I do a lot of realistic quilts. I like realism but I also appreciate abstract and do work in abstract from time to time (viz the piece at left...which is actually abstracted realism and something which I am basing a more abstracted piece upon). Not all realistic pieces speak to me, but then not all abstract pieces speak to me either.
Sherrie Spangler recently did a couple of blog posts about abstract work and tried to answer those who say they "just don't get abstract." You can see it here.
I must say...I'm a little flummoxed. If abstraction is appealing to people because of the pretty colors, nice texture, etc., such as what Sherrie shows, then why can't a pretty picture, be it a landscape, or a portrait or a still life be considered in the same vein? Why do people have to throw clods of dirt at the opposite camp?
Perhaps part of it is that often the imagery used can be overused...to the point of being trite. Maybe it is that there's a lot of mediocre art which tends to make us feel that the pieces are vapid. I liked Kathy Loomis's comment on my other blog post on the subject. "I wish we would spend less time arguing about "is this art?" and more time arguing about "is this any good?"
I have to admit, something which makes a piece stand out, whether it is representational or not is what the artwork SAYS. Recently, at the SAQA parlor meeting in Columbus, one of the members showed a piece which was pretty, looked traditional, and was made out of untraditional materials. When you first looked at it you thought "Oh, pretty." Then when she said what she used, my initial response was "What a curator's nightmare! How will this hold up?" Then, she told us why she used what she did....and it made a moving piece which had so much more depth than being just the pretty, traditional looking quilt that it first appeared.
|Hollis Chatelain, World of the Taureg|
When I first started thinking about writing something on this, I contacted several well known art quilters and asked them if I could have permission to talk about their work on my blog. Hollis Chatelain was the only one to respond.
Hollis' work represents what I'm thinking about here on many levels. Her images are beautiful and particularly well crafted. On the surface, you appreciate them, but then when you look at them more closely, you are drawn in and you realize that there is so much more to them than what you first saw.
Hollis often works from images she dreams. Then sketches them and does the painting with thickened dyes on whole cloth before quilting them. Her images bring forth a world consciousness and speaks to us all if we would have the ears and eyes to take it in. Hopefully, we do and take away something which makes us think, and better yet, act.
|Hollis Chatelain "Blue Men."|
Hollis often works in a limited palette. I didn't ask to use her more famous pieces (although her Taureg series is very recognizable) . The Ecuadorian Girls is quite different in the exuberant colors and because she based it on photographs. Here is her artist statement as taken from her gallery on this piece: Our daughter studied in Ecuador for five months last year. She volunteered to teach English in a small village in the Andes mountains. We visited her and went to that village where I photographed the children. I was so struck by how old the girls looked and the responsibility that is put upon them at such a young age that I created this piece in their honor. These girls are all under fifteen years of age. This piece is composed of four photographs I combined."
While she based it on photographs she took, and she does use a lot of thread work, this piece is far from "paint by numbers" quilting and gives us all something to aspire to.
|Hollis Chatelain, "Ecuadorian Girls."|
While working in series and "finding your voice" is important to art quilters, sometimes I think that these same characteristics can easily become a rut. Given that Hollis does abstract works in addition to nature based pieces, I think she'll continue to inspire us and make us think.
I believe that the world is a better place for having Hollis Chatelain in it. Certainly, the art and quilt world is far richer because of her.