Category Archives: social issues

Political Art, Abstract Art

Sometimes a blog post is a way to place a marker for articles I want to refer back to later. This is one of those.

People who have read this blog for a while know of my interest in abstract design. A short look back for new followers: This was my first attempt (ignoring the fact that most traditional quilts are abstract).

finished quilt

24 x 30

It started with a photograph of my street.  (Its history, reverse order, starts here.)

Then there was “Hole in the Safety Net,” which started as mere shapes and evolved into concept.

feb cla draft 2

And was helped by title to make a statement beyond what mere shapes could say. Its history is here along with a link to the finished product.

Enough background. On to the articles.

The first responds to an exhibit of abstract works of 12 black female artists and tells of their struggle to be recognized in a white male art world, a world where even black art critics considered abstract art to be white art. “Women of Color Find Their Rightful Place in the History of American Abstraction.

The second does two things. It places black artists firmly in both abstract and political (racial in this context) camps and makes a profound statement about race: “How to Embed a Shout: A New Generation of Black Artists Contends with Racism.”

And the statement: “Adrienne Edwards, curator at Performa, the Walker Art Center, and a scholar who has written a good deal about Pendleton’s work, professes: ‘Blackness is the original abstraction; people are living abstractions, meaning [they are] made up, conjured.’ Yes. I have to agree. For others, this sign of dark skin might symbolize anything and its opposite: strength, weakness, triumph, and debacle, membership or exile. The racial imaginary conditions all of us raised under its auspices to project onto black people one’s fears or desires, so that it becomes difficult to be seen as a human being rather than a space for projection. Lowery Stokes Sims, a curator and former director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, adds the historical fact: ‘If you take the track that abstraction came out of African art, then we are just claiming our birthright.’

“Blackness is the original abstraction”: think on that . . .

And yes, I remember that I promised to do the whiteness syllabus (here); it is still on the back burner where my subconscious can work on it while I finish up a few other projects.

 

 

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August 6 and August 9

August 6, the day Little Boy fell on Hiroshima, and August 9, the day Fat Man fell on Nagasaki, have become haunting days for me. Oblivious until the 80s, I became involved when Church Women United planned a Ribbon project. They sought a mile’s worth of individual yard-long muslin pieces decorated with a peace message to be held hand to hand around the pentagon.  More than a mile of ribbon and people converged on Washington.DC for that march.

For me the most profound part of that weekend was sitting in the park across from the White House observing the annual moment of silence concurrent with the people of Hiroshima at exactly the time, their time, the bomb had fallen..

That moment has been surpassed by this year’s installation, Suspended Moment. It’s the first time I’ve attended an installation enacted and not just one in a museum with a continual loop video.  The artist, a third generation Hiroshima survivor, made a sculpture, a cloth version, to size, of Fat Man, the Nagasaki bomb. She made it from silk from her grandmother’s kimono studio and stitched her hair into it to meld the generations.

D setting

The installation, lasted half an hour. The action was a poem read at the beginning and end that consisted of words from Obama’s speech at Hiroshima. Single words. First in English then in Japanese, as chanted dialog, each word repeated several times. The two walking toward each other, then together, then apart. “Mirror.” “Suffering.” “We look.”  “We survive,”  “We survive fear.”  (I don’t remember them all.) In between a butoh dance (somewhat like mime). In the Q and A afterwards, the choreographer said he’d aimed to create moments rather than a narrative, moments like combing hair, putting on lipstick. And there were more obvious moments of fear.

Dance 1
The sound was part vocal and part computerized music, haunting, along with occasional voices of children playing and an almost continual drone of planes.

Suspended Moment has been performed at Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was developed, and at Hanford, where nuclear waste is awaiting cleanup.
The atrocity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (and all the health/environmental aspects of nuclear programs) is certainly one of the “Never again” moments of history. To that end, 122 nations recently ratified the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (info here and here)

It is not a big surprise that the nuclear holding nations boycotted the negotiations. However, the hope is that making nuclear as illegal as biological and chemical weapons will change the discussion. To that end we can communicate with our representatives.

The memorial event was sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility . They are concerned with other problems (“we must prevent what we cannot cure”) as well and are worth following.

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The Threads of Resistance Piece Finished and Entered

I finished this one first –you know the old ploy, do an easy finish first to get your energy going.  And small meant it would finish quickly. It took a while to get a photograph, and in the process I learned how to change the number of pixels. I also learned I could find the number of pixels via iPhoto, and when I did, I barely had enough. So no change was necessary.

Threads-whole-2

21 x 22

You might notice a change from the previous “finished” top. It measured less than the required minimum of 20 inches in each direction. So the partial border on the right side. In some ways it completes the look, so it is an error that helped the design.  Perhaps it also helps the theme by stopping the flight of the last piece of the prohibition sign.

After reading Elizabeth Barton’s post about artist statements, I ponder how much I should say about what I was trying: in her thinking, if it has to be said, I didn’t accomplish it. I’m not sure how I feel about this.  As a viewer, I know I’ve had my interest in a piece expanded by an artist’s statement (both in quilt art and paint art). Maybe that just means I am an unsophisticated viewer.

Caution aside. The Threads of Resistance call was for pieces expressing anger at an action of #45 or sadness about a loss caused by his actions. I chose to express anger at deregulation and all the harm it would do to the environment. (I’m curious–to what extent do you see anger or not?) In addition, when looking at it, I kept seeing hints of the traditional block, Moon over the Mountain. And I thought that too fits if you think of the loss caused by mountain top removal for cheaper, easier mining of coal–a precursor to today’s more intense deregulation. All we have left of some of those mountains is a trace, if that. I did not put the idea there; I saw it there.

Then there are ideas I neither put there nor saw there. As one comment on the finished top suggested: it actually shows freedom. In that case the mood would not be anger but exuberance. (Once again, what feeling does it make you feel, if any?) And I am reminded of grad school discussions of Paradise Lost: Is Satan the hero regardless of Milton’s intent?

And there is the problem of titles. In an abstract piece, do I want to direct/limit  interpretations by the suggestiveness of my titles?  As a viewer, I resent titles like “Untitled” or “Red dots on green squares.” Yet doesn’t anything more specific start to direct the viewer to see in a certain way (or to realize what is missing if the artist failed)? Is an appropriate title “Deregulation” or “In the Eye of the Beholder” or “Red on Blue”? to what extent is a title a limitation? An expansion?

These are not rhetorical questions: I invite discussion.
The quilting:

threads-detail-2

This detail photo captures most of the quilting variation: micro stippling in the inner circle reminiscent of the old atomic bomb shelter symbol’s triangles, miniature prohibition signs tossed around, and then more generic wavy lines and straight lines.  The mottled aqua, not shown here, is quilted with a moderate sized meander.

I recently read that there were 500 entries, and they don’t yet know how many their venues can hold since the list of venues is not complete. So my chances of getting into the show are barely better than to get a quilt into QuiltCon. But as the director of Quilt National said, “Every quilt in the show was entered.”

I’ve seen one other quilt entered, my friend Mary’s at Zippy Quilts. Do have a look at her quite different approach to the theme. I am hoping for a photo gallery on the Artists’ Circle’s Threads of Resistance blog.

I plan to link with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Friday (button in sidebar).

Quilt History

“Finished” top

Preliminary sketches made

The call for entries (now concluded)

5/14/17 ETA link to see all the entries

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Racial Art Challenge

I have been exploring quilting as art; I have been exploring art as protest; I have been exploring racism and whiteness. Into that mix comes the challenge to Make a work of art about race as a white person in America. 

Not a challenge to a single work nor to a juried show, but a syllabus for personal reflection manifested (or not) in art production. A way of rethinking traditional art about race.

