Sunday, March 1, 2015

Photo suite 166 -- found art on the floor

One of the best little pleasures of having your house painted is finding abstract art underfoot.  I suppose some artist has already made big bucks from appropriating used painters' tarps, stretching them and hanging them as fine art.  If not, I would happily fill that role.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is it a quilt? 1

When I wrote about my new piece, mostly one layer of canvas with a lot of machine stitching, Christine Seager left a comment:  "Nice to see something new but I have a question.  In the UK, a single layer is not technically a quilt.  Do the rules change when you go international??!!"

My response turned out to be complicated enough that I wanted to take an entire post to explain.

First off, these quilts were not made to enter a juried show with rules, so I guess it's irrelevant.  Our exhibit is an invitational; I suppose the show organizers are expecting mostly traditional-format quilts, and that's what they're going to get, but if one or two don't exactly fit the rules I don't think there will be a problem.  If there is, then Sentinel just won't get hung in Prague.

What if the rules applied?  It probably wouldn't fit the rules for Quilt National, which says "it must be composed of at least two full and distinct layers -- a face layer and a backing layer..."   It might or might not qualify for Form, Not Function, my local juried show, which requires that "All works must be quilted (two or more distinct layers held together by stitches_."  I guess it would be a judgment call whether the second layer -- the solid black area, composed of fabric stitched to the canvas -- can cover just part of the ground or has to cover the entire quilt.  I haven't researched other quilt shows to see whether this qualifies or not.

But I guess the ultimate answer is that I don't care.  I've been getting impatient with the traditional forms of quiltmaking and am excited to break a little bit loose.

For instance, my Quilt National '15 piece, which will be unveiled in May, doesn't use the traditional backing-batting-top format -- the top is traditionally pieced but it's quilted directly to a felt backing with no middle layer.  Nor does it have a traditional binding or facing; the edges are just cut off, and about two seconds later they started to fray, which is OK with me.

If I do make more works in this format, and if I have the urge to enter them in juried shows, I'll have to read the rules, but there are plenty of fiber art shows that accept all kinds of work, not just quilts.  Probably the most important decision facing me now is whether I describe this piece of work as a quilt, and if not, what should I call it?  As an artist who generally tries to avoid the Q-word, that shouldn't be a problem -- I'll just call it art.  But when the piece is being exhibited in a quilt venue maybe I'll want to call it a quilt.  I'll let you know!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

... Really new ... but not really new...

I showed you my latest quilt yesterday, which at first glance seems like a dramatic departure from anything I'd made in the past.  And yet I realized that it had roots in other things I have done.

First, the densely stitched areas remind me of the equally dense sew-off squares that I have been making for a decade.

Sentinel detail

sew-off squares

I love this dense stitching, even though it takes a long time, so it was nice to make something where the stitching took center stage.

Second, the selvages remind me of a bunch of quilts I made a decade ago with selvages.  The technique was different -- in those older quilts I made a traditional quilt sandwich with white fabric on the top, then placed the selvages to make a pattern and stitched them down through all layers, quilting and appliqueing at the same time.  This time around the technique is simpler and rougher, exactly what my sensibilities are these days.

Sentinel detail

On the Edge -- Rail Fence

Finally, the bit of text on the selvage reminds me of dozens of quilts I have made with letters of the alphabet.

Does this mean there's nothing new under the sun?  That it's impossible to change your practice and escape your past?  No, although it's difficult to outrun the powerful influence of your own decades of past work and passions.

And I find it comforting to recognize that even when I try something excitingly different it's still me in there.  When I get the big posthumous retrospective at MOMA the critics will be able to discuss the recurring themes that appeared throughout my long and stellar career.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Something new -- really new.....

I am one of eight quilt artists from four different countries who have been together for almost two years, making small quilts as theme challenges.  We now have made seven quilts apiece, which will be on display at the Prague Patchwork Meeting in April.  (Actually I still have the last one to make, but they're small so I hope to polish it off next week.)

My most recent piece was for a challenge in which you had to start with a sketch.  This was extremely difficult for me, since I never sketch.  My first thought was to pull the same trick I used to do in high school when they asked you to hand in an outline of your term paper a couple of weeks before you turned in the actual term paper.  This required me to really get cracking because I would have to write the term paper first and then construct a matching outline.  (I'm just not much on pre-planning...)

But after putting it off for several months, I finally buckled down and made the damn sketch -- actually I made a bunch of sketches -- and then made a quilt which pretty much followed the sketch.


This was an exciting project for me because it is apparently a huge departure from my previous bodies of work.  It's on a single layer of canvas, no batting, no backing .  The solid black area is made with selvages laid down to cover the shape, then densely stitched.  The black scribbled area is just thread, straight-stitched with a lot of zigzags and back-and-forths.

(Please forgive the poor focus on the detail shot -- my point-and-shoot camera was obviously confused.)

The black scribbles in the lighter area look exactly like the back side of the solid areas.

But even as I was excited by this new approach, so different from anything I'd done in the past, I started noticing ways in which that wasn't so.  I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Photo suite 165 -- off the walls

We're having the living room, dining room, office and hallways painted, requiring the temporary removal of a large portion of the art collection.  The other rooms are full of stacks of art.  The silver lining: when they go back up on the walls everything will be rearranged, and will take on new life in the company of new neighbors.