The dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham believed that artists should learn and take inspiration and understanding from all art forms. He collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage to create exciting and innovative pieces. As art quilters (i.e. those who design their own compositions) we are developing a relatively new art form and we can learn so much from the vast knowledge available to us in painting, music, sculpture, fashion, architecture and poetry as well as textile traditions from around the world and the centuries.
I’ve found it so helpful in trying to explain composition to others to relate the ideas to musical composition. We can all hear when a bar of rap music is interspersed into Mozart…and yet how many quilts have I seen where this would be a perfect analogy! Of course you can mix the two…if you know what you’re doing! And you know how to build a basic structure to support two such disparate elements…and how to interweave them so that they harmonize and reveal something about each other – I’m sure Bobby McFerrin could do it!
We can all hear the dullness of a funeral march rhythym and the excitement of syncopation…yet how many quilts are made with trees in a straight row, with exactly the same space between each?
From painting we can learn how to create the illusion of depth in a two dimensional space using devices such as overlap, reduced contrast in texture and hue and height. From calligraphy we can learn about the elegance of line…and the spaces between the lines. From sculpture we can get the sense of how to balance and proportion large shapes or masses within the piece – and how not to be afraid of Big Chunks of fabric!!
In architecture we see the importance of harmony – how often have we groaned at the spanish hacienda crossed with the georgian townhouse with a smidgen of ranch cabin thrown in? Also from architecture is revealed the importance of a good basic structure to the piece…and from landscape architecture we discover how to make pathways that our eyes (if not our feet!) can follow to explore each part of the composition, and how to avoid elements blocking our progress into and within the garden. We also must not forget the “feature”! In old garden designs, there was always a point to a winding path or allee….the “feature’ was usually a statue – often headless of course (though that state was not particularly required it could certainly be easily achieved with a quick swipe!). The “feature” is now called, more prosaically, the “focal point/area” and there are guidelines as to where it should be….though if you’re well balanced(! )and experimental…you can certainly create a surprise or two!
From fashion, especially high fashion and street fashion, so many possibilities for knowledge! Balance and proportion of course, colour and texture…what will mix with what. And the importance of taking risks, and then reigning them in….. Though I’ve not yet discovered how to get the extra baggy knee high crotch underwear revealing style into my quilts….it might be worth considering!
And from poetry? ah yes!! the best of all…how to winnow down the elements to produce a piece that perfectly conveys the message in the most beautiful and concise way – nothing extra, nothing extraneous merely the essential distillation…
so now I’d better go and build my still…hmm I didn’t mention food and drink did I? ah well..you can guess!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading! and please do add your comments! especially the 80 proof….. Elizabeth