"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Art Quilts: Emerging Genres

This is the text of a lecture given on February 1, 2011, in conjunction with the Form/Not Function art quilt exhibition at the Carnegie Center for Art in New Albany, Indiana.

One aspect of art history I find fascinating is the connections that exist from one art movement to the next.

Looking briefly at a few major periods in art history helps us to understand the evolution of art quilt genres – and gives us a sense of place and context – perhaps indicating what we need to do to further the growth and expansion of the art quilt movement.

It makes sense to begin an art history slam with the period referred to as Romanticism – from roughly 1800 – 1850. JMW Turner initiated a gradual shift away from classicism with breath-taking paintings, which were as much about light, as about painting.



Eduard Manet’s famous Luncheon on the Grass represents another shift, this time away from Romanticism, inching ever so gradually toward what we now call Modern Art. His painting caused a scandal in the established French Salon world and was a precursor to the age of Impressionism.


Most people are familiar with Impressionism – the movement that made it ok to paint from an intuitive or feeling, rather than from a realistic portrayal of the subject matter. But we don’t always think about how revolutionary these new approaches to painting were. Breaks with traditional art making were controversial, ridiculed, and shunned. But artists kept moving forward into new art territory in a process we can only call evolutionary.

Here’s another interesting fact: almost every artist who was living and working in Europe at that time tried on impressionism for size – at least briefly. In the Museum d’Orsay in Paris there is an entire wall of the same street scene, painted by a who’s who of painters from that period. Some of the paintings, including one by Matisse, are horrible. What do we learn from this? That even good painters made bad paintings, and that everyone has to struggle to settle on an individual style. We know, as far as Matisse is concerned, that he didn’t stick with Impressionism. Instead he cultivated color as a language, and established a niche that was firmly and unmistakably his own.

We could talk about Expressionism, Art Nouveau, The Blue Riders in Munich, and Gustav Klimt’s role in an effort to unite fine and applied arts in Germany. These avant garde movements upped the controversy ante and inspired a subset of lesser known movements, including Futurism, Orphism, Rayonism, Dada and the establishment of the Bauhaus Design School. Why does it matter to us?

Because in every case, artists introducing a new way of defining and quantifying art met resistance from the galleries and artists who were the established powerhouses of the day. Most of the movements I’ve mentioned were actually labeled as degenerate by the Nazis.

In 1881 Pablo Picasso was born. It’s probably fair to say that he single-handedly developed one style or period after another, as only a true visionary can do. Revered during his lifetime, which is not always the case, his work still represented the continual tug of war between the establishment and the challengers to tradition.

We can skip ahead past Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. If you aren’t familiar with these periods of art history, do yourself a favor and surf the web. Each period is a fascinating study of artists seeking the new, the fresh and the original. Artists pushing boundaries.

One artist we can’t ignore is Robert Rauschenberg. A twentieth century visionary, Rauschenberg introduced work he called Combines – pieces that were still primarily canvas, but which featured an assortment of 3-D elements, including the one most familiar to quilters – a canvas with a quilt glued to the surface and partially painted. A picture of this piece is included in Robert Shaw’s wonderful The Art Quilt, suggesting that Rauschenberg’s work has played a role in influencing art quilters who incorporate mixed media elements into their quilts. Sad to say, Rauschenberg’s combine probably sold for more than all art quilts sales combined in 2010.



So what does this have to do with art quilts and emerging genres?

The field is now 40 years old, and genres are emerging. Some are recognizably linked back to traditional quilts. Others are not. What is true is that the same struggle to find a unique voice that characterizes ALL of modern art history is going on now – as art quilts evolve as an art form.

I wanted to know whether or not art quilt forms could be arranged into A CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM of stylistic influences or genres, so I researched the idea. I was able to identify a list of six basic categories into which art quilts fall. These are not all influenced by traditional quilts, but surprisingly, are influenced by the various art movements I have described.

