Friday, August 29, 2008

To Serialize or Not to serialize? Or, How to build a Quilt Zoo!

Despite my confession that I am indeed a serial quilter, I do sometimes wonder about whether or not it is really a good thing to keep doing the same topic over and over! Might one be producing corpses instead of fresh new work?

There is always talk about the importance of developing a “signature look”, a uniform style and a predictability. But why is this? Whom does this help? To play devil’s advocate for a moment…it is certainly a great help to a gallery if they can expect a Rothko to look like a typical Rothko, or a Pollack to always be painted in the air and allowed to drop onto the canvas…Customers like to know what they’re getting.

But if one is typecast in this way, it might lead to the artist being required to keep repeating themselves.

A Suzie Shie quilt therefore, should always include the characters and the journaling with which we’re familiar

. A Linda Macdonald should address concerns about the environment, or

a Jeanne Williamson should have an underlying grid of black and white

An Elizabeth Barton piece should be a quirky medieval street night scene - again!

My neighbour has a Nelda Warkentin with soft focus silks in a block format so my Warkentin should be the same (except, perhaps, bigger!)!

Or should it? What good does it do the artist if people expect and desire their work to be so predictable that there’s a risk that it fails to engage the viewer? That it becomes entirely a commodity and not a fresh artistic statement.

Is it simply for commercial reasons? That these are the products that customers have come to expect? Should our art as well as our world be so predictable? Because when we can predict things we can feel comfortable? But won’t that also run the risk of being bland and boring?

On the other hand…..

Would I really want to be one of those people that makes one collage in pastels and then one pieced work in bold dramatic colours and then do a photo image quilt with writing on it and then a reverse appliqué of flowers followed by a whole cloth painted anti NRA piece? Phew!! My head is spinning!! It reminds me of the time the famous landscaper came to visit our garden and instead of admiring the collection of varied plants said “oh, a horticultural zoo!”.

It’s clearly not going to help one work deeper and more thoughtfully if you just make one of everything, but it also is very limiting to become completely typecast! We must fight the requirement to be so predictable, to have to justify a change once we’ve thoroughly explored a theme. We want to keep growing and evolving not tramping up and down the same path singing the same song even if the customers expect it!

so - if you have been - keep on balancing!!!



Deb Lacativa said...

Customers? I was making these things for customers? Somebody shoulda said something sooner....jes kiddin'.

I've figured out that if number Two, Three and Four were fun to do but Five was dragging, it's time to move on. Nothing says you can't come back though.

Elizabeth Barton said...

of course books have been written about not being able to go back!!!