Thursday, February 4, 2016

Art Quilt Labels, Part One

Recently, there was a hot discussion on the SAQA group about artist’s statements and labels on art quilts.  I will be posting an expanded version of my two cents worth in that discussion over the next couple of weeks.  Here is part one. 

I would love to see labels taken more seriously.  A few other art quilters I have known put a lot into their quilt labels, printing them out (sometimes a full 8.5 x 11”) on fabric inkjet sheets.  These labels included the artist’s name, title of work, materials, care instructions, and the inspiration for the piece.  While I have doubts about the long term archival stability of fusibles and inkjet fabric printing, I love the idea of having all the pertinent information about an individual work permanently attached to it.  Paperwork gets lost or tossed too easily.  Indeed, fabric itself is not a material made for great longevity, but a properly cared for textile object should easily last to be passed down through several generations. 

I attend a lot of estate auctions, flea markets and antiques markets.  Once in a while, I find “orphan” artwork that may be signed, but is otherwise untraceable.  I also saw a fair share of mystery artwork while working in an art museum library.  Much of the art work was quality, yet we could not find any information on the artist.  If you are a textile artist, what are the chances of pieces that you have sold surviving the dispersal of the buyer’s estate?  I would think that with a permanent label with some story, etc., would give the executors an indication that this item might be important.  At least give them pause and save it from the trash.  Maybe, maybe not.  Without a name or only a name and nothing more, a piece of art work may not be given much thought.   

I found the five pieces above at a flea market last autumn.  They are each six inches square, mini art quilts mounted onto wood stretchers, as an oil or acrylic painting would be.  Three of them have a name and date on the back.  A quick online search turned up several different people of the same name, and no clues as to which one is the maker of these pieces.  My best guess is that these are beginner’s work, someone familiar with sewing, yet trying out some new techniques.  I love them, I think the group gives some insight in working in a series, playing with variations on a theme (here, circles).  I’d love to know the context behind the creation of this group.  Was the artist trying out art quilting on her own?  Were these done in a class?  Are these explorations of a theme started in a different media?  Despite the technique issues with these pieces, the artist still thought enough of them to finish them, binding them and making them ready-to-hang.  They certainly didn’t deserve to end up in a flea market selling for $2 for all of them.  I don’t think that any of us create what we create for something like that to happen.  Of course, a piece with an informative label still might end up in a similar fate, but I would think that the chances would be better for a “self-documented” piece. 

If you are wondering, of course I now own this group of little art quilts, and actually, there were six in the bunch.  I gave one of them to another art quilter who was very interested in the idea of putting a quilt on stretcher bars.  I have the other five hanging throughout my house.  I love the masses of large beads and whatnot on the two of them, reminds me of the gaudy yet alluring mixed media assemblage of Alfonso Ossorio.

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