There is overlap, of course, just as in other media where approaches to materials and processes merge and co-mingle. This classification system is still a work in progress. But here is what I have observed to date:

I. Quilts Inspired by Traditional Patterns and Processes
There are three sub-classifications.
1. Pieced Quilts:
Jan Meyers Newberry’s work is an example of a quilt based on a traditional design. (The Nine Patch)


2. Whole Cloth Quilts:
These are quilts where the pattern references a traditional pattern but the method of achieving the pattern is contemporary. Ellen Oppenheimer’s silk screened quilts are an example of this category.


3. Mixed Media Pieces:
Again, the design references a traditional pattern, but the quilt is made from surprising materials. John Lefelhocz’s Match Schticks – made from glued matchsticks – is a great example of this category.



II. Innovative Pieced Quilts Inspired by Traditional Piecing
Nancy Crow’s work is probably the best known work in this category.



She, as well as several other quilt artists, was influenced by the seminal work of Anna Williams.

Within this category there are numerous works that tread a fine line between improvisational piecing and pictorial quilts. In those cases, a piece may fit either category, but I place it in the category by which it is more clearly defined.
Lisa Call's current work effectively balances improvisational piecing with a story line.



III. Narrative or Pictorial Quilts
Within this category pieces may address controversial or socio-political themes or not. Some works have abstract elements but most of the time one aspect of the piece dominates over the others – it may be abstract, but the figurative or pictorial elements are critical to appreciation of the message.
There are four sub-classifications:
1. Quilts that represent (or are drawn from) a real life image:
These may be impressionistic or EXPRESSIONISTIC in terms of how the materials are used. The quilt may be pieced, appliquéd or created using surface design techniques. Lori Lupe Pelish is a master of this style.



2. The Self Portrait:
An entire lecture could be devoted to this fascinating sub-category. Alison Whittemore’s Funny Looking Kid is a delightful example.



3. Quilts with a strong graphic arts influence:
What I mean by this is several things: text may be used, or images that are graphic in the style of clip art - the shapes are typically flattened. The color palette is often simple, employing pure or bright color combinations.
Bean Gilsdorf’s piece is an example of this style.



4. Visionary Quilts:
This is one of those classifications where you know it when you see it. I was uncomfortable with the term folk art as it implies a simplicity that lacks sophistication. But outsider art isn’t right either – as it implies someone not connected to any part of the art world experience.
Susie Shie’s pieces are thoughtfully conceived and executed but she is definitely not an art quilt world outsider. She is a visionary.



IV. Quilts that Reference Formal Design Concerns
Quilts in this category are often created by artists who have moved to quilt-making from other art backgrounds, or who have art degrees, but this isn’t always the case. It’s quite possible to study design and color theory independently and to use that knowledge to fuel a body of work. I would never insult any of the fine art quilt makers whose work fits this classification even though art school was never in the picture. There are three categories within this genre.
1. Abstract Compositions.
There is overlap here with innovative piecing. Darcy Falk and Sue Benner are great examples of artists who work in this style.



2. Color Field Compositions.
These pieces are characterized by the role color plays in the development of the surface – either because it dominates other considerations or plays a singular role. Emily Richardson continues to produce mesmerizing color field works.



3. Whole cloth pieces created through the use of a series of surface design processes.
These include but are not limited to dyeing, discharging, painting, foiling, silk-screening, and the use of resists. Astrid Hilger Bennett's work is an example of this style. Whole cloth surface designed pieces may be the fastest growing category of art quilts in the world today.



V. Mixed Media.
A catch-all, right or wrong, of pieces that rely primarily on the addition of components that are non-traditional in use and application. There are two sub-categories in the mixed media genre.
1. Whole Cloth Quilts.
Fran Skiles pioneered this approach to the art quilt.




2. Assembled Quilts.
The term assembled is used here to separate the action of adding elements to a surface from the acts of piecing or appliqué. Pat Kroth’s eye-popping thread pieces are examples of assembled work.



VI. Three Dimensional Quilts.
This category is defined as any piece that exhibits three-dimensionality as a key aspect of the presentation. Susan Else’s humorous sculptures are just one example of this quirky genre.



SO.
My original plan was to draw conclusions and propose goals art quilters could work toward into the future. But although I worked on ideas for this lecture several weeks almost nonstop, when I started to write it I found I had only a few observations to share.

There are some intriguing oddities in the art quilt movement. Among them:

1. Art movements have so infiltrated popular western culture we reference them without evening knowing we are doing it. Case in point, the number of art quilters who are not familiar with any art history because they have never been exposed to it, or haven’t taken an interest in learning about it.

2. This is a field made up predominantly of women, which is contrary to every art movement to date. Form/ Not Function had one male participant. In the recent Surface Design Journal, twenty-four women artists were mentioned in articles. Only four men were included in that issue.

How does this gender reality affect competition? Or pricing?

3. Art quilting is like a huge organized religion, which is also unlike any art movement to date. The Studio Art Quilt Associates is an example of women artists taking matters into their own hands to develop the venues that are desired and needed in order to progress. Without being overt, this is a socio-political statement. Art quilters are no longer waiting to be invited into the mainstream art world. They are creating venues for parallel play while devising efforts to go mainstream. This has so far, been relatively frustrating because the art world is territorial and also traditional in the sense of how the “rules” work. Hark back to every art movement in history, kids.

With such force of numbers why aren’t art quilters taking the mainstream art world by storm? Maybe we don’t care? Or is this one of those shifting societal issues that does effect change, but more slowly than we would like? Forty years is not that long. Evolution is long.

Other questions and observations:

Have we created a textile ghetto by being willing to develop our own venues?
Should we be trying to play by insider rules? Could we alter some visual clues – like how a piece is finished – in order to remove references that don’t serve moving forward?

Would we be willing to re-characterize work as mixed media construction in order to help it go mainstream? Is the resistance semantic?

Because women ARE so nurturing and sharing, do we run the risk of becoming too homogenized? Frankly I think women are very competitive – many times in unhealthy ways. But can we intentionally or consciously marry our nurturing ways to good boundaries?

And what about the charge that art quilters don’t take critical analysis seriously?
There is a palpable tension between the desire to welcome newcomers/beginners non-judgmentally and the reality of the importance of refining standards of excellence, so that collectors will take art quilts seriously.

These are choices that can be made collectively if we orchestrate a dialogue, but they are also choices that must be made individually - which is where we have the only real control. In any event, there is much to discuss and I hope this lecture will get the conversation started.

Because of everything I’ve said, it is interesting to note the classifications... and It is grist for the mill to point out the observations…

but the most significant reality is that it still comes down to one artist, in one studio, becoming intimately aware of her own process and preferences; actualizing her own quest for meaning and/or creative growth, and then having the courage to pursue it independent of others. We must do whatever we can to honor that impulse.

31 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. Lots of food for thought.

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  2. Jane, I SO planned on being there...unfortunately the weather forecast discouraged us from the drive. Thanks for printing this for us!

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  3. Very thought-provoking talk, Jane--thanks for posting this for those of us who couldn't be there.

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  4. Bravo, bravissimo! Your classification system and description of the art quilt evolution as well as where we stand at this point is worth taking on the road. It would be so interesting to hear the comments and questions from your listeners. It is on-going conversation isn't it?

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  5. I really welcome your comments because at last I am hearing things that are critically analyzing the issues. Especially whether art quilters are willing to enter the fine art mainstream using fine art parameters. Like the basics of good composition, knowledge of the elements and principles of art and making reference to the history of art in general. It seems we need to embrace all aspects of art and be willing to abandon some of the traditional formats and techniques in order to be truly creative with this medium.

