Saturday, November 12, 2011

Black Notice: Land of Odds

Well, here it is. Finally I've been able to post about the big piece I had worked on and off for 6 total months. If you'd like to evaluate and vote for my piece then please click here. This was for the


The challenge was to chose a mystery book and develop a cartoon not using any other images from published books or websites. Then take that image and bead it into a tapestry that adheres to the rules posted by Land of Odds.


Then after beading for 6 months off and on, you had to turn this creation into a hanging piece for display and send images of this tapestry to Warren Fields and Land of Odds.


Then wait, wait, wait until that envelope arrives to tell you that YES! all that hard work (and sore fingers) paid off for now you are one of the 4 semi finalist. Now to wait and let the general public evaluate each of the 4 semi-finalist and vote. I'd so appreciate if you would take a few moments to go to the website & vote for each of the four tapestries.



These are the original jpgs that I sent to Land of Odds for consideration in this challenge. Below is the Artist Statement that I also sent explaining the origin and construction of this tapestry.
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Nothing sends the brain into a roller coaster ride of intrigue and puzzle solving than a good mystery story filled with full bodied characters, well placed clues, and of course a murder or two. Patricia Cornwell’s Black Notice, published by Berkley Publishing Group in 1999, outshines these three prerequisites for a spine-chilling ride from page to page.

I sat in the break room at work looking at the staff lending library when I noticed someone had brought in a set of Patrician Cornwell’s books. I picked up Black Notice and was transported into the world of Dr. Kay Scarpetta. The setting for this story is in Richmond Virginia. Instantly, I found myself trapped in this well laid out novel about a Medical Examiner who has gained notoriety as a top-notch investigator and Foresenic Pathologist. As the story opens, Kay has drowned herself in work after the murder of her lover. She receives a letter from Benton dated before his death. She has been in a trance like state, not noticing things happening that are threatening to tarnish her career and her relationship with her friends and family. Benton writes to her to reconnect with Lucy, her niece, and Pete, her long time colleague and investigator. Before she can pull herself out of the fog of withdrawal, she receives a call of a strange death scene. The victim is a badly decomposed male body dressed in designer clothes inside a closed cargo container. Only two clues are visible at the time of discovery: long fine yellow hairs and the name “ le Loup Garou” (Werewolf) written on the inside container wall. The autopsy shows no cause of death or identification of the victim so therefore he is designated as a “black notice”. Upon further investigation the victim is found to have been drown, has an unusual tattoo that has been partial defaced and the fine yellow hairs inside his clothing. Meanwhile Loup Garou begins a spree of monstrous attacks on the citizens of Richmond. The new police chief, who seems committed in destroying Captain Pete Marino’s career and tarnishing Kay’s reputation, is using Kay’s lab assistant in unsavory sabotage. Lucy returns from Miami where she works as an undercover agent for the ATF on a case of drug smuggling of the infamous Chandonne family after accidently shooting her partner. Then Kay and Pete are contacted by an agent of Interpol about their case and are whisked to Paris where they find out that this “Le Loup Garou” is a serial murderer and possibly a grossly deformed member of the same wealthy Channdone family crime cartel.

The story in Black Notice has many story lines about different characters associated with Kay. This book starts out assuming that the reader has read the numerous other novels where Dr. Scarpetta has been the heroine. So, at first it was a little overwhelming to keep track of the characters since this is about the ninth book of the series. But like all well written books, it did not take long to dive into the meat of the story. Using Medical Science as the bases for investigation intrigued me. I am not a fan of forensic investigation television shows as I actually do work in a hospital lab and know that most of what is portrayed on television is taken out of content and romanticized for viewers. Yet, I found myself intrigued with the forensic work in this story where the examiner was trying to ascertain the identity of this corpse and cause of death. The one thing that immediately caught my attention was when Dr. Scarpetta asked her staff during an autopsy if they’d check for diatoms. I began to form questions in my mind first what actually were diatoms and how were they used for identification.

Later in the story, Dr. Scarpetta sits with one of her staff as they show her under an Electron microscope the different diatoms structures. Constantly using the microscope for my own job made me want to further investigate. I found that diatoms are microscopic aquatic algae found in both fresh and salt water. There are over 100,000 species of diatoms. Diatoms are primary producers using photosynthesis to create organic molecules from Sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. One half of the photosynthesized molecules on Earth come from fresh water and marine diatoms. Diatoms are also extremely diverse in nature. Diatoms can differ in locations one hundred feet from each other therefore they are specific for individual areas. I then asked myself why would this be so important during an autopsy. I did more research and found that diatoms can help a Medical Examiner rule out drowning as cause of death. If a person were alive while in the water, they would inhale water into their lungs. The diatoms would then circulate throughout the body, which would indicate to the Pathologist that the person had drowned. If no diatoms were found in the body then the body was put into the water after death had occurred.

That makes perfect sense, but then I began to wonder how these microscopic creatures could be found in a badly decomposed body. Upon searching, I found that diatoms have a “silica based skeleton that do not readily decay”. In the laboratory, a sample is taken from the body or other surrounding materials such as clothing and concentrated by boiling in acid, then centrifuged to collect the solid residue and examined microscopically. Microbiologist specializing in diatom morphology can then identify the types of diatoms found in the sampling. Since these are all specific to areas it is even possible to compare the diatoms found in or on the body to those diatoms in a specific location. Being curious about what diatoms looked like under a microscope, I began to search for images of diatoms and was taken aback by the beauty of the shapes, sizes and patterns of the different species. An idea began to form about the possible design for my book cover tapestry.

I decided not to dwell on the actual images of a Werewolf; especially since the cover design on the paperback book I read was one of a wolf’s face. I also decided to stay away from anything pertaining to an actual autopsy or showing gruesome images. Instead, I kept going back to those fascinating patterns of the diatoms. The defaced tattoo was also an interesting clue and one that gave Kay a possible name to the victim. She found he possibly was the son of the Chandonne family and had decided to leave the family business and set out on his own to smuggle drugs and ammunition to the Miami area. Then the clue of the long yellow hairs found inside the clothing of the container victim and on the recent murder victims lead Kay to postulate that possibly the killer was himself a victim of a rare genetic disease called Hypertrichosis where hair growth is accelerated over all parts of the body. The stigma of having a child with this affliction caused many parents in the past to hide their child away from public viewing or have them be a part of a circus as a “dog face” person. This abuse would possibly cause the hidden Chandonne son to become mentally deranged thereby killing his brother, change clothing with him to he could take on his identity and enter the United States under his brother’s papers. Then Kay hears of a strange event of a man swimming in the frigid waters of the James River. She once again postulates that possibly this could be the killer swimming in the waters just as he swam in the waters outside of his family’s home in Paris near a cathedral hoping that the waters would cure him of his affliction. While in Paris, Kay goes to the area of the Chandonne family’s residence and finding it near the Seine River, collects a sample of the water to have it tested for diatoms to see if they match those found on the container man, which are indeed a match. This image of a man immersing himself at night in waters to be healed of a cruel affliction and then those exact same waters used to identify his victim and eventually himself made me realize that here was the design I wanted to use for my book cover.

I found clip art of a swimmer and transferred images of actual diatoms into a cartoon depicting the Swimmer in the water. I then placed the name of the book at the top of the cartoon larger than the author’s name. Then I printed out the cartoon and basted the paper on a piece of felt. Using white thread, I outline the major pieces of the cartoon for placement. Using another print out of the cartoon, I cut out individual images as templates. Upon research, I found that diatoms are yellowish brown and in some instances are green. So I beaded the diatoms using this earthy palette of colors. I was also lucky to find some glass beads that looked to me like diatoms in color and appearance. For the swimmer, I made a pancake doll form beading it before sewing down onto the tapestry. The book title was done by cutting out the individual letters as templates and sewing them down onto the tapestry using bead embroidery. The author’s name was smaller so I was unable to use the same technique successfully. Instead, I charted out the name and made a band of square stitch that was then sewn down and embellished along the edges. For the background I wanted to use the image of a man swimming at night with only the stars shining down on him. I used crystal Rivolis captured in a peyote cage and then sewn down in a pleasing pattern. I then found a bag of vintage German glass sequins, and they looked to me like drops of star light reflected water. I used these in both the water containing the diatoms and in the sky as the motion of a swimmer will fling water into the sky. The remainder of the tapestry base was filled in with wave like patterns for the water and nighttime cloud patterns for the sky. To give the diatoms the feelers I used gold Soft Flex wire.

It was difficult to decide if I wanted the tapestry to be displayed as hanging from a bar or to be stretched over a frame. Because of the size and weight of the completed piece, I decided to stretch the piece over a frame for support. But I needed something strong enough to support this heavy work, yet light enough to not add additional weight to cause problems in the actual display. So I used lightweight molding from a hardware store and foam core board for stability to construct the frame. I glued down quilt batting to secure thread backing would have a durable base and then stretched the tapestry over the frame sewing it firmly in place. I then used another piece of felt for the backing and used a picot edging to sew the front and back together. To give the image of the swimmer in motion, I used a netting technique to simulate waves curling and added this same design to the bottom of the frame.

All in all, I was very pleased with the finish tapestry and with the mystery story that I had chosen at random. I have found myself enthralled with the adventures of Dr. Kay Scarpetta and bought almost all of the series and read each of them with as much joy and anticipation as the first novel. Each book of the Scarpetta series further fleshes out each of the characters I discovered in the first book making them almost as real as people I see every day on the streets.

Thanks so much

Dot Lewallen

5 comments:

WhingingNinja said...

wow that is amazing!! you have such patience. I could never get the hang of beading and wish I could, and yes do an owl bead ^^

Susan Elliott said...

I just wrote a super long comment and blogger ate it?? Maybe it was sent to you for approval?

Carol said...

Dot, you always amaze with your creative thought and amazing beading/sewing/creative abilities. This is certainly a wonderful piece.
xx, Carol

Jules said...

Fabulous Dot and I have voted. They are all marvellous but you are the best! Tons of luck, you deserve to win.

Fadas de Luz said...

Belíssimo trabalho. Parabéns pela arte.
Beijos do Brasil