Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pop-Up Gallery show this week

A couple of friends and I were so frustrated with existing art collaboratives – either too expensive or too backward looking or too many folk with boring work – that we thought we’d do our own!  So we rented a gallery for this next weekend: Fri Nov 30-Sun Dec 2.  And then we had a lot of fun thinking whom we could invite to join us.  We wanted a mix of different mediums and all of them of great quality.  We also wanted to have folk that don’t usually show their work so there would be a fresh flavour to the show.  We’ve even hired a musician – no canned musack for us!!  Here’s our announcement!

tn Having got this amazing group together and the gallery and all the other arrangements, I’ve been hustling to matt or frame up watercolors and finish quilts ready to show.  Since Athens,GA  is one of the monetarily poorest places in the nation – despite being incredibly rich in talented folk, education, learning and things to do – it’s important to keep prices low.  As you know quilts – even for the wall! – take an incredibly long time to make, so I’ve been doing some cropping….both of the paintings and the quilts.  Looking for little gems!

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I made a quilt some time ago that I never really felt worked – the composition was very awkward as you can see…plus I’d done one very similar which was much better.

So time to get out the rotary cutter!  and I created two little fellows from this big overloaded camelephanteater….

I like them better…more mystery, more abstracted and I’ve got rid of the distracting top heavy bright shapes…I’d noticed when cropping watercolors how I could significantly improve them by doing so, so it makes a lot of sense to do the same thing with quilts.  I’ll take a look at these as they hang on the wall in the gallery (!) and I think I’ll be coming home afterwards looking for many more to cut up!  After all why keep the whole thing when not all of it is working – cut to the good bits I reckon!

roof exuberance crop 1

roof exuberance crop 2 And here are some of the watercolors – just local scenes or places I’ve been on my travels ….



this was from a photo I took when I was out hiking in the woods with my photography friends…I love photos of people really engaged in doing something.



I see this house on my walk every day…it’s a very nice shape especially with the trees providing contrast…I painted it first without the car…but it was obviously lacking something there…the white shapes really needed to continue toward the right hand edge, so I was glad that Rita nearly always has her van parked there on the driveway!



I taught at Hudson River Valley Inn a couple of autumns back; there is a lovely park just up the hill from the inn with great views.  I was able to sit and sketch as well as take photographs, and then made the painting later when I got back home.




I’m in a plein aire group started by a wonderful artist couple that live at the end of our street…they go out scouting for great local sites and were able to find this gorgeous field of sunflowers!  And they were all looking at us (the flowers that is!!)  What a beautiful day we had ..in amongst the flowers.



Sometimes we stay in Bob’s garden to paint, they have a very nice little gazebo tucked under the tall pines so prevalent down here in the south….




and down the street the other way, is a garden with a central lawn that always catches the sunlight in the early morning – love those glowing little sunlit magical areas!

So – if you’re in town!  Do come see the show.  And if you’re not – consider mounting your own show; many galleries are so desperate for revenue I think they’d be happy to rent to you between their major shows.

I’ll report back on how it all went!  If you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Abstract vs representation quilts in major quilt shows

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Somebody mentioned that representational quilts were only 20% of the pieces accepted for the major biennial quilt show, Quilt National, this year and they were wondering why that was. I don’t know if that figure is correct (I’ve not seen the show – yet!) but I started cogitating, as is my wont, about the representational vs abstract choice in art quilts.





I think part of the reason that abstract design is popular in quilts is the very strong historical tradition for pattern within the medium. Quilting developed for several reasons: obviously a need for warm bedclothes – but that could have been achieved a lot more quickly by sewing the biggest left over, or harvested, chunks of fabric you had. Chopping up the salvaged and left over fabric into geometric shapes to be arranged into patterns, however, satisfies both the need to be creative and the need to be able to order one’s life – or at least a small part of it. And, this was an activity to be done in the evenings when you were tired as a restful occupation rather than a mental exercise . So choosing an arrangement you liked and carefully putting in the pieces – a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle – would be much more likely. It’s relaxing rather than challenging, and furthermore the results are known – you know what it will look like when you’re done. People, as a rule, do not like uncertainty.


The nature of the medium

It’s relatively easy to cut fabric into squares and triangles and then sew them together. It’s much harder to sew together shapes that aren’t regular and geometric…so it would make much more sense to utilize cloth pieces to make geometric patterns, however irregular. Are we, therefore, stretching the medium when we use it to create “pictures” or are we going against its essential nature? Is it as daft as using blobs of paint to create a sculpture? Or, intriguing and refreshing?



Fashion within the Art World

Quilts as art to be hung on the wall really began in the 1980s when abstract art was very evident in the mainstream art world. It’s very likely that one art form is significantly affected by what is happening in other art forms at the same time. If painting is abstract, and quilts are being made to hang the same way that paintings are, then it’s likely that the makers of those early art quilts would follow the trend of what they saw.

Currently the trend in the art world is for three things I’d say (and I’d love for you to comment!):
1.  installation art
2. art where one medium poses as another
3. video.
A major quilt show recently (the red and white one in New York) was mounted more like an installation that a traditional quilt show.
Currently successful art quilts (think of Amy Orr and John Lefelhocz) are “quilts” made from unlikely things like sugar bags or bag ties).
I don’t know of any “video” quilts yet…but curator David Revere McFadden was lamenting at the SAQA meeting in Philadelphia last Spring about the lack of contemporary quilts using things like video, fiber optics and other electronic components.
So I think fashion is a key operative device in choice of subject.

april rains crop

The task of the juror

There’s another aspect too; bar a few very knowledgeable art critics/curators, most jurors are responding to the work they’re assessing from a fairly limited scope of experience. I would suggest that’s it’s actually easier to detect a poor representational quilt that it is to detect a poor abstract or non-representational one. It’s a lot easier to pick out the wrong notes from a tune you know very well, than from one you’re not as familiar with. We are always influenced (much more than we’ll accept) by the familiar. I read that something like 80% of doctors feel that they will not be influenced to prescribe a certain drug by having been wined and dine by that drug’s manufacturers. Oh how wrong they are!! Psychological research shows clearly that we’ll opt for the familiar over the unfamiliar nearly every time. That’s why advertising works! Of course there are always a few iconoclastic folk around! – thank goodness for them…but generally it’s very very tough to exert the mental effort to resist.


But no judgments!

This isn’t to say, of course, that I think the quilt art form should or should not be abstract or representational. I think the important thing is to achieve good and exciting designs creating long lasting and satisfying images. I don’t think there is any general bias on the part of jurors towards one type of work over another and I enjoy making both kinds of quilts. Vive la difference!

If you have been, thanks for reading!! I look forward to comments!! Please!!


Friday, November 16, 2012


wild acres 003

I only like to teach 4-6 workshops a year…I see other art quilt/fiber collage teachers racing around the country and I’m not envious!!  the hassles of flying these days: the long queues, the waiting, the cramped up seats in the aircraft, the uncertainties of whether connections will be made, whether your bags will make it through and what shape they’ll be in when they do ( I once had a suitcase returned to me with its shape changed from a rectangle to a perfect circle.  A bit like a burrito only open at both ends frothing out various undergarments – some meant to be seen, others not!!).   I do like, however, to have a sense of the year ahead with something interesting each month!  I don’t need to see too far into the future, I think that would be awful – how could you have hopes and dreams that way? I don’t understand those folk who go to fortune tellers.  though it is good to be able  to look down the path of a year and see new challenges!  That kind of anticipation is lovely.


One of the challenges I’ve set myself for 2013 is to develop a new workshop based on abstract art.  There are many 20th century abstract painters I love and I’d like to deconstruct their working processes and apply them to quilt design.  I think it could be really exciting.  There’s so much we as quilters can learn from the art world as a whole.  From the masters we can discover new ideas and great inspiration and from the rubbish (and there’s plenty of that, believe me! the average quilt show is usually well ahead of the average sunday painter show in terms of excitement and quality!) we can see what not to do.  It really is helpful to analyze the bad and the ugly as well as the good!

So my workshop on Abstract Design for Art Quilts based on abstract 20th century paintings is going to be at Arrowmont next August!  Here’s a link for the sneak preview of 2013 workshops at Arrowmont:
And you can actually register – from today…get in ahead of the crowd! (1 865 436 5860)

Arrowmont is, I think, one of the best art and craft workshop centers in the country.  For one thing they are totally full service:  they have excellent workshops, in super well equipped studios, art galleries stuffed with inspiration, a great library with lots of books, all the latest magazines, and loads of computers.  Several levels of accommodation, very good food, lovely climate.  They run a shuttle  to/from Knoxville, TN airport so getting there is not difficult and the ride up into the Smoky Mountains is lovely.  One of the best things, I think, is that there are usually about 12 concurrent workshops in 12 different mediums, so it’s nothing like as homogenous as the average quilting retreat.  There are all ages, all sexes (amazing!), all kinds of backgrounds. And seeing work done in clay or wood or glass or painting is really inspiring.


And now to get back to the abstract paintings I love….I’m going to analyze about half a dozen of my favorites so there’ll be plenty of different ideas to try.  These masterworks of abstract  art are well constructed as well as expressionistic and that’s something I think is lacking from many of the abstract quilts that I’m seeing these days.  Yes they are getting prizes because of the tour de force layering and bright colors – but will they stand the test of time?  Perhaps I’d better consult one of those fortune tellers after all!!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!     Elizabeth

Friday, November 9, 2012

Visit your local art museum!

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A very dear friend (you know who you are– we actually met in my local art museum!) sent me an interesting article by Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal, about the problems that the arts are having these days.  Major orchestras, like the Atlanta Symphony, are struggling with huge debt.  Opera companies have “gut[ted] their operations to the point of unrecognizability”,  previously successful and much admired performing companies have folded and many museums and art galleries have had their budgets cut (or even eliminated) by cities and states.  

While there’s little we can do about the recession directly, it did strike me that there’s quite a lot we can do to show how important our museums and art galleries are to us.  If politicians  often don’t recognize the value of good public education, how much credence will they give to the importance of the arts?   So one thing we can do is visit the our local public art galleries and museums and show them how much we care. 

Go regularly. Make a point of going to see what’s new or visiting art works you love  at least once a month. Go at least as often as you go to the Mall! Know where the special pieces are that really speak to you just as easily as you know where to find the tea in the supermarket.   Make a short visit – say half an hour or so – part of your errand-running routine.

Looking for inspiration? Go and see which pieces really have an impact on you.  Which pieces call you from across the gallery as soon as you enter the room?  And why? and how?    And use those strategies and devices yourself!

november 2010 a

Meet friends there – many museums have snack bars or coffee shops – stroll around the galleries together discussing which pieces are your favorites and why (great eye-training exercise!) and then enjoy a well earned cafe au lait or cream puff (now you know what to order for me!).

Take the (grand)children – it’s important to introduce kids to art early – and they love it.  Many museums now have special labels, or leaflets or programs for children. My local art museum, http://georgiamuseum.org, has several signs especially for children in each gallery.  Kids love the “treasure hunt” sense of finding these special labels and then reading the information and looking at the art to see if they can spot the dog or whatever is described.   If you then reward them with a trip to the gift shop and a couple of postcards of a painting they really liked, then you’ve doubled the effect!

Base your next quilt guild challenge on the art in the museum.  The guild could select a particular painting, or a particular gallery, or even the whole museum as the inspiration for the challenge.

Attend classes  Many museums offer classes and discussion groups.  Make a point of supporting them.

Open Drawing Hours   If classes aren’t available, ask when the open sketching hours are – or ask if you can go any time that’s convenient for you.  Most museums are very happy to accommodate sketchers, and often have folding stools available.  There’s no better way to learn!

Rent space for a special event  How much more pleasant to have a wedding or a retirement party in an art setting than in an anonymous generic hotel “ballroom”!

There are probably other ways too to support your local public art gallery – so please comment if I’ve forgotten something obvious!!  We need to really show those budget cutting politicians that ART is more important than more (and frequently unnecessary) traffic lights!!

And now, I’m off to see my favorite Charles Burchfield!!    If you have been, thanks for reading!