I was reading a review in Art in America (a magazine I thoroughly recommend, much more interesting than the latest way to piece a heart or how to glue candy floss onto your quilt) about Dana Schulz by reviewer Zach Feuer. He stated that it was “fun to watch artists take risks, especially after they have established themselves in a market that tends to reward the cautious nurturing of a signature style”.
It struck me that all the players in the quilt world (makers, viewers and judges) do tend to encourage far too much caution..time and again I have looked at the latest catalogue or slide review and thought why the imp arn’t these people trying anything new? A style is established, success is found with it and then it seems people sit back and keep on churning out endless reproductions. Don’t they get bored? What happens to the zest and excitement of the early discovery steps? A period of consolidation and exploration is all right for a while, but once the formula has been worked out, it is oh so easy to overwork it and produce nothing but potboilers. Old tired chewy tasteless hens of quilts. There’s a group I belong to and when we meet to share slides/images I almost get a feeling that I’ve gone back in time. Didn’t I see these pieces last year? and the year before that? How about just pushing it a little? yes, it’s risky but without risk…there’s no progress, no new discovery, no fresh statement about the chosen content.
Part of the problem of course is the audience…I know many people who still prefer Michael’s James pallid beautiful striped worms to the bold shock of the Swedish ikon inspired pieces to which he suddenly shifted…it’s hard to go to a minor key when you’ve always composed in a major one…but contrast energizes both the artist and the viewer.
And the jurors: given a choice between an established accomplished piece that smoothly reiterates an old idea and a raw, perhaps unresolved, attempt at a different way of examining the original theme…which would they choose? Are they being too timid? I must applaud the QN ‘09 jurors who state in the introduction to the catalogue that they were deliberately trying to avoid including those who only entered the tried and true. Let’s hope that this jumpstarts the many wonderful artists who have settled too comfortably in their cosy cushioned corners, into exciting new work!
And now, I’m off to take risks…well at least to try! If you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth