And then had to put everything down on the floor to keep from ruining things like you said, but more importantly in the morning had to be out because...

Ihly: Yes, that was awful.

Hayes: Yes, so even who the family is or what your child-- and many artists pine to create a workshop at their home, but they want it separate, right?

Ihly: Yes, It's so important. And it's a matter of respecting your ability and respecting your art. And so I've been fortunate in so many ways. I was fortunate to be able to come here to ACME. Also I've been fortunate that I have a husband who is supper supportive who has never said, "Why don't you paint something that people want to buy?" You know, I have never had any pressure on me to sell. And so I think that is the greatest freedom of all for an artist.

Hayes: But do you sell, because you said you do galleries, or not galleries, you do university showings and...

Ihly: I do. Very seldom do I show, I mean sell, and partly that's been because I have such a hard time letting go, and partly it's because most people when they decorate their homes that's what they're doing is decorating their homes, and my things are almost entirely message laden, and sometimes the messages are very uncomfortable.

Hayes: What about museums, are they interested?

Ihly: No, I haven't had any come buy.

Hayes: Well, no but, I mean, this is really, you know, there's a long tradition. I think for the assembly artist this is the basic dilemma. It needs a museum or a collector, right, or someone who's struck strongly by your message. But you're right the form with the birdcage, which I find fascinating, can only fit in certain spaces, right?

Ihly: Yes, I mean, certainly a lot of people will buy a bronze sculpture to put in their foyer, or-- that's just fine, but somehow like...

Hayes: I think even sculptors struggle with this. In other words, painting in subways...

Ihly: Is much easier to market.

Hayes: To market in the sense of the spaces it can go to.

Ihly: Yes, and people think more traditionally, generally, when they're decorating, so.

Hayes: But the ironic thing is that I would guess that almost every art student in the world is asked to take classes to do and experiment in your medium.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Would you say that's...

Ihly: Yes, that's true, yes.

Hayes: Because the art teacher is attempting to say break away from representational or break away from copying and look at the world differently. So they almost teach your genre, but then not many follow it. Is that a...

Ihly: Yes, that's true. That's very true.

Hayes: You say you're-- have you been tempted in your career to just go back to-- to go to watercolor or painting or charcoal, in other words, just to see what happens?

Ihly: Something in me just will not allow that to happen. It just will not happen. Probably maybe the closest I have come was a year and a half ago when I did the purple painting and the red, but even then I was responding to something very personal in that I absolutely just fell in love with the music. And so, I guess, I-- everything I do is personal.

Hayes: Well, I don't know that that's different than most artists, I mean... Hi there. F1: Hi there.

Ihly: Hi. We're doing an interview. That's okay. I'll see you in a bit. Good to see you again.

Hayes: Maybe we should say for the tape, who was that voice that we heard?

Ihly: That was a wonderful artist M.J. Cunningham.

Hayes: M.J., okay great. That's good. Another ACME...

Ihly: Another ACME artist. And I've been gone for five weeks so I've not seen her, so.

Hayes: That's great. Let's talk a little bit about technique then. If you were working on a particular assemblage have you pre-thought out the message, or are the objects a part of that? In other words, I don't want to be too academic about it, but what's the process for an assemblage artist or you as an artist? Each one probably is different, but in other words do you say, "I've got these objects and I want to make a message," or "I have a message about music and I want to now find the--" I mean, do you have any sense of how that works creatively?

Ihly: Sometimes I'll have an object lying around the studio for three or four years that someone has given or that I have seen somewhere and purchased. Sometimes my husband gets a big kick out of this. We'll be riding down the road and I'll go, "Stop." And I'll leap out and someone has discarded a washing machine and I'll rip off the insignia and the agitator, or whatever. And so, you know, these things may sit around in the studio for two or three years and I don't know what to do with them, but I just-- I'm drawn to them. And so my art is all about selection. An object will appeal to me aesthetically first. And I won't know what I'm going to with it. And then I'll find another one. And then one day something will hit me and I'll go, "You know, if I put those together that might mean this, or it might say this." And then as I'm working on it I'll find other objects. And so it will grow. But I never sit down and make a sketch. I've never sat down and worked out step by step what I'm going to do. Because I'm self trained it's been a lot of experimentation, finding the right adhesive is my holy grail.