Instead of waiting till I have an idea to post, I am posting now in case some of my readers also want to do this exploration. Some of you are not in America; some of you are not white. I leave it to you to explore/make art that fits your situation.

6/6/17 ETA links to a different art installation and issues of representation as it relates to “Scaffold” at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.  The articles tell the intent and the unintended impact and the removal of the piece. And several responses of art critics.

The first article and a quotation from it.:

The issue of the identity of the artist presenting work about a trauma that is not her or his own recalls the recent controversy around Dana Schultz’s painting of Emmet Till in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Schutz was criticized for depicting a historic trauma and creating an abstracted portrait of Till’s corpse. Schutz’s work was partly criticized for seeking to represent African American trauma, which many people considered problematic coming from a white woman. Both controversies bring up questions about whether or not white artists can create work about the pain of communities they do not belong to, and whose voices should be elevated to speak about the atrocities of our history.

The second article and a quotation from it:

At the same press conference, Viso admitted that the Walker’s process in placing “Scaffold” in the Garden had been flawed. “I apologize that we were not sufficiently aware of the implications of its placement or sympathetic to the pain and suffering that it would elicit,” she said. The disconnect that left both the artist and the Walker oblivious to the sculpture’s potentially painful meaning for Dakota and Native people speaks to the need for Native people to tell their own stories, as many Native critics have pointed out over the last two weeks.

“We need to tell our own narrative,” Rafael Gonzales, an anti-Dakota Access Pipeline activist and a descendent of the Dakota 38 +2, said in an email. “If non-Native allies are willing to teach our history, it is crucial that they spend time with our people and consult with us on appropriate ways of doing so.”

And the comments of art critics.

My source for these three was the June 6 emailing from Hyperallergic. I see from their website that there is an update.

Perhaps the bottom line is to listen and consult when tempted to represent another culture. Or as in the first “syllabus,” to focus on one’s own culture.

6/27/17 ETA a link to a counter argument. To what extent is

Endeavoring to make art from another person’s pain isn’t the same as cultural appropriation, but such pursuits, as generally conceived today, share a relationship to notions of identity-based ownership—of certain histories, certain cultural expressions. But while a different culture’s history shouldn’t be declared categorically off-limits to an artist, there are meaningful questions of quality, context, understanding, power, and purpose to be considered—and, along those lines, each work of art must be evaluated on its own terms.

Just why isn’t it appropriation? Perhaps I need a more nuanced understanding of “appropriation.”  The question isn’t answered in the review of the novel. But articles are cited, articles and books that I need to read because they deal with abstract art and social critique. Though applied to African American art, it seems they could be extended to all abstract art. All this in a review of a novel by Percival Everett, So Much Blue. I will admit to having read none of his work, but now I want to. More to ponder.

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Need for a Homeless Bill of Rights

Another feature of the Rose Parade: It is the one day a year that “camping” in the streets is allowed. The link is to a plea against criminalizing homelessness.

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June 9, 2013 · 8:45 am

Landfillharmonic Orchestra

I can’t believe the sound from the cello

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April 19, 2013 · 10:01 am

Charles makes a Turkey dinner for fellow vendors on the streets

An encouraging Thanksgiving story

For those who can't afford free speech

by Cole Merkel

Street Roots vendor Charles Yost started cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the Street Roots vendors yesterday afternoon at around 4pm. This morning, he woke up at 5:30 to put the turkey back in the oven to warm it up.

To complete the meal, Charles also steamed fresh green beans with bacon, redskin potatoes with cheddar cheese, a large pan of stuffing and turkey gravy from scratch by creating a roux sauce. He transported the meal to Street Roots in aluminum containers and the black push cart that he has decorated with past issues of Street Roots.

The food was donated by two of Charles’ regular customers who made Charles many lasagna dinner while he was experiencing homelessness. They wanted to make sure folks still living on the streets would have access to a proper Thanksgiving meal. Charles got into housing last December.

“Like last year, the people who…

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