11 Dec

On Finding One’s Audience

Zeitgeist web

I love this quilt. I think it’s funny, I think it’s snarky, I think it’s topical, and I think it’s well made. I am proud of it.

So now what? As an artist I kind of feel like my work is a conversation, so it’s not really complete until someone besides me has a response to it. I very much want this giant cat to go out into the world and talk to people.

Zeitgeist is my “fan art” inspired by the Grumpy Cat internet meme. I combined the cat with the styling of Louis Wain, a Victorian era illustrator who’s large eyed cats and zany patterned backgrounds were thought to be an expression of his mental illness. To me the combination of Grumpy Cat’s pessimism and Wain’s schizophrenia perfectly expressed the current mood of the US. To embody this in a quilt large enough to wrap one’s self in further pushed the wackiness of the concept. Yes, comfort yourself with your crazy cynicism.

My first impulse was to submit it to IQF Houston’s annual World of Beauty show in 2013. The Houston show responds well to representational, bright and bold work. Besides, between Quilt Market and Quilt Festival, that’s a lot of eyes on any quilt in the show and that’s a great conversation. Unfortunately, I paid a long arm quilter to quilt Zeitgeist which means it was work for hire and thus disqualified from entering.

So, I settled for the New England Quilt Festival and Pacific International Quilt shows. They were OK, but not really who I thought my target audience was. These were, in general, not the crowd to get excited about an internet inspired, bold fabric using, subtle commentary kind of quilt. Mostly, I think people wondered if this was just a portrait of my cat.

For the sake of contrast and to introduce it to a different audience, I entered Zeitgeist into Art Quilt Elements 2013. Based on the types of work that usually get in, I was pretty amazed that the quilt was even accepted. That piece had no business being at Art Quilt Elements given what is normally accepted and awarded prizes, and yet it won Best of Show. It was the connection to current culture that spoke to the jurors. Yet I wouldn’t have guessed that it would win anything when I entered it.

All along though, I was waiting for the call for entries for the 2015 QuiltCon (biennial) show. The Modern Quilt movement that puts on the show blossomed online. It markets itself to the youthful quilter or at least the quilter with a “fresh” aesthetic. Bold prints are popular amongst many Modern Quilters. Their quilts are meant to be used, not to go on the wall — though there’s plenty that are wall sized. And while I don’t believe that Zeitgeist exemplifies Modern Quilting (and that’s why it was rejected from the Modern Quilt Showcase in Houston), I did believe that the internet surfing, meme generating, bold pattern using, hip, younger show-goers at QuiltCon would understand and appreciate my quilt. I thought that could be an audience that would get excited about it and talk with it.

I’ve been processing the rejection from QuiltCon for a few hours now, and the thing that really sticks out to me is just how hard it can be to find one’s audience. I’m not emotionally crushed, just kind of baffled as to where and how I should be showing my work in this vein. My friend Lorie tells me I’m fishing in the wrong stream. I need to look at the Art world. My work may be grounded in the quilt tradition, but the quilt tradition in any of it’s guises is not my audience. I’ve been mulling over the idea of a “Craft the Internet” show. I admit that I’m scared and apprehensive to put on a curator’s hat and do the work required to create a show, but maybe that’s the way to get my work into spaces where it can converse with an appropriate audience.

24 Mar

Excellent Arty Weekend

The weekend actually started on Wednesday afternoon when my mom and I packed up a large portion of my Army Wife Series, and all it’s accompanying and borrowed display gear, and drove to Yorktown, VA so we wouldn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn on Thursday. Besides, my friend JoAnne, who, in typical Army wife fashion, I had met in Hawai’i and will now keep in touch with whenever our paths cross, is a wonderful hostess.

The Army Wife all packed up

Our occasion was a Joint Services Luncheon at Ft Eustis, VA. The speaker was Tanya Biank, so JoAnne, who was on the organizing committee, suggested my artwork as a compatible display. I enjoyed the opportunity to share my work with an audience who might not normally take the time to see it in a gallery, yet would very much identify with it.

The Army Wife

I enjoyed talking to many of the ladies and sold a few catalogs and card sets. It was a lot better than letting the artwork sit in my dark closet. On a whim I brought my Square credit card reader which I had never used. It was so convenient to have on hand!

Selling The Army Wife cards and catalogs

The main event though, was for my mom and I to spend two days in the Philadelphia area to attend the Art Quilt Elements opening night reception and related Saturday events. My Grumpy Cat inspired quilt, Zeitgeist, was in the show and I thought it would be a fun outing for us to go see it, to visit another gallery or two, maybe a few Philly sights, and hear the juror/artists talks.

Art Quilt Elements 2014

I knew my cat was huge, especially since someone noted when it was hanging at my local McGuffey Art Center that it was seven feet tall, but I kind of assumed it would look normal sized in Wayne Art Center’s large gallery and surrounded by other large art quilts. Wow! It stood out as huge from the moment you walk in the entrance.

But the REALLY BIG surprise was that Zeitgeist won Best in Show! I was flabbergasted. I absolutely love the quilt, but I was even surprised that it was accepted into AQE. It doesn’t really look like what comes to mind when one thinks Art Quilt show, and it definitely wasn’t what I assumed would be considered prize-winning.

Me and Zeitgeist

I floated for the rest of the evening. I texted and FaceBooked with my friends and family, and let Sara Wood, who long arm quilted the beast know the good news.

We had Saturday morning free, so I decided we needed to see the fiber art mecca, Snyderman-Works Gallery. Their Fiber Biennial had just started and so the gallery was filled with a wide variety of top-notch fiber work. I took a few photos, but really, one needs to check out the much better photos at Snyderman-Works’ website or the individual artists’ websites. Aside from the wonderful artwork, I really, really enjoyed that everyone at the gallery was friendly, informative, and readily available. Frank was our docent without hovering too much, and I even had a chance to chat for a bit with the founder, Ruth. Everyone was warm and charming. I wish I had a million dollars so I could support the gallery and the artists they feature.

Snyderman-Works Gallery Philadelphia

My favorite may have been Richard Saja’s work. I’d seen it online before and it really does stand up in person. So quirky, so well executed, and so unique. I loved the red hair on this lady:

Scenes from a Marriage by Richard Saja (detail)

Scenes from a Marriage (detail) by Richard Saja

Compound by Norma Minkowitz

I also liked the work of Norma Minkowitz. One piece upstairs was frieze- or headstone-like with bird-ish forms and downstairs was this piece entitled Compound, which tells the story of the capture (and killing) of Osama Bin-Laden. The work is knit and then stiffened with resin, which intrigued me since I’ve been knitting a lot lately. It was at once cozy and hard.

Petal Edge by Piper Shephard (detail)

Petal Edge (detail) by Piper Shepard. I’m always attracted to cut paper art.

At The Sea by Pamela Becker

There were several vessels by Pamela Becker, like this one entitled At The Sea. They were exquisitely made, and the contrast in sheen between the linen and the rayon threads she uses is subtle and elegant. The patterning and surprise flowers in the bottoms of the bowls was beautiful too.

After Snyderman-Works, we walked over to Independence Hall, but didn’t have time for a tour or the Liberty Bell. It was nice to see the historic neighborhood though and Independence park.

Our next stop was the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to see some funky work by Caroline Lathan-Steifel.

Caroline Lathan-Steifel "Greenhouse Mix"

After Snyderman-Works, this was kind of a let-down. It was so crafty in comparison. But I did like the way the viewer could interact with the pieces by walking around them or looking through them, often at another piece. With fabric being a wrapping, enveloping media, I think we should be thinking more in terms of installation work.

The rest of the afternoon was back at Wayne Art Center to hear the jurors’ comments about some of the works, and to give the artists present a chance to give a little insight too. I’ll save that for another post though since this is pretty long.

Sunday’s drive home was punctuated by a stop at Historic Savage Mill, MD for the annual Homespun Yarn Party where I helped my friend Elisabeth sell her wonderful color changing yarn. Long day, but she appreciated the help, and I had fun being surrounded by yarn goodness. My mom and I came home with beautiful scarf pins and a skein of Elisabeth’s yarn to make next year’s Christmas present for my mom.

13 Aug

Zeitgeist at the World Quilt Show

Zeitgeist

 

This is the weekend! See Zeitgeist in the cloth at

World Quilt Show New England

August 15 – 18
Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 10am 0 6pm
Sunday from 10am – 4pm

At the Radisson Center of New Hampshire
700 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101

 

There are lots of other special exhibits, and vendors at the show too.

Unfortunately, I’m not up for the long drive to get there, but hopefully some more notheasterly friends and family will go be my stunt doubles.

10 Jun

Zeitgeist

Take the Grumpy Cat internet meme, add the decorative style of schizophrenic Victorian cat illustrator Louis Wain, and make it into a quilt. What do you get? A humorous commentary on the contemporary American zeitgeist.

Zeitgeist
(click it to embiggen a bit)

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this yet here. I got all excited and put it on Facebook, but I guess I didn’t follow through here. So, it’s all done, and entered into the World Quilt Show at the New England Quilt Festival in New Hampshire in August. I’ll know in about 10 days if it’s accepted or not. If not, I’ll enter it into Art Quilt Elements. If it does get accepted, then I wait until the end of August to see if it wins the chance to travel one of the quilt show circuits. If it doesn’t, then again, I go the art quilt route. Right now though, I think I’m ready to send it to the Grumpy Cat people. I was going to wait until after I got notice from the quilt show just in case a juror reads their website and might be swayed, but now I’m thinking that since there are no rules as to having shown the work anywhere previously, I should just share now while I’m excited and the cat is hot.

04 Apr

Zeitgeist

Take this:

Plus this:

And you get this:
Untitled

Internet memes are the soapbox for social commentary of the digital age. The Grumpy Cat meme has skyrocketed to internet stardom not least, I think, because she reflects current American cynicism over our economy, stagnating politics, and widening religious divides. Adding to the general gloom, there is an underlying craziness driving people to ever more polarizing views. “Zeitgeist” both mirrors and mocks this schizophrenic trend. In addition to appropriating the image of Grumpy Cat, the echoing lines of the quilt reference the work of Louis Wain, an early twentieth century illustrator known not only for his drawings of cats, but also for the increasing abstraction of them as he presumably battled mental illness — which makes a fitting backdrop to the pessimistic subject matter couched in the irony of a comforting quilt form.

 

So, this is what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. I think the piecing is pretty much done, and now it’s ready for quilting and binding.