Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making a Case for Art Quilts

I always seem to end up with interesting challenges. My latest is defending that art quilts are indeed art to someone who admits that she does not like them or really understand the world. This is a more than a craft vs art debate which I'm sure will go on forever. Instead I am being asked to prove that art quilts have moved into the world of art which means I can't use craft museums. To be honest, I find this whole debate/proof thing rather frustrating. When I traveled with the quilts of Gee's Bend to Georgia (country not state), Armenia and Kazakhstan, the quilts were embraced as art. No debate. Why do we have such a need for hierarchy?

The art quilt movement is 30 years old so is it fair to use the lack of a secondary market (used for appraisals) against it? How quickly have other new art forms/styles gotten a secondary market? Still trying to figure it out.

I've been bold and reached out to curators in art museums for help. Many have spoken of the difficulty of displaying textiles not just quilts due to lighting which causes fading and shortens the lifespan. Storage creates issues too. So these are the reasons that cause some museums to not add quilts to their collections not that they don't consider them art. 

I've also been trying to figure out which museums have art quilts. The Smithsonian's American Art Museum has 59 quilts in their collection. Seventeen are considered art quilts. That's 29%. They have quilts by Teresa Barkley, Michael James, Carolyn Mazloomi, Yvonne Porcella, Ed Johnetta Miller, Ellen Oppenheimer (the only artist with 2 quilts), L'Merchie Frazier, Gwendolyn Magee, Cynthia Nixion, Sue Pierce, Pamela Studstill, Michael Cummings, Lia Cook, Kathrine Westphal and others. The Indianapolis Museum of Art focuses mostly on collecting Indiana quilts and yet it has quilts by Nancy Crow, Michael James and Carolyn Mazloomi. I think they have 5 quilts that would be considered art quilts. While the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, doesn't have quilts in their collection, they have had quilt exhibits and art quilts in exhibits. The curator had no problem calling art quilts art.

So I will continue to research and ask questions. Right now my brain hurts from too much thinking so I'm going to go mow the lawn. It's amazing how easily I can work things out or get ideas while channeling Steve Martin in the movie My Blue Heaven. I've stopped actually doing the wave but I still say out loud "It's a great day for a mow." Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts too.


Love comments! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.