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  6. I'd love to be able to jump forward about 100 years and look back at the art quilt movement from that perspective. I wonder if evolving technology (digital photos, etc.) will play an ever-increasing role in the movement. It also seems so many art quilters are mainly focused on playing around with techniques (should I paint, dye, stamp, all of the above?) that it makes it difficult to find their own voice. Or maybe ADHD quilts are a reflection of our times.

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  7. What a well researched and presentation! I love your classification scheme for art quilts, and like Sherrie, I'd love to be able to jump forward 100 years and see where art quilts have gone. You've reminded and inspired me to continue to learn more art history, thanks!

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  8. xcellently organized and stated.  Thanks so much Jane. I believe one of the problems with this "art quilt movement" is the artificiality of it.  Rather than history (even recent history) defining it, somehow the participants seem stuck in trying to define themselves and the importance of the work being done as though by doing this will bestow importance and significance.

    No matter what aspects of history, both art and quilt, one chooses to embrace or release with one's own work, I don't think we can claim so much control on our place in the history stream. Nor can we push our way into the art world because we spend time lobbying the role of what we're doing or what movement our work falls into.

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  9. Thanks for the well-written and documented lecture! Perhaps a note about Art As Meditation....? There is work done as an act of "active meditation," as I call it, in which the quilt piece is a by-product of the process of inner dialogue and expression. Pieces are not (should not be) subject to judgment and criticism, and as such do not fit into exhibitions...or what current curators are seeking...This is an area which seems to depart from the excellent categorization done by Jane...and there seems to be no venue which supports this direction...yet.

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  10. Jane, I loved this! Wish I could have been there in person.

    xo

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  11. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought provoking comments. When blogs really work it is because the essay leads to a dialogue of worthwhile comments and I thank you for this.
    Funny that the meditation aspect missed my gaze as that is exactly why I work!!! IT was right in front of my nose. A soon to be added category.

    This lecture will also be available as a pdf on my website soon - then it can be printed and shared with a group for discussion. Feel free to spread the conversation around, but do give me credit if you borrow my words from this location and if you want to reprint the entire text, write to me privately. Thanks.

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  12. Thank you for providing the text from your presentation, Jane. Very well articulated and the categories are well defined and as we already found out in the previous comments, up for additions as well.

    I think that there are several artists who have had enormous success in getting into fine art exhibitions with their work. I am one of these artists and I actually have a very difficult time getting into the "art quilt only" opportunities. 2011 has been a fantastic year and it is just started. I already have four juried fine art exhibitions with my work included during the first 3 months of the year.

    I think that the organizations such as Studio Art Quilt Associates are continuing to break new ground with both members' artwork as well as the traditional art venues that are now showing the art quilt in extended exhibitions (museums, fine art galleries, etc).

    It will continue to be an evolving medium and much of it is documented online and in book format so I think it will be one of the first totally documented art movements that can be witnessed by future artists immediately as it is happening.

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  13. Jane, can you clarify the following? I'm a little unclear by what you meant.

    "Art quilters are no longer waiting to be invited into the mainstream art world. They are creating venues for parallel play while devising efforts to go mainstream. This has so far, been relatively frustrating because the art world is territorial and also traditional in the sense of how the “rules” work. Hark back to every art movement in history, kids."

    I'm a little puzzled because many, of not most, of the modern movements DID have their own shows when they were not allowed or accepted into the Salons and major art shows. Think of the Ash Can School and Dada.

    We are a little different and have a greater burden to shoulder than many art genres because we are so universally tied to domestic production of quilts for household articles (think material culture rather than fine art). Thus, we have to break through the "craft barrier."

    The closest thing to this that I can think of is the admission of photography as fine art, which took longer than 40 years.

    I have been thinking about this long before you posted this, but you have made some points I haven't thought about and finally someone has made a classification system for the different genres of art quilts! Thank you! I've been trying to figure out a logic for this for a little bit.

    I hope to write a blog post on this myself and discuss my points on some of your questions as well as bring people back here. I will let you know when I finally get it written.