Hayes: Oh, I was going to ask about that because you've got to connect these.

Ihly: Yes, and so...

Hayes: Have you become also a junior carpenter of sorts?

Ihly: Well, actually not even a junior carpenter. I was fortunate to be given one of the North Carolina Arts Council grants that enabled me to take the boat building course at Cape Fear Community College.

Hayes: Well, that's fascinating.

Ihly: And I did that in order to learn how to use major power tools. And so I wanted to know that when I put something together I was putting it together the right way.

Hayes: So what kinds of big tools were you then comfortable with after that, I mean?

Ihly: Well, comfortable with is one thing. Having them is a different thing, but certainly planers and table saws, and I'm very comfortable with them, but I don't happen to have one, and so.

Hayes: Do you have to do some welding ever, or it is a...

Ihly: I don't do welding. I've used-- I've asked other people to put things together for me that were welded, but mainly I use epoxies or I use gel mediums.

Hayes: Now, what's a gel medium? I don't know what it is.

Ihly: A gel medium is, let's see. I didn't really intend it this way, but. Here's a matte gel. It's an acrylic medium that has the consistency of Jell-O. It's clear when it dries. It will really bond things together, and so.

Hayes: So what kinds of things would you connect with that, paper products and?

Ihly: Yes. Well, cloth like I will impregnate the cloth with this. The piece right behind you the gloves and the lace that's all attached...

Hayes: So say an actual physical set of gloves would attach to a canvas using this, but it doesn't leave-- it doesn't become visible, but that's that-- it's the body of the glove.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Interesting.

Ihly: So it's like soaking it in glue and then attaching it.

Hayes: Does it dry clear?

Ihly: It dries clear, yes.

Hayes: Now, can you add color to this particular product?

Ihly: You can add to it and I sometimes do.

Hayes: That's fascinating.

Ihly: Oh, it's fun stuff to work with, yes.

Hayes: Yeah. Well, it seems like you have some elements then of almost a ceramic construction in some of your work, carpentry. I'm trying to figure out what you-- any plumbing at all? Have you started to do any pipes?

Ihly: No, or electrical wiring I haven't. I'm trying to...

Hayes: That's what I thought, but there is someone in town. I'm trying to think of her name, who does use the electrical wires for much of her construction.

Ihly: Oh, yes, Dixon Stetler.

Hayes: Dixon Stetler.

Ihly: Is weaving lots of electrical wires and garden hoses and any-- I mean she's just...

Hayes: She's a construction...

Ihly: An assemblage artist.

Hayes: What you call an assemblage artist. Are there others in town that have come, because it's a rare breed of sorts?

Ihly: I'm sure there are people that occasionally do it. I can't think who it is off hand.

Hayes: If I went to a large, large city would we find a handful of you folks too? Is that...

Ihly: Oh, I would think you would find many, many more, and people much more open to purchasing assemblage things. Wilmington's patrons are generally very conservative and people like to put ocean paintings in their houses. And I've done those too.

Hayes: You have done that?

Ihly: Well, occasionally for my family.

Hayes: Oh, God. They say you're an artist please...

Ihly: Right, yes. And just to prove I can I have done that, yes.

Hayes: Now, have you found then, even though you're using found objects, do you find then that your material costs are significant? I mean, they can start to become significant for a piece as you have to buy the right thing?

Ihly: Well, sometimes. Dress forms you might pay $50 to $100 dollars for.

Hayes: Yeah, I thought-- I thought that they were not inexpensive. I know because the theater trades are always looking for them aren't they?

Ihly: Yes, and well, ironing boards are in that range now, some of them. But then someone brought me one that they found at a yard sale just recently for $10 dollars. In fact it's this one right here. So sometimes like this little piece right here with the can that we used to use to spray DDT. I think I paid $15 dollars for that little can that's on there. This is a really strong piece that references the problems in the Catholic Church with the priests abusing children, and the spray can becomes very phallic in my mind, and once I've made that connection I think everything else sort of falls into place for you there.

Hayes: But without your interpretation the next person could easily say...

Ihly: What's that can up there for?

Hayes: No, as an environmental piece. You know, the spray can of DDT became a generation that sprayed that and destroyed things. And so I guess if they leave your hands the interpretation goes whatever, right?

Ihly: Yes, it does. It does, and that-- and I sometimes say to myself if I was a really good artist I wouldn't have to talk about this. People could just infer what they wanted and maybe they could infer what I wanted.

Hayes: Well, I wonder if this is your art history background, because an art historian is paid to talk or to write and to interpret, right? They don't necessarily...

Ihly: And my other major English literature, you know, with my emphasis on novels. And so I'm very much a narrative person and a narrative artist.

Hayes: Interesting, because we have talked to Tony Janson, you know Tony, who is a very famous art historian. You know, he's looking back on pieces of work from hundreds of years ago and talking about within their context what they mean. There's nobody to defend themselves. So the art historian would feel comfortable in interpreting your piece. You're comfortable in interpreting your piece, but the very next person...

Ihly: May not be.

Hayes: No, would interpret it differently.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Differently, right? That's a-- now you say you go many times to lecture with your shows. What's that kind of interaction when you talk with people? What are they responding to, or if there's any pattern? I don't know if there's any pattern.

Ihly: Yes, especially women of my vintage greatly respond to it, because there's a strong feminist message in my work. And so, because they lived through that era themselves they greatly identify with it. Well, they remember wearing white gloves. They remember so much of the stuff that I'm concerned what they're talking about it, the dress forms.

Hayes: Well, even the dress form itself. I would say that a current generation student at the university would not even know.

Ihly: Yes and sewing patterns are the basis of most of my work.

Hayes: What do you mean the sewing patterns?

Ihly: Sewing patterns, the actual patterns. I'm sorry to keep doing this to you.

Hayes: Oh, that's fine. That's fine.

Ihly: Sewing patterns like Simplicity and McCall's and Vogue. Well, here's a piece of one. Okay. Whoops, hazardous area here. If you were inclined to make your own clothes, and I used to make all of my children's clothes, you would start by going to the store and buying a paper pattern which would come in an envelope like this. And when you took out the parts they would all be labeled and they would tell you this is a sleeve binding. Okay, that's not very interesting. This is a bigger one. This is a shirt or a skirt back. So you would have all these pieces of tissue paper all labeled with arrows telling you where to place it on the straight grain of the fabric, or on the fold.

Hayes: So you'd pin this to the fabric.

Ihly: You'd pin this to the fabric.

Hayes: With the goal of then cutting it exactly how you want.

Ihly: Exactly.

Hayes: It also gives directions. I mean, I'm dating myself because I've used these and seen these of where the stitching would go, and.

Ihly: Yes, this little dash line along here is the stitching line.

Hayes: Would you actually sew with this on the fabric?

Ihly: With the pattern on there? No. When I did it I didn't. I just would remember that, okay you come in a half an inch to-- with your stitching.

Hayes: Some people, I guess, I've seen in professional settings they even use like chalk to set that up.

Ihly: Yes. Un-huh. At any rate I would take this, crumble it up, put a little mat medium, which is just a thinner version of the gel medium, it's like a thin layer pasted all over it, and then glue it to the surface. In this case this is on lauan mahogany. Here I've done it on the doll.

Hayes: So this is becoming your almost background layer.

Ihly: Yes.

Hayes: Interesting. Can you always even tell that it's there? You know it's there.

Ihly: I know it's there. On this one you won't see it because I've painted over it ________, and then collage-- used the collage.

Hayes: But it's still important for you to have that there.

Ihly: Right, because I like the texture that it supplies. But initially all of these pieces had the patterns.

Hayes: Are there some that you actually want to feature that pattern then? I mean, tat would be an interesting way to go as well to actually have it where the viewer would know it's a pattern.

Ihly: Yes, certainly this one you would know.

Hayes: Okay. Oh, yes. I see sleeves ________ too.

Ihly: Right. And I like the word Simplicity. That's a manufacturer of the patterns, simplicity of...

Hayes: Now this is still an industry that's going today, but it's just not as prevalent.

Ihly: No, but what I'm seeing is a return to sewing.

Hayes: Jo-Ann Fabrics. That is a large store.

Ihly: Yeah, I think that's become much more popular in the last three or four years. There's a return to it.

Hayes: You know something, an area that you might wish to talk about is, have you noticed a kind of a huge movement of scrapbooking. Do you know that?

Ihly: I do know about that, yes.

Hayes: That reminds me of you're an artist that's scrapbooking pretty amazing large three dimensional objects, but that seems to-- I mean, I've seen classes at these stores and people in this, predominantly women, who are creating their own history, but artistically in a scrapbook venue, right? And it's not just flat it's, you know, ribbons, it's a-- you're kind of a memory scrapbook. Do you think it's for yourself? I mean, would you say mainly you're a scrapbook for yourself, or are you a scrapbook for a generation or a scrapbook for a person. I mean, have you ever thought that way? Who do you-- who are you trying to capture here in all of this? I didn't promise we wouldn't try to do psychoanalysis.

Ihly: Yes, I know.

Hayes: Well, you don't have to answer. I'm just speculating of...

Ihly: Well, I have been very self-absorbed in my art, I mean.

Hayes: Well, that's fine.

Ihly: Yeah. At the same time I have so many women who come in and tell me their stories. And so I know I'm not doing it just for me.

Hayes: Yeah. So people are resonating with this, and the triggers.

Ihly: Oh, yes. Yes.

Hayes: Interesting. Interesting. It'd be interesting to see-- I wonder do you-- have you seen with your feminist themes have you seen an ageless reaction, or is it still generational more reaction since you use the ironing board and the so forth?

Ihly: Young girls do really come in and get very excited about this still, which I'm pleased about because these objects are fading from memory. I remember reading when I was studying African art, because they were talking about ancestors' masks and the people create these masks of an ancestor and they keep it in the house until no one any longer remembers who that person was and then they take it out to the termite mound and the termites devour it. And so I'm thinking now is that going to happen with my art when no one else remembers what ironing was? Is this going to disappear or is it going to go into a history museum. I don't know.

Hayes: Well, I think more likely an art museum. I think the history museum already has them. Well, I'll tell you a sidebar story. We lived in Boston for many years and the Kennedy Library was there for John F. Kennedy, and it was set up a certain way and everybody knew everything. And I knew the head curator and they had to redo that because they had to tell the history of the '50s and '60s because the next generation coming in didn't know the touchstones, didn't know-- and so they had to become much more overt about including a whole section of daily life in the '50s, irons, because here they had all this context of the world, but the next generation didn't know that. So I think history museums are realizing that every day objects have to be reinvented for the next generation because we forget. I mean, we really do forget practical things that your parents, my parents, right, that they thought were everyday things. We probably-- I don't know that the iron will ever go away, but I'm just saying you're probably doing a service to use it, so. Are there some things coming? I mean, you know, you're back from a grand trip you said to, was it New Mexico?

Ihly: Yes, we were just in Albuquerque for the Balloon Festival. I'm so in love with balloons now. I love balloons so badly, but we did...

Hayes: These are the balloons that float in the air?

Ihly: These are hot air balloons, yes. And so we, my husband and I, went up in a balloon over Sedona, Arizona. It was just such a magical experience, but I don't think it's something-- I did do a painting yesterday.

Hayes: Oh, did you really?

Ihly: You didn't know this was going to be so much show and tell.

Hayes: Well, that's all right. Come back. Come back. Oh, this is great. Hold that up in front of you so I can just get a quick shot there. That's great. That's great. Oh, that's wonderful.

Ihly: The sense of floating was just so magical, so liberating, and so I tried to capture that in this little painting that I did yesterday.

Hayes: Wow, you did quick work there.

Ihly: Because, well, I just came back and yesterday was my first day so I wanted to get that sensation. But as I look at it I keep thinking is this a trite painting, you know, I don't know. For me because I had that wonderful floating sense I sort of feel I captured it, but it's not something I want to just keep working on and working on.

Hayes: That's great. Are there other materials you see in the near future? I mean, I, you know, or is it always almost serendipity of where it's driven?

Ihly: You know, it is, I guess.

Hayes: I mean, are you thinking I really want to do machinery next, or I really want to do sports items next or I really-- I mean, it isn't that deliberate.

Ihly: No, it's not that deliberate and I-- before I left I was thinking, "Oh, where am I headed? Have I said everything I wanted to say?" With the dress forms I had done some that dealt with my mother, some that dealt with my relationship with my daughter, some that dealt with sexual sensations, and then this one I almost felt was the completion of the whole feminine series for me. And it's called Athena. And you have this hand releasing the bird from the cage and that sense of freedom, and the sense of freedom that I felt with the ballooning also. But it's like, okay, I'm free now. And so because I felt that that was a completion of the series I don't know where it's left me.

Hayes: You're not going to quit?

Ihly: No, I'm not going to quit. Now, let's see I did do this. I did a couple of these after the Athena one. And this is just Memory ________.

Hayes: Oh, I like that. And that was your glove using that technique, lace which is...

Ihly: Handmade crocheted laces.

Hayes: Is this a painting technique to get the...

Ihly: The sense of the pearls and the lace, yes.

Hayes: So this is mixed media on a canvas. Is that accurate?

Ihly: Actually it's-- I buy 4x8 sheets of lauan mahogany and cut them into, in this case 2x2 sections. And I build these frameworks.

Hayes: Oh, okay, for the flat surface.

Ihly: For the flat surface things, yes.

Hayes: Well, I think that in a sense this a good place to stop, because what we can say to our listeners and those who read it would be we'll wait and see what's the-- It'll be interesting to see what's next. And I think that you don't-- even though you may be an assembly artist then there's no limit to where it can go. You don't feel ever constrained in what you do?

Ihly: No I don't. No. What a nice thought, yes, thank you.

Hayes: Do you see yourself moving, I wondered, into imagery that was really contemporary? In other words there must be somebody assembling computer parts and so forth and so on, but you're drawn still to...

Ihly: I'm sort of the anti-computer technology person, I guess.

Hayes: Okay. No, no, no. I just didn't know if you were intrigued by that at all.

Ihly: No, not at all. You know, I'm being dragged into that era, but the things I love are handmade objects like the wooden ironing boards being handmade. I love that.

Hayes: Let me ask you to give some advice to the artist that's oriented in your direction. I mean, is it-- do you want to alert them to the frustration of working in a medium that isn't as-- or does it matter? In other words you've got to work where you are drawn to. I'm trying to get a sense of somebody, you know, if somebody was reading this or looking at this, who loves assemblage, I'm afraid their professors may be saying, "Be careful. Do watercolors, or whatever."

Ihly: I think you have to decide for yourself what your goal is. And if your goal is to make money then you're going to go in a certain direction. If your goal is to be a creative artist then that can't be a consideration. You just have to go where your heart leads you.

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