Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Dilemma of Balance

Okay, so I made a new piece: All that Glitters is not Gold.


It’s not very big: about 40” wide.   I really like the strange giraffe-like shapes of the oil pumps you see in the fields in Louisiana – and I’m sure further west, but I’ve not been there.  And having made several quilts about steel works and cement works, I feel  I want to continue with the industrial theme.   And also with the larger theme of the effect of industry on nature, and the ambivalence of our desires portrayed by these creations. 

   I chose the colours I used carefully.  The marshy green reflects both the colour of oil (that I have seen! it probably comes in lots of different colours!) but is also a colour often seen in Nature.  The black is the colour of dead plants, of sump oil and machinery.  The golden beige represents both dead dry leaves, but also our golden hopes for what this energy source will bring us.  In other words – nicely ambivalent colours!  And I’ve quilted the piece with a golden thread – of course.
But the few people I’ve shown the piece to, have objected to it because they didn’t like the colours.   They think of wall hangings as decorative items (whether they have a meaning beyond decor or not) and therefore should be in decorative, attractive colours.
So – what d’you think?  Should I array my oil pumps in Solomon’s glorious colours? 
Was it a mistake to use more literal shades? 

How important is the colour balance of the Meaning of the quilt versus the Acceptability of the piece?

And now, back to the dye-pot!  If you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth
I’m really looking forward to comments!  Much appreciated!!


Cheryl K. said...

To my eye, your colors - particularly that green as I see it on my monitor - seem pretty trendy. I think the person who actually would buy this piece probably has seen what you saw, and will love that you used these colors. I go for more nature-inspired themes myself, and I find I am drawn to this quilt.

Sandy said...

So, stop showing those people your quilts! VBG

Seriously, maybe (if they saw your industrial pieces) they liked how you used colours that "beautified" that landscape, their comments sort of showed they were suprised at the different colour choice?

But still then, they weren't really willing to go where your head was for this landscape. So, perhaps aren't the best ones to be looking for comments from?

Was it right in your head before you showed them? I think so. and still is.
Sandy in the UK

Diana Parkes said...

Are you working for other people's approval or your own integrity?

Kristin L said...

What's your goal? Sell more quilts? Then you'd do best to create Thomas Kinkade style scenes! Create what moves you? Then you're right on track. But you know that already.

Deb Lacativa said...

I had the honor of seeing this in person recently and can tell you that this photo is not telling the whole story by a long shot.

The color are much more complex than they appear here and the stitching very evident and important to the composition. It's a compelling piece. It may be a departure from your path but it's a sure footed step.

Elizabeth Barton said...

What's my goal? to communicate, but if the colour choice is Blocking the ain't happening.
I must admit when I hit a blog or website where it's white writing on a black background - I rarely read it. I'm guilty too! (though for eyesight rather than aesthetic reasons!)

Jackie said...

Perhaps a rainbow of oil pumps--red, yellow, blue green! Or maybe not. What impresses me about this piece is the appropriateness of the fabrics you've created. Excellent! I am unable to see any stitching at all, so a true evaluation of that aspect is absent. But it looks awesome to me, such clear shapes and the movement inherent in them. Well done!

Elsie Montgomery said...

I live in oil country. My DH and two sons work in the petro-chemical field in various capacities. These pumps speak to me about the pros and cons of the oil industry (we hear it all) and how black and white (or green and gold) folks on both sides try to make an issue that cannot be so cut and dried. For some, it is their life. For others, it is a disaster. When I look at your quilt, I know the debate but also the relentless movement of the pumps, and see them as sometimes proud and defiant and sometimes bowed and sighing. I'd hang this one just as it is, for that reason.

Patty said...

Oh, Elizabeth! It is a wonderful work of art, beautiful and profound. I often see pieces that I think, "I like that, but I wouldn't put it in my house." Too big or bright or abstract. But, this I think, is beautiful and thought-provoking and would be a joy to show to people. It is amazing to me (a non-artist) that you can conceive of this and then make it happen. I think multiple colors would change it completely from the nature balance idea.

Anonymous said...

Well, I've never managed to resolve this question myself. If I make something which is true to me..whether it be because of a meaning, feeling, colour experience, or something I desperately want to say, whatever...I, pathetically, hope that other folk will get it and like it too. If they don't I somehow feel the piece hasn't succeeded.

However, if I make a piece to sell ie I aim it at a market, choosing colours I know make good combinations, or contain a subject matter liked by most (eg flowers!) then I'm happy if it's liked when exhibited, even happier if it sells, but also have a sinking feeling that I've not been quite true to myself and the piece lacks soul.

Occasionally I manage to do both things at once. But which is more important? Who am I making things for? Is it my living? Do I need the affirmation of others? Gosh the list is endless, which is why I don't have an answer!

Marni said...

Most certainly this piece needed to be just what it is! There are always people who won't like the colors you chose or the subject matter or ....
I used to be a member of an arts and crafts collective and one of the first pieces I hung there had a lot of orange in it. One of the other members said something like "Oh that'll never sell - no one likes orange." Of course it sold rather quickly.
I think you have to always be true to your own vision.

Elizabeth Barton said...

It's such a delicate balance - we want beauty, but we also want to communicate. There is much beauty in nature and much ugliness in what happens when we disregard it.
thanks for commenting everyone!

Ruth said...

I have been thinking about your thoughts and questions in this post and also what others wrote as comments. It is an interesting dilemma that you pose. I personally don’t think there is a simple cut and dried answer. These are my thoughts on this topic:
If one seriously wants to make a living as an artist then one has to produce art that somebody wants to buy. Obviously not everybody has the same taste so some works will attract one audience and different works another. One shoe does not fit all. So my conclusion here is that one does not necessarily need to pander to one section of the public, although if one wants to sell lots of art works it probably helps to reach a large part of the potential market. If one is lucky enough to be able to produce art works without considering whether they will sell or not, or is driven by an inner need to express oneself in a particular manner, then there is no requirement to “pander” to any trend or taste. However this is still a simplification of the dilemma – to reduce it to a question of colour palette.
More important in my eyes is the question of communication. If one wishes to communicate with the viewer, then one must use a visual language that enables this communication. As an artist one must create a visual language, which allows the viewer to discover for themselves a response to a work of art. Colour is just one aspect of the visual language that each artist must develop as his or her own. These thoughts are to a large part influenced by the writings of the photographer Alain Briot, which can be found on the website The Luminous Landscape.

Linda B. said...

Is this really about Meaning v Acceptability or even about people not liking the colours - perhaps it was that they didn't like the surprise of your chosen colours.
We are creatures of habit. Our lives are lived in expectation, based on previous experience. In this case perhaps your work didn't match the expectation that EB 'does' industrial scenes in bright colours!

I can say this because I had a similar experience when I saw your Rain at Night III piece. But I looked again and loved what I saw, particularly as it triggered a childhood memory for me. And perhaps because I wasn't shocked this quilt did speak to me of heavy industry, dereliction and the impact it has on the space and people around it.

Rayna said...

Frankly, I have never been a fan of "happy colours." Why do people always have to have cheerful visuals in front of them?

I think this piece is wonderful: the shapes are threatening, the green is acid and conveys perfectly the industrial grit and smell of the landscape.

Why would you want to do it any other way?

Bookhandler said...

When I first looked at this image, I saw grasshoppers, (which are also what I see when I pass a field of oil wells, bobbing their heads up and down). Perception is so individual, there is no way to know how others will respond to a certain piece. I am not sure if I "like" the piece or not, especially with the limitations of a photo seen on the internet, but the shapes are strong, and your feelings about the subject are clear, so my guess is that in person, the piece achieves what you wanted.
Nancy in southern California

The Idaho Beauty said...

A pox on those critics. They objected to the colors but not the subject matter? I'd have thought they'd be more put off by that.

In retrospect, I end up with many pieces in "unpopular" colors. I can't care about that - doing them in ones that would fit more easily into someone's current decor would change why I decided to make them and what they were meant to convey.

frazzledsugarplummum said...

I thought about the colours before I read the post. I thought they were perfect and still very much in with your exploration of colour.

Annie said...

Although you have used colors, this piece reminds me somehow of old woodblock prints of days gone by—the ones I'm attracted to in antique shops. I have no complaint about your chosen colors. They fit the subject perfectly!