Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Parts / wholes

So here's my ethical dilemma for the day, which I will happily share with you.

I have had the honor and pleasure of being associated with an endeavor that is nearing completion but can't yet be fully revealed.  A woman I know who has been involved in quilting for decades is the lead player in making a documentary series about quilts, covering the wide range from antiques to contemporary art.  She has interviewed many quilters (including me) and gotten hundreds of images of quilts of all sorts.

The first two episodes of the documentary are ready for rough screening, and one of the few people who has seen them had a big problem.  Seems that some of the quilts were shown in detail, not in full view.  The unhappy viewer thought that the artists would be upset (even though all the images were submitted voluntarily by the artists, who granted unlimited permission to use them). 

The auteur/producer called me last night for an opinion, since she knows I have submitted several images of my own quilts for the project (don't know whether she has used them or not).  I asked her what steps she's taking to give public credit to the artists, whether full shots or details were used.

She said that the film will run a credit listing the name of each artist whose work was shown in the episode, plus a reference to the project website for more details.  The website will list the name of the artist; the title, measurements, date, materials and techniques for each quilt pictured in the episode; plus an image of the full quilt.  Written materials for the project will also direct people to the website for more details.

My opinion was that as an artist I would be thrilled to have my work shown in this documentary, whether in full view or detail.  I also pointed out that much of my work actually looks better in detail than in full view (as you will see from the right-hand column of this blog!).  I said that this project has several objectives, such as education, entertainment and promotion, but it does NOT intend to be a catalog raisonne or a scholarly treatise.  I thought it was important to have the full info available online, but not crucial to put it in the actual movie.

This of course was the answer she wanted to hear, but we wondered what other art quilters might think.  I'd really appreciate your thoughts, and promise to pass them along.  Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos of my own work, where I'd probably rather have the detail on display than the full quilt!

Postage 1: Regatta, 2008

Postage 1 -- detail 

Postage 4: Spaghetti Sauce, 2008

Postage 4 -- detail


  1. I really think both full picture and detail are needed. For your quilts in particular - when I look at them, the full view is so impactful - it shows a tremedous number of pieces, vibrant color that seems to acutally flow. and then the detail shot kicks that impact up a notch - the level of effort to create the piece becomes more clearly apparent. I think this is true for most quilts. Barb Stewart, Cincinnati, Ohio

  2. your quilts are fantastic, would love to see them in person!

  3. Personally, I agree both full picture and a detail shot, which doesn't have to very big, just enough to see some of the techniques and work involved in making said quilt. As long as she acknowledges the makers and designers somewhere - even directing you to the blog would be OK with me. You said she has them in the credits - that's good, means there is two acknowledgements.

  4. I agree with you. The purpose of the project will be fulfilled with the way she has set it out. It will be a taster, so to speak. Then they can go and see more by following the links to the website.

    I don't think it matters how the quilts are shown - full or detail. What matters is the whole project. Any number of people would probably have done any number of things differently. But she has done it the way she thought was best.

    I think she needs to be encouraged to stick with her own original focus and not let others ideas of what the project should be change her mind. I think anyone who wants her to do it different can be given the suggestion to go away and put together a project which the sort of focus they feel is necessary.

    I hope the response doesn't give her a bad taste for her excellent work in the project.
    Sandy in the UK
    Do pass on my comments to her if you wish.

  5. The "whole" gives meaning to the "part".

  6. I would definately want to see both.

  7. I think we're all in agreement that we'd like to see more, more, more -- not just the detail but the full quilt, not just the full quilt but three more quilts, not just the quilts but the artist, not just the artist but her studio. What we're up against, though, are constraints of time (and the potential boredom of viewers who aren't as passionate about the subject as we are).

    Thanks so much for your comments; I have forwarded them to the one in charge!

  8. I think the choice of full or close-ups should be totally up to the artist creating the project. Sometimes a close-up will fulfill the objective better than a full shot, and vice versa. As for your two works here - I'm so glad you shared the full and close-ups! Both quilts are gorgeous!