All That Glitters is Not Gold
There are trends in the art world as in any other and I’ve observed that the current art world is very focused on meaning. Abstract patterns of minimalism and optical art are much less popular; we are all wondering about the meaning. Perhaps abstraction is for affluent times? And when everyday life is uncertain and worrying we look for meaning? When we feel threatened, when emotional levels are high, we need to figure out what is going on and to express our feelings about it. While “popular art” becomes even more sweet, saccharine, whimsical and unaware of the looming clouds, references to the desire for personal meaning and expression are consistently being made in mainstream art.
In a book by John Blockley, one of my favorite watercolour painters, I read:
“Painting is not about perfectly executed technique, desirable though this might be. Better an original statement, expressing a unique viewpoint, something to make people think.”
The judges in “Work of Art” – the Bravo TV reality show that challenges young artists to make works of art addressing a specific challenge have a similar touchstone and standard. Each week one contestant is eliminated; the last man (or woman!) standing gets a show at the Brooklyn Art Museum (alas no fiber artists on the show, though I’d love to see what they came up with – though the 24 hours which is usually given would not be long enough for any fiber art I know of!). The judges invariably give the weekly prize to the artist that produces something that is both fresh and deeply rooted in their own experience. They don’t like derivative art, they don’t like art that is solely about technique and they do want something that is totally personal and meaningful.
They want the artists to think deeply and out of their thinking create something that communicates something very personal and meaningful from their own lives. One of my more successful series of quilts was based on a photograph I took one terrible day in my life. Looking back over the snapshots from that time, I could see that that one photo summed up some of the feelings I’d experienced that day. But this is hard to generate de nouveau! How can you say – I’m going to have an awful day next week and I’ll be sure to have my camera with me?!!
I notice that relationships are a key theme in the artwork that is considered special. It’s interesting that it’s an issue rarely addressed in art quilts. Other current themes, according to Robertson and McDaniel in the book: Themes of Contemporary Art are: identity, the body, time, place, language, science and spirituality. Some of these I have seen in art quilts – language particularly, the work of Robin Schwalb comes to mind but there are many others. Here is Robin discussing the power of art to express emotion:
In my next blog I’m going to review a book I was just sent – the publishers must have read my wishlist because it was on there! But in the blog after that I want to revisit some of the themes that Robertson and McDaniel have delineated and look at whether or not the quilts I’ve made would fit into any of them.
To be creative is to think! To think is to be creative! Send me your creative thoughts……
And , if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth