Monday, January 29, 2007

Block print experiments

Starting to make some art again.

For Yule, my best friend Chele gave me a wooden block used to print resist for South Carolina indigo dyeing. I suddenly felt like doing a little block printing. The arrival of the latest Quilting Arts in the mail with an article on block printing was serendipitous or synchronous or something...

I designed a block based on printed circuit boards, because I am a geek. Spent Saturday carving and only cut myself three times.

I think maybe this would have been a better design for screen printing; it's too detailed.

First try was with a metallic paint; it didn't transfer very well. The best print was on a scrap of cheap muslin that I'd been using to wipe paint off of brushes. D'oh! I'll have to use a transparent wash to cover some of that up.

Tonight I made a few prints with a normal pink paint, and they look a little better. Here they are drying on my studio wall.

That's my main man Marvin on that bulletin board. We're going to the Super Bowl. :) I expect to be making some art about that, especially after we win.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Gee's Bend Quilts

I went to see the Gee's Bend quilts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art Dec 30 with my boyfriend Bryan.

With a very few exceptions, I found the vintage fabrics more interesting than the finished quilts, and the very early quilts more interesting than the contemporary (2000 and later; after the quilters were "discovered"). You could tell when they realized that people were comparing their quilts to "modern art" and "African heritage" and they decided to start making their quilts look like modern art and kente cloth.

At the risk of being decried as a racist or a "wingnut," I'm pretty sure the only reason these quilts are getting the attention they've been getting for the past five years is because the quilters are the descendants of former slaves. I say this because most of what I saw hanging on the walls at the museum I've seen in dozens of antique malls and garage sales around the rural Midwest--recycled materials, big sloppy stitches, utility over design--and no one will ever claim that in 1940, Loretta Whitebread from central Illinois was working toward any sort of aesthetic transcending her subsistence existence. No one will ever hang Loretta Whitebread's rectangles of polyester double-knit on the wall and talk about their cultural significance with a straight face. It seems like the "soft bigotry of low expectations" to consider such lowly quilts high art because the makers are black when you wouldn't look at them twice if the makers were white; are the perceived benefits of "inclusiveness" enough to justify throwing out the standards? And if so, can my crappy quilts be high art?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

One difference I did notice is that Loretta Whitebread tends to break up large fields of intense colors into little bits surrounded by white, and the Gee's Bend ladies weren't afraid to put the scarlet next to the evergreen. From a material history viewpoint, you can study the quilts to determine some differences between Gee's Bend society and rural Illinois society. But I still don't buy that either of them are art.