Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Is It "Art"?

Pillow.  Title:  Nine Olmec Heads

This is the only piece I have ever done that I consider to be "art".  The central panel was featured on Quilt University's facebook page as their cover photo for a week.  But that is not why it is art.  More on that in a moment.

That selection by Quilt U is one of only two times I have received recognition for my work.  The other one was a second-place ribbon for "most original" in my local quilt guild's challenge last year.  I mention these things because I always feel it is important for me to position myself for you, dear readers, as the non-expert person that I am.  I got second place for "most original" mostly because the piece I submitted had the guild members scratching their heads.  "What the heck IS that?"

My first husband (splendid guy, and it was ALL my fault btw) was an artist.  A real artist.  While we were married he was an art student and a janitor in a factory at night.  He went on (post-me) to become a successful commercial artist and only left the field when computers became dominant.

This brief marriage (hey, it was the sixties) gives me insight into the artistic soul.  See comment above about being a non-expert.

When I create something pretty and someone compliments me by telling me that I am "artistic" I first cringe, and then immediately try to explain to them why they are wrong.  Not the best interaction with someone being nice to you, and I don't recommend it.  I'm still searching for the right thing to say in these circumstances.  So far I'm settling for "glad you like it".

So, what, in my non-expert but also non-humble opinion, is "art"?  Art is created with intention and meaning.  Intention to convey something, not merely to create something beautiful. The intention may be vague.  The artist may not be able to articulate the meaning, but it is there.

This pillow, titled "Nine Olmec Heads" is the first of a planned three pieces (all titled Nine Olmec Heads).  The other two pieces are still in my one non-Olmec head, and have been for years.  The intention is personal and private, and the meaning is known only to me and my BF Amber.  The very first time I ever met her I pissed her off, and the subject matter was Olmec heads.  Yes, we are both total geeks.  Normal people can probably not even imagine what it is like to get all steamed up over the topic of Olmec heads.  Fortunately we got over it right away and it remains a subject of hilarity now.

Amber is the good looking one.  She has forgiven me for my (in her opinion) misguided ideas about the Olmecs. I secretly still think that time will prove me right, if we both live long enough.

I recently spent a wonderful week in Paradise (aka Santa Barbara) with Amber and her family.  I spent some time with her at work and there on the sofa in her office was the pillow I made years ago.  The central panel (ink jet printed on fabric) has faded somewhat.

The faces originally were are bright as the 1980's stripey fabric bordering them.  When I found that fabric in a thrift shop I immediately time-traveled back to the 80s, and then thought "what horrible fabric, I will NEVER use this."  But my invariable plan is to buy all 100% cotton fabric priced at a dollar a yard or less.  And once again this instinct proved sound.  Even a horrible fabric can find a purpose in small doses.

Even, perhaps, to create "art".


  1. What a great story! I got a chuckle out of your quilt saga. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love stripes for binding and small borders. I don't have a clue what an Olmec head is. Besides, art is in the eye of the beholder.

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olmec_colossal_heads

  3. Being a Pisces, I am supposed to be artistic. I am not. I surround myself with artists to make up for that. Perhaps creative is a better way to describe what I do with fabric and thread.


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