Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Metaphor has long been used as a source of design by artists. Pilgrim's Progress, the Inferno or Gulliver's Travels are classic illustrations of the struggles of the hero to reach his/her goal - as seen today in reality shows like Project Runway (alas destroyed by greed!) and ANTM where the protagonists have to undergo various trials to win the hand of the fair prince (?Tim Gunn!!!) or princess (Tyra Banks?)!!!! (plus the loot, of course!)

Metaphors in art can be obvious, I think of the target pieces that both Beans Gildorf or Mary Ann Jordan have made, or much more subtle and personal - I'm reminded of the broken circle quilt in an early Quilt National made by the lady (so sorry I forget her name, please comment if you know it) who was dying of breast cancer.

An interesting design exercise would be to sit down with an issue - personal or general - and think how many ways could I depict this delight, this joy, this sorrow, this concern, this issue etc.
A new grandma could make a wonderful piece based on drawings of tree buds - full of swelling promise. Both more subtle and more universal in meaning than a flat Bubble Jet set print of the new babe.

Having got the urge to make a piece about X or Y (and you know how fascinating X and Y can be!) - don't be too literal - think how many ways could I depict the idea, thought or feeling? Stand back and sort through them and don't be afraid of Metaphor!

here are some examples from my work:

The Arrogance of Calm
I made the above quilt when I was worried about the apparent indifference of our previous president to the dire events that his policies were creating.

City Blocks
This quilt likens the higgledy piggledy development of our cities to a jumble of child's building blocks!

Sorry about the bad picture! this 4 part quilt is in Gate 29, concourse E of Hartsfield Atlanta airport - 35 feet high hence difficult to photograph. The architect asked that the artists commissioned to make works for the gates on concourse E think about some of the work of an airport and its connections and effects. My metaphor of wheels within wheels within wheels was an attempt to show all the different skills working together within the airport, but also the circling out effect of an airport.

Jaunty Ladies
These ladies are out on the town for the night all dressed up in their fine glowing colours and jostling each other in their gaiety!!!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!


Clare Wassermann said...

I don't know how you post so much but it's always food for thought. I LOVE Jaunty Ladies

Tangled Stitch said...

These are really beautiful. I love metaphors and I love to stitch. I think symbols express our inner thoughts better then words do sometime. Very lovely.