Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Metamorphic dilemma ( No 1)

Yes, I am sorry, but, despite the fact that I am delighted we have a new series and a theme and despite the fact that I am eager to get going, I am dilemma ridden. I will save one confusion for another day but let me ask you,Twelves and Readers alike, should the subject of a work of art be obvious to a viewer or need it only be in the recesses of the artists mind? Is the answer different when the work is made for a themed collection?

Let me more specific. I recently found an affordable (ish) copy of the award winning and out of print African Ceremonies by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher. It is a two volume book in a slip case, weighs about the same as a six year old, and is full of lucious photos. Photos from it are also available in two different condensed versions which are genuinely affordable if anyone is interested.

I am reading the chapters about initiation ceremonies and about how inititates in some tribes are taken into the bush or the jungle and put through ceremonies which render them first helpless like young children again and then allow them to be ' reborn' as men. Metamorphosis in other words. The tribal body art and costumes are endessly Inspiring to me.

But if I made a quilt based on how those photographs translate into something else in my head, I doubt the viewer would look at it and, without a description, say," Oh, yes, metamorphosis". Or even " Oh, an initiation ceremony." I would hope they would see African / tribal / body art. And I think with a short statement the link would be crystal clear.

Normally, if the viewer found my art visually appealing and if it evoked somekind of emotional reaction in them I would be delighted and not care less if they understood that it was all about my interpretation of metamorphosis. In fact if they thought it was about something entirely different I would be delighted to hear their interpretation.But, if this quilt is to be part of a group of quilts all on the same theme, should my interpretation be clearer? Do you disagree with me that the art does not fail if it does not always convey the message the artist had in mind? Do you favour explanatory statements with quilts or not? Are you even awake and still reading?

Helen.

12 comments:

Jay said...

In my humble opinion...I think the interpretation could/should be in the artist's mind...if the final work of art is obvious to viewers, so be it...if not then I think that is ok too...I think when an artist tries to satisfy viewer too much, then the artistic creativity becomes less flowing. So I don't think the final work HAS to be totally obvious to the viewer.

Even though I am not part of your group, I find it exciting to see what you all are doing and in my own small way, I have started to try to do my own...just between me, myself and I....challenge with your chosen topic! Can't wait to see what you gals come up with...

Sara said...

I like it when the art work does not NEED an artist's statement. And so I think that the theme of Metamorphosis serves as a title for each of the 12 manifestations, and that should be enough for the viewer to "get" the connection between the title and the work.

On the other hand, I have seen plenty of works where the title's connection to the work escapes me entirely; and some of those are by famous artists.

So my conclusion is: whatever floats your boat! I'll be glad to easily see the connection to the theme, and also glad to struggle in my mind to find the connection.

Carol said...

Art for art's sake ... art for the artist's sake ... art for the viewer's sake ... art for God's sake ...
The perpetual circle that continually shifts and cannot be pinned down. When we want it pinned down, what are we really after?
You mention words like "dilemma", "confusion", "message" ... words to me that indicate a desire to connect.
The 12 of you have individual voices, but comprise a whole. Is the sum greater than the parts ... is convergence better than divergence ... yet another circle.
I think they key word is "awake". May I suggest that metamorphosis can happen with or without choice. But, if anticipated, embraced, respected ... if one can remain awake during the process ... that choice can result in a connectedness because of art.
Just remain awake and you won't miss out on the connectedness. Perhaps what isn't pinned down will heighten the metamorphosis, and make the circle that much more interesting.

Terry said...

Helen, I can hardly believe you are even asking! You know we love it when you are cryptic and unexpected. Yes, we need the back story. That is what makes your work so worthwhile and so meaningful. The story is there whether it needs explanation or not. Weave us a tale...

Kristin L said...

Do what inspires you Helen and the rest will work itself out. Just the theme Metamorphosis combined with work that reads as body art makes enough of a connection to me. Already I would be thinking about coming of age and initiation rites. So, in answer to your question, no, the concept needn't be obvious, and yes, our theme will probably be enough to set viewers on the right track, and finally, add the story too -- we love your stories!

Kristin L said...

Oh, and I forgot to add that years ago i read The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and it was all about metamorphosis. It has had a great impact on me and my understanding of the world. I think the path you are on for this challenge is very Campbell-esque.

Joanne S said...

I don't care for the artist's statement. I don't think the title has to be definitive, why else to simply number works?. I think the work needs to mean something to you, the artist, as you are creating it. And that is enough.

Viewers of the art will translate what they see into something individual to themselves. And that is metamorphosis.

Deborah Boschert said...

Wow. I love Joanne's twist on the discussion... thinking of the change in how the viewer perceives the art from how the artist views the art as the metamorphosis itself.

That's kinda meta. I love it.

SuSaw said...

If one is at all creative, metamorphosis means much more than a caterpillar turning into a butterfly doesn't it? So then one's own aging from young to old can be metamorphosis. My husband tells me a geologist doesn't use metamorphosis in terms of rocks however metamorphic rocks have been changed by heat and pressure from deep within the earth, a metamorphosis I think despite what his scientific mind says. To me, any major change can be a metamorphosis. I don't care for artist's statements either, probably because I can't write them, but when I read some of the statements about quilts many of them read like trying too hard. I'd rather just numbers or letters.

Michigoose said...

Do it...I don't think the meaning has to be clear and quite frankly, I don't like all the fuss about whether or not things should have artist statements, etc.

As someone who was a museum curator(history), I go to art museums and am often disappointed because I have more questions about the art and I'd like to engage the artist, but cannot. Burning questions which cannot be answered.

I find that I often want to know what the ARTIST thought, not necessarily what the critics thing because it might be something entirely different, and that's ok.

So, fill us in and do your thing...I'm sure we'll love it. :)

Lisa Quintana (who sometimes thinks a banana is a banana and there's no hidden meaning)

June Calender said...

If the overall theme were Metamorphosis and I saw a quilt with an obviously African reference, I might not think of a coming of age per se, but of the larger political changes in Africa where boundaries, leaders and such seem always to be in flux. But I would think of that only for about 15 seconds and then enjoy the graphics, colors, overall design. For me art over rides the rest, that's the gut level reaction to art; the intellectual reaction is there but not as important.

bailey said...

I like to know what the artist was thinking. I'm still capable of putting my own interpretation into it.