Sunday, October 23, 2011

The experience of the art fair

On Saturday I took part in an art fair – these are not for those who are sensitive, easily bored or optimistic about making a fortune!  Most dishearteningly, no one bought any art I’d created, though some t-shirts and scarves, I’d experimented with, were sold for bargain prices….

However, even men stopped to look at  and comment upon the quilts (as opposed to odd men, though I suppose there were a few of those too!), because they were surprised at the images they portrayed. 

This last couple of years, frustrated by the easy charm of landscapes and despairing of descending into trite tweeness, I began to look around me for something a little gutsier as inspiration for my quilts. I became fascinated by industrial landscapes – especially the ones that are disappearing so quickly in the western world: the steel mills and their immensity, the collieries with the winding wheel macabrely echoing the sinister wheel of fortune – O fortuna

My first industrial landscape quilt was sparked by a glimpse I had across Hamilton Bay, Ontario of the Hamilton steelworks...I was being driven by on an overpass, heavy traffic, couldn't off further down and found a quiet road underneath but couldn't see the steel works - even standing on the roof of the car!! So tantalizing! I kept getting glimpses of this bizarre landscape across the lake but without a boat or a telescope..and I had neither…couldn’t get close enough. But sometimes an image just sticks in your mind, and a year later, I was able to persuade someone to take me out sailing with him and I got all the photographs and visual references I needed!


My first quilt based on these views was Rusty Answer (41”w, 24”h)(see below)…I loved the sense of distance across the water so opted for a deep foreground, highlighted by increasingly dense stitching. I used one strand of embroidery floss for the lines closest to the plant and then gradually increased the number of strands, ending up with 6 in the rows “nearest” to the viewer. In the late afternoon light, certain sections of the steel plant had glowed – I’d seen this from the overpass, so even though from the water everything is a uniform grey…I added in those beautiful warm colors.


The next piece (Heavy Metal 41”w, 42”h) was a close up. I wanted to emphasize some of the textures I had seen. The large grey areas, therefore are quilted with a pattern stitch to bring this out…also the water in the foreground is quilted with a metallic thread so that it glints as you walk by.




Then I thought it would be interesting to go in even closer and, with inappropriately pretty colours, reveal my second theme of the environmental problems caused by thoughtless industry. This is “What Pretty Smoke!” (36”w, 43”h).  This was one of the quilts I showed at the local art center yesterday.

One of the most impressive things about the site was the width of it…so I emphasized this in Steelyard Frieze (68”w, 35”h).  Scale is so often very important as I discovered when I was a juror.   Intimate things need to be small, yes, but if you’ve got a big message or a big subject, the quilt has got to be big too!  This quilt is currently hanging in a power station in California in a special show called the Power of Art!!  then it heads upto the Hamilton Museum of Steam in Canada.  Great venues for an industrial piece.




The more I made the more I came to appreciate the strange beauty of industrial sites …I remembered years ago having seen an old cement factory in my home town of Athens, GA, …so I rediscovered it, lots of photos…and 3 quilts! Here’s the first one: Cement Works (42”w, 40”h)..

The Cement works are directly opposite the Athens Institute of Contemporary Art (ATHICA) where the Studio Group (of which I’m a member is having their annual 4 day show and sale (we hope the latter noun is as valid as the former one!)}Nov 17-20.  It will be fun for visitors to see the Cement Works both outside and inside the gallery!

red abandon carnegie


Here are the Cement Works again…..



and again…tracy st silo snapshot

……..maybe at the Athica show and sale, the men (both even and odd) will be looking for surprising presents for their wives, girlfriends, partners etc!!! You never know!

Mind you, four days we’ll be sitting there…I’ll have to take a kettle and a teapot with me..there’s no getting away from it!  Come and have a cuppa!  Meanwhile, if you have been, thanks for reading!                                  Elizabeth


Chris said...

Too bad your shows are so far away from NJ. I would love to see your work in person.

Georgina said...

I can't tell you how reassuring it is to know that someone whose work is as wonderful as yours also struggles at art fairs. I find them very depressing as people comment favourably but do not buy - or - worse - what we call Takermakers - who are obviously looking so they can copy!

elizabeth said...

It's true...and those are the people who leave their greasy handprints all over the work....
once I even had a woman in a workshop show me her "fake Elizabeth Barton" quilt with great pride!!
I just had to laugh, what else can you do?!!