Please join me in welcoming Ellen Anne Eddy as she guest blogs here at the Quilting Gallery. She shares with us a thought-provoking interpretation of art, beauty, interpretation and ourselves.
There’s a world of debate that periodically swirls around the art world. We’re always trying to define what is or isn’t art. Everything before the Renaissance was about creating more and more realism within art. But after that we’ve seen a whirlwind of differing techniques and views, lionized and vilified both.
In a way, it’s all mute. Time separates it out for us. Each year brings it’s own art fashions, just like clothes and home decoration. Images and viewpoints go in and out of vogue just as the hemlines change.
You would think quilters immune to that, but it’s not so. We, too, follow fashions. The current body of work, particularly in the art quilt world is highly influenced by what is in and what is out. Are we piecing this year? Is there a hot book everyone is copying? A new line of fabric everyone is using? A new technique that sets everyone on fire? Even very established artists are influenced by that kind of thing.
But for each artist there has to be their own vision, their own beauty beheld. Even when the art world has (and often does) reject beauty as part of art, there’s a reason and a passion in each artist’s world that fires their work. Follow the trends if you like as you must. You can only say what is true for you. You can only show what you see.
This quilt, Dancing in the Light, has just been purchased as part of the National Quilt Museum’s permanent collection. I’m still in shock and awe. Partially because forever, I’ve done my bugs as my images of beauty.
I have the same fears and failures every American woman seems to have. I’ve listened to enough women in groups to hear them all tell me that they’re too fat, too tall, too short, too lumpy, too dull, too dumb. So much fear. So much judgement. I’m no different. I was raised in a town where I was regularly told I was the ugliest girl in school.
Now I have a mirror. I know better. I think it was said simply as something to hurt. Had I been pencil thin, or had straggly hair or buck teeth, someone cruel would have found something cruel to say. The fact that almost every woman I know has experienced this tells me it’s not at all about me. It’s about how we treat others and ourselves. I know no answers. I bear the scars and fight it during dark nights. None of us can measure up.
Which is why I’m so compelled by the beauty of things that scare us. I can’t help but think that if I looked at myself through the right eyes, my beauty is there.
When I was young, my father brought me little treasures back from the woods. He would go fishing, and bring me back wild flowers, bugs, minnows, small wonders from the woodlands he loved to wander. Somewhere I began to see the beauty not beheld in small and wild things. Insects resonate that for me. I began to see their beauty, wild and terrifying, as a part of my own. As I’ve made encrusted metallic beetles, dragonflies and crickets, I’ve made a place for my own beauty too.
When I began my bug quilts, I got some mixed responses. There was a fair amount of fear mixed into the wonder. But an odd thing happened. People told me they never saw bugs the same way after seeing mine. Perhaps that’s what is wanted, from a piece of art. Perhaps its job is to change our vision and perception. If it changes what we see, and how we see it, it changes how we think.
So of all the quilts for a museum to take as mine and show, they took my beautiful bugs. It’s as if they told me I’m beautiful too.
Dancing in the Light will be shown with a group of 20 quilts they’ve acquired to celebrate 20 years of their existence, sometime next year. You’ll find it at:
The National Quilt Museum
215 Jefferson Street
Paducah, KY 42001-0714
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