Saturday, January 3, 2009

Art Quilts are Easy, Arn't they?

"Looks like a 5 year old did it!"
"Don't think much of that!"
"She didn't get her lines straight or her points meeting!"
"What a load of old rubbish!"

Have you ever made the mistake of entering a piece into the local traditional quilt guild and had this reaction? Some traditional quilt makers (and not only in fiber, but also in paint and other media) think that it's easy to become an "art quilter" - all you need to do is forget the rules and say the words: "I am now an art quilter!"

Okay!! Let's try it!!
"I am now a great singer!
I now have the energy of a 20 year old!
I now have the linguistic abilities of somebody brought up in a bilingual family!
I now have the answers to everything!"
(now you know my secret desires!)
............ Hmmmm, doesn’t seem to be working…

But why shouldn’t it work just to announce that Now I am an Artist who Makes Quilts! After all – art quilts are so much easier!!! You can make them so much faster! You don’t have to worry about templates and specific measurements….you don’t have to even follow a pattern! And moreover you can now call yourself an "artist" instead of a quilter!! Like the word “studio” replacing “sewing room” – it all sounds so much better and is so beguiling. What grinch would come along and point out that the Emperor’s new clothes are completely without substance? Where would advertising be without promising you a better life?!!

The truth hits (if you let it, and there are many who don't!) when you realize there are no magic words to open the box of creativity and good design. There's no"fast and easy!" way to make better work, or to learn to evaluate other’s work and to appreciate the good and be able to see the flaws in the weak.
We know it is going to take a lot of work to raise the level of art quilting so that we can see many more wonderful and inspiring pieces.

But, to be phlegmatic, every medium has much more mediocrity than excellence. And, sadly the mediocre work is often much more popular. Just look at music!! Look at books, look at television, look at films – the dilution and simplification is occurring in every medium. Anti-intellectualism has been ruling for at least 8 years! Probably ever since speaking in complete sentences became unpatriotic! (oops! that wasn't a complete sentence!! whack! whack!!)
And we must also remember that things that are easy to like and require little effort on our part soon pall if you have any sensibility at all..

So, no! if you’re thinking of leaving the traditional world to enter the “easy” world of art ain’t so easy if you want to make something that will last…Art Quilts are every bit as challenging to make as traditional quilts plus you have the added difficulty of having to come up with your own design!! But oh, how freeing it is to be able to do just that!

And now, to the sketch book, the design wall and the sewing machine!!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!
PS. the quilt at the top is one of the first "art quilts" I made, more current work can be seen on my website.


Elizabeth Rosenberg said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful insight about art quilts. Your post made me think back to the comments I used to hear as I walked through Quilt National exhibits many years ago, vs. the comments I hear these days. In my very humble opinion, more education, even if it is technique-driven, leads to more understanding and acceptance.

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

Amen to everything you said.

Nina Marie said...

I always get a giggle at people who think they can just throw an art quilt together. I personally think its easier to master a scant 1/4" seam or 20/in quilt stitch then to get an art quilt just right in all the design elements.
That said, I do agree that as a whole, the average quilter wants more for less time. The quicker the better has become the motto. Yes, I too believe that its reflective of our society. Still I can't help wondering if my gram thought that of her time as she got to a certain age and if her gram thought it too.

Denise Aumick said...

Once upon a time I entered an assemblage/collage type of art quilt in a traditional show. When I brought in the piece one of the receivers said "is this a quilt?" with a healthy bit of sarcasm. I ignored her then BUT when we happened to be standing near each other at the actual show and the big ole "Judge's Choice" ribbon was on my piece I was able to look her straight in the eye with a huge smile on my face.
Creating art is incredibly challenging and anyone who thinks not is very wrong.
Thank you for your thoughts - they strike lots of chords!

Jackie said...

I am repeatedly amazed by the variation in people--some teachers prefer younger children, some prefer high school. Some prefer to live where it never snows and some of us would miss snow terribly. Leaving quality out of the issue, we are all called to be and do what suits us individually. The toughest part is the listening and discerning--that's what makes Art, I think. Thank you for your blogs, I do appreciate being prompted to think outside my daily frame of mind.

Olga Norris said...

Ah, if we only included discrimination in the curriculum: appreciating the difference is a challenge and a joy - and so rare.