Monday, September 14, 2009

Why were they put to death?

I’ve heard so many people say: “I finished piecing (appliquéing, fusing etc) and then I quilted it to death!”
And I wonder….why??  To Death?!!!

As I looked through a recent catalogue from a prestigious show I was both surprised and saddened by the number of pieces that were overworked.  Too much color, too many layers, too many bits, too many focal points, too much stitching, too many things added on and on until the whole piece is drowning.

One of the biggest problems in many art forms is not knowing when to stop..my husband loves to garden, he plants one of everything and since the plants arrive small – he plants them too close together as well!! Needless to say that, now, after 20 years of such planting, we’re living in a jungle!  No sightlines, no places to rest the eye, nowhere to breathe and look around..plus when the hort prof brought his class from the U, he described the garden as a “horticultural zoo”! 

Anybody who has tried watercolour painting has seen the same effect:  one beautiful stroke of colour, ahh! so luscious….and another and another….and then they all swirl together into mud.  Or think about a chef designing a meal (yes I’ve watched those cooking shows!) – too many ingredients and the palate is confused.  Then ,on top of that, too many rich course and nowhere for the palate to rest and cleanse…to say nothing of the stomach!

I’m not saying there isn’t a place at times for density – if that is the  theme of the piece.  If you want to make a piece about cloying overindulgence,  and egregious , excessive, overabundant superfluity then go ahead, slap on everything you can!  But if you want to make a quilt that celebrates the beauty of a blossom, think about the gorgeous clean spaces within those petals.  Look into the flower and imagine you are a tiny insect exploring that subtly shifting glowing room.  That’s what Georgia O’Keefe showed us.  If you want to make a piece about trees, don’t show us every leaf.  I love the way Barbara Watler reduces her trees to the positive/negative black/white shapes;  because there is so much detail in the shapes, she pulls back strongly on the other elements and thus focuses us on the intricate variety of the edges.

I think it’s important to have some simple areas to contrast with the very detailed ones, each helps the other to be more interesting and satisfying to look at.  It gives the denser areas much more impact if there are quiet areas around them.  You’re soon lost if everything has equal emphasis.  It’s like someone giving a booming blasting loud speech – you just tune out after a while….but if they  vary the volume, the pitch and the pace….then your attention is drawn in.

I also like to know what I’m looking it – a whirling miasma of shapes and colours that lead apparently nowhere just makes me remember my misspent youth!!

Of course not everyone feels the same way about mud as I do  - as shown by the old Flanders and Swann song: “Mud! mud…glorious mud!  Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood!..”

So, if you have been, thanks for reading!!! and comments are not egregious!! go for it! 
Elizabeth

6 comments:

Terry said...

Oh yes, you've spoken right to my heart once again. Too much IS too much.

Virtual Quilter said...

The more quilts I see at exhibitions, on the net and in magazines the more I am thinking about a cream wholecloth with a little cream applique and quilted with cream thread. All very simple and clean. An antidote for everything which is considered artistic!
Judy B

Jackie said...

As a teacher of first graders, I tried to be diligent about snatching art projects away from them before the process ended in too, too much--especially those for Mother's Day and Christmas! Process takes over and the point of the creation is simply overcome and lost.

Nina-Marie said...

What I find interesting is that if you look at trends in decor, furniture and such, those lines/textures seem to be getting simpler and simpler. Look at the clean lines of today's furniture. Too much clutter is definitely out. So it makes one wonder who is pushing this more and more trend in art quilting world.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

This is exactly the issue I was referring to when I said you should write a piece on "everything but the kitchen sink". I often feel, when looking at overworked art, the artist likely didn't know what they were working toward to begin with and therefore could not find a resolution.

Kay said...

Amen!