Art and The Eye of the Beholder and Art and Quilts

Early in the summer, Mom and I toodled over to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown to see a fabulous visiting collection of paintings from the Prado. Here’s how it’s billed on their website:

Splendor, Myth, and Vision

“[It] might get you a little hot under the collar.”—New York Times

The New York Times calls Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado “a weighty but also steamy exhibition.”
Read the review here and plan your visit today!
Join us for the public symposium “Whose Nudes? Painting, Collecting, Displaying the Body in Early Modern Europe” on Friday, September 23 from 1–5 pm.


We went through the gallery rooms and were blown away by the huge size of the paintings as well as the realism and wonder at the masterful artists who had created them. Many were paintings of women with cherubs or women with women or women with men or women with god-like figures (generally male). All of these were round and zoftig, lots and lots of soft flesh and nothing held back. Some were male. These were equally eye-candy-ish, showing some fairly idealized and maximized anatomy, strength and power and sexuality abounding. Some were clothed in biblical dress, telling old testament stories. There were some that showed martyrs and other scenes.

We saw all this. We enjoyed all of what we saw. Some attracted our eyes more than others. Mom noted that there were several family groups, parents with children of elementary and middle-school age mainly. Some of the parents were doing a lot of narrating and art history type talking.

What we didn’t see: we didn’t see anyone gawking, or laughing or sniggering over all this expanse of flesh, even while reading the description of how yes, this really was the porn of its time, locked up in private rooms for viewing by the well-to-do. There were no protestors outside fighting against all this flesh, or even protesting from a feminist point of view on the sexualization of the human body.

People had paid their money to see these rarely traveled art treasures from the Prado and they were doing the standard gallery walk or they were actively enjoying it or they were thrilled to bits to have this opportunity. Many went on, I’d guess to go into the Clark’s main galleries where there are beautiful impressionist paintings showing bathing women, and there’s one huge painting involving a satyr and a whole lot of nymphs…

Nymphs and Satyr -  William-Adolphe Bouguereau, French, 1825–1905

All of this is a round about way of saying that the whole pulling of Kathy Nida’s quilt from Quiltweek Grand Rapids recently is still under my skin. Wanna see? OK, not that way. AQS put out some very hard-to-find statement about it and apparently refused to comment elsewhere when asked to discuss it on podcasts (go here for the podcast with Kathy Nida and other info about it all) or their website. SAQA put out a statement saying that they’d worked with AQS and understood that it was a business and as such had to worry about losing money etc etc but good news – they had agreed to show an additional SAQA exhibit of quilts at future shows. Which was a good thing because SAQA is all about getting public awareness of quilts as art.

Yesterday quite a good web article appeared entitled “How AQS Mishandled the Online Fallout After Pulling Kathy Nida’s Quilts by Abby Glassenberg. This was a good overview of what had gone down and an honest look at what happens if you don’t respond to people who reach out to you about a problem. (Note that I sent an email to the two top names at AQS at the beginning of this and didn’t even receive (as I expected to) a ‘Thank you for your kind email. We appreciate your taking the time and will consider what you wrote. Thank you again’ sort of response.

I had given up expecting any sort of response honestly and moved on to wondering what next steps might be good to keep the issue somewhere near the top of things when I opened my facebook and found a link to this, from AQS, offering a new challenge of making eighteen inch blocks of traditional patterns called “Big Girl Blocks, A Big Girl Challenge Just For You.” I doubt this comment will get moderated but hey, at least someone will theoretically look at it. They have lots of “please sign me up!” and “oh, I always wanted to make big blocks!” comments. Maybe they won’t notice mine. Someone earlier had commented: “Big Girl? What is this, 1955?” Whoever you are – love and kisses!

You know, I often comment that I didn’t live through the seventies so that stuff like unfair work/wage/financial stuff and gender bias and sexual discrimination could be allowed to flourish once more, all these years later. But, having realized that these fights never end, it’s up to all of us to keep putting our opinions in the ears of those who need to know them and to put our money and energy into fighting this nonsense.

So, go if you can to see Kathy’s quilts at Spool, get your “Where’s the Penis?” button and wear it proudly on over to Quiltweek Chatanooga. Let’s see how that goes. Maybe you could ask for you money back when all of the quilts aren’t on exhibit as promised by the AQS website?

To be continued. No doubt about it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: