Tuesday, November 23, 2010

on alligators, art quilts and great adventures

My friends--the ones who are spending the winter working in the Everglades--write of driving, driving south shedding jackets, flannel shirts, heavy blue jeans as they approach their destination. The endless sawgrass of the Everglades. For them, this is a long dreamed of this. They have prepared for it for years. Now they are almost there. Will they have alligator on the grill for Thanksgiving? I wouldn't put it past them.

She takes pictures. He sends long thoughtful group e-mails:

          I know my destination.  Physically speaking, anyway.  The crazy of the trip has a tendency to     bloom in mysterious ways, no matter how much you try to think and anticipate.  We're here.  Not too far away, anyway. 

For them this is their great adventure.

I read about it in the morning just before I get in my van. I too am driving, driving. Though I am heading north. The trees shed their leaves. A cold front is racing in. I add a coat, long sleeves. I too have a destination. I have just finished doing the Washington Craft Show. My mind is full of ideas for new quilts that I want to make. I have had one of those wonderful conversations--a conversation I could only have dreamed of with a sophisticated craftswoman. What is art? What does it mean to be an artist? When can one call oneself an artist? Questions I have been rolling around in my mind. Posting about in my blog.

One reader has responded to my blog  post on putting the fine back in fine craft:

Here's my take on the whole issue. It goes along with the "everybody gets a trophy" mentality. Excellence is not as important as it once was. To be called an "artist" used to mean that you had a base level or ability and/or talent. No more. Everyone's an artist now. 

Yes, I think there is something there. I turn--again to Anne Truitt's Daybook: The Journal of An Artist. How I love this book, the honesty and intensity of her questioning. The depth of her perception. She writes that even to state she is an artist makes her feel uneasy--is she good enough or is this just her reaction to the over-inflated public definition of what is an artist. (Page 44). Is she limiting herself by not accepting this definition, she questions. Should she just be true to herself?    

She writes in looking at the work of another she seeks "the spontaneous rise of my whole being." "It is ultimately character that underwrites art." "Purity of aspiration seems virtually prerequisite to genuine inspiration." (Pages 67-68) I savor passages in this book as I mull conversations at the craft show.

Acceptance that my quilt rainbows of summer is art--fine craft that transcends craft. The finish work I put into it is important but not key to the piece. The quilt is strong--reads as a whole that you can grasp in a couple of seconds and then spend time absorbing the details. This is not what I think but what I was told. I must confess it made the whole show worth it for me.

 She wasn't sure that the smaller wall hangings make the leap. Are they just sketches? Or were they overpowered by the presence of  rainbows of summer. Others said the same thing too. Colors of autumn. Moonrise. I must listen to what is being said--not to be governed by it but to hear it as a voice, a direction. Should I take myself more seriously?

As I drive back I wonder what I should do next. I think of the conversations--the possibilities that the show offered me. I mull it over in my mind. If I make it, will "they" come? Do I trust in myself? And I realize as I drive north through Connecticut listening for some reason I don't know to a Seattle radio station reporting a blizzard on the west coast, that for me this is part of my great adventure. I will have turkey for Thanksgiving and then make the quilts that I dream of. 

And you, what is your definition of the great adventure in your life? How do you decide to fulfill your dreams?

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