Long ago, in a tiny galaxy far far away…

Many many years ago, at some quilt-related something or other, this appeared amongst a set of blocks on display.

It wasn’t originally crumpled. I think I did that as a gut reaction when it was brought to me. I may have tossed it over my shoulder at the time. I have never much liked the notion of “the quilt police” and I sure as hell don’t like sneaky little people who leave anonymous mean remarks about someone else’s work. I didn’t much like the willingness of AQS to roll over for a woman who complained about male genitalia on a quilt that contained no such thing.

When I was a quilt show bureaucrat I often said that while I carefully read all comments and suggestions about our show, the rage-filled and non-constructive ones which were anonymous got put on the bottom of the pile. I feel strongly that if you have something to say, you should be willing to put your name on it, if only so someone can follow up with you, get the rest of the story, give you more info etc. Start a dialogue. Maybe sign you up to help improve things.

As I recall we didn’t tell anyone about this little note but I fished it out of the trash and it went home with me. See the little dot at the top of it? That sucker has been pinned to a little bulletin board in my workroom doorway ever since. Geesh, you’re thinking, that’s sort of grim. Why be reminded of stuff like that?

I kept it there – and look at it regularly – as a reminder that people of all walks of life act this way. Quilters aren’t some special lovey-dovey society that is uber sharing and kind and respectful. All the little sub-genres grumble and laugh and point at all the others that don’t follow their interests and “rules”. Quilters are just people, like you find everywhere else, good and bad, and all the rest of it. They fear things they don’t understand. They try to make themselves feel better by putting others down.

This week there’s been chatter on the web about other people in the quilting world, small as it is, using social media to ostracize and bully others who aren’t like them in any number of ways. Secret facebook groups make it easy to get people talking about other people. Remember that old cartoon – on the internet no one knows you’re a dog? Well eventually, if you’re hateful and mean, the truth comes out. Doesn’t matter what circle you’re traveling in, there are mean people who try to control with rules and bullying everywhere.

I don’t like their behavior. Sometimes I spare some pity in their direction, that their whole life is so fear-filled, so control-lacking that they will do anything to anyone else to try to gain an upper hand and a sense of superiority. Sometimes. Other times I can convince myself to ignore them.

These days I don’t think that ignoring bullies is the right thing to do. If you choose to wear an offensive shirt or hat I will try very hard to converse with you as a human and I hope you will do the same. If you are rude to me or someone nearby or generally offensive in your comments I’m going to tell you to stop. Gently at first but firmly. I will not give you the satisfaction of whatever it is you’re trying to do. Hate is wrong but frankly I think you’re mostly full of fear – fear of difference, fear of failure, fear of being outside. Ignorance and fear, the great instigators of hate-behavior. I’m sad your life is full of all that garbage but I’m not stepping in it.

What will you do next time you encounter someone who makes racist or sexist or whatever sort of hurtful, ignorant remarks?

He who wishes to exert a useful influence must be careful to insult nothing. Let him not be troubled by what seems absurd, but concentrate his energies on the creation of what is good. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Report from Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Where the heck did she go, you might be asking yourself. I asked myself that quite a bit. After heading out from the workshop, heading down through Betwys y Coed, lunch at the Ugly House and all… I spent a lot of my time on the road wondering where I was. I finally caught on that roads were only marked with route numbers at intersections. I knew I didn’t want to be just then in Powys. I knew I wanted to go south along one road towards Aberystwyth in hopes of going to the National Library. Well after spending quite a bit of time “enjoying the landscape” I did end up in Aberystwyth in a total gridlock which diverted me. I finally ended up back on the right road towards my next stop but it was clearly going to be dark when I got there.

There was white stuff on the ground at one point while I was driving and I knew it was hail but I counted it as winter-y driving anyway. Oh, and some places here they tell you the percentage grade if it’s ten percent or higher… say… I don’t know twelve or seventeen percent…

I thrashed around and finally the shepherd’s hut owner mercifully met me out on the road. Got myself settled and had no problems sleeping that night for sure!

Next day I decided maybe I needed not to thrash around for a day. I knew I could make it to Lampeter and was pretty sure I could find the Quilt Centre. I went, turned up and found a grocery store. It had a post office – they know everything I figure so I bought a stamp and asked – oh yeah – just up the street – about a ten minute walk, you can leave your car here. And if you’re hungry there’s a cafe right next door, quite good. Not driving sounded great so I rearranged my stuff and headed off.

At the Quilt Centre, the wonderful Jen Jones said – oh, the exhibit just closed… (sadness) but the person who was supposed to help take it down hasn’t come yet so I don’t see why you can’t go in. She was the only one in the shop so she showed me around and said she’d check back. Oh my – what a blessing to have squeaked in to see those quilts.

More to come – photos uploading and it’s going to take awhile. I think this will take you to the start of the most recent. I’m doing them in chunks.

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Here, A Place to Stand

Here, A Place to Stand (More Like a Big Ball) 46 x 65 in, 2016

Here, a place to stand.
One last embrace, earth and sky;
light and dark entwine.

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.

Yes, It’s That Day Again

There’s nothing like folding a whole lot of fat quarters to start a new day and year off right. To my eyes this is not color accurate but to give you an idea of my ironing board when I got done (does not include all the fabrics that followed me home from my vacation with mom)

Things I do…

while listening to other things:

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.

Censorship at AQS Show, continued. Now With Haiku.

Kathy Nida reports that AQS shipped both her quilts back to SAQA. I posted my response below and hope that you’ll write AQS and SAQA showing your support as well. Here are some handy email addresses for you to use.

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

If you have a blog, consider posting information about this fight against rather pointless (there was no penis!) censorship and be part of facebook and other social media discussions on the topic. Make your voice heard.

I’m on day eighteen of the August Postcard Poetry Fest. Mom and I are visiting a local library. She’s doing Pokémon on my iPhone because her iPad keeps losing GPS signal… I am our “cover” since I’m sitting here writing today’s poem to be sent out. That done I looked at some of the discussions I’m involved with on the censorship question. Next thing I knew – yeah you were wondering when this would happen, HAIKU!

There hung in a show
A quilt with naked women
none with penises.

Today, naked Trump
appeared in many cities
it’s art as protest

When have dangly bits
been anything other than
anatomical?

about fifty per cent
of earthly beings possess
male genitalia.

mompoke1

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