I was recently asked what makes a quilt ART.
Some people have made all kinds of quilts that they didn’t think were art (think Gee’s Bend) but then someone puts them on a museum wall and the art world goes crazy. Some people put their heart and soul into creating a thing of beauty but because it is utilitarian they say it can’t be art.
In 1971 The Whitney museum hung Abstract Design in American Quilts and broke their previous attendance record. These weren’t new quilts. They were simply in a new setting. Does this mean that these quilts weren’t art before they hung on a museum wall? Is it the location that turns an object into art?
Who, exactly, has the right to say a thing is or isn’t art? How many artists have been rejected by the establishment during their lifetimes only to be revered years after they are gone by that same establishment. Sure – a museum curator might have advanced degrees – but this is ART people. It is meant to speak to your heart. It is an individual thing, meaning that you have as much say as any PhD.
While there is much contemporary art that I truly love, sometimes I scratch my head and wonder if the “famous artist” who has sold a museum some thing that has almost no craftsmanship to it, is gleefully laughing all the way to the bank at the stunt he pulled. Or maybe he actually does deeply believe the artspeak on the statement. Who am I to judge?
So my answer is:
I think that quilts are art.
But hey, I don’t think mine is the only valid answer out there. Your answer is just as valid as mine. My opinion doesn’t negate yours and your differing opinion doesn’t mean my opinion is wrong.
Quilts are art? They might be follow a pattern like a paint by number or Bob Ross copy. They might be completely unique and come entirely from the mind and imagination of the maker. The world is a very big pond to swim in and there should be room for all the kinds of fish who want to be there. Art is what you want it to be and that means different things to different people. That’s a very good thing. The world would be a very boring place to live in if we all liked the same things!
vive la différence!
Hey – I just had an idea. Wouldn’t it be a cool contemporary art installation to gather the results of a particular Bob Ross episode and completely cover all four walls of a gallery? I’d play a looped recording of his voice saying “happy little trees” over and over and over. My grandma used to paint along with Bob Ross. It made her happy. I LOVED seeing her happy so I love Bob Ross too.
International Quilt Study Center article on Abstract Design in American Quilts
You can order the Catalog of the Abstract Design exhibit here: