Semester one assessment

This is my feedback for semester one, written by Toby Juliff.

Pretty happy with this feedback. I know that my work is not perfect so I’m pleased that Toby can find away forward in this. He is always very encouraging and that makes me a bit cautious, but he has pointed out problems which I agree with, so we are pretty much on the same page.

Colour and negative space need work. I think I have been considering colour quite a lot but maybe more around colour blindness and less around the emotional qualities of colour and colour combinations. I need to think about this a bit more. I haven’t given much thought to negative space. I seem to have moved to the traditional all over pattern, but I wonder if I could combine traditional piecing with negative space to move the work slightly further away from craft. Is really what is explored in modern quilting and may work well for some works. Possibly I’ll think about it for hog tie.

I agree relief is wrong as a keyword. As with healing, it’s too strong a word and I agree with Toby that it does suggest a more complete experience than the one I am offering. Another word I considered was ease, as I’m really only wanting to suggest something transient and small. I definitely want to explore the feeling of recognition and bond that I feel when I see someone coping with a similar situation. That feeling that there is a fellowship with other mothers who haven’t had goddess experiences of motherhood.

Putting some structure to my plan:

Research – Mary Kelly, Rosemarie Trockel, Susan Hiller, Jo Spence

Write up the saqa quilt artist Lyric Kinard and explore more saqa artists.

Look at developing a quilt that includes negative space. Maybe hog tie could be that one. I could develop it as one big block. Perhaps deconstructed on a background with some restful areas. It would reference an Amish quilt, square in a square, but maybe offset the positive and negative space in the block and then place it all on a background. So first step here is to plan that in watercolour.

Thirdly I need to take some of the planned quilts through to completion before late July when I have my critique again. I feel enthusiastic to get going again.

Discussion with Nik around feedback. Important help from Toby too. Tell my story. Please myself. Tell how I’m not alone rather than focussing too much on the viewer. Just take the viewer on the journey and the rest may or may not follow. So less of a focus on what can be helped in the viewer and more on the telling of my story that works for me.

Hog Tie

Developed this block to reference a time when Dan was in trouble with the police due to delusions. I later found out that he had described being hog tied to his psychiatrist. I can only imagine what that would have meant to him. The colours here reference the police, and flesh. The use of commercial fabric is just to keep the continuity with traditional quilts going. The idea to design my own block keeps the link with traditional quilts but allows me to generate personal meaning in a block.

This is what it would look like all together. I was reasonably happy with this but attempts to generate flesh coloured fabric were less successful than I would have liked. I have got a smooth blue fabric but I wanted a softer rustic calico for the flesh and it has turned out too orange. That’s not to say I couldn’t do it in a further attempt. I need pastel yellow and pastel pink to make a flesh tone and The colours I got were a bit bright. If I try again I need to be really restrained with the amount of dye and perhaps build it up over multiple attempts. I’m here thinking of colours as realistic I guess. I need to consider symbolic colours too.

Toby mentioned the use of negative space and made me wonder about something more like this which uses traditional quilt piecing but in the style of the modern quilt with the use of negative space. I have added red as a background to reference pain but I wonder if I should consider juxtaposing flesh with a cold concrete grey. I was thinking of tattooing the flesh with the words but something about the floral style which I associate with tattoo also gives me a medieval feel which is not relevant. Maybe it the letters are not floral but a more infantile print that would suggest vulnerability better and be less medieval. I’ve also changed the police checkboard to have the blue presented against the flesh colour. This is really meant to be about Dan’s vulnerability in police custody and bringing the vulnerability of flesh up against police blue. The “tattoo” is attempting to suggest the enduring nature of that experience. I don’t know if it has left Dan but I know it will never leave me.

Almost

ALMOST WALKING TOGETHER

This is a more schematic version of the photographic quilt almost walking together. The idea is that the orange strip represents Dan and the blue strip Brian. Slowly they come together but not completely. I will hand dye the strips of orange and blue to get the colours. What does orange and blue mean? For me again they are complementaries which was important to suggest contrast. I have chosen blue for Brian as he was largely cool and withdrawn through the issues with Dan, and orange for Dan who was anxious, angry and upset. In between the strips will be thin strips of patterned fabric in darker colours, greens, purples and browns. Green comes from the trees in the original photo with purples and browns just to contrast both tonally and with colour contrast with the blue and orange. The strips will be foundation pieced on to flannel in maybe 6 inch blocks. With the text I was going to use hand cut stencil and solarfast. I want the background to be darker than it appears here. More dark green, brown and purple. I should be able to use commercial fabrics here that I already have. I’m hoping the flannel will give a lot of stability to the quilt top and then I can possibly quilt down in pretty easily.

