Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh quilt! Doff but thy name!

Juliet:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.”

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

A couple of years ago I was awarded a solo gallery show in a college. The person who awarded me the show then retired and it was some time later than I was contacted by her successor, the head of the art department, who was obviously very leery of putting on a “quilt” show. “Can you bring your (gulp) quilts to the gallery on the 1st of next month ”? he said on the phone, trepidation in his voice. He had to fulfill the obligation but obviously this was not his sort of thing! The previous show had been photographs blown up huge, glued to the gallery walls and then smeared and dribbled with house paint!

However, when I got there, he looked at the pieces and said “But, these aren’t quilts, they’re fiber collages!”.

I think that the word “quilt” has a rich and wide meaning for those of us who work with fiber, but a very different meaning for the world at large. And, if we want to communicate with a non-quilter, it does make sense to talk their language. I don’t think we have to deny our quilt origins but simply clarifying the term for the non-aficionado might help, as in “fiber collages/ art quilts”
I really don’t think this is any big deal. But then coming from an English English speaking background and now living in an American English country, I have learned that words can miscommunicate as well as communicate. We’ve all heard the “knocked up” difference! As in “wake up in the morning” (UK) versus “get pregnant” (US) , but there are so may more. One of my favorites was when we boarded the plane to come to the USA and the pilot announced “we will be in the air momentarily!”…the Americans looked pleased, the British looked worried. For the US citizens the word momentarily meant “soon”, for the UK ones it meant “for a short time only”!!

So, a little education and clarification all round definitely helps!

I can’t beat old Bill, so will leave it there!  If you have been, thanks for reading.   Elizabeth

PS all comments most gratefully accepted, especially those in blank verse!

6 comments:

cyn said...

verse? lol. no... not me.

however, thoughts on semantics... you know, i'm done worrying with what anyone thinks "a quilt" means.

if someone tells me they're a painter, a potter, or even a poet, I really don't give that statement much credence until I see the work myself.

And then when I see the work, I make some speculations on how devoted that person is to their craft and blend that judgment with my impression of the goodness/badness of the product.

so if someone quilts, they just plain ol' make something i don't think is hot.

i went to an exhibit that was all about turning books to art. some of them were so creative, it was amazing. and some were boring. i wondered, "did all the makers call themselves 'book artists'?"

cyn said...

oops... bad proofreading...

left out an IMPORTANT word.

so if someone quilts, they MAY just plain ol' make something i don't think is hot.

Olga said...

For whatever reasons, the textile art world is one which is not known outside its own confines. Weaving and tapestry weaving are known, but the broad span of quiltmaking and stitching when described as quilts and embroidery conjure up visions of patchwork and crinoline ladies in satin stitch. I suspect that this is not going to change until magazines on a regular basis include contemporary stitched work as part of interiors and review articles.
What is needed is product placement!

Patty said...

As a non-quilter, quilts connote coziness, warmth, homey-ness...but I think when you say art quilts, that gives me the context to know that this is something you hang on the wall.

Patty said...

Another thought, I am sure they add more to the acoustics of a space than other kinds of wall art--I would love to see some of the spare modern, acoustically-challenging restaurants in Athens hang them.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Goodness, I just posted a similar thought on my blog, the question arising from a collage article in an art magazine which featured an artist who uses fabric for collaging. I looked closely at her work and thought, that's just applique, like so many of the art quilters are doing, both with fusing and with acrylic medium. The major difference I guess, being that the collage artist did not incorporate any stitch. But it did make me wonder if the terminology we use creates more of a distinction than really exists.