I have just returned from a quick weekend trip to OH for the opening of the 20th biennial exhibit of Quilt National. My work Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO was juried into this prestigious venue, one of 85 chosen from a pool of nearly 800 entries. My brain feels a bit like that spinning ball on a slow website…processing, processing.
Of the 85 works exhibited, six were ‘quiet works’, i.e. those with a message, whether it be social justice, women rights, politics, environment or disease. That surprised me the most, that there were so few narrative works and yet I felt gratitude that my work was selected and is being seen, and honored to be there as witness. Some folks, especially in the heartland, do not want to view anything graphic or ‘controversial’ in quilts. As example my colleague Kathy Nida had a quilt yanked from an exhibit last year because a viewer thought she saw a penis in it and complained. There was no penis. Talk about censorship!
My work addresses the insidious problem of campus rape and more specifically my own experience, 50 years ago. In my work Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO, I wrote the story of my 1967 campus rape and screen-printed it to white cloth to represent my lost virginity. I made a bias slash into the fabric to emphasize how this act of aggression disrupted my sense of personal safety and peace of mind. Then I added hand-stitching, starting with a freeing stitch at the top and increasing its intensity as my hand traveled down the work. This is where I really tapped into my anger over the assault and the shame that I had not reported it. The overall shape of the stitching reflects on the potential for pregnancy which thankfully did not happen.
I had to give two x 2 minute artist talks about the work. Although I have done a lot of public speaking, I was a tad nervous talking about such a personal subject to strangers. The compilation of talks will appear later on a Quilt National 17 DVD and also on You Tube. I will post a link when that becomes available.
One of the jurors was Nancy Crow, grande dame of the art quilt world. Eighteen pieces in this exhibit were derivative of her work. They were all bright, stunning, exquisite, abstract works of art. The many hours, days, weeks and years artists spent studying with her at the Crow Barn were quite evident. They were large, hung perfectly flat, as if a sheet of paper and not draping cloth. The stitching was sheer perfection with lines no more than 1/4″ apart. The remainder of the exhibit was interesting work, some 3-D, and beautifully constructed, well conceived ‘pretty’ quilts.
My favorite piece overall was that of Sue Benner. She designed a huge work of recycled clothing cuffs. Each cuff was the requisite three layers and they were stitched together by color groupings using tear away stabilizer and thread. It was just spectacular. One could see through it and it was just wonderful.
Undoubtedly, the best part of the weekend was real time meeting of so many colleagues I know from social media. To re-acquaint with artists I have met through SAQA, get to know artists who traveled from far off lands like Australia, Switzerland, Israel and Canada; make new friends, the networking, sharing; and especially meeting, sharing a car, hotel room and conversation with the dynamic rising star Amy Meissner from Alaska. It was pure pleasure to meet Judith Martin whose work has absolutely enthralled me for some time. She creates huge pieces, slowly and methodically hand stitching which are absolutely stunning.
I traveled three time zones and back in four days. I plan to rest up a bit and then on to #20 and more truth telling. This narrative work is tough at times but I do like the impact it makes when it goes out into the world. My work in Quilt National will exhibit at the Dairy Barn until September 4 and then will travel for two years.
Oh the places it will go!