    Thank you so much!

    Lisa Quintana

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  14. Great read. Loved being able to get this online. Many excellent comments and definately things we as artists need to be considering.

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  15. Interesting (and telling) question regarding 'gender reality' and competition/pricing, Jane. But I also feel ‘the tension between the desire to welcome newcomers/beginners non-judgmentally and the reality of the importance of refining standards of excellence' is an important part of the mix in the marginalization of art quilting.
    I continue to be put off by the plethora of articles and books on the market which approach art quilting as if it were merely a trendy, 'quick and easy' craft project, step-by-stepping the art form into a kind of homogenized eye candy. I came to this discipline from a painting/print making background. Certainly there have always been similarly simplistic 'how-to' publications about those media but they don't irk me like the art quilt articles – not sure why. Probably has to do with my fears that my standing as a professional artist is compromised by association with the concept in the banner of many articles “you don’t have to know how to draw/be an artist to make this” (art quilts).
    Lack of critical standards and guidelines for what constitutes original vs. derivative work make me squeamish about identifying myself as an art quilter; I feel less limited with the identity 'fiber artist', and terming the work I make mixed media textiles... Studio Art Quilt Associates, of which I am a member, is deep in the work and the dialog of promoting our rich, fabulous textile-based medium and establishing our place in Art History. Thanks, Jane, for your part in feeding the discussion. These are sure exciting times to be making marks!

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  16. Whew, I am so overwhelmed by the exclusion of the many in this presentation calling for the inclusion of the few, that it will take me a while to form an articulate response.

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  17. Re gender reality discussion: At least 20 years ago, Joe Cunningham was giving a lecture about the revival of quiltmaking and the fast growing industry surrounding it. His observation was that when it was recognized that there was money to be made, men got involved.

    Observation: The difference between "hobbyist" and "artist" is one's personal perception of his/her work as opposed to how one's work is perceived by others. However, the difference between the commercially successful "hobbyist" and "artist" is absolutely dependent on how the work is categorized, perceived and evaluated by others. Having put my observation in writing, the thought has come to me that this is a false dichotomy in that I am considering these distinctions as if they are mutually exclusive although there may be a broad middle ground.

    While it would have been wonderful to hear your lecture and to see you, Jane, having it in "hard copy" allows for endless rumination and inspiration. Thanks for making it available.

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  18. I am a little curious as to why we, as fiber artists, should expect an organization like SAQA to elevate us to fine art. Is it not the duty of each individual artist to elevate themselves, if they so desire?

    I think every media will have its large pool of neophytes and a few masters. Perhaps it's more a product of our predominantly female mind-set in this genre that we want to see ALL our sisters regarded as Masters and are loath to admit that any one of us, let alone the majority, are really more like amateurs.

    You have identified that many art quilters do not have an art education. I suspect that this is why we are not taking the art world by storm -- the majority have not been trained to see museums and galleries as venues to actively seek out. We grew up in, and are afraid to leave, the comfort of the quilt-specific womb we've created. You've also pointed out that a good many of those who do have an art education, have garnered a degree of recognition in the greater art world. I propose that the proportion of those who try and succeed is similar to the ratio in other media. We are just so close (via forums like QuiltArt, SAQA, and our self created venues) that we miss their entrees into the art world because we are too focused on the larger numbers who stay close to home.

    That said, I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head, and we each must choose our own path that fits our own needs and urges. For myself, that most likely means sacrificing being taken seriously in a marketing sense (though I do have an art education and do see galleries as the best venues for my fiber art) in return for doing what I really want to do (which is to mix a whole lot of cute and practical "craft" in with the introspective "art").

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  19. I appreciate the thought that went into this. It is a wonderful organization of many types of art quilts. And, interesting questions posed that could produce fruitful dialogue. I am sure your presentation was great to be at.

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  20. Interesting post however as an Antipodean and one who has seen much work in Europe I am a bit intrigued that the artist's work used to illustrate your categorisations are mostly American ( if not all) and yet the movement is worldwide and certainly in Australia has been going as long as elsewhere. We also have our own organisations that have the same goals as SAQA as do some of the European countries.

    I also wonder what the mainstream Art World is actually conceived to be these days, as recent exhibitions I have seen have left me puzzled and pondering- many exhibitions do not even reference the wall of the gallery space leaving them blank or subject to the play of digital/light installations and other installation being the focus of the art work even involving performance often by the artist themselves or with friends, and even interactivity where you the viewer are part of the installation- there seems to be little that involves what we might consider more traditional art materials, like paint and canvas and sculpture. And yet we work with possibly one of the most traditional art materials- textile- and I say traditional in an historical sense because once textile was revered and desired by most European noble houses- think of the story of silk. And then do we not only work with textile but we also make the textile into quilts. How can we as artists hope that this most traditional of materials and then craft technique, somehow fits in with what the art world seems to consider to be art today- except as perhaps part of an installation or in making a pointed statement such as the following artists have done ( and i know they are not all making quilts but they are using and even referencing textiles)

    Michel Nedjar- http://www.artnet.com/artists/michel-nedjar
    Tracie Emin
    http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/tracey_emin.htm
    El Anatsui
    http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/microsites/anatsui/
    Yinka Shonibare
    http://www.yinkashonibarembe.com/
    Michael Brennand Wood
    http://brennand-wood.com/
    Faith Ringold
    http://www.faithringgold.com/
    Christo and Jean-Claude
    http://www.christojeanneclaude.net/wr.shtml
    Magdalena Abanakowicz
    http://www.abakanowicz.art.pl/dancing/-dancing.php
    Louise Bourgeois
    http://www.centrepompidou.fr/education/ressources//ENS-bourgeois-EN//ENS-bourgeois-EN.html#metamorphosis
    Do Ho Suh
    http://www.designboom.com/eng/interview/dohosuh.html

    These artists have all made it mainstream so to speak- but how are they different to what we do? Is what we do in any way the same as them? Their intentionality goes without saying- they do not dabble in techniques but do use technique to express their final presentation.

    I think that we need to consider where textile is in the art world before we can even begin to discuss where quilts are.

    Anyway just a few thoughts that have floated through my head in response to your very thought provoking lecture

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  21. Wow! Great lecture Jane, thank you for sharing it with all of us. As an emerging artist, not a youngster, I struggle to find my voice and my niche. I am especially shy as I my degree is engineering rather than art. I appreciate the discourse hear and look forward to enhancing my knowledge and fully participating with such a great group! Again, thanks!

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  22. It should be added into the mix that the lecture was written to accompany a specific art quilt exhibition and was therefore, most specifically about the work in that show. This aspect of the lecture was removed from the current essay, mainly because of space concerns.

    I am very familiar with European and also Australian artists and also of numerous artists who employ methods that reference the "art quilt" - but the limited time requirement of a lecture, and the space limitations of the blog format disallowed discussing many other interesting and relevant areas. The essay was never envisioned as definitive. It couldn't possibly be definitive when the field is so rich. Rather, it was one small voice in the wilderness - wanting to encourage discussion of varied and valid issues, which are of importance to anyone who wishes to be considered a professional.

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  23. Having said the above, I am grateful for the links provided by others, which will make it possible for readers to look at work with which they may not be familiar. There is a lot of great, serious stuff out there.

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  24. Thanks for the excellent and thought provoking analysis. Can I just quibble with the word "quirky" to describe three-dimensional quilt work? I prefer to use the word "sculpture" to describe my work.

    I'm noticing a lot more fiber being shown in galleries in our area and nobody is calling it "quilts". I think there is definitely a knee-jerk reaction to the word.

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  25. Jane -- You are addressing the "elephant in the room" -- thank you for an always meaningful post. These are questions that we need to address, thoughtfully and objectively. From these comments and those that I've seen elsewhere, you've definitely struck a chord. I hope it's a continuing dialogue.

    Also, thanks for giving permission to share -- as I have multiple times (!) -- with appropriate credit!

    Diane

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  26. Great questions and bold categorizations. All art movements begin with this.
    I too have wondered if our point of view as women using a traditional medium are hampered by those distinctions. Am I part of a girls club (pardon me, male artists) or a defined and growing art category? Participating in SAQA shows allows my work to be seen by others who would otherwise not be able to see my art. That brings me great joy. But I think art is about the process not the product. For me, it represents the fulcrum between conscious and unconscious thought. The Stuckist Manifesto says "Stuckism is the quest for authenticity." If our art can bring a NEW authenticity to the art world then perhaps our efforts to hang in galleries, museums and public buildings is worth the effort.

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  27. I found this quite interesting but the sad truth remains - whether right or wrong - that the only way for textile art quilts to become part of the art galleries & museums of the world is for the medium to branch out to those venues. Unfortunately a 'movement' that stays within certain confinements (its own shows, organizations, participating audience gender, etc) dictates that it will be relegated to those contained boundaries. I encourage anyone who hopes for a broader scope of acceptance and acknowledgement for this medium to become involved with local art groups, galleries, museums and schools.

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  28. We have to consider the tension between art and craft. To me, this tension arises from art’s searching for something “new” (I am, admittedly, a modernist) while craft is a celebration of the traditional. Making art in craft media, then, constantly calls this tension into play. Sometimes the craft link is positive: everyone wears clothes, sleeps under blankets, etc., so the audience is drawn to the materials we use. At the same time, potential buyers freak out about care, wondering if they will have to wash the object. This puts some people off, which is why quilts in frames, behind glass, are sometimes easier to sell.

    It is easier to accept critical analysis of one’s work if one has been to art school; there are some bullies out there, and if you don’t develop a thick skin, you’ll never graduate! (Not everyone is a bully, but they do exist.) The artist must decide if she wants to improve; improvement requires finding the truth in criticism and incorporating that truth into the truth of one’s artistic vision. It isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

    Another important aspect of the study of art history is the notion of “the school of” say, Rembrandt. Many important artists had students, who learned to paint in the style of their chosen master. Looking carefully at these works generally reveals the genius of the master, particularly in comparison to the competent, but not excellent, work of their students. There is a freshness and mastery in the work of Nancy Crow; many of her students, though, seem to endlessly repeat Nancy knock-offs, which bore me. I’ve seen them before, and I’ve seen better before. They may be competent in their craft, but they are somewhat boring. (I don’t mean anyone should stop making their work; any celebration of beauty is welcome. But they aren’t all going to be masterful.)

    I like the genres you have defined: you might enjoy a book called The Artist by Edmund Feldman. His main thesis is that different types of artists developed over time, but none of those types ever go away.

    And one more picky detail (I can’t help myself!): Picasso was born in 1881.

    But thanks so much, Jane, for starting this dialogue.

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  29. Thank you Barbara - that is a lot to ponder. Working in an area associated with a "craft" comes with predictable and understandable conversations about what you're making. Those conversations aren't meant to and don't demean your work, in my opinion. Instead we open someone else up to a new idea, a new way of looking at the world. If the response is "only hand sewn applique quilts in the XYZ style are quilts, this is not a quilt" it's not much of a conversation. I don't take it personally.

    Your paragraph about mastery is worth several re-reads and I'll be keeping an eye open for the book you recommend - many thanks. The search for authenticity that shades mentioned previously and the idea of mastery are similar and worthy of more discussion too. It's that work that is *ours* that is worth showing to others.

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  30. Here is another category: Quilt making as social practice where the traditional aspects of quilt making within a community, the quilting bee, etc. are applied to create quilts or projects incorporating quilt making for social change and exchange.

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