NaPoWriMo Day Eighteen

A poem of necessity to start the day, we’ll see what the rest of the day brings.

Morning
waiting room blaring
with TV
morning noise
afternoon noise
evening noise
background music
occasional beats
erratic refrain
pretended mood
supposed privacy
always a background
irritant wearing,
are we so afraid
of a breath
our thoughts too loud?

Helpful Life Hints: How To Respond To Art You Don’t Like

I think anyone who has ever made anything has had someone, sometime, make some flip, off-handedly bashing comment about it. Not always to the maker directly, not even considering that they or someone they know might be nearby to hear it. It just spurts forth into the ether.

You might recall the summer’s incident where a viewer couldn’t just walk past a piece of art she didn’t like but complained and set off a chain of events where the exhibited quilt got pulled and then another one by the same maker got pulled etc etc. Outrage on one side and stupidity on the other ensued. Oops did I say that out loud? Sure did.

Anyway, here’s a helpful list of things you might need if you find yourself reacting in more negative ways to some piece of art. This reminds me of a book I have read Pictures & Tears by James Elkins. Most of my readers don’t need this reminder but maybe we need the information to hand out as needed.

You are not meant to like everything you experience. Art is often intended to be challenging, shocking, eye opening or outright uncomfortable.

Lies – from the quote box

By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man. — Immanuel Kant

Gratitudes that slipped away, almost.

I almost forgot these two things:

  • By chance I met a woman sculptor, an artist and teacher. I always enjoy meeting her. She was telling me about her current show and asked me what I was doing. For some reason, rather than showing her my finished quilt pictures, I told her about Kathy Nida’s quilt that was pulled by AQS. She was appropriately horrified and sorry that this was going on. What a nice moment. Keep on keeping on you people down in Chattanooga! (and AQS, I’m looking at you – not even a polite email acknowledgement? Really? Lame. Majorly lame.)
  • Heard a great horned owl the other night, the looong hoooooot, lacing through the night. Later on I heard the barred owl
  • Thank you Stewarts! I really needed some olives tonight and you really came through for me.
  • To date: 30 of 31 postcards received plus a bunch of bonus cards! Woot – thanks everyone!
  • Glad to get Verge back from its four year tour. Thanks SAQA for a great run.

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.

Three Hundred Thirty-three of you or so…

have looked at my site and the post re Kathy Nida’s quilts being pulled by AQS.

PLEASE if you haven’t actually written to AQS please do so:

bonnie.browning@americanquilter.com
terry.guill@americanquilter.com

and you could write or CC Studio Art Quilters Association, SAQA at:

ExecDirector@saqa.com

Discussing on FB and social media is great so please link to Kathy’s site and keep talking about it whereever you’ll rally support, but PLEASE WRITE/EMAIL. The people involved with those decisions need to hear from each of you. Not writing is silent consent.

Thank you.

Response re Kathy Nida’s Quilt, Removed at QuiltWeek

This is the response I sent to AQS regarding pulling this quilt from QuiltWeek Grand Rapids. Someone complained that there was a penis on the quilt. There is no penis on the quilt. You can read more about it on Kathy Nida’s blog, which has good photos of her quilt and the development of the design.

TO: bonnie.browning@americanquilter.com, terry.guill@americanquilter.com

SUBJECT: RE: Kathy Nida Quilt, “I Was Not Wearing A Life Jacket” at Quiltweek, Grand Rapids

Hello Bonnie and Terry,

I am writing in regards to the quilt, “I Was Not Wearing A Life Jacket” by Kathy Nida, which was pulled from display at the Grand Rapids Quiltweek. I hope you will reconsider this decision for several reasons.

First, this was not a contest quilt, it was part of a collection on display, People and Portraits, a SAQA exhibit which had been presented at other shows and is scheduled for future shows. Any concerns about the quilts on display should have been directed to SAQA prior to scheduling them. You accepted the group of quilts and had shown them previously to the Grand Rapids event.

Second, from what we’ve been told, a single person complained about this quilt, stating that it contained a penis. It does not, which makes the removal of the quilt hard to explain and understand.

It is true that not all quilts are for everyone. I applaud you, in fact, for including quilts such as People and Portraits both to appeal to less traditional quilters and to show that quilting encompasses a very wide range of style and techniques. I hope you feel strongly that these quilts belong in your shows, and continue to display them. This benefits and educates all kinds of viewers.

What of the viewer who had such a strong reaction to the quilt? Perhaps several of show staff could have accompanied the woman back to the quilt to look for the offending part and to discuss her reaction and theirs. Have the conversation about what the show is all about and the importance of showing lots of different types of quilts. That’s part of educating viewers.

As someone who was involved in running a yearly quilt show, I was part of discussions about how to present groups of quilts with difficult topics. We provided some mild signage (some viewers may find these quilts disturbing and they may not be appropriate for children, please use discretion) and listened to feedback from viewers as needed.

If someone expressed a strong reaction to a specific piece, I would hope the response from your show would be to listen carefully to the person and then to explain calmly why the quilt was put into the show and why it was going to remain in the show.

I ask you to reconsider your decision to pull “I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket” and keep it with the rest of the People and Portraits exhibit in future shows. Please develop a clear plan of response to future situations like this that continues to support the artists involved and which responds appropriately to viewers with concerns. This is certainly part of the mission of quilt shows and events, to educate and expand the viewer’s range of experience.

Thank you.

Mary Beth Frezon