Something was up. Yesterday I suddenly began getting comments on a blog that I posted way back in November. The gist of these comments were all pretty negative--I didn't know what I was talking about, I had no business appointing myself as an art critic, my quilts were fine but they didn't like them. Clearly there was something behind this besides lots of passion. But why?
An e-mail I received in support of my position let me know that my blog post had been mentioned in an article on a large Yahoo group that I am not part of. OK. That post raised the question whether the American Craft magazine should have published an article on the "modern" quilt movement. Was this what American Craft was about? For those interested you can read the post here and the comments are the last five.
Now I welcome all readers to my blog and am interested in their comments--I try to raise issues that I interest me. Isn't that what blogs should do? However, I do wish they had read further posts--if they had they would discover that I have also questioned whether some of the quilts in the so-called Art Quilt movement are art. What is craft? What is the relationship between craft and art? Can art be functional? Indeed the essential issue I keep returning to again and again is what is art--if that question matters and where do quilts--and in particular my quilts--fit within this framework?
An interesting question and one made even more difficult within the context of one of the traditions of quilt making--the reliance on patterns.
Now I will be the very first to admit that I love many of the so-called traditional quilt patterns. My sister--alas--received the double wedding ring quilt that my grandmother made. I remember as a child sorting through the patterns that Granny had clipped from the newspaper back during the Depression. Not that she would ever purchase a pattern--there were much better uses of her hard earned money after all. But these patterns were the beginning of dreams--quilts that could be. It is my understanding that many of the so-called traditional patterns were actually designed back then.
Indeed the first quilt that I made was an Ohio star. Yes, I even sewed it by hand. Oh those long endless seams. Green and brown calico fabric. How excited I was though to see the patterns within patterns that evolved from such a simple design. I still enjoy looking at the quilts that guild members have made when I give a presentation. There are so many colors and designs my mind always spins.
But--and this is a large but--I think that quilts can go beyond this--to a place where they do become art. Now art is of course a concept that is hard to define. Is it something you know when you see it? Is it a universal? And where does the craft world intersect the art world?
Good questions. I think of the work of Heather Allen-Swarttouw that I saw at CraftBoston. Clearly that is art. You can read about it here. The quilts of Erin Wilson that I saw at the Baltimore Craft Show--you can see some of them here. I think of the quilts that I can visualize way of in the horizons of my mind here--the ones that I strive for. The feelings that keep me going and that are both personal and universal.
I pick up my latest copy of American Craft magazine. Along with their reviews and bright pictures of what is new I also see a quiet article--a retrospective of the pottery of Karen Karnes. The retrospective is now showing in Asheville, NC--you can read about it here. Now I actually met Karen once ages ago. We were both doing the Philadelphia Museum of Art Show. She at the end of her career and me at the beginning. The image that comes to my mind is of Karen and her partner dollying her work into the show just like the rest of us. Craftspeople commenting in amazement that she was still doing shows. How I wish I had purchased something then--I should have. Her work was simple, elegant and functional. So basic and essential.
And this is the concept that I see in my quilts. That distant horizon that looms in the distance. That desire to find what is simple and essential about quilts. This is my vision--this is what my questioning is about. This is why I get up in the morning and what I think about as I go to sleep at night.
And you--what is your vision? Why do you get up in the morning? Is there a universal concept as to what art is? What do you think?