The Sliced Quilt I organized with the internet group Texies (we’re far more active in our closed Yahoo group than the blog leads one to believe) is finished and will soon be on display in England at Festival of Quilts.
We entered it into the juried Quilt 2008 contest because, even if it was not chosen, it could still be hung in the open Group Quilts category. It’s a good quilt and it was worth the effort to see if it would be chosen.
It wasn’t chosen.
I’m not disappointed though, because the reality of this quilt is that it is most definitely a group project. I think it will be perfectly placed in the group category, and maybe it will even find some other “sliced” friends.
“Juan’s Fruit Salad on a Sliced Table” 2008
by eight members of Texies, left to right, top to bottom: Kristin La Flamme, Cordula Klöfkorn, Edith Blaurock, Christiane Kühr, Erika Beetz, Birgit Friese, Susanne Neuhauser, and Elke Kollender.
While we were working on this, discussion was raging on some internet lists about copying other artists’ work. Arguments ranged from “copying the masters has long been a teaching tool,” to “a true artist needs only to look inward for inspiration.” Of course, issues of copyright raised their ugly head too.
Here’s what I was thinking when we embarked on this project:
First and foremost, I was curious about how an image could be translated into fabric. It is fascinating how differently eight (or eighty for that matter) people can interpret the same source material. I see the same thing in traditional quilting — eight quilts using the same pattern (such as a Bear Paw or Whig’s Retreat) and layout (on point, straight rows, etc) can look very different depending on fabrics chosen, quilting technique and pattern, and embellishments added or not.
We considered using a photograph taken by one of the group members as our source image, but agreed on two points that using an existing painting as our inspiration was the preferable route.
- Point one is that an existing painting would be “neutral ground.” No one could begrudge another in the group for providing an unbalanced composition, colors that clash, boring subject matter, etc. Nor would any one of us have more ownership of the finished quilt than the others.
- Point two was that recognizability would work in our favor. If the viewing audience was familiar with the original painting, then our individual textile interpretations would stand out all the more.
I found a sampling of paintings that have stood the test of art textbook- and poster manufacturer-time and presented the group with a half dozen works, ranging from the Dutch Masters through the Impressionists to Modern Art, that had enough of an overall composition that no one quilter would be shorted visual material. We voted and Juan Gris won. Consequently, we did not choose to interpret “Pears and Grapes on a Table” because we lacked artistic vision, we chose it because it supported our initial reason for embarking on this project. That of seeing what we could each do with fabric.
As for copyright issues, I do not claim to be an expert in this matter. In fact, I personally run from legalese as much as possible. However, I understand that copyright laws exist mainly to protect against copies of works that might be mistaken as the original thing and to ensure that proceeds gained go to the creator or rightful owner of said works.
To that end, this is not a reproduction of a Juan Gris painting. We do not want anyone to think that this is a Juan Gris painting. We do not even want to mislead anyone into thinking that Juan Gris made this quilt. Nor are we trying to convince anyone that the Texies created this composition out of our own imaginations. No, this is a fabric interpretation of a Juan Gris painting. That’s why we pay homage to him in the title. I hope that it is obvious to all viewers that there is no tomfoolery going on here.
I attempted to contact the current owner of the original painting, but only came up with a foundation in the name of the people who’s names were credited on several online sources. The foundation said that they did not own the painting and did not know who did, but if they DID own it they would see no copyright issues with our interpretation even if we wished to show it in public. If we wanted to show a photographic reproduction of the original next to our interpretation, then we might have issues and would probably need to credit the current owners and/or whoever made the reproduction. But our quilt in and of itself did not seem to pose a threat to any copyrights.
Americans who have researched current copyright issues might get their shackles up if I have wrongly interpreted the spirit of the law, but bear in mind: of the eight quilters who worked on this project, only one is American. One is Swiss and six are German. Seven sections of the quilt were created in Germany and one was created in Switzerland. Nothing was actually created in America. Juan Gris was Spanish, and I presume the original painting resides in Spain. So even if I had a deep knowledge of American copyright law, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t apply word for word to this project. I’m just saying all this based on topics in the online discussions I’ve been listening in to. We intend no offense — just the opposite — we are indebted to Juan Gris for creating a beautiful painting that has inspired us to push our artistic skills as far as we can, and that brought us together for some good, creative camaraderie.
After Festival is over, we will pass the quilt around the group so everyone can enjoy it, and then eventually donate it to a charitable cause. I’m happy to be able to share our quilt with a wider audience as well through it’s display in Birmingham. Maybe others will be inspired to embark on interesting group projects too.