I don't think it is possible to entirely understand another person or another artist and what makes them who they are or their work what it is. But I do think sitting down with them and really listening without interrupting and injecting yourself as they explaining their inspirations and the reason why they make THEIR ART goes a long way toward that goal. Reading Nancy Crow’s latest book was as good as sitting down with her and listening to her explain herself to me. Nancy and I have had conversations in the past, but none that were entirely one on one and without interruptions and interjections from me and others. The book “Nancy Crow” helped me understand her better as an artist/person and come to some degree of understanding her work, and what influences her.
She recites her inspirations and her understanding of herself as an artist, I thought very well in this book. It was reassuring to know that she to struggled with her work. Just because we see the finished product and marvel at her genius, doesn't mean the journey for her was a smooth one. Quite the contrary. The same discoveries can be made about ones self too by having introspective talks with yourself and really listening to what is going on in your head.
Interrupting yourself with excuses is not allowed.
To learn that she to has struggled and had moments, even days of doubt cames with her creativity and the process of making her art. To learn that being snippy, down right bitchy at times, bored and out of sorts happens to someone else beside you was reassuring too. And that not getting to your work space/studio/room/area, as often and for as long as you NEED to is the prime root and cause of the snippiness, bitchiness and the boredom you feel and the reason you make others a party to it.
Creating, working, and doing is a MUST, not simply a want. And that often times even the most supportive of our family and friend don't really understand this NEED to work that also includes isolation, solitude and ALONE TIME.
Lightening, really listening. Taking note. Making notes. Keeping idea journals which I have done almost from the beginning of my quilt making is a good thing to do. Occasionally going back through them is a good thing too, which I haven't been doing enough of. Mainly because I think if an idea is not acted upon within a short time, the time for it passes.
Rather, of late I have been having introspective conversations with my self during quiet times. Those minutes just before sleep closes my eyes and those first thing in the morning before my day begins as I sit waiting for the coffee to brew or my bowl of oatmeal to cook in the microwave or for the computer to come on line so I can check my e-mail and read my favorite blog-sites.
Some times I am not totally aware of the decisions I've made as a result of these insights until I step away and look back or read, heard or see something that makes me recall those inner conversations.
Nancy's book did that last night.
I know I have been talking a lot of late about my inner voices and the conversations they have with the conscious me. Rest assured I am not LOSING IT, rather I am pleasingly surprised that I am FINDING IT. GETTING IT.
I am RE-FINDING what I love most about making quilts and that is COLOR. My quilt making has always been about the color and it was never about the tactile feel of the fabric. I discoved quilts in the early 80". I loved the geometry of traditional quilts but, the lack of the right colors available during that period made me look to and want to duplicate the colors in Amish quilts and the colors in the quilts of the 1930's.
Since my move to Columbia I find I need to go back to what originally drew me to making quilts and that was color and the geometry. Straight lines rather than curves or circles. I loved the big, the graphic and the bold and the simplicity of the antique Amish quilts
Making quilts also was having the sense that I could do what I wanted, there were so many blocks and possibilities. There was no one ABSOLUTE RIGHT, therefore what I did could not be WRONG.
I seem to have lost that sense freedom somewhere along the way. I know in the early days there were those who insisted that intersections meet perfectly and that you had to make perfectly even quilting stitches that went all the way through all the layers uniformly. I mastered the piecing and chose not to obsess about the quilting stitches. Letting myself accept my pretty good stitches was good enough. Machines make perfect, humans make good. There was no further joy to be gained beyond the pretty good.
My only goal in the early day of my quilt making was: having enough finished GOOD work that I could stand on stage and present a body of my work to an audience. I have done that many many times. Then AQS acceptance became a goal. One that also has been realized many times as well. I still love sharing my work with others. But as I matured in my art it my gaol was no longer my goal to get the approval or acceptance of others.
Then it became all about ME. No mattered what piece of my work I am showing. If the piece was truly made because my heart was in it, it pleases ME and if it doesn't please anyone else I didn't care and I realize now that I still DON'T CARE. And for a time I felt guilty about my feelings. Arragant, bigheaded, self absorbed.
Yesterday I delivered a quilt to a committee member of the Boone County Quilters for their bi-annual show that will be held this week-end. My daughter Lyn dropped it off. Lyn said of the quilt, it was one of her least favorites. At first I was a little hurt. She is very-very supportive and champions what I do. I asked her what she would have chosen instead for me to exhibit and she said, "any one but that one."
"Why?", I asked.
"It doesn't SHOW what you can really do." she said.
Wide eyed stunned I was.
I really like that quilt. I was in a good place when I made it. It is composed of my favorite colors. It sang to me while I was making it. It sings to me still. Now mind you it is not one of my more complex pieces in terms that it was designed in a full size complex drawing that had to be pieced back together precisely as so many of my well recieved works have been
“Simply Colors” is truly a study in color art piece that lets the color of the fabric, my own hand dyed colors with little slices of a complimentary commercial print speaks without the addition of inks or colored pencils to help it along as so many of my from flowers quilts require.
"Simply Colors", began as an idea; a little sketch, a motif. Then there was color selection. Experimentation. Understanding of the process for construction. Real engagement in the design as I was constructing the piece.
FUN. It was COLOR(S) and it was GEOMETRY.
I have often said to my friend Marti that I seem to be making work that is not me when it is not designed with circles or curves or flowers; all of which I love. But with all the internal dialog that been going on inside me lately I have concluded that I make flowers when I need to create but I am pinched for time. I create this way because I know I can make quilts with floral themes easily and without too much thought not unlike making my favorite traditional pound cake from scratch without thought.
The recipe is like a reflex; a pound each of flour, sugar, eggs and butter. A little salt, vanilla and nutmeg to taste. Cream the butter with the sugar until no grains remain. Add eggs and flour alternately until all the flour is incorporated. Pour into a buttered and floured bundt pan, cook at 325 for an hour or so or until the top cracks and a tooth pick inserted into one of the cracked areas comes out dry and the house smells like love coming from the over.
The work I tend to do when my time is unrestrained, limited only by my lack of dedication to the task at hand, is straight lines and geometric shapes.
Marti’s response to me has always been. “If you made it, it is you.“
I finished my latest piece last night. Again, the geometry and the colors beckon.
Today I will be making another ME.