Friday, September 10, 2010

Some thoughts on the nature of an art challenge

Something interesting happened with the latest reveal of our "lorikeet colours" challenge. There was an anonymous comment left on my post of my two responses to the challenge. It said:

"Your colours are all wrong - they are not lorikeet colours."
I admit I was a little taken aback. I think we have all gotten quite used to getting really supportive and lovely comments. We are spoiled, I know. Not every piece is wonderful, but then that isn't really the point, and among ourselves I know we always are looking more for imagination, creativity, discovery, growth, than perfection, and hope that is what our challenges bring out. So, that comment—I laughed it off and made my own comments about "artistic license"  and choosing the less "wrong" piece for the final choice. Then I got a second anonymous comment.
"I agree with Anonymous actually and to use artistic license I'm going to do a black and white piece - do you think it would be accepted?

"But Anonymous you did actually prove a point as the artist has agreed that one piece was 'more wrong' than the other!"
 Well, to address the comment—yes, a black and white piece would be "accepted." Anything we do in response to a challenge is accepted, because there is no concept of  acceptable and unacceptable in our group. I can readily envision a very humorous explanation of why a black and white piece was inspired by the lorikeets! And just to clarify, I referred to my piece being "wrong" with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, because the corollary to the "acceptable/unacceptable"  understanding is that nothing we make is right or wrong. It just is what it is.

So now that I have gotten that off my chest I thought it might be useful to talk a little about the nature of an art challenge. These are my thoughts and I invite the other Twelves to comment and disagree if they feel differently.

First, this project was started for the purpose of having fun. We never envisioned a book, or exhibits. Personally, I didn't even think about other people looking at what we posted. The twelve of us were here to experiment together. The other stuff, and especially other people's interest in our project, has been the frosting on an already quite tasty cake.

The only "rule" we have imposed upon ourselves was the 12" x 12" size. Art is not about rules. The point was to take the idea presented in the challenge and let our imaginations run with it. The theme is a starting point and the fun is seeing how differently, or sometimes amazingly similarly, each of us responds. I like working from a challenge theme because it gives me a starting point, but where I end up is my determination, not dictated by rules.

It is not a competition. In my opinion if the art is made for the purpose of determining who best followed the rules and solved the problem it ceases being art and becomes a game. This isn't a game.

We love your comments. And I will say that criticism is welcome—tell us what you like and what you don't like, and why, but keep it about the art. I don't think we need challenge rules imposed on us from outside. And really, folks, anonymous comments, especially rude ones, are not nice.


By Hoki Quilts said...

three cheers for you, too many time comments get left with no ownership unlike the quilts we make. They become a piece of us, sometimes with outside guidance on theme/colour etc. Non the less they are OUR work, at the time WE had OUR notion of why we did what we did. Sometimes that snapshot notion works not only for us but for others too, sometimes it doesn't.
I found the 'rules' that restricted me when making 'art quilts' were the same rules that stopped me making them. The group I belonged to in the end had more 'quilt police' than any of the traditional quilting groups. The latter spoke about skill, craft, colour etc. The former became full of 'artists' who imposed their ideas and rules and not once talked about the pure joy.
of manipulating fabric and colours.
Thankyou so much for you thought provoking and stimulating post.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Terry, wonderfully said! I nodded my way through your post and smiled in agreement. You know, it would NEVER have occurred to me declare another Twelve's quilt 'wrong' or 'unaccepted'. It is for the maker to decide whether or not their quilt is presented and there is no such thing as a 'wrong' response to the challenge.
I can just imagine the hilarious speech explaining the black and white lorikeet quilt (would probably contain copious references to bird poo because we are classy like that).
Kirsty xxx

Diane said...

Oh, Terry, I'm glad you addressed this. I feel very much the same -- I love the comments, and even the ones I don't agree with are thought- provoking.

But I think the person who said "those aren't lorikeet colors" WAS missing the point. We agreed at the outset that the challenge theme was there for the ARTIST's springboard to something. And as long as the artist could articulate how the final piece related to the theme topic or color, that was all that was necessary.

For someone else to look at a piece and think "I don't see how this relates to the theme" is one point, but of course the goal is NOT for it to be obvious, necessarily. All that matters is that the theme inspired the artist. Period.

And of course a black and white piece could be a perfectly acceptable response to a challenge of lorikeet colors. Now it makes me want to do a b&w response to this challenge!

I hope readers will understand -- this isn't about being unwelcoming to comments we don't agree with -- it's about how we have chosen to define our challenge.

Thanks for saying what you've said, Terry.

Nikki said...

Thanks Terry. I'm sure some of our readers have their own ideas of how a challenge should be run. I am so thankful for the group we have because we get to play and have fun without worry of being judged!

Now I just need to find the time for that b&w quilt!

Kristin L said...

I'm starting to feel a little bad for the anonymous commenter -- I wonder if he/she knew we'd be calling him or her out weeks later! However, it's been a great springboard for thoughtful conversation, which I think IS in line with our challenge.

Terry, in my opinion, your points are right on. Twelve by Twelve is a challenge to stretch our imaginations, not a competition to determine who's the best quilter or artist. I think we can all admit to trying something for one of the challenges and having it fall flat -- "wrong" colors, poor composition, technical difficulties, etc. But, wonderfully, we can still share these quilts and add the experience to our own personal growth without worrying whether they would be accepted or not.

Constructive criticism gives us tools to improve our work, as does pointing out what we think IS effective in a piece, so I welcome comments (and hope that commenters will keep their messages on point and courteous). Mostly I assume that those who just don't like my pieces for whatever reason choose not to comment.

Karen M said...

Maybe I am missing something here, but I don't find those anonymous comments to be rude. They may not have understood how this challenge operates, but they are entitled to their opinions. Other than being anonymous in the first place (never a great idea), the comments were not way out of line like some of the stuff on the net.

And Terry, I loved all 3 versions of your lorikeet quilts.

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

A wonderful explanation for the anonymous critiquer. I would choose to think that he or she just did not understand the idea of "interpretation". Now, hopefully they return to read this post.

Terri Stegmiller said...

It's totally possible that the anonymous commenter(s) wrote their comments with the best of intentions. The written word can come across very differently than the spoken word.

Also, if anonymous was from another country and not 100% familiar with the English language it is possible that the comment was not translated correctly.

But whatever the reason, if there is one, I agree with all that's been stated in the comments here. I love receiving comments or feedback on the work I share. It is an opportunity to look at my work from another point of view. And I think that most of the time commenters are fearful to comment on something if they have a critique and not a positive response.

I've enjoyed reading the responses to this post because it really brings forth many points of view that I hadn't considered.

Karen said...

I agree that it's good to have this discussion occasionally to clarify what we are about, even to remind ourselves that this is a challenge, and we are all unique in the way we interpret it. I love this group and what it has done for me creatively, and hope anonymous can see beyond her (their) own rules to appreciate the art.

Brenda said...

I might be puzzled (or intrigued)if one of us presented a black and white piece in response to a "Colourplay" challenge of a particular hue or palette given as a starting point. In any case, it's a hypothetical proposition so far. In good faith, Terry created not one but TWO interesting compositions inspired by a palette that, by her own admission, she struggled with.

Because we didn't highlight it on this blog, readers would not be aware that when we moved from a theme-based approach to the "Colourplay" series, we actually agreed amongst ourselves that the colours need not be a perfect match and that we are at liberty to introduce other colours if we wish. Although the shadings in Terry's first piece are somewhat toned down from the bright lorikeet hues (perhaps what a lorikeet travelling incognito on a grey day in Portland might wear?!), the green, red, blue and yellow/rainbow nexus was quite clear to me and, as the person who set the challenge, I thought it was a perfectly valid response. Equally, I welcome comments from readers, even those I don't agree with.

JB said...

Thanks for restating the premise for the "challenge" as it is practiced by your group. Keep up the good work. I always look forward to each new blog post by your members.

Sandy said...

Very well put, Ladies. Like the old saying, You can't please all the people all the time...But, you can please most people, most of the time.
I am one of the MOST people. I love the work and creativity each one of you have put into each challenge. I look forward to getting your updates and can't wait to see what you Ladies come up with next.
Art is such a broad venue of style and form and each of us have our favorties. I love bright, modern, cheerful, freeformed styles. Not much into still life, street sceens or cowboy art, but, this in no way means one style or form is wrong, it means, what one person likes, doesn't mean you have to like it too.
In ART, there is never a right or wrong, but, you will always have your likes and dislikes.
Keep up the good work.

Joyce said...

"And really, folks, anonymous comments, especially rude ones, are not nice. "

I think you may have misunderstood the nature of anon comments. (Incidentally, I should like to point out that the comment to which you have taken exception is nothing to do with me. I have no idea what lorikeet colours are and I have never commented here before. However, I do have to say that in general terms I find the relentness positiveness of some quilters' blog comments rather tiresome. Surely one is likely to learn more from considered criticism than mindless praise?)

Anyway, as far as 'anon' is concerned, people often appear as 'anon' because they are not Bloggers or whatever and thus lacks the accounts required to be identifiable. It does not necessarily mean someone is trying to hide; 'anon' is often simply the easiest way of joining in without having to sign up to something.
If you do not want 'anon' comments you need to find a way of removing the anon option from the 'leave your comment' page or change it to 'leave your positive comment'.. 'we enjoy reading your positive comments'.
Joyce F

Brenda said...

We keep all comments options open so as to allow the broadest range of participation. Nevertheless, even those that utilise the "Anonymous" button can sign with their name and general location when leaving a comment.