Saturday, July 16, 2011

Escaping from the little room

After I wrote about workshops, Mary Ann posted an intriguing comment:  "Is there anything new under the sun? ... To me the content is the message. But is you are doing strip or freeform piecing a la Nancy Crow, how much can you change the content? Or is it the coloring, the spacing, the stitching, whatever?"

When I read that comment, I thought of something else I read earlier this week.  There's a new "blogzine" called Generation Q Magazine, aimed at "those who love the modern and contemporary vibe in quilting, sewing and crafting."  In the second paragraph of the opening manifesto, the editors announce, "we just knew there was more going on than bold, graphic quilts with a lot of solids and wonky cuts."  Hmmm. I hadn't realized that bold, graphic quilts with a lot of solids are passe.  Guess I'll have to keep reading Generation Q to keep up to date.

So why did the first comment bring to mind the second?  I guess it's because in the minds of a lot of people, apparently, wonky piecing with solid colors and abstract design has become a precious little room of its own, with the name of Nancy Crow firmly inscribed on a plaque over the door.  Some people attach a second plaque, inscribed Gee's Bend, right next to it. 

In these minds, anybody who uses solid colors and cuts without a ruler is lumped together as doing the same thing.  I wonder if there's another school of quilt art, one where people use rulers and printed fabrics, and everybody who works that way is considered derivative of one another?

Back to Mary Ann's comment: I agree that the content is the message.  It's hard to discern content from abstract work, but you can get clues from the character of the composition and from the title and artist statement.  I think you can come up with radically different looks and content using "freeform piecing a la Nancy Crow." 

As evidence, I submit work from several artists who have studied with Nancy, and suggest that we're not all doing the same thing, nor are we doing work derivative of Nancy's.  I've also included a little about the content, as revealed in various artist statements.  See what you think.  Have we escaped from the little room and become our own people?

Exhibit A:  Bonnie Bucknam, Crater -- Best in Show, Quilt National '11
-- it's about geology and the landscape

Exhibit B:  Leslie Riley, Broken Fence, in Quilt National '11 --  " I layer the complex relationships of form and color to create a dense image"

Exhibit C:  Uta Lenk, Linienspiel X, in Color Improvisations traveling exhibit -- her quilts are inspired by drawings by her 2-year-old son

Exhibit D:  Terry Jarrard-Dimond, Figure in Brown,  in Color Improvisations traveling exhibit -- she sees the large shapes as entities with personalities, and calls her compositions "interior landscapes" based on life experiences

Exhibit E: Judy Kirpich, Circles, in Quilt National '11 --  it's about "the tension I have felt during the last two years of economic turmoil in our country"

Exhibit F:  Kathleen Loomis, Fault Lines 4, in Quilt National '11 -- it's about  "our society and our environment under extreme tension, starting to come apart, and the fragility of the bonds that hold things in place"

1 comment:

  1. First of all thanks for including me in your examples. I am honored.
    Knowing many of these artists- all of them through Nancy's workshops- I think each one has worked very very hard to find their own voice and I bet all of us at some time did pieces that are reminiscent of one or another of Nancy's pieces.
    But looking at the progression of several of these artists I know it has taken time, focus and lots of hard work, and faith in your vision to work "differently". I know for myself that the push to continually develop is a key factor, but I also know that my work means tapping into some pretty deep seated emotions- and not being afraid to look inside for inspiration. My own work is highly motivated by tension, stress and sometimes pessimism. I have always wondered what my work would look like if I was a much lighter, more optimistic person. I daresay it would not be as good!