Thursday, September 30, 2010

Art and Me...

OK, so I'm a day early....but today I'm introducing my favorite fabric line for October.  I was going to do something Halloweenie but decided that was way too predictable, and I aim to be unpredictable.

This line is very cute in so many ways.  Retro, yet modern, French, yet American, Fun, yet Traditional, you know, kind of like me!

Anyway, it seems like I opened a can of worms with my last couple of posts.  Thanks to those who commented and emailed, it's certainly a great discussion and one that I believe can result in greater understanding amongst all of us in the quilting world.

"Art" has been a long standing difficult subject for me.  I've actually made my living as an artist, but it could be said that what I've done is more "craft" then "art."  That's what makes this all so difficult, what is the difference?

Art is so subjective that trying to slap a label on something or somebody is difficult.  There are those who do strictly traditional quilts who consider themselves artists and those who do painted pieces and call themselves craftspeople.  Who knows what is which and who's going to decide? 

For me "Artist" always seemed kind of elitist.  It was like "I'm an Artist" with nose upturned and eyes turned downward with disdain.  I suppose attending art classes in college didn't do that impression a lot of favors.  Everyone dressing the same while trying so hard to be different.  It was like, "I'm different, I'm controversial, I'm wearing black clothes.....look at me!"  Mild mannered me, (yes I was mild mannered once!), would sit there in my normal clothes and wonder what the heck I was doing there.  These are not my people, I can't relate to them, and they're exhausting to be around.

Of course, a lot of these people were insecure and put on the mantle of an artist so they'd feel more like one.  But who can say what an artist should look like, or how they should live, or what they should do?

I think so many of our ideas of "artists" come from the bohemian days of Parisian garrets with expatriates hanging out in dark cave like cafes and painting naked "ladies" (with whom they also had interesting relationships).  Some of this was actual eccentricity of real artists, but much of it was people who wanted to be artists and thought that having the outer lifestyle made them closer to their ideal.

The fact is that for many centuries artists were also businessmen, (and women).  They created beautiful works of art, had apprentices whom they trained, chased after commissions, and marketed themselves and their artworks to those who had the cash to pay.  Artists that are now considered "great" were treated like employees by their royal or aristocratic "masters." 

I suspect that it's much the same today.  The true "artist" who only creates what they're driven to create is probably more likely someone who works a day job and does "art" for fun.  They have nothing to prove and no one to prove it to, they just do it!  Artists who are trying to make a living at it are well aware of the temptation of going "commercial."  And why should that be a sin?  We all have to survive somehow.

As far as the whole Art vs Tradtional debate I've realized that what we're talking about is really apples and oranges, both of which can exist on their own, or mixed together to form a very tart pie.  Traditional quilts are mostly craft.  However, there are times when color and design choices can take a tradtional "craft" quilt and turn it into "art."  Art Quilts which may be visually stunning but have little or no "sewing craft" in them are usually considered art.  However, there are Art Quilts where the color and design choices are joined by exquisite quilting technique.  This is where craft and art meld into something marvelous that both sides can agree on.

When we talk about Machine vs. Hand Quilting we're also talking about apples and oranges.  Both quilting styles are valid and beautiful, but they require completely different skill sets.  A fantastic hand quilter might be a horrible machine quilter, and an award winning machine quilter might not be able to do the traditional 10 to an inch quilting stitch.  Does that make one better than the other?  I don't think so, I think they're just different.

I think my main problem with the Art Quilting I've encountered is the same problem I encountered in college.  There's a whole "I'm an Artist and you're not, na, na, na, na, na, na...." that really gets under my skin.  It could be that it's my insecurity showing and that's more likely the case than not.  However, I'm not the only one who feels that way, it's a subject that's sensitive to a lot of quilters.  I think that to many of us who've been around forever we feel much like the early feminists must be feeling.  We did all the work and now you young whippersnappers get to have all the fun. 

And I guess that's what all of this is about anyway!

Happy Stitching!

I'll have more on my applique process tomorrow.


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