Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Art quilts “Made in America”

pond in winter, looking east full 72 ppi

Reading the October issue of Art in America magazine  (yes, I really do need to get caught up!), I was continually struck by the number of paintings and art works that are very clearly based on fiber work.
And, it made me realise that with the new SAQA definition of an art quilt being an amalgamation of:
the old (now appearing to be quite fuddy duddy!) Quilt National definition of “3 layers stitched together and never before seen by virtually anyone on the planet”! (“Oh I can’t show you a picture of my new piece I might just enter it into Quilt national”!) ……
“anything that references” the art quilt
of this artwork is now eligible for SAQA shows, and the artists eligible to be SAQA members.

Consider the work of Stephen Westfall for instance.   He paints beautiful renditions of various well known diamond variations, half square triangle variations, bars, squares within squares.  They are really super, bold and strong, with eye catching colours, crisp and dynamic.  Who could want more?  Why bother with cloth and stitching in the post post modern world? (or is it post post post?) Especially those of us with fingers that no longer want to push a needle and thread around; you can hold a brush with your toes!

Eric Beltz draws  cross stitch samplers.  the old fashioned kind with morals.  Somewhat updated I must admit!  as in: “Happy is that people who have no history” , “I snow all about you” and “Revive”.  These are gorgeous totally meticulous renditions of great grandmamas samplers.  ( I wonder, by the way,  if his art reviews all start with “these are not your grandmother’s samplers” – such an overused phrase there’s probably a key stroke short cut to it on journalists keyboards).

Jenny Hart too, and oh dear, how is this website headed “this ain’t your gramma’s embroidery”!!  I swear I had not visited this site before I wrote the above paragraph!  Oh my, the contagion of these phrase. Like, whatever!

And what about Dorothea Rockburn’s work?  It is very reminiscent of a current vogue in art quilting for what I call surface design samplers. “ We made this wonderful fabric in a workshop and don’t really want to figure out how to incorporate it into a piece, so I think we’ll just kind of overlay a few of the best bits and stitch them together.” Actually those folk would do well to see just how Ms Rockburn makes those glorious samples work together!!

And then there’s Canadian artist Liz Magor’s folded  blankets and sheets "newly cleaned (well that's very artistic!), neatly folded and draped over hangers of different dimensions [and]  the blankets were irregularly spaced along one wall of the gallery" to think about.

Perhaps we'd do better just to wash, iron, fold and hang up the lengths of fabric from which a quilt "could be made" thus evoking the Power of Potential!
And perhaps they would "hover and vibrate with inchoate meaning" - how I'd love to make a quilt  that hovered with inchoate meaning!! oh yes!  I’m vibrating at the very thought…. especially if it produces "faint echoes from our own planetary realm of art"!!

All these “quilts” are Made in America too – no Chinese reproductions here!!  Actually, if you think about it, if you really want to buy Made in America – buy art!!    Especially art quilts (however they are made!).

Art is such a wonderfully incestuous activity!
   So if you have been, thanks for reading! 
And do please send your comments (however tongue in cheek), they add so much to a blog. 

P.S. the quilt at the top was just awarded The Edward Lambert Memorial prize at the Athens Annual Art Show; I’m thrilled and honoured.  Ed Lambert was a much beloved professor in the art department at the University of Georgia.  He gave great encouragement and support to many artists (including me, I’m happy to say) and was revered by so many in Athens.  He died suddenly last year, a great loss to our community.


Kathleen Loomis said...

Considering that inchoate means "just begun and not so fully formed or developed; rudimentary" we should probably be glad our quilts aren't that way. Was that an insult?

Elizabeth Barton said...

yeah!! an unintended one I'm sure by the critic - the way they fling words around, my guess is he thought inchoate meant something more like obscure but was a fancier word....
though it would be delicious to think that it was used very accurately....for, after all, they are rather rudimentary!!

Frances Arnold said...

Elizabeth, I saw this quilt at the LH on Tuesday night and it is magnificent. I think that the quilting sets off the fabrics perfectly. Congratulations on the award!!

Quiltedtime said...

I guess with being an artist first, then a quilter later on in life, I do have some difficulty seeing quilts at judged shows that are copies of other people's art work. In an art show, these copies would be rejected with a stern warning.

magicmoonmusings said...

You made me laugh! :)))

On a serious note, I got a sinking feeling when I read SAQA's new definition a few weeks ago. “Anything that references” the art quilt. Hmmmmmm. I work with textiles because I like textiles. I have no problem with mixed media pieces but as your post mentions, now paint and ceramics and all kinds of other media may be eligible, without any textiles in the piece whatsoever. I'm not convinced this shift will benefit art quilts or other textile art. How can excellence in textile art advance when textiles are no longer a require aspect?? My fear is that the 'traditional' mediums will given preference and be lauded as fine art, and textiles will once again be marginalized as craft, and 'women's' craft, at that. Time will tell.

Congrats on the award, great news!