Tuesday, October 25, 2011

musings on what is modern?

This week-end a couple of ladies came in to my studio. One loved my work. The other said she "loved" my work--maybe she was just trying to be polite because she then added that famous word but..alas..her house was "Modern".  Oh I am sure you have heard this conversation before.

Now obviously this woman was not going to purchase. She was just coming up with one of those excuses. Understandable--don't we all do it every day. But it did get me to thinking--what is modern? Why are my quilts considered not good in modern locations? Yes, I've heard this conversation before.  But after all, my quilts are contemporary abstract landscapes and even a Modern home does require an attention to detail, style and color no matter how much metal and stone you use, doesn't it?

I mean just look at this wall hanging--first light--in its very simple setting. Doesn't it make the room?

Or consider colors of my garden in a very modern office building--drawing you down the corridor and echoing the colors of the steel.

Or light on the ocean in the same building?

Isn't even this version of dawn on the hill modern even if it is set in a more "country" style room?

So what is modern? Recently there was a fascinating discussion on Interior Designer Chat as to what is "modern". Obviously the meaning can vary with when you are asking the question. For instance, at one time the style of Louis Quattorze was considered modern if you know what I mean. So was the Victorian style, Art Deco--I could go on. Remember "everything's up to date in Kansas City". But modern can also refer to a specific design period--mid to late 20th century. Lots of metal and steel. Glass. Simplicity in design. Not cluttered. You know the look.

So wouldn't quilts work in a modern home--especially my quilts? I got to thinking. Certainly modern can include works with patterns and textures--just think of Jackson Pollock. Can't really get more patterned than that can you?  Quilts can be considered modern--think of the traditional Amish quilts--don't they look great in a modern setting? What about the quilts of Gee's Bend? The wonderful complex patterns and designs are modern, aren't they?

Maybe the issue is that I love to use commercially available quilting fabrics with all the associations they include. Is that the reason? But the quilts of Gee's Bend also can include fabric with design. Andy Warhol's Campbell soup cans include references to commercial patterns. Maybe they don't stop and think of the references to traditional fabric in my quilts.

Certainly I have had designers say that my work is "too busy" for them. Now up close there is a business to it--but not from a distance.  Maybe the issue is presentation. Maybe it is just a matter of taste. Or what is considered stylish by others? Maybe I should write something profound about the associations that my quilts have to the quilts of tradition. Or maybe it doesn't even matter--just something to muse about in the slack hours of the day? After all I really don't want to sell my quilts to those who don't truly love them.

What do you think? How do you define modern? Does it even matter?

Or maybe the issue is that woman really just did not like my work


  1. You have to consider also the meaning of the word "quilt". To many people, it's old-fashioned bed covers made of fabric. It never registers to them that there are modern, abstract, contemporary, nonbed quilts. So even though she was facing your quilts and could see they were not her grandmother's quilts (altho that's certainly not always a bad thing!), her mind probably could not wrap around the concept that this was another form of modern art expression.....but was stuck in the "quilt" rut...thinking layers of fabric sewn together like the olden days. Some of those people will come around eventually, but others are hopeless. Can't win em all.

  2. Good post. I have to say I was interested in "modern" until I saw the quilts online at Quiltcon. (of course I was rejected by them, so may subliminally affect my opinion, but I don't think so honestly)
    I was underwhelmed by them. If this is "modern" I don't want to be.
    Keep doing what your doing and loving it.