Sunday, May 16, 2010

Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery

IM Pei's Addition to the Louvre

I often get asked when/why I started making art quilts after focusing on traditional quilts for so many years, and the answer is somewhat complicated. The median age in my very first quilt guild was approximately 60 years old. My two friends and I were in our twenties with new babies at home, but many of the women were in their 70's. Keep in mind this is Central Ohio in the late 1970's. If you have a good memory, you will recall this was when Nancy Crow started making her wonderful abstract works, and I was lucky to see one of her first exhibitions at the Armory in downtown Columbus. This made a great impression, but I was heavily influenced by the women in my guild and the popular opinion was that Nancy's work was definitely made of pieces of fabric, but they weren't really quilts, why, rumor had it that she didn't even quilt them herself, and the stitches were so big and they weren't straight. Oh, my! So I continued making reproduction quilts for another 15 years, but I never forgot those quilts.

Artist Working in the Louvre

Then I started travelling and whenever possible, I visited art museums. First, just to see all those magnificent works I studied in Art History 101, preference was given to the Impressionists (still my favorites), those rablerousers that would not follow convention. Then I started to visit other museums like the Picasso Museum in Paris, Miro and Gaudi in Barcelona, Dali in Paris and Tampa, and Georgia O'Keefe in Santa Fe. I have also visited the Tate Modern in London several times as well as the modern wing of The Chicago Art Institute. I noticed that each one of these artists began their career copying conventional styles of the time and then developed their own distinctly recognizable style When I visited the Louvre, the place was littered with art students sketching and painting in many of the galleries (I wonder what kind of red tape one must endure to attain this privilege? I can see myself knocking over my easel, splashing paint on the irreplaceable treasures and being escorted either to jail or out of the country, not to mention the stress of being stared at by the throngs of visitors and being told that they preferred the original.)

In The Pink - 22x20 - 2007
My initial response to modern art was, "it's interesting, but I wouldn't want it hanging in my house." Over the years, however, it seems to have seeped into my psyche and slowly but surely into my quilts. One of my favorite artists is Matisse and I have made two quilts that replicate some of his famous paintings.

You Sew Girl - 18x22 -2007
I feel that he is one of my main influences. I love the bright colors and simple shapes in his work. The blue nude was created towards the end of his life. Confined to bed, he was still cutting figures from paper and painting murals on the walls of his room with aid of a long stick. I hope I will still be making art in some form or other when I'm eighty. So, I guess art quilts just kind of bubbled to the surface in an unexpected way, after a long period of exposure to modern art. I love the juxtaposition of old and modern, IM Pei and the Louvre. I am working hard to develop my own style, but learning from the masters is a time honored tradition. Thank you Henri, you're the bomb!

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