So things to do in regard to this quilt. Dye a nice brown orange and a deep blue. Sort out dark fabrics with the in between strips. Wash some flannel for foundation piece backing. Wash some calico for full backing. Mock up another tester pot holder. Cut stencils and print the text using solarfast. Try and expose to get a deep colour.

And do some research on other saqa quilters. If possible try and find quilters using traditional type quilting and just tweaking it for meaning.

I watched a quilt critique session run by Lyric Kinard. It was really well structured and went over formal elements and ways in which they may work to influence reading of the work. It got me thinking about the line in this work and how if I put a full length strip out of pattern down the right side it would create a block to the eye travelling from the top left to the bottom right. Instead it might be better to break up that line, as in the above drawing. Perhaps move the silhouettes into the far right spot. Colour I’ve already mentioned. Shape is very much vertical strips relating to vertical separation. Repetition but with variation. Plenty of symmetry but with a couple of different things to add interest. Texture is a tricky one – not sure how that relates to the meaning. The texture will turn out to be vertical ridges but I’m not sure what that means. I guess it will be a further representation of physical separation. I’m not really only referring to physical separation though. I’m wondering if my stuff is too simple.

Reading further into the book I’m now concerned by balance in the above composition. She talks about vertical solid shapes looking still. I find the text appears to be hanging from the top a bit precariously. Possibly it would be better to have the text intersecting the bottom three rows and stably situated amongst the blocks that better reflect the text. And then the figures could also be on the bottom row somewhere near the far right. Possibly that will allow the strips to flow in their zig zag unhindered and more clearly appear to be coming together at the bottom around the stable text and figures. Would give it a sense of groundedness at the bottom. I guess the final block placement can wait until it can be laid out with the other blocks.

In terms of line, specifically quilting line, I am thinking of more verticals pretty much over the whole thing but perhaps organic slightly wavy and also perhaps drawing out a rough figure silhouette in the orange and blue blocks.

Latest work

These are the samples I put in for assessment with the rest of the completed stuff. My room is like one big journal and I hope they don’t mind that because I don’t have a real journal.

Wondering about cutting up fabric photos to use in a quilt, wouldn’t be able to see more than snippets of photo but could integrate better with the commercial fabric than a whole photo does. I’ve used some of my own printed fabric in here and it works. So might go to that too but maybe with solarfast.

Reflecting on 5 in 5

Think I was meant to have done this previously, but I didn’t realise, so now I need to listen my talk and the comments again on mylo.

5 in 5

Sounded more similar that I realised. Much more focussed now.

Engendering maternal failure and research. Patriarchy. Toby asked this and I knocked it. Research – eric revello

quilt collaborative – collecting or using affective archival material, asked about Tal Fitzpatrick – other people’s stories.

Nicole oLoughlin – Never followed up on this.

When I listened to this discussion again recently, I realised that my new proposal has changed quite a lot in regard to techniques, and content is much more focused, but the underlying idea of how my work might function has remained the fairly constant.

I was very nervous doing this presentation, as I am with all public speaking, but the communication channel of zoom does relax me somewhat. I have to read from a script or I get altogether too anxious, but I can see that I am trying to relax away from the script at times, and at the time I was reasonably pleased with how it went.

In terms of feedback, Toby’s initial query about the patriarchal approach to parenting failure, has probably had the most effect. At that stage I was planning to include a wide range of emotive subject matter from my life as content in my work. I have since narrowed my subject matter to one area only, the feeling of motherhood failure that I experience in the context of my mentally unwell adult son. However I have not addressed this from a feminist perspective. As I mentioned in answer to Toby’s question, I have taken the blame for parenting failures onboard, without questioning the paternal role. The subject of my work has narrowed to personal feeling around this perceived motherhood failure and the approach to addressing these feelings now, rather than looking closely at the origin of this feeling in gender roles and society. This may, however, need to be addressed in my final writing.

Other discussion was around the collaborative nature of quilting and how this may be incorporated. Now, as then, I do not consider the making aspect of my work a collaboration, but I do hope that there will be a collaboration of sorts with the viewer. A kind of secret club. I do plan to repurpose scraps of my own material from the making of quilts gone by, and in this way may be considered to be collaborating with my own personal memory or past. Tal Fitzpatrick’s covid quilt was mentioned as an example of bringing others stories together. I have looked at this, but my intent is to confine myself to my particular story and hope to call up recognition in the viewer, rather than presenting the stories of others. It was suggested that I follow up with Nicole O’Loughlin at UTAS. I looked at her website, but my shyness has meant that I have not yet approached her directly. I like to think I will do that but have been putting it off.

In conclusion, I think that the presentation was a good way of clarifying my thinking at the time, and reflecting on it now I see that it has helped me focus my ideas around subject, as well as broaden my scope for research.

Revamped proposal

Things it had to include were description, resolution, significance, context

Keywords – Motherhood failure, Accessible art, Reveal, Togetherness, Relief

Motherhood failure is a subject close to my heart. Dealing with the loss of the dream of the perfect family is a bitter pill to swallow and coupled with the ongoing anxieties in relation to my son’s mental illness and autism this has occupied my mind and life for many years. I sort relief through creativity readily accessible and found quilt making more than twenty years ago. For a time this worked to ease my mind temporarily through making. As my son’s situation worsened I found that I had a driving compulsion to reveal the situation to others. Not so much to seek sympathy but to unburden myself of the guilt and shame I felt around my perceived motherhood failure. I felt, and still feel, that I could not continue with real relationships, without revealing my dirty secrets. There was even more relief, if in the telling I found someone in a similar situation. The comfort available from another who more fully understands creates a feeling of togetherness that goes further again in bearing the burden of guilt associated with this motherhood failure.

With this in mind I am embarking on a journey to discover ways of making that bring a modicum of relief to both myself and the viewer. This is not an ambitious campaign to cure all woes, but simply investigating possibilities around integrating art into life as a component of wellbeing.

To date making art that reveals my motherhood failure and through this connects and generates feelings of togetherness and relief, has not been an easy task. I plan to use the medium of quilting as a non-negotiable component of my work. I have a long relationship with quilting, and many materials for their creation in my possession that hold meaning and memory beyond their utility. Star fabrics from a quilt when my son was eight, scraps from my first quilt donated to my son when he left for university and subsequently left behind and lost when schizophrenia drove him into homelessness. Quilting holds such weight for many other women out there too. Quilts provide comfort and warmth, cheering colour and pleasing pattern. Quilts are intimately associated with love. They embody long amounts of time invested and meaning embedded. They are given as gifts of protection and care to those around us and to those we never meet, but who need our care. They are both precious and not, able to be handled and washed, presented to others on the kitchen table or the wall. As such, I consider quilts as an accessible art. Familiar, caring, beautiful, without the element of intimidation I see in some other mediums.

Quilts also have a long history of being presented in a feminist and political art context, but this is not a feature of the medium on which I plan to focus. In recent times the so called ‘art quilt’ has, in some cases moved towards emulation of the painting, by being placed exclusively on the wall and often losing some of its comfort and resilience to use, by stiffening, flattening, gluing and the addition of board. This is not the path for me. I plan to follow the more traditional block construction with piecing and applique, layering and quilting.

In my pursuit of accessibility in relation to meaning, and separately pleasurable aesthetics, I plan to incorporate text into my quilts. I think of text as aesthetic in form and poetry, but also as evoking a layer of meaning that can be difficult to convey visually in other ways. My quilts will largely contain symbolic abstract content, rather than pure representation, and I hope that the addition of text will allow entry into content that may otherwise remain unseen.

You may note that I have come to this decision about semi-abstract pieced quilts with understandable text, through the making of many quilts using photographic work and various construction techniques. I have not felt much has worked within these, aside from possibly poetic text. The ragged edges and dull colours do not speak of comfort or give pleasure to me and the muted lonely photographs evoke sadness rather than relief. Technical problems with the printing of photographs on fabric, left those photographs low contrast and unclear, clashing in tone with commercial printed fabrics and not speaking loudly enough of their content. Instead I plan to use a mix of commercial and hand dyed fabric to construct pieced blocks to be stitched together into large quilts.

I have resolved to tough out the presentation of what may be seen by some as decorative quilts, and attempt to insert meaning through text and pattern, with the intent of having some small relief flowing to myself and the viewer.

Obviously work like this holds personal significance for me, through my engagement in mindful activity. The creation of such work acts to reduce stress and the flow on physical illnesses associated with stress, and to enhance resilience. This work also provides an avenue to satisfy my desire to confess. In terms of the broader community, it feels arrogant to suggest that my work has the power to change the lives of others. I would like to think, however, that this work could open up discussion around subjects that may, for some, be a hidden shame. In doing so the work may create a feeling of togetherness, connection and sharing. It may even encourage engagement in making by the viewer, with its use of accessible, familiar and readily available materials. In an increasingly disconnected world, with mental illness reportedly on the rise, and mothers largely shut out of the management of mentally ill adult children, this type of work feels all the more important.

Many people around the world make quilts and in the last twenty or thirty years quilts have been begun to be created for reasons relating to an art practice, as distinct from an solely utilitarian object. My companions in this field include Thomas Knauer, who creates attractive pieced quilts with an activist message, Sandra Sider who is a quilt artist who continues to work tirelessly to promote the place of the quilt in the art world, and Penny Gold, a US quilt maker, whose practice has taken on new significance since the death of her son, and whose painful quilt about this prompted me to further explore the artistic range of the quilt. Many other companions reside in the two main organisations I belong to, namely Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) and OzQuilt network. These organisations operate within the field of quilt art, providing opportunities to exhibit and generously sharing information about all aspects of quilt making. Whilst my research may take me from academic journals to poetry books and novels, if I need making inspiration, I need only return to SAQA.

I am excited to move forward with more making, to see if it is possible to create an emotive and aesthetic quilt, that connects the viewer and I with a modicum of communal relief, in a stressful and lonely world.

Keywords getting close to done

Keywords

Motherhood failure, Accessible art, Reveal, Togetherness, Relief

Motherhood failure:

noun

With this phrase I am referring to the perceived failure that is experienced when being a mother does not offer up the family and life that was anticipated at its inception. I believe that most mothers hope for a life where they have happy, healthy children, where they are the storybook mother, building strong and satisfying relationships with their well-adjusted and caring children. When this does not eventuate, there is a feeling of failure that encompasses elements of grief, guilt, shame and loss. In my case this environment of motherhood failure arose in the context of the development of autism spectrum disorder, followed by schizophrenia, in my eldest child. But I am sure there are many other similar difficulties that seemingly put the success of motherhood in doubt.  The ‘failed’ mother cannot help making comparisons with other mothers, and if they find no chink in the presented persona, this only serves to accentuate the divide between herself and others who do not appear to have experienced this motherhood failure.

Accessible art:   

noun

I see accessible art as work where all elements necessary to render meaning visible are present and the artwork invites viewing by being attractive. Accessible art is resilient and able to be presented in a variety of situations.  It speaks of the everyday and utilises familiar materials. Perhaps the work could be so accessible that its creation could even be seen to be achievable by the viewer. I think of accessible art as being art that breaches the intimidating boundary of the gallery and allows entry into the art world, for viewers who have previously felt excluded.

Reveal:

verb and noun

With this word I am discussing my way of presenting content. To reveal is not just to document but to be bold in the telling, pushing the boundaries of the personal, and bringing pain out into the light. Revealing is exposing those things that may often be kept hidden, the shameful or the sad, and suggests a collaboration with those on the other side of the reveal. In my case to reveal shares some similarity with confession and is a necessary process for me to be able to move forward with real relationships.

Togetherness:

noun

I have struggled to find a word that accurately describes the feeling you get when you know that you are not alone in a bad situation. I feel like it is the opposite of loneliness I am looking for, but I could not find an adequate antonym to loneliness. Instead, I am going for the opposite of alone, together, which is not quite right, but I will attempt to appropriate it for this use, nonetheless. Togetherness will be used in the sense of a recognition of emotional unity and understanding, rather than physical proximity. A knowledge that a situation is not unique, and somewhat like the old adage, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. A connection or bond, grounded in situational similarities. And maybe even with a little tiny touch of schadenfreude, whereby you feel a pleasurable togetherness when difficulties are acknowledged by those who may have previously been seen to be unscathed.

Relief:

noun

This leads on to my definition of relief, which is a wide-ranging feeling that is not as strong or definitive as healing, but more related to a receding of pain, albeit maybe temporary. In writing about my work, this feeling of relief will stem in part from the togetherness mentioned above, but also contain within it a component of aesthetic pleasure and references to physical comfort. On a personal level relief will also mean the feeling that results from indulging my compulsion to admit shame or failure, as well as the sensation of mindfulness, whereby personal anxieties are pushed to the back of my mind for a time.

Keywords so far are only 643 words but I am going to ask Toby tomorrow if I am meant to go beyond definitions to give examples of use as it applies to my work.

One child is one too many

Knauer, T 2017, One child is one too many, quilt, 38 in x 38 in

Knauer T 2019, Why We Quilt: Contemporary Makers Speak Out, Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, USA, p x

This artwork is a small, pastel coloured quilt, featuring a traditional Sunbonnet Sue block and constructed using traditional quilt techniques of piecing, applique, layering, quilting and binding. Whilst largely conforming to the attractive aesthetics of a traditional quilt, the thing that sets this quilt apart is the tweaks that have been included, to turn this into a meaningful work of art with a political message. This had been achieved by the insertion of a white place holder for a gun in the hands of the child, and the title which alludes to childhood deaths from gun violence. This quilt (and the rest of the book) is the thing that lured me back to more traditional quiltmaking as my primary art form. When I saw what could be done in a quilt such as this, I knew that I did not have to forgo my preferred aesthetics and medium in order to call my work art. Many of the early quilt works making a foray into art, contain either a political or feminist message. My works will not be following this path, but instead be inspired by the fact that quilts such as this one can contain meaningful content beyond the simply decorative.

Empathy

Found an article that I had read in detail and summarised before I got back to this blog. Only relative in the negative but did help me sort out that empathy was not one of my keywords. Actually as I’m writing I see that the movement bit is relevant too.

Brinck, I 2018, ‘Empathy, engagement, entrainment: the interaction dynamics of aesthetic experience’, Cognitive Processing, vol 19, no. 2, pp. 201-213

The author discusses empathy as key to the aesthetic experience. By empathy he means the ability to see things from a perspective that is recognised as not your own, but instead exposing you to new content. The article also includes interesting discussion about how bodily engagement influences the aesthetic experience, by encouraging the viewer to sync his movement with the movement perceived in the artwork, and in this way experiencing the emotion relevant to that movement. I had thought that empathy was a keyword for my work, but after reading this article I realised that I am not attempting to evoke empathy, in that I am not looking to give the viewer a new emotional experience, but rather to recognise their own past experiences in my work. In this way I hope that relief can be elicited by the understanding that their experiences are not unique. I would, however, like the movement suggested by the work to be that of a hug, with its concomitant feeling of comfort and relief.

Just a reminder not related to the AB.. I am trying to portray the emotions but take away their power and replace it with relief.

Matthew Willes

<https://www.urbansmartprojects.com/gallery/4325&gt; viewed 6 June 2021

This is an urban artwork created by Matthew Willes who is an Honours student from 2019 at UTAS. I am including this image to show an example of his work but I am actually using his Honours exegesis as a reference in my annotated bibliography. I can’t find any good photos from his Honours work but he did use the shopping trolley motif extensively in this work.

Willes, M 2019 ‘Affect, Abattoirs and Abandoned Trolleys: processing traumatic knowledge through painting’, BFA (Hons) Painting thesis, University of Tasmania

This is an interesting work that combines a personal narrative around a witnessing visit to an abattoir, with the story of working through a process driven way of representing the felt trauma of this witnessing. The author is attempting to find a means of creating artworks that depict this “sense memory” without causing further distress to himself or the viewer. I found the parallel narratives very enjoyable to read, with the personal content adding to the intimacy and emotion I experienced when viewing the artworks. The artist describes his process as being sensitive to the content of the memory, in that he eschews implements that speak of violence, but later embraces the felt memory with a more agitated style of painting. I, too, am attempting to create work representing traumatic felt memories in a sensitive manner, not only avoiding any further trauma, but by going further, in offering some relief to both myself and the viewer.