Sunday, 13 November 2011

Seeking MY tomatoes

Dear Helen,

I think I am having an existential art crisis.  Again.  (Still.)

Because I know you love hearing about my crises (chipper smile here) I will elucidate.

I have had the good fortune to have seen two big art-filled quilt shows in the last 4 months.  Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England in August.  International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas just last weekend. Both shows were exciting, with enough eye candy to give someone a serious stomach ache.

I should be feeling eager to leap into stash of fabric and MAKE SOMETHING.  But I'm not.  Truthfully, I'm in the mood to nap and eat carbohydrates.  Well, THAT's not that uncommon, but the urge is stronger than usual.  Yep, I think I'm a bit overloaded.  But here's the question that pops up:  what would I make?  What DO I make?  What sort of quilting do I want to do? What is my style?

I know.  You are shaking your head and laughing.  You've heard this before.  Just recently (the last post, even?) I was writing about how the important thing is to have fun, having a style or a recognizable body of work isn't important, blah blah blah.  I believe that, actually.

But still.  There I was in Houston, with people rushing over to our exhibit of 288 quilts and exclaiming how impressed they were, how delighted, how they loved seeing our creativity, etc.  I started feeling like an impostor. As I walked around the entire show, I was paying attention to which of the quilts made me think some version of "that's what I want to be doing" or "I wish I could make work like that." At one point I got up and looked at all 24 sets of our quilts, looking specifically at my own pieces to attempt to find some sort of style or specific technique or any thing that would make me say, "There.  THAT'S what I want to do more of and THAT'S what I want to be known for."

And yes, I do know that I said in that earlier post that I didn't care about being known.  I don't really.  BUT I want to have an idea in my own head of what I'm doing, you know?  I'd even like to be able to have some general "look" that I'm aiming for.  But I can't identify it. 

I know I'm drawn to bold color, graphic design and imagery.  I don't love photo-realistic work in fabric, but I'm drawn to the fabric collage illustrative stuff especially when it involves good use of fabric prints. I tend to prefer my own work flat and quilted -- the dimensional, embellished, or sparkly things don't interest me.  But as I looked at my own work, I can't find a direction.

There's a bunch of illustrative/realistic pieces.

There are various abstract pieces ...

I did a fair amount of painting on fabric...

 and I do like doing the fabric collaged images, like my recent tomatoes.

Actually, I LOVE those tomatoes.  I'm really happy with how they turned out.  I'd say that of everything I've made in the last year, that's the piece I feel best about.

But I think I'm feeling sort of depressed about not seeing anything that makes my work diffferent from anyone else's.  How is this work MINE in a way that would make someone going through a show and seeing it think "of course that's Diane's" as opposed to "oh, there's another person doing THAT sort of thing...."   Why couldn't these be anyone's tomatoes?

And I'd like to think I can find a direction to aim for -- not "I want to do work like Nancy Crow" or "I want to be like Ruth McDowell," but some glimmer of "THAT's the type of work I want to explore and make mine" would be nice. 

One of the things that I admire about various quilty friends of ours -- Deborah and Terry come to mind -- is that their work is THEIRS.  You know it when you see it.  And they don't just do the same things over and over again.   

Maybe this comes back to the very ideas we started with -- picking something, working in a series to explore different angles of it, and just seeing where it goes, finding what yields satisfying work, discovering what produces work that I'm proud of.

It's not about technique and which to use. It's about wondering what it is I'm saying with the fabric art I'm doing.  At the moment, I'm feeling disturbed that I don't feel like I'm saying anything, and I don't know where I'm going.

Maybe I'll go have a piece of sourdough french bread.


Kristin L said...

I think you may have just answered your own question. It's about doing the work! I get what you mean about not wanting to be lumped into just someone doing THAT kind of work, but I think that it IS a good place to start. Right now, you are excited about the tomatoes. What do you like about them? The patterns in the fabrics? The original photo? The simplification of the photo? The composition? You take gorgeous photos, so perhaps the thing to do is to mine your photo collection for ones that have some of that graphic quality you like and make small pieces from them. Don't think about it too much at first, but I bet as you are working you'll start thinking about things like "needs more pattern," or needs to be more graphic," or "I like this palette," and sooner or later, something will start to emerge that IS uniquely Diane.

Terry said...

Kristin is so smart--and right I think. Just do what feels good. I think one does not find one's style. It finds you.

Linda said...

Goodness - it feels as though you've been looking into my brain and put words to the fuzz that is in there. Your whole post rings very true, but the phrase "I'd like to think I can find a direction to aim for" really hits home. I hadn't thought of it that way before but I guess that if you know where you are aiming it's so much easier to create the pathway. Which makes me realise that I am probably more goal orientated than I thought I was!
Thanks for making me think.

Joanne S said...

You love the tomatoes. I love the tomatoes.

Guess what I do? I can because I am outside the 12's and can do whatever I want. I remake some of the challenges. A do over. I still have the original attempt, but I make a second or third. I delve into the mystery of what I liked and didn't like, what I would do differently, months later, what I wish I had done in the first place.

You can start there.