Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Gallery's point of view

I'm blogging from Burlington, Canada where I'm spending a week relaxing after teaching at Quilting by the Lake - so no camera attachment yet...I'll have pictures from the class (excellent students!) when I get back home next week.

At QBL we had a talk from Bruce Hoffman, director of the Snyderman gallery in Philadelphia, one of the top fibre art galleries in the US. He had some very pertinent comments to make. He always looked for a combination of fine craftsmanship and excellent design and rarely saw the two together in quilts. (This is a challenge!!! Look to your work and decide which area might be weak and focus on making it stronger. I know I plan to do that!)
HOffman went on to say that he felt that quiltmakers need to be held responsible for developing their craftsmanship and design skills. (Of course I know I harp on about this all the time!) Hoffman stated that we need to know how to proportion colour, how to use colour. We need to know the elements with which we work. (I wish he had specified more, but he didn't). However, he did say that he felt that one well known quiltmaker used colour better than most painters. Here is a link to her website! Were you suprised? I think not! If you study her colours, she uses very strong contrasts in value, and saturation and temperature - hue is of less import. Something to learn.
HOffman said that when he curates a show, he feels that his choices become more subjective. His preference for the gallery is for nonobjective, nonfigurative color field and mark making work. It's important to assess your work and see if the type of work you make fits what the gallery you're aiming for actually shows - pointless to even think of sending them images if they don't show your kind of work. He stated that he was always looking for new and fresh work...but has at least an 8 month backlog of portfolios awaiting his attention. I personally know someone who sent portfolios 3 times over 5 years before getting a response. And her work fit his gallery totally! He rejects most of the work that is offered him. It really helps if you have been in several major shows.
He felt that it was important to show that you really know how to use the material with which you work..not clarifying if he meant this literally or metaphorically, however - but I'd guess - both!
Speaking of the Gees Bend quilters, he felt that the new generation don't understand what their grandmothers' work was about. The spirit of their work is gone. When I saw the Whitney show I felt exactly that - there were a couple of more modern pieces, clearly influenced by patchwork patterns and quilting magazines that just didn't have the soul of the earlier work. New cloth, all straightened up and no history, no freshness, no individual voice.
If you want to approach a gallery, he said, a CD with at least 10-15 images that load fairly fast is details, plus a list and resume. Also include a printed out list of the works, and a cover letter, and a printed out resume and price list - making it easy to see your work and find all the information very quickly. (remember 8 months backlog!). Make it clear if the prices quoted are wholesale or retail and also add any special information re the medium or techniques used. Of course enclose an SAE; he also stated that popping in a stamped addressed postcard which stated "The Snyderman Gallery has recieved your portfolio" really helped you to know if the portfolio actually ever got there!
It's the quality not the medium - he stated..and quality is craftmanship+design.

Another challenge: "quiltmaking is the most reduntant when jurying because quilters don't step out of their comfort zone."
So, if you want to make it in the upmarket gallery scene, no more coziness, no more twee images, no trite solutions, excellent sewing skills, and dynamic design! That's all!
If you have been, thanks for reading!


Nina Marie said...

Bruce's lecture did evoke more conversations then most at QBL. What I found funny was that his reality of the quilt artist's gallery experience wasn't anywhere near what my idea of the quilt artist's gallery experience is. He was there to express his gallery's point of view but I felt that it had a very high end skew to it. Also I found it amusing that he was talking to a room of 200+ quilters but only represented 12 quilters at his "fiber" gallery.

Jackie said...


nonobjective, nonfigurative color field and mark making work.

Another challenge: "quiltmaking is the most reduntant when jurying because quilters don't step out of their comfort zone."

Will you please clarify on these two sentences/phrases?

Deb Lacativa said...

As a fiber artist who never "played" in the traditional quilt arena, I'm wondering about how he assesses my sewing skills? Although no one will accuse me of counting off 12 stitches in an inch, I try to make my work as if it was going to be used and machine washed and dried, (irrespective of any surface design techniques of course)and like to think my pieces are built to take it but is that what he means?