Saturday, August 30, 2008


I disovered that out new theme was shelter whilst I was using the free internet access at the Troppen Museum in Amsterdam. A moment before I had wandered through a reconstruction of a Morrocan house and then sat in a real Yurt to view films of nomads in Mongolia. So it was perhaps natural that my instinctive recation was to go for a literal interpretation.

However, over the previous days I had been to the Jewish Museums in Berlin and Amsterdam, the Corrie Ten Boon House in Utrecht ( where Jews were hidden during the war), and was also reading this excellent book
written by a refugee for Somalia who became a member of the Dutch parliament and a champion of human rights especially for muslim women.

Given that swirling combination of thoughts and my profession maybe it is not suprising that I have also been thinking in terms of International Law as a shelter against persecution and quilts as comfort and shelter in emotional terms also.

So, today I come to put some of my ideas to fabric and I have hit a dilemma of taste. I want my quilt to have a social message but how hard hitting and graphic can I be? I don't want to be too precise at the moment in what I am thinking about doing but let me just say that one option is to use photos of Holocaust victims about which I have no copyright concerns because they were taken by Nazis. Some photos are much more graphic than others albeit all would allude readily to the most horrendous evils. All are the kind of things you would see if you knowingly chose to go to a Holocaust related museum. But given that we hope our quilts will be viewed in a happy quilt show where youngsters or otherwise senstive people might be present and would not expect such images, am I crossing a boundary of taste?

I am happy to challenge and to pack a hard punch with my message but I do not wish to offend.

Any thoughts fellow twelvers ( or indeed potential quilt viewers?)


Terry said...

I think you should make whatever you are moved to make--whatever the theme says to you. We have, thus far, made mostly pretty, pretty pieces, but there was never an expectation that everything should be so. My most recent thoughts on the theme involve my volunteer work, years ago, with a battered women's shelter.

Kristin L said...

I've found that there is the potential to offend even in what seems to be the most innocuous things (an not just confined to art). Therefore -- my advice would also be to NOT censor yourself. What you are describing is an important aspect of shelter and it shouldn't be suppressed just because it has ugly or graphic (not in the design sense) aspects. What is important is the message and if that message needs visceral images to be communicated then so be it.

As for potential audiences, I'm not sure how much we should shelter potential young viewers. A certain amount of harsh truth opens doors to conversation. I was a tween when I saw my friend's father's concentration camp tattoo and heard about the Dutch family that sheltered her mother. They didn't go into much detail about that time in their lives, but it was there and it was a learning experience for me -- NOT something offensive.

Diane said...

My reaction is that you should make what ever quilt you want to make, period. This project is not about exhibiting them or whether viewers will be comfortable with them. It's about how each of us responds to the theme. I'd hate to think that whatever attention we've managed to get about this project would actually change or limit what we do as we go forward. And the theme you're thinking about is appropriate and educational. So, I think you should do whatever you want to do.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with the others. I seldom believe that self-censorship is a good thing and it certainly isn't in this forum. As for causing offense - if anyone is offended by the suffering of others, then they have a big problem.
Personally, I have never had a problem with my children viewing art works of any kind, but I also have an expectation that art galleries are generally regarded as adult space and that there may be things within that require explanation or discussion.
Helen, I believe you should make whatever you are led to make.

Paula Hewitt said...

As a potential viewer I see no reason why images of the holocaust should be viewed as offensive,(unless of course it is done in a revisionist way, which is not your intent). and I agree with the others about self censorship. i think art is the best way to get across a message - go for it

Gerrie said...

Diabe - you hit the nail on the head!! Our response to the challege is of the most import - we should not be worrying about potential reaction at a future venue.

Karen said...

I agree with the others Helen, that worrying about what anyone would think is counter productive and confining. I would love to see something relative and meaningful to your concept of shelter and happy quilt show should be the last thing on your mind.

miekenoor said...

Yes, I've encountered those thoughts at a quiltshow here in Holland. I saw a quilt about women with veils and about the oppressions of some of them. I was moved by it, another women didn't think it was something for a quiltshow. It became quite a discussion. Why not, I said. Why can't we speak for ourselves with our quilts; we have our different thoughts about things, so show them! We're just as smart as other artists, aren't we? When you feel the need to speak out with your quilt, please do!

Nikki said...

No need to censor. Even if someone was to see one of our quilts they found offensive at a quilt show, the size is not in your face. At 12" x 12" a person would need to make an effort to see the images. They could easily choose to not examine it closer. Most young children probably wouldn't have the attention span (or hopefully the ability to get close enough without a parent) to take in all the details of our quilts.

Helen Conway said...

Thanks for all these helpful comments - now I just need to find a way to get the idea into somthing worth making!!