Have you ever wondered how you ended up in the middle of a heated discussion without even knowing about it? Well, that seems to be the case for me this week following an art critique by Joanie San Chirico (a highly regarded fellow artist working in fiber, fabric, threads, surface design, etc.) of the Fiber Revolution exhibit at Georgian Court University during the month of October. As those of you who read my blog already know, I was in great part responsible for both securing and hanging of this exhibit - with help from Kevan Rupp Lunney. The critique is honest, clear, and provides examples to back up her critique. It is also less than flattering to the curator, the venue, and Fiber Revolution. You may go to the here to read the review and the 30+ comments that have flowed from it.
This kind of critique is a great learning opportunity for all - especially for me, one who is totally new at curating and still learning the process by immersion. The ongoing discussion growing out of the critique is enlightening, informative, yet not without some prejudice. I must admit I am prejudiced - I happen to have ties to the school, having taught for the Holistic Health graduate program for 3+ years... And having taking an amazing art class from an extremely gifted and well-known artist and author, Geraldine Velasquez, Ph.D. I found the art department at this very small Catholic girls college to be extraordinary in it's curriculum, class content, and professors. The gallery itself is something my own college did not have back in the 1960's - any more than it had lessons in curating exhibitions. O well.
So you may find it useful to follow these discussions and see where they lead. I can only hope they do not degenerate into Fiber Revolution bashing or worse. There is a growing tendency towards a polarization of views, which is not helpful.
Some of the latest comments are really criticisms of Fiber Revolution - about the very name of the group. And while I might agree with that assessment, this is not the forum for that topic - nor is it for outsiders to determine the name of our group - or so it seems to me.
Personally, I find the very term "art quilters" a complete misnomer as well. It puts everyone in mind of bed quilts and grandmothers attic, which does not help our cause to bring our art into the fine arts arena and gallery settings. We must, I think, graduate out of identification with quilting and quilt shows if we want to be considered serious in the art world.
Laura Cater-Woods has long been a proponent of separating our art from the word "quilt" for numerous reasons, but mainly to identify ourselves properly and advance our art and our careers. She recommended that I come up with one statement about my work that encapsulates the art in a single sentence. If the listener is interested in learning more, then I have a follow up sentence or two. And if they really get excited about what I am saying, they will continue to ask more and more questions to learn about this exciting medium.
The discipline of writing a single sentence about my work was both difficult and refining. Since I love to write, talk, and teach, I rarely consider limiting the number or words or sentences. Writing artists statements that confine me to 25 words is just as difficult for me - but the assignment forces me back to the base skeletal structure beneath my work, and that has proven to be invaluable to me in understanding my own work and in sharing my work with others, especially non-artists.
Writing an artist statement is just as difficult but perhaps more important since it will represent me to those who may never meet me, but will critique my work. My current statement is rather lengthy, at 84 words... I also have separate statements to accompany each piece of art work pertaining specifically to each piece. These exercises (in training my mind to think about my work in a linear fashion so that I can better explain it) have been a powerful part of my growth this year as an artist. If you haven't already done so, you may find it helpful to